Monday, June 22, 2015

Love What's On My Design Wall

Would you look at how pretty my design wall is starting to look with so many of my bee blocks arriving? I am just loving it and I still have a lot more to arrive. I've been a lucky girl to have a few gate crashers (thank you Yvonne, Deana, and Carla!) to add to my collection.

It's funny how many people have actually used the same exact fabrics! It's just so much fun every day to see if there is any new mail. I am one happy, happy girl.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Experimenting with Homemade Spray Starches

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen me post this photo:

I absolutely love Best Press but don't particularly love the price. Even when using Joann's 50% off coupons, I tend to go through it quickly. A while back I also found a recipe for a spray starch, known as Gram's Spray Starch, that I'd been wanting to try so I decided to make up a batch of each and try them both out. First off, let me apologize for not being able to link back to my original sources for each recipe. There are several similar ones for best press (just do a search on pinterest) but the recipe I have for Gram's Spray Starch was an old pdf on my computer with no reference back to a website and whomever typed that document up also mentioned not being about to find the original source.

Homemade Best Press

  • 2 cups of Distilled Water
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 20 drops of lavender

    This recipe takes minutes to prepare - just mix everything into a spray bottle and you're ready to go. One thing I would definitely change is the amount of lavender oil used. I think 7-8 drops would have been plenty. You could also substitute another essential oil, like lemon or orange if you prefer.
    Here are 2 fabric swatches, before. The one on the left is muslin, the one on the right is decor weight curtain fabric.

    Before using homemade Best Press
    After Using Homemade Best Press
    Both fabrics ironed up beautifully and it smelled awesome. Now I know some people might be questioning using vodka. I've actually heard that some people use straight vodka as a spray starch. My guess is that since vodka is typically made from potatoes, it has natural starch properties. For the record, I used very CHEAP vodka. I'm not recommending that you use Gray Goose or Skyy. That's just crazy talk. 

    Now for the other spray:

    Gram's Spray Starch
    • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
    • 2-3 tsp water
    • 2 cups water
    • 1-2 Tbsp vodka
    This recipe requires heating it on the stove, but I've seen other online recipes where they don't bother. Here's what I did:
    1. Mix the cornstarch with the 2-3 tsp of water and whisk until smooth
    2. Heat 1 cup of water on stovetop until boiling
    3. Slowly add cornstarch mixture while whisking constantly
    4. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly. Mixture should be opaque in color.
    5. Whisk in additional cup of water and remove from heat
    6. Let cool, add vodka, and pour into a spray bottle
    While this spray took a bit of effort, I actually liked it better. It made the fabrics a bit crisper without being flaky. 

    Before using Gram's Spray Starch

    After Using Gram's Spray Starch (by the way, that's not a crease on the upper left corner of the muslin, it's just a shadow of the bottle)

    There are a few things to note though, and a few things I will change in the future. First, you need to make sure that you shake the bottle before every use to make sure that it's good and mixed. Second, I would add more vodka, probably 1/4 cup like the Best Press recipe. The vodka in this recipe seems to act as a preservative, which is needed. After sitting for a few days not being used, it started to smell a little funky. Another option would be to only make half a batch so it wouldn't sit around and get a chance to turn rancid (if that's what it did). I would also add a few drops of the lavender essential oil too, just because I like the scent. 

    Final Thoughts
    I will definitely be making both but using them for different purposes. For general ironing of fabrics, shirts, and most quilt piecing I will probably use the Best Press recipe, but for blocks that need real crisp points and fabric that will need to be precision cut with templates (like orange peel petals) instead of rulers, I think I would opt for Gram's Spray Starch since it makes the fabric a bit stiffer.

    Monday, June 15, 2015

    Stash Bee - Gate Crashing Hive 7

    This month happens to be my month to be queen bee for hive 4 of Stash Bee and since I don't have a block to make for anyone else, I've decided to gate crash hive 7 and make a block for Deana! It's the flowering snowball block and it's my first time curved piecing. It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Cutting the fabric out took the longest and just remembering to sew slowly is key. I only had to redo one seam. I took my photo at night (which seems to be my only opportunity to sew these days) so the lighting wasn't the greatest and doesn't accurately reflect some of the fabric colors.

    Thursday, June 11, 2015

    Pinterest as a Blog Organization Tool

    With the launch of the 2015 New Quilt Bloggers blog hop, I wanted to pass along what might be an unlikely web platform that has proved to be invaluable to me throughout my blogging journey --

    For many it can be addictive, and it's a great resource for inspiration that allows you to search for specific terms. I admit it's my go-to source for new recipes, but for me it's a great way to keep me organized when I find helpful information on anything related to quilting and blogging.

    Here's how I use Pinterest: I create very specific categories so that I can find things easily and quickly. If you check out my Pinterest page you'll see that I have boards for tutorials, basic sewing tips, blogging tips, free motion quilting, and even EQ7 tutorials and tips. I think one of the most invaluable boards that I use is the one specifically for blogging. Throughout this blog hop, there has already been a lot of great tips, but depending upon where you are in your blogging journey, you might not be ready to implement some of them. That's when I pin it to my "Blog All About It" board so I can easily find it later when I'm ready.  To make it even easier to pin something, I installed the pinterest button directly to my browser bar. Some great tips on my board are how to add that little "Pin It" hover button on your own blog photos, how to add a custom feedly button, how to watermark previously loaded photos on your blog, and most recently, Alyce's tip on an Instagram landing page (thanks Alyce - it worked like a charm!).

    So give it a try as a way to keep all these great blogging tips at your fingertips!

    Monday, June 08, 2015

    TV Token System

    Now that school is out, you'll probably see a few more posts about parenting and a few less about quilting. That's just how it goes in our house. But don't worry, I'm sure I'll manage to sneak in some sewing here and there, and I won't take offense if you skip reading parental posts.

    I'd like to introduce you to a system we put into place earlier this year: the TV Token System.

    For most families (in the US), summer is the time for kids to spend most of the day outdoors, exploring nature, playing tag, swimming, biking and everything else that goes with summer vacation. But when you live in Florida, that's not always the case. By 11am, the temperatures can get into the 90's and being outside for long periods of time just isn't pleasant so our afternoon adventures need to be indoors.

    My son loves TV but five year olds don't always understand the concept of time and having something visual and tangible was definitely the way to go so we use this token system for watching TV. We made a deposit box and decorated it with pictures of some of his favorite shows. This specific box is a bathroom wipes container from our potty training days. You could also use an old diaper wipe container or even a shoe box with a slot cut out of the lid. The tokens we use are from an old cash register toy but we ignore the money value on them. You can use cardboard cutouts, "magic beans" or whatever else you can think of.

    We then determined how many tokens he could have in a given day. We decided upon 3, and each token is worth one 30 minute show. Movies, like Finding Nemo, Frozen, and Cars, are worth 2 tokens.   If there are tokens left over at the end of the day, they can carry over to the next day, with a maximum of 6 tokens on a given day. It's really helped to keep the amount of TV watching in check and there are less tantrums. Now it's not just me saying no you can't watch something just to be mean. It's whether or not he has any tokens left. It takes my authority out of the equation which I love.

    Thursday, June 04, 2015

    Teacher Appreciation Gifts 2015

    It's official! Yesterday was the last day of school and my little guy was super excited.

    Every year I try to make something creative for my son's teachers. Last year, his special ed teacher received a Brown Bear quilt since she was pregnant toward the end of the school year. The assistant teacher and speech therapist both got mug rugs (with mugs and goodies) and luggage handle covers.

    This year, though, I had to make a LOT of gifts. My son was enrolled into 2 PreK classes - his morning class was a standard class, and his afternoon class was a special ed class specifically for children with developmental delays. Each class had 2 teachers and my son was also receiving speech therapy twice a week from a speech pathologist. So that was 5 gifts I needed to make.

    My original intention was to make the 2 primary teachers a basket and the 2 assistant teachers and speech therapist tote bags. Well, it didn't exactly work out that way. I first made a tote bag, thinking it was going to be super quick and easy but it wasn't because of making a patchwork exterior, quilting the pieces, and then using a stiffer fusible interfacing for the lining.

    Don't get me wrong, I liked how it turned out but I was running out of time and needed to whip up 2 more of these. I decided to tackle the 1-hour basket pattern that I'd been saving and while it took me a bit longer than 1 hour, I fell in love with them. By cutting out all of my fabrics and thermolam interfacing ahead of time, I got these babies put together in record time and I just loved how they turned out! So my plan changed to all of the teachers getting baskets and the speech therapist getting the tote bag.

    Here's the first basket that I made, with some abstract owls.

    Here's the second one, with some fun mushroom fabric and bright orange polkadots (man, I love me some polkadots!)

    I didn't take individual photos of the last 2, but both assistant teachers said that their favorite color was blue so these went to them.

    I filled them with some gifts especially for their classrooms for next year (puzzles, a few new books, etc), chocolates, and some homemade vanilla!

    All of the teachers really loved the gifts and I can't wait to make some more baskets. They're going to be my go-to gift from now on.

    Monday, June 01, 2015

    Oh Mama, It's June Already!

    I've been going non-stop since I got up at the crack of dawn this morning that it wasn't until 6pm when I looked on instagram and saw that Quilting Jet Girl made me a block that I remembered that it's June and it's now my month to be Queen Bee for Hive 4 of Stash Bee. Woo-hoo!  I put in a lot of time and effort to come up with a fun bee block and I think I succeeded. Here is the overall look that I'm hoping for when the quilt is completed:

    And here are 2 of the blocks that I've made so far: