Concrete & glass tile!

Concrete bowl containing Fireclay tiles

My latest creative endeavor is making things from concrete.  Look at these amazing glass tiles I scored at Fireclay Tile’s “boneyard” in San Jose earlier this week. I didn’t know tile and tile designs could be so beautiful before I found Fireclay while browsing Houzz, and I’m so excited to begin working with the pieces I bought.

Baby quilt block and Habitat mug rug for the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild

I had a great time at my first East Bay Modern Quilt Guild meeting at the end of June and came away with some assignments and some fabric! And it’s not just any fabric – it’s from Jay McCarroll’s Habitat line – and I have been wanting that fabric in a major way so I was thrilled! So guess what I made with it? Well, a mug rug of course.

The quilting lines aren’t straight but I am quite happy with the final result. I found the fabric was a little difficult for me to use because my favorite pieces are like quilt designs in themselves. Really awesome quilt designs in themselves. And I didn’t know how I could showcase the design of the fabric in my quilt design, while keeping the end result simple. So it took a couple of attempts. I hope the group likes it :)

I also made a quilt block for a baby quilt a guild member is making. I got to the meeting a little bit late so I didn’t hear the whole story – if there was one – I just raised my hand when we were asked who wanted to contribute. The instruction I received was to make a 12.5″ x 12.5″ block using the colors orange and gray. This is what I came up with:

I had absolutely zero gray fabric so I used some acrylic paints and fabric medium to paint some white fabric different shades of gray. I realized after I completed the project that painted fabric may not be appropriate for a baby quilt. But hopefully I can just arrange for my block to be at the bottom of the quilt – away from where the baby’s face is. I don’t have kids so that might be a totally ridiculous-sounding solution. Will find out soon at the next guild meeting this tuesday! Can’t wait!

I put a bird on it!

Little Red Riding Hood mug rug

I know I am probably totally late to the party, but I am so excited that I have discovered the mug rug! Now I can get good at quilting by making small quilts that are functional. Well, sort of. I mean who really uses a mug rug anyway? It just sounds lame: “Honey have you seen my mug rug?”… How could one even answer that question without rolling their eyes?

I don’t care though because the mug rug is the perfect project for me right now, as I am trying desperately to get some quilting skills. And I quite enjoy saying to my hunny upon mug rug completion, “Hey babe, check out my latest mug rug! Do you want one to take to work with you?” with a super-excited expression and then watching his face turn a shade paler as he imagines the scenario of bringing a mug rug into his cubicle. He works in in a very mail-dominated, competitive sales floor environment where merely possessing a handicraft would guarantee an onslaught of ridicule from his co-workers, one of which has actually proclaimed seemingly out of nowhere how much he hates crafts.

When Erik told me this I started cracking up of course — who the heck goes out of their way to hate crafts?!? Of course I immediately had to google “I hate crafts” and interestingly there are some bloggers out there who hate crafts and there’s even a Facebook group called “I HATE CRAFTS”. I can’t pretend to understand these people – there are 19 members in the Facebook group – but I’ll bet anyone a million dollars that each and every one of them totally sucks at crafting!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a craft snob at all. It’s just funny to imagine someone being really good at making things by hand yet hating the entire concept and/or process. To me, crafting is kind of like skipping – it’s impossible to do it without a smile on your face. Seriously, try skipping while frowning. It’s really difficult and feels very strange.

Quilt for Baby Simmons

My friend Mrs. Simmons is pregnant and her due date came and went yesterday, so right now I am in a state of on-edgeness. At any moment I could receive a text – that the time has come and Mrs. Simmons is on her way to the hospital, entourage in tow. However, the text could take days to come, so I have to focus on other things. Today is Mrs. Simmons’ sister’s birthday so I have a feeling the baby might come today. Nobody knows what the sex of the baby is going to be which makes the whole situation even more exciting.

I wanted to take the opportunity to post some pics of the quilt I made for the baby.

modernquiltforbaby

modernquiltforbaby1

This is the back of the quilt…

modernquiltforbaby

And I know I am a dork but here is a photo of the quilt in the Fresh Modern Quilts Flickr group…

So many of the quilts in the group pool in the Fresh Modern Quilts Flickr group have been such a huge inspiration to me – I was really excited to finally be able to make a contribution of my own. Today I plan to take the first step to get involved with the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild. I really love modern quilting and although I get to be around other quilters and oodles of quilting inspiration at work, I think getting involved with a group will be a great way for me to pick up some skills and will keep me on track making more quilts!

Stay tuned for a post about Spring Quilt Market which took place in Salt Lake City last month. I can’t wait to finally post the pics I took there. But in the meantime, you can check out my posts about Spring Quilt Market here on the Stash Books blog, and here on the C&T Publishing blog.

Ali's house

My friend Ali spent the last year and half  in the process of finding and buying her very first house. And now that she’s moved in and has started the process of remodeling a portion of the house – there is clearly no rest for this girl – I am so happy for her! Congratulations Ali!

I could see how stressed she was throughout the entire ordeal and I hope now she can get back to what she is supposed be doing i.e. hanging out with me—whether it’s talking dogs, having a glass of vino, or eating our favorite lunch together (i.e. a Trader Joe’s log o’ goat cheese, eaten by itself and in entirety, with a spoon. You should try it.)

When I hang out with Ali, I tend to behave less like an adult and more like a kid. And it’s not just any kid I tend to act like. It’s…a fat kid. And sometimes even a mean, fat kid. Can you believe that?! Me neither! So I will try to explain so we can all better understand.

One thing Ali and I have in common is our love for food. We have very similar tastes when it comes to certain types of edibles. I would go so far as to say that a good portion of the foundation of our friendship is based on our mutual and very shameless love for a certain genre of food that can only be described as “fat kid food.”  It’s the type of food that a fat kid would eat, and quite possibly the reason many a kid is fat in the first place.

Examples of fat kid food are hostess products, candy, ice cream, marshmallows, cheese (sidenote: I went to Ali’s house after work a few days ago and she had 5 different kinds of cheese in her fridge. and a plate of homemade marshmallows on the counter), cookies, cake, pie, cupcakes, McDonalds, Chuck E Cheese, cakesters, Starbucks pastries, garlic fries, corn dogs, Doritos, soda, gum, jelly beans… you get the idea. The point is, hanging out with Ali brings out my fat kid state of mind. Now on to the mean kid part…

Ali and I both really like our dogs – she happens to have a pug named Moses as well as a pig named Oscar, who is kind of like a dog. Oscar is actually more like a dog than Moses is in some ways, so combined they equal about one dog. Ali and I both have boyfriends who would be perfectly happy if they never had to hear another “my dog is so cute/rad/funny/retarded/the best dog in the world” story again for the rest of their lives.

So Ali and I tell these stories to one another. Like kids (or self-centered idiot-women, you could argue), we often tell each other our dog stories at the very same time. Partly because our first and sometimes only opportunity to swap stories during the work day is a 10-minute break we take together when the roach coach comes at 11am. And partly because we are both more interested in doing the telling than the listening (clearly). And I want to say that we always acknowledge each other’s story and confirm that each other’s dogs are indeed the best/ awesomest/greediest/worst or whatever it is we are saying our dog is this time. But that would be a lie. The truth is that…

Ali is a nice kid so she always says “Awww, Bama’s such a good girl!” at the end of my stories. No matter what. Even if I just told her a story about how Bama decided to jump up on and pummel a poor random pregnant lady during a recent walk. But even if the story I told is about Bama being bad, Ali’s standard reply is a great one. Ali knows I just want to be told that Bama is a good girl, so that I can justify my hope that one day she will show it.

At the end of Ali’s stories I either say “Moses isn’t even a real dog” or “When do I get to bring Bama over to play with Oscar” (depending on whether the story is about Moses the pug or Oscar the pig).  Because, you see, when I hang out with Ali, I am the mean kid.

[Just to clear up any confusion: The reply I give when the story is about Oscar the pig is mean because Bama was bred to hunt wild boar. So in essence I am saying "when can I bring Bama over so we can see if she wants to try to kill Oscar." I'm only a teensy bit serious about that of course, but it's still a mean thing to say because of course she doesn't want to think about her beloved pet being carnivorized by a dog she thinks is a "good girl".]

For some reason I wasn’t able to put the mean kid part of me in check the entire time Ali was house searching and stressed out about it. I probably told her to:

shut up and stop stressing because soon its all going to be over and when it is you will have a house!  Which makes you better than me. Which sucks for me because I am older and way cooler than you. So I don’t really have any sympathy for you. Because I am a fat, mean kid who is having trouble controlling the emotion of “envy” at the moment. Now give me some more sunflower seeds please. And by the way, your dog would never survive in the wild.

The reason I am not ashamed to admit how awful a friend I have been to Ali, is because I am hoping I made it all up to her when I gave her this house-warming gift I made for her… BEHOLD!

The front of the house is mostly 100% woolfelt while the back is cotton fabric. The green polka dot “paint job” is a piece of green polka dot cotton fabric (that I found in my stash) with felt fused to the back side of it. I wanted the green polka dot wall to be a strong enough base for the other felt parts – the door, shutters, roof, and bottom.

The stitching is my favorite part of these house projects I’ve been doing, both in process and in final appearance. With Ali’s house I did rows of machine stitching on the roof to give it some texture. Then I used embroidery thread to hand stitch the detail of the shutters and to blanket stitch the base on to the walls of the house. A few houses ago, I had zero experience with bringing decorative stitching into my sewing projects. And now, just a few houses later, I have to say I have remarkably improved. It’s one of those wonderful things that just takes some practice!

I based the colors of this house on the real colors of Ali’s  house! But Ali’s real house doesn’t have polka dots, unfortunately. Or a “techno green” door :(

I spelled out Ali’s name on a piece of ribbon using Hambly rub-ons, and then fashioned the ribbon into a little tag. Hopefully the tag will trick someone into thinking the house came from a store and when that person ask’s Ali where she bought it, Ali will be happy. Because she will be just a little bit more sure that the house is cool-looking, and not some piece of crap example of Handmade Gone Bad-ery. Hooray.

This project isn’t my own invention. There is a fantastic book called Fanciful Felties from mummysam by Samantha Cotterill that was published recently by Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing, which is where I work. Although I used my own pattern, everything I needed to know to make this house came from Samantha’s book. Thanks for the inspiration and education, Sam!

Holiday houses

For years i have been saying that I need to come up with a quick, fun & easy holiday project so that I can send all my relatives in England something handmade. Well, this was the year that I finally made it happen. And for that I thank Kajsa Wikman, the author of Scandinavian Stitches (Stash Books) because were it not for a certain project I found in the pages of her book, my relatives in England and I would have been disappointed yet another time.

Here is a photo of her Yule House project from the book.

Yule House project from Kajsa Wikman's book Scandinavian Stitches

And these are the Yule houses I made for my relatives and a few other lucky people on this side of the lake.

my Yule Houses

These houses made the perfect gift for the relatives because they are incredibly lightweight and so are cheap to mail oversees. Also, you can select fabrics, and window and door shapes and sizes that you think will suit the person the house is intended for. I admit that it took me a long time to come up with fabric combinations I liked, but this I attribute to having SO many fabric scraps. Although this is a holiday project, I found it quite amazing how you can create a holiday feel without using strictly holiday fabrics.

So once I had knocked out about ten of these guys, I of course wanted to leave “the box”, and experiment with houses of different shapes and sizes. I made this house for my sister as part of her belated birthday gift.

taller house for my sis

Sidenote (although this deserves a post of its own, we all know that won’t ever happen): Inspired by the Green Grocery Bag Challenge,  I used the same fabrics in the above house to make a shopping bag  to use as her gift wrap. I just couldn’t resist – once I finally find a fabric combination that I’m happy with, I stick with it! Here is a pic of my shopping bag…

And check out these two blog posts of mine on the Stash Books blog for more info on the Yule Houses and the Green Grocery Bag Challenge:

  • Here I blog about the Yule Houses and include Kajsa’s project excerpted from her book
  • Here I blog about the Green Grocery Bag Challenge and offer some shopping bag gift wrap ideas

OK now what actually inspired this post – because lets face it, the holidays are so behind us – is my lingering obsession with these softie houses. “Lingering” isn’t really accurate – it’s more like a growing obsession. See what happened was I picked up a copy of Samantha Cotterill’s book Fanciful Felties from mummysam. She also makes softies but the fabric she uses isn’t cotton – it’s 100% wool felt, which is thicker. I didn’t really like the way the base of my tall house above looked and I noticed that she stitches on her bases using the blanket stitch and embroidery thread and that it looks fantastic. Here is a pic of her Country Cottage project, which I love, and you can see more examples of her work on this page.

Samantha Cotterill's Country Cottage

Samantha Cotterill's Country Cottage

So with that in mind I attempted some houses with bases attached using the blanket stitch and embroidery thread. And they didn’t turn out too well. It seems the bigger you make the house, the lumpier and more mis-shapen it gets. I realized my fabric needed to be thicker, so not wanting to deviate from cotton fabric, I decided to line all my fabric pieces with Shape-flex interfacing before I cut them out. And that made a huge difference in the house’s shape and made it possible to attach the bases of the houses with the blanket stitch.

My house softies using shape-flex interfacing, the blanket stitch, and embroidery floss

I am pretty sure I am doing the blanket stitch upside down. Lets face it – my stitching is sub par bordering on awful in every way. But I am still showing you because these examples are just the beginning in my quest to craft the perfect house softie. I have tons of scraps, stuffing, and embroidery floss that I can’t wait to dedicate to this challenge.

I also made the window and door fabric pieces thicker by fusing on some Shape-flex and found this made them easier to embellish with decorative stitching as well.

Houses softie window detail showing decorative stitching

OK I am going to end this and start choosing fabrics for my next attempt. Wish me luck!

Stenciled Canvas Panels

I have had some time to get crafty! Look what I’ve been making!

a belated birthday and mothers day prezzie for my mom

my dad emailed me this pic of his belated birthday panel prezzie displayed on his cubicle wall

awful iPhone shot (there must have been schmutz on the lens) but you get the idea

These pieces are acrylic paint and spray paint on 5″ x 4″ canvas panels. First I painted each panel with a couple of coats of Liquitex acrylic paint, and then I used the Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter to cut out some stencils from freezer paper.

I ironed the freezer paper cutouts to the canvas panels, plastic side down. Freezer paper works like a dream with stencils because you can seal the edges to prevent leakage simply by ironing the stencil down. When you are ready to remove the stencil, it comes right off.  The only difficulty I had was I had to keep ironing the freezer paper down in between coats of white spray paint. But I blame the $1.50 spray paint I was using that I got from Walmart. It was seriously lacking pigment. When I moved to black Krylon spray paint, it only took one or two coats to do the job. The white Walmart stuff took at least five coats.

The Silhouette cutter comes with some cutting designs pre-loaded, but the designs in the garden-themed panel trio above are ones I purchased from the online Silhouette store. The cool thing about the machine is that it works with your own font files, andyou can also make your own designs from images you have.

I am a huge fan of DaFont.com for their wingdings and dingbat fonts. The site has oodles of free themed dingbat fonts that I use all the time for a variety of projects. The font I used for the other two panels – the one for my dad and the one below it that I gave to Erik – is called “Happy Offsprings of Plankton” (see why I love this site? could a font have a better name?) and it’s by Gloomnshloom.

I’m looking forward to using the Silhouette in a LOT of upcoming projects, but my next project is going to be a quilt. There’s someone I want to make one for, but I’ll have to see how it turns out before I can commit to giving it to her. I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to quilting. I was finally able to start quilting the last quilt I put together – which must have been about a year ago. After a few attempts I gave up on doing any quilting in the workspace I had in Vallejo, and I was happy to discover that my workspace here makes quilting so much easier! While quilting this quilt I realized that I don’t really like it. So now I want to make a quilt I really do like.

I’m inspired by this amazing quilt I found on Kristen Lejnieks’ blog. An upcoming C&T Publishing author, Kristen has great style and taste. So I am going to try and duplicate this quilt, but with my own fabrics in blue and green. Try is the keyword there. Wish me luck!

my Oakland garden

I have never deliberately taken photos of the plants in my garden before. Which is kind of strange considering I have had so many different gardens in the past 5 or so years. And that I spend all summer alternating between engaging in war with crab grass (which is my nemesis) and standing around smiling proudly at my planties and flowies. So here is my first deliberately documented garden.

I love bougainvillea so was really happy to find a bush of it growing in the garden of our new place in Oakland. I quickly noticed that many other people in the neighborhood had bougainvillea growing in their gardens, but their’s were bursting with blooms while ours had just a few flowers and seemed mostly made of sticks.

All it took was a sprinkle of fertilizer to make the blooms burst out of our bougainvillea. Now it is happy-looking and there are so many flowers, I often cut pieces off to bring indoors.

I LOVE fuschia – it really brings back memories of the garden I grew up in.  It was the only decent plant I could find at the Home Depot by my house a month or so ago, and as I was so desperately in need of buying a plant, I bought two.  And of course they are thriving with little bell things everywhere.

My mother bought this sweet succulent for me the first time we went to Annie’s Annuals in Richmond together, which was last year. It had just started to flower at the time, I think. My mom bought one too.  I am fascinated by  flowering succulents – i almost find them unbelievable.

After staring at this green leafy succulent that doesn’t seem to be growing or doing anything for months on end, suddenly I saw some buds the other day and was so glad I held on to this plant and didn’t give it away or leave it behind when I moved to Oakland. Just a couple days later, and look! Full bloom. I wonder how long they will last…

I have been neglecting this little guy for months if not years. I know I got this succulent as a cutting from my neighbor when I lived in Martinez. This plant is so tough looking – it’s surface and shape looks like a barbarian’s battle club or something from the days when knights saved ladies from dragons with swords. Visitors to my garden always like it a lot, too.

I had no idea it flowered like this so it was a wonderful surprise when I saw these blooms peeking out from a very shady, if not dark place under a table on the patio. I was just neglecting it as usual and all of a sudden, it started being happy. Each day, the flowers open in the morning and close again at night. I know this picture isn’t great but I think you can still see how cute and unassuming they are.

I took all of the photos in this post this morning after having watered everything yesterday evening. I look at each plant that is newly in the ground when I water, to make sure it’s doing ok and gets enough to drink. A plant I bought recently at a better Home Depot in Emeryville is the one I have most recently planted and I have been anxiously awaiting the little red trumpet flowers it should sprout any day now.

All was well with the plant last night. But this morning I walked up to it to take a photo and couldn’t believe what I was seeing through the viewfinder. I did a double-take. Wouldn’t you? Although it is far from the prettiest plant in the garden now, I had to include these photos anyway. For all I know the entire thing could be gone tomorrow!

Eaten by Intruder

Of course at first I blamed the warfare on Bama dog, knowing that last night and this morning she was acting antsy because we skipped two walks due to an injured foot pad. My first thought was that she had eaten the leaves the way she eats grass some mornings and I told her off.  Now I am thinking it might have been snails. Can they gang together and eat that many leaves in a morning? I did see a few snails intruding in the corner of the garden a few minutes after I shook my finger at Bama. Poor dog.

Speaking of the poor troubled dog soul, I can hear her destroying something on the patio. So It’s walkies time, and the pad will just have to take it.

C&T Publishing Fall 2010 catalog

I have so much to SAY!! And it’s crazy that the only reason I get to say anything is because Bama dog has a hurt foot and isn’t getting a walk tonight as a result. Two huge work projects of mine have been completed and I couldn’t be happier about my experience at the Spring Quilt Market trade show in Minneapolis or with C&T Publishing’s Fall 2010 catalog. I’m going to talk about the catalog in this post and maybe get to Spring Quilt Market later on…doubtful though.

First, you can download the catalog and the other Fall 2010 seasonal print collateral pieces I’ve been working on from this page. All the images in this post can be clicked to enlarge.

I know print collateral is so ten years ago, but you have to understand my industry. Loyal, longtime customers of ours and even some of our authors, exist without the internet, and many many more of them still prefer print over digital. Our catalog is our lifeline to entire communities, like the Amish for example, and we won’t ever deny access (or marketing) to such contributors to the craft. After all, a google search for “amish quilt” brings up 219,000 results and the Amish aren’t even online! OK, the rebellious ones might be online, but those Amish probably aren’t the Amish that are big into quilting and have been on our mailing list for 20 years.

Although five Stash Books titles were published in the first half of 2010, the new imprint was officially launched with this catalog. The cover images all came from Fall Stash titles, and if you flip through the  first pages of the catalog you will see that Stash Books is heavily celebrated. Here are a couple of page excerpts.

Now, here are a couple of upcoming C&T Publishing titles (as in, these are not part of the Stash Books imprint) by new C&T authors that I am excited about.

All three of these new C&T Publishing/ Stash Books authors have GREAT blogs where they post their work. If you want to see what’s on the cutting edge of modern quilting, check their links:

This 80-page catalog includes close to 400 books and products for quilters, sewers, crafters, mixed media artists, scrapbookers, knitters, and wanna-bes. It is hitting the streets as I write this – can you believe I start working on the next catalog for Spring 2011 in just a few weeks!?!

bARTer network idea

I’ve noticed something that goes on a lot between friends in my social circle.  It goes kind of like this:

Friend #1 is bitching about some problem they have, for example, not-having a job and having a hard time getting their resume into top form

Friend #2 says they understand exactly what friend #1 is looking for in the job marketplace, and that they happen to be good at resumes and would be happy to help.

Friend #1 says something like Oh no – I couldn’t ask you to help me with the awful job of making my resume kick-ass

Friend #2 (who does want to help but has a busy schedule) says Well, we could do a trade?

Friend #1 says YES!  I know you like arts and crafts and I just got this really cool digital craft cutter.  You can come over and get crafty with me and we’ll make stencils and you can use whatever supplies of mine you want to make something cool.

Friend #2 says  Word! Sounds like a plan!  Let’s do it this Thursday.

Friend #1 says Awesome!  Looking forward to it.

And on Thursday evening Friend #1 and Friend #2 get together. Friend #1 gets help with their resume and actually sends out to a few places. And Friend #2 has a fabulous time making a mess in Friend #1’s craft studio.  At the end of the day, both friends have accomplished something and they are better friends than they used to be. And they will tell their other friends all about it.

Like I said, scenarios such as this happen a lot in my social circle.  The fact that  a lot of my friends are die-hard burners (i.e. they have gone to Burning Man every year since they were twelve) may explain why there is so much bartering going on between them off the playa. I think that bartering is under-used and I would like to see more of it going on.  But not bartering of stuff. Bartering of work, of experiences and outcomes.

Imagine if you really liked building websites but didn’t have much of a resume because all the projects you have done are low-budget and for idiots who demanded crappy websites. And you really want to create fantastic websites for fantastic people.  What if you found a network where you could barter your art? And by art I mean, your passion for making great websites for great people. You wouldn’t get paid in cash, but you could trade your work for something else you need – like a vacation rental in Tahoe for a week.

Now turn your imagination on full blast and picture this: The bARTer network has become so big and fantabulous that you are now able to bARTer your work for almost everything you need in life. You do web work for an apartment rental company so your rent is taken care of. You built a website for an organic grocer so you get your produce there without any exchange of money.

You built a website for a used car salesman (that one guy who sees his work as an art and has integrity – there must be one out there, right?) and got a great deal on a car.  You like working with your hands sometimes so you sweep up outside your local gas station once a week in return for the gas you need. Can you see how awesome that would be?  No taxes and getting everything at cost would also be a major perk. And so would the relationships you build with others who do what they love and love what they do.

This is the network I want to create in a form like that of a social commerce website. I don’t even care if it works as much as I think it should be there for people who want to work and live this way.  It may be a trifle idealistic but I like it.  What do you think?