10.28.2011

Holiday Orders from Beehive Design

If you'd like to place a holiday order from our Etsy shop, Beehive Design, for a custom bag made from recycled sails:

or a personalized, hand-knit baby hat:

please make sure to get your order in no later than November 15. It's anyone's guess what our order-fulfilling status will be after that time!

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10.27.2011

Nursery Rug Expedition

We've been trying to find a rug for the nursery for a while now. At first we'd planned to buy the sheepskin rug from Ikea that's made from four sheep. But when we went to buy the four sheep we discovered that Ikea no longer carries quatro sheepskin rugs. I tried to convince my parents to let us have the one they bought during a family trip to New Zealand a gazillion years ago, but they weren't willing to part with its fluffy softness, even for their first grand babe.

So with "rug" as one of the last items on our to-do-before-baby list, just after the four lines of "send wedding gift to...", I set to work looking for a reasonably priced quatro sheepskin rug. I was on one of those fancy bedding and housewares sites that send beautiful glossy catalogs full of stuff I want and can't responsibly afford when I found this rug:
and fell in love with everything but the price. Even if my love were to overcome the ultra-hold magnetic closure on my wallet (which S would prefer were superglue), it still wouldn't do since it's on backorder 'til February.

I'm not waiting 'til February to finish the nursery that's thiiiiis close to finished, so I set out on a little online expedition using the designer's name and the name of the rug. I found a dealer in North Carolina who carries the same rug for ~25% less than the fancy site. I reviewed the site's return policy (excellent) and shipping prices (free) and then just before checking out, searched for coupons. And that's when I found a 20% off in-store coupon for the very North Carolina dealer whose site I was about to hit "buy now" on. I called the store and asked if I could use the 20% coupon for a purchase over the phone. They said yes. They took my order. They just sent me an email confirmation.

And that, my friends, is how I fell in love with a carpet from a fancy store yesterday and bought the exact same one for 60% of the cost today. Now let's just hope it shows up soon and that I love it as much in person as I do online.

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10.26.2011

Splat Mat

Technically we're not going to need tonight's project for a while, but if the past year is any indication, we're going to blink and baby bee will be sitting in a highchair throwing food on the floor and flipping bowls of spaghetti on its head. So in the interest of preparing to have little free time on "the other side," I made a highchair splat mat tonight.


It's a super easy, super fast project that's been sitting on our to-do list since July. Slacker.

To make your own you'll need a yard of oil cloth fabric (I chose a heavier weight oil cloth instead of a thin laminated cotton) and five or six yards of extra wide rick-rack, depending on the width of your oil cloth.

With the front of your oil cloth facing you and starting an inch from one corner, carefully sew down the center of the rick-rack very close to the edge of the oil cloth. When you reach a corner pinch the rick-rack together to form a point, sew down, turn and continue sewing along the next edge.


To end, cut the rick-rack leaving and inch long tail, overlap the tail on top of the rick-rack where you started, making sure to match up peaks and valleys and stitch in place.


That's it, easy peasy. Bring on the adventurous eating, baby bee!

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10.25.2011

Ele Artwork

We had a busy night tonight, but were able to sit down to watch one recorded show together before bed. While S managed the remote I managed to make a little artwork for the nursery:


20 elephants punched from heavy navy scrapbook paper, their ears folded out for a little dimension, each stuck with a sticky dot to a piece of white cardstock and framed in an Ikea ribba shadow box frame.

I got the idea when I was punching dozens of elephants to make thank you cards a few weeks ago and had a baggie full of leftover navy pachyderms. I'm planning to remove one elephant and replace it with baby's name or birthdate when he or she arrives. Maybe if baby is a girl I'll replace one blue elephant with a pink one. We'll see, that could be one of those things I finally get around to when the baby leaves for college. ;o)

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10.22.2011

Tutorial: Hand Cut Chenille Blanket for Baby Bee

While S was up in the attic building up the floor joists and laying plywood flooring I made a second baby blanket for baby bee. For this one I used a technique for a cool hand cut chenille backing that I saw and fell in love with on a few blogs recently.
The front is a cute momma and baby bird print that I stumbled on at fabric.com and couldn't resist. The back is hand cut chenille made from three layers of cotton flannel - one navy, one white and one with a blue, teal and yellow pattern. The entire blanket is bound with a thicker binding that I made from double brushed flannel that I had leftover from making a gazillion burp cloths this summer.
The whole process of making the chenille was really cool, definitely something I'll try again. Feeney approves:
Want to make your own hand cut chenille blanket? It's a little time consuming, but very easy.

First choose a cotton fabric for the blanket front that you love - this is the piece you'll see in its entirety, so it's worth splurging a little on a pattern you'll love forever. Then choose three our four coordinating 100% cotton flannel fabrics. It doesn't matter if the flannels are solid or patterned, unless you use a pattern for the top piece of the flannel sandwich, the pattern will become obscured.

I wanted a square blanket so I bought 1.25 yards of each fabric to cut to 44" square. You could use one yard of each and cut to 36" square, but you'll want to keep in mind that the whole quilting process makes the fabrics shift a bit so you'll end up losing a couple inches when you trim the blanket at the end.

You'll also need at least two spools of coordinating thread. I wanted my thread to blend in with the blanket so I used white on top with a dark blue bobbin. I used two nearly full spools of thread for a 44" blanket.

One - Sandwich the Fabric Layers
Sandwich your fabrics together with the cotton front face down, the inside piece of flannel face down, if it has a right and wrong side, and the subsequent pieces of flannel face up. The top piece of flannel will be the one you see the most, so make sure it coordinates well with your cotton front. I was going to use the white flannel on top, but realized I'd just be creating more laundry for myself, so I chose the patterned fabric and stuck the white in the middle.
Two - Pin the Fabric Layers
Using lots and lots of safety pins, pin all layers together, while smoothing out any bumps, lumps, and wrinkles. There's no such thing as too many safety pins in this step; I stopped when I ran out.
Three - Mark the First Sewing Line
Using a fabric pen, mark one diagonal line running from one corner to the corner across from it. All of your sewing lines will be based on this line, so make sure it's as straight and accurate as possible. I used a yardstick to make my line, but you could also use a piece of string or yarn pulled taught.
Four - Sew the Channels
With the front of your fabric facing and the flannel side down, sew along the line you marked in step three. Then working from either the right or left of your first line, sew parallel lines every 1/2". To make even lines it helps to move your needle to the left or right far enough that your pressure foot lined up on the last line sewn makes a 1/2" guide. I eyeballed my lines, but in hindsight it probably added time.
Continue sewing parallel lines until the entire blanket has been quilted - this step took me about three or four hours. Remove safety pins as you come to them and try to smooth the layers of fabric as you sew as best you can. Don't worry if the flannel pleats a little here and there, you won't notice once you cut the chenille, but you want to make sure to keep your top smooth and crease-free.

I have these quilting gloves called Machingers that have sticky-ish fingers, which I thought made the quilting a little easier. Definitely not necessary, but cool to have if you quilt regularly.
Five - Cut the Flannel
For this step you can either use fabric scissors or a chenille cutter. I invested in a chenille cutter for my stash and don't think I'd be comfortable using scissors, but if you do use them, just be very careful to only cut the flannel layers.

Place your blanket flannel side up on a solid work surface and carefully cut all of the flannel layers in the channels created by your quilting. Be very careful not to cut the cotton front.
I used a pair of sharp scissors to make little starter snips so I wouldn't accidentally catch the cutter on the front fabric. It made the whole cutting process go much faster since I didn't have to lift the edge of the blanket to carefully line up the cutter with the layers at each channel.

Six - Fray the Flannel
Throw your blanket in the wash for a quick cycle and then in the dryer to get all the little edges of flannel to fray and fluff up into chenille.
Seven - Finish with Binding
I decided to use flannel for the binding on this blanket, mostly because I had just enough teal flannel that matched the small birds in my stash. You could use anything, including store-bought binding tape. I made my own binding tape, by folding the folding my long strip of bias strip in half and then folding it in 1/2" again on both sides, making the back ever so slightly longer than the front (this makes it easier to make sure you "catch" the binding when you're sewing from the front. Instead of finishing the binding with hidden seams like I would have if this were a hand-pieced, quilted masterpiece, I followed these quick and easy steps.

First, starting at the bottom, center of the blanket, leave a several inch long tail and slip the binding over the edge of the blanket, making sure the slightly longer side of the binding is at the back.
Pin every few inches. At the corners, pin all the way to the edge, line the point of the blanket up to the edge of the tape, turn the tape and pin it an inch or two down the next edge.
Then create a mitered corner by folding the left side of the tape up and pinning the right side all the way to the left edge.
Fold the left side down so it forms a nice, neat point. Adjust the fold underneath, if needed to match the inner corners of the tape. Pin on the mitered fold at the front and back (just make sure you remove the back pin when you're sewing so you don't break you needle)
Continue all the way around the blanket, leaving a several inch long tail at the end. In the photo above you can see where I marked a curve at the edge of the blanket. I was going to make a curved edge blanket like the satin trimmed minky quilt I made last week, but decided at the last minute to go with mitered corners instead. If you want rounded corners then follow the instructions here and skip these instructions for mitered corners and just ease the bias tape around the corners.

With the front, non-chenille side of the blanket facing, sew around the entire blanket very close to the edge of the binding, making sure that the back side of the binding is catching. I used my machine's blindstitch foot since it has a guide bar that helps make a more even narrow seam.
When you reach the end of the binding, overlap the ends slightly, folding the top under to conceal the cut end and continue sewing to secure the ends in place.

Eight
Admire your very cool new blanket and then share a link to your photos, below.

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10.20.2011

Super Quick Change of Season

The other day when I was cleaning out every single closet, basket and drawer in the house I decided to put away the pink decorations that I was obsessed with last spring and pulled out a few of our fall decorations like the wicker pumpkins I bought last year.

When I took our two pink Ikat pillow covers off of our living room pillows, I didn't have any covers to put back on. I think the covers I used last year are now down in the den, where I happen to be spending all my free time lately. So last night I pulled out some leftover fabric from our living and dining room curtains, opened up the easy fold over pillow cover tutorial I posted earlier this year, and sewed a couple of pillow covers all in less time than it took to watch one 30 minute show on HGTV.
The switch to gray from pink feels much more cool-weather appropriate and frankly, I'm ready for some cool weather. Bring on the snow like the first year we lived in the beehive!
Bringing back the seasonally cool grays and whites throughout our house also gives us a neutral palate so our decor isn't competing with some of those wild pops of color showing up from our registry at diapers.com, making introducing this new little person and all it's accoutrements a little less overwhelming ;)

The pocket-style pillow cover is definitely my favorite to make; no zippers, super easy, what's not to love? Try it out and post a link to your creation in the comments!

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10.18.2011

I Came Home to This. I'm Awestruck.

When S and I are involved with a big project together, my reaction to the finished results is more "wow, I can't believe we did all that to accomplish this" as I pat myself and S on the back and we drop on the couch from exhaustion. But when I came home last week to find this:
My first reaction was "holy cow, I'm so freaking impressed, how on earth did you do THAT!?!"

See, the old opening to our attic was small, like this:
with our Ikea hack hall light centered above the stairs, and everything looked just like that, S's hairy legs and all, when I left for a few days.

The joists in the attic run from the front to the back of the house - from S's left to right in that photo above. So he temporarily supported the whole ceiling from the hallway below with a few 4x4 posts, cut out a few joists, cut the ceiling without totally destroying the plaster that needed to remain, installed that huge set of stairs, built-up the joists upstairs so that the plywood floor we'll add doesn't compress our insulation and rewired the hall light to a new location. All in just a few nights working after working a 12 hour day at his real job. And he's a pilot, not a contractor. S flies planes, and breaks them! He doesn't fix things or build things for a living. He just has really good googling and youtube watching and instruction reading and logical figure-it-out skills. I'm in complete awe.

Look at these things, it's a storage-seeker's dream come true! Plus the stairs have some kind of hydraulic assist so they require barely any effort to pull down or put back up.
We need to bring the plywood up there now and figure out where best to lay it down - over doorways and wall divides will be the most secure so we're transferring the weight of our stored goods down to the foundation and the steel beam running through our basement. Thanks, high school physics. We also need to install the hall light in its new location. S didn't dare to put it somewhere without consulting me first, but I think we've figured out the perfect spot where it will be even more useful than it was before. And of course we need to caulk and paint. Pregnant wife up on the ladder with a paint brush again? Ugh.

What's your most awe inspiring project to date?


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10.17.2011

Baby Bee's Big Wedding Throw-Back Mobile

A year ago this would be called being obsessive, but now I think it's called nesting and get your video cameras ready 'cause I think I'm about to turn into a bird. Not only am I eating like a bird; sorry no Saturday Suppers, I've made dinner twice in the past six weeks and once it came from an Indian spice packet and the second was this pizza. For every pound I gain, S loses one. He eats amazing food while traveling though, so I have little sympathy.

But this post isn't about my total lack of appetite, nor is it about the mad vacuuming or floor washing that took place this weekend. And it's not about the complete purging of everything that holds anything going on around here - those baskets in our living room coffee table? Now empty but for three: two filled with Everyday Food cookbooks and one with S's stuff that I didn't dare throw away. Don't worry, I'll get up the nerve to start throwing his hoarded stock piles of junk and papers away too ;)

No, it's about the awesome progress we've made in the nursery! We're still several projects short of a grand reveal, but we have a bunch of stuff to share and several tutorials I've put together showing how you can replicate some of the dozens of sewing projects I've tackled over the past few months.

But today I present our baby bee's mobile above its cradle:
It's a throw-back to our wedding, where my obsession with paper lanterns all began:
photo by Geneve Hoffman
If baby bee is a girl, we'll swap out the navy ribbons with leftover pink ribbons, which, if you've bought anything from our etsy shop, you'll recognize from our packaging. I think we'll be reusing pink and blue ribbons for the next 50 years.

The lanterns are hung by seven hooks, evenly placed in two rows on the ceiling - you know we were up on ladders with the square rulers and tape measures making sure those things were precise within an eighth of an inch!
We centered and spaced the hooks based on the dimensions of a standard crib since baby bee won't be in its cradle for more than the first eight to ten months. And because we have plaster ceilings, we made sure to prevent the ceiling from crumbling when we screwed in the hooks by sticking a small piece of masking tape over our mark and pre-drilling before screwing in each of the hooks. It's the same trick we use for hanging pictures and works like a charm.
After each of the hooks was up, we tore off the masking tape around the hook so the white hooks would blend in better with the bluish, grayish, whitish ceiling.
After the hooks were up, after expressing doubt for my vision, S disappeared to let his pregnant wife step up and down the three-step step stool a gazillion times, cutting and tying dozens and dozens of pieces of fishing line through, between over, under and around the twenty-some-odd paper lanterns.
Every step up that ladder made me even more grateful for the hard work S, his dad, and a couple of his friends put in when hanging the 400+ lanterns for our wedding. But every time I look into the nursery I'm so glad I put in as much effort as I did; I absolutely love our paper lantern mobile - especially hanging next to our Ikea Knappa pendant that we hardwired last spring! And I'm happy to say that S apologized for ever doubting me.
Now we just need a dimmer switch for the Knappa pendant for those late night feedings and changings.

Paper lanterns are all over pinterest in nurseries and weddings everywhere; what's your favorite style of baby mobile?

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10.16.2011

Baby Blankets Galore!

After my baby shower last weekend a couple of girlfriends with a gaggle of kids all under four gave me their expert advice on what we still needed to be ready for baby bee. Besides a boatload of patience and a good lock on the door to make sure my mom never leaves after baby bee arrives, they said I needed a couple baby blankets for using in the car, stroller, etc.

Baby blankets are a classic shower gift, right up there with cute little clothes. But because baby bee is still an "it", we haven't been gifted either. I searched for a navy and white baby blanket online, balked at the price and gladly decided to make a few blankets myself. Making my own blankets is waaaaay more fun than buying one, any day.

First, I chose a knitted blanket from Knitty called "wild stripes" that I knit for my bestest childhood friend when she had her first baby a few years ago. It has a knit front, a cotton back and is bound like a quilt.

Instead of doing wild, colorful stripes, I wanted to stick with our navy blue and white color scheme. So I picked up some soft, washable wool while I was home. My mom is going to knit the front for baby bee and I'll back and bind it when she's done, using the same fabric I've used for several nursery projects.

I opted to sew baby blankets #2 and #3. For the second I chose a simple 44" square fleece-backed cotton pattern and for the third a handmade chenille-backed cotton blanket, the supplies for which are in the mail. When I got home I discovered that I didn't have enough white fleece for a 44" wide fleece-backed blanket. Oops. I did, however, have just enough pale blue minky fabric left from an earlier project, so instead of buying more fleece and spending more money on blankets that were supposed to be stash-busters, I went with the minky.

And then, after blogging about the quilt one of my mom's girlfriends gave me at my shower last week, I decided to take the simple minky-backed blanket up a notch and pulled out the free-hand quilting foot for my sewing machine.
I quilted the entire blanket with a series of waves and loops, only running out of thread once.
Normally I would just self-bind the blanket with the two extra inches of backing I'd left when cutting. But because I was an avid thumb sucker and absolutely loved anything silky to rub between my fingers as I sucked my thumb as a child, I decided to bind the entire blanket with satin. Not that I'm encouraging baby bee to be a thumb sucker, although I better make sure I put baby on my dental plan or 4th - 7th grades could be very expensive!

I was able to find a remnant piece of white polyester (washable) satin with enough material for two blankets for only $5. First I cut off the extra backing and then used a salad plate to cut curved, instead of square corners.
Next time I'd use a larger plate to make a more gradual curve just to make getting around the curve with the binding a little easier.

I followed this tutorial to make a continuous strip of bias tape binding. And then used the double fold quilt binding technique for extra durability. Heather Baily has a good tutorial here (just make sure to use the continuous strip technique above and skip Heather's steps for making the strips). Finally, I pressed the entire thing, folded it up and stuck it up in the nursery with the rest of baby bee's ever growing stash of handmade goods.
It will be interesting to see which of these blankets or its toys the baby likes most. The recipient of the wild stripes blanket favorite toy as a little kid and now was a matchbox toy he found in a free-for-the-picking box; a total choking hazard that neither his mother or father could not get away from him.

What is your favorite style of baby blanket? Are you a hand-knit person? A quilted blanket person? Do you prefer a fuzzy fleece blanket from Target? Or something entirely different? Do you still have your baby blanket from your childhood? Mine is in my cedar chest. It's entirely silky and worn thread bare; to heck with just silky binding, my parents went for the full thumb-sucking 'til you need braces for years, enabling route.

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10.15.2011

A Creative Baby Bee Shower

I had the most wonderful baby shower last weekend while I was in Maine. A couple of girl friends and my mom got together and organized a brunch with delicious food, a fun activity and a few hours with good friends of mine and of my mom's.

The caterer from our wedding, Chefa's, made the amazing food. We had lobster quiche, crabsters, which are her signature lobster & Maine crab cakes, fresh fruit with vanilla creme, a fall salad with pure maple syrup for dressing (delicious!), creme brulee french toast, sticky buns and mulled cider. I happily ate leftovers all week.
The dahlias were all from my mom's garden. She cut them a few nights before the shower and despite the 80 degree temps on Saturday, rescued them from the first hard frost a few days earlier.
After eating our delicious meal and going back for seconds, we dove into the afternoon's activity: decorating wood clothes pins. My girlfriends wanted to surprise me with something different from anything we've done before and since S and I are using cloth diapers and because I'm totally obsessed with our new clothes line, adding bling to clothes pins made perfect sense.

We used papers, ribbons and sequins to create a whole collection of pimped-out clothes pins. 
Some of my favorites have little sayings on them like, "baby's laundry is on the line, so much to do so little time." We have no idea what we're getting ourselves into with this whole offspring project!
For a guestbook the girls has everyone sign a canvas apron - for holding my clothes pins while I'm hanging baby bee's laundry on the line!
I was showered with some really nice gifts, including this beautiful quilt made by one of my mom's friends:
We have the same sewing machine and her handiwork is inspiring me to get even more creative with my baby bee sewing projects!
And a whole bunch of my friends' favorite childhood bedtime stories:
We had a few tiny guests, including four-month old Charlotte and three days old Marco:
Marco is his momma's third baby, we gave her a good excuse to escape her house for an hour.

It was such a fun afternoon and like everything fun, went by far too quickly. We all agreed that everyone needs several baby showers just to seize the opportunity to eat good food and hang out with good friends. And of course to give the momma-to-bee the chance to show off her ever-expanding bump!
F @ 31w
This shower is going to be hard to beat; the food, the clothes pins, it was all just perfect. What kind of fun activities have you done at baby showers? Decorating onesies? Something else totally creative?

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