"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Friday, July 30, 2010

New and Improved Sewing Room

Welcome once again to my sewing room. You probably remember that I do my sewing in the garage ... in Wyoming ... all winter ... and the garage is not heated :) (I use a propane heater). Anyway, I've made some significant improvements to my sewing room. It's now more of a room than just an open space. Here, I'll show you ...

This is the entrance to my new sewing room. It has a narrow walkway - about the size of a regular door, but not quite. The dresser/book shelves combo is on the left, and just out of the picture on the right is a chest freezer, which I like to refer to as my cutting table ;)

Here you can just see the edge of the freezer on the right, followed by my treadmill. Beyond that are two tall white cabinets for patterns, elastic, buttons, thread, pins, fabric set aside for specific projects, etc. One of these days I'm going to sort and organize that too, but for the most part, it's in decent order ... apart from the fabric sections. I have a very large folding table stored over there, along with my ironing board, which I hate - rickety new thing. I had a wonderful, heavy, solid old ironing board, but the thing finally fell apart and I had to buy a new one. They definitely don't make 'em like they used to.

Directly in front of you as you enter the room is my Singer industrial machine. Above that is a set of shelves and if you look closely, you will see two more sewing machines on the second shelf of that. Those are my grandmothers' machines. I am lucky enough to have both grandmother's machines.

The industrial machine has it's own table, and there is a small cabinet under the edge of that for things I need to reach easily ... bobbins, threads I use all the time, denim scraps for patching jeans, scissors, seam ripper, etc. To the left of that is a little nook where I keep my dress form, which I don't use very often. I'm going to rework that to be my actual measurements someday. Then I'll probably use it more. Right now, it's more decorative than anything.

This is my treadmill. Not everyone has one of these in their sewing room :) but there was no other place for it to go, and I really wanted one so that I can get exercise daily when it's winter. It's facing a wall, so I mounted a shelf where I can put my laptop and watch tv episodes on fancast.com. We don't subscribe to television service, so the computer is our only source of shows. I usually only watch things while I walk though, which greatly helps me use my time more wisely.

Okay, so this picture takes up where the other left off. The dress form in the corner, then an antique dresser also from my grandmother's house. This goes with a bed and vanity that I currently have stored. We used to use it for our bed, but it's only a double, and we've now been spoiled with a king, so someday (there's that word again), when we have a guest bedroom, it will get that honor. I have one drawer of the dresser I need to put back together, but it will be like new (almost) when I get around to fixing it :)

Next to the dresser is my Necchi machine. I use this for anything the industrial machine can't do ... zigzag stitches, button holes, sewing stretch materials, etc. But mostly I prefer the industrial machine. It sews so much faster that the other one feels like slow motion. To the left of the Necchi is a tall shelf full of different fabrics. That is my stash (but not all of it - ha. I also have fabric in the white cabinets and in the dresser.)

Next to the fabric shelves is my newest invention. A dresser with two bookshelves on top. It definitely makes it more of a sewing "room" which you have to deliberately walk into, rather than a space where you can just drop off stuff you don't know what to do with.

Like everything else in my garage (and parts of my house for that matter), this is piled to the ceiling. The base is a solid (extremely heavy) dresser. I'm keeping my current projects in this, along with my daughter's sewing projects. It's nice to have a drawer for each separate project. On top of that are two bookshelves, which face my new library area, naturally. I hung one of my finished wall quilts on the back of one bookshelf for decoration, and I'm thinking a fabric covered corkboard like I made for my entry way will be a good thing for the back of the other shelf. The boxes on top hold more fabric :), my art supplies - mostly oil paints and things I don't want kids to have full access to, and a sewing machine cover.

It definitely makes those "sewing moments" (the extra 5 minutes you have here and there) easier, when the projects are organized and easy to get to. I feel more productive already!

Here's a closer look at my stash shelves. Disregard the bags on the floor. Those are headed to the thrift store.

Here's a close-up of my favorite machine. I use it whenever I can.

This is my Necchi - which used to be my go-to machine until I got spoiled with the industrial machine. It has a variety of stitches which I mostly never use. I have to say I am very content with the machines I have. I don't have any desire to have a computerized one or one that does embroidery. Embroidery was meant to be done by hand! ;)

I picked up this cabinet at a yard sale almost 15 years ago. The brackets to hold the machine were gone and I don't think this machine had a place to hook into anyway. So I built a shelf inside and the machine just sits on the shelf. The sewing surface is flush with the cabinet, and I have sewn this way for so long I don't think I could sew without the flat surface. I don't know how people sew - and enjoy it - with their machine on the kitchen table.

So that's the tour. I hope you like it. I certainly do, and that's really all that matters, right? Now I've got some sewing to get to ...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of These Days

Someday (ugh - there's that word again), when I get done going through all my garage piles and boxes, I'm going to use this kit I picked up several years ago. It is called "Your Home Library" and is put out by the New York Public Library.

The kit comes with a sturdy box, which doubles as a protective sleeve for this beautiful archival quality book. The book itself is 12x9".

Included in the kit is the book "Guide to Organizing a Home Library." This is a very comprehensive book about setting up your own library. There is a little pocket inside the front cover that the back cover of this book slides into, keeping it stored neatly together with the kit.

The kit also includes software. The idea is to enter every book you own into the computer, along with where it is located. So if you need to find your copy of a book, you can look it up in the computer. You can also search to see which books you have by a certain author. I think this feature will especially be handy since I am constantly running across deals for books and wondering if I already bought that one - ha. While organizing the kids' series books, I found that I had four copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "The Long Winter". :) I'm sure my dad wouldn't be surprised. He has helped us move this great collection of books and thought I was nuts to have so many.

The book has spiral binding and archival quality heavy parchment paper. After entering all your information in the computer, you can then print it on this paper so you will have a written copy of what you have and where it is as well. It's a cool idea, and impressive to look at, but I really think the computerized list will be my biggest asset.

The book slides into the sleeve. It is protected and looks very nice on a shelf. Can't wait to use this, but I'm a little overwhelmed. I must have at least a thousand books. I'll be interested to see how many I actually have. This will definitely take some time ...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Can't I Have a Home Library?

You know how people make up their dream house plans in their heads? Well, my dream house has always included a rather elaborate library. If you've seen Disney's Beauty and the Beast you may have some idea what I mean... towering bookshelves at least two stories high with ladders on roller systems to get to the best books, which are always way up on top. Well, I'm tired of waiting for "some day" to come.

So the question is "Why can't I have a home library now?" Well, practically speaking ...
1. I live in a two bedroom, 1200 square foot duplex with three kids who all share one bedroom
2. The kids include one girl - 17 yrs old, and two boys - 20 months and a 6 year old. (My 19 year old son is out on his own, so in this instance, he doesn't count (no offense K).
3. I run a home daycare, so the house is also crammed with toys and baby equipment.
4. We do not have a den or family room.
5. There is not a single bit of extra space in the house.

So the odds of having a nice, quiet, relaxing library space are basically nil. I got to thinking that perhaps the garage was a good candidate. After all, my sewing room is out there. But the garage has gotten a little over-run with junk. It was organized last year, when we put up 6 very large industrial 6-foot-tall shelves. We managed to get most things up on the shelves. I even moved three bookshelves out there and had them together in an area. This was mostly done out of necessity, as there was nowhere else in the house to put them. They were all crammed full, with the largest one holding two rows of books on each shelf (they are deep shelves). And here's what had become of our nicely organized garage when people started carting things out and not putting them away...

The area to the left is where I hoped to put a library. The area to the right is my buried sewing room. Now keep in mind, this is my garage we're talking about. The house is much neater! But when you lack space, and you also lack organization, you end up with overwhelming piles. Nobody knows where to put things, because nothing has a specific place, so everyone just walks out and dumps.

This had gotten very out of hand. We had to climb piles of stuff if we needed one of the books on those shelves.

The sewing room was actually functional, but I have to admit that I didn't really want to spend time in there. Who would, when it looks like this? It certainly wasn't a haven.

Well, then came a dilemma. We were hoping to be able to rent the other half of our duplex to use for the daycare. Our oldest had been living over there for 5 months, ripping out carpet, repainting, etc. for the owners, who are our friends and my husband's employer. We had already sort of spread out into his garage. So when we learned that the employer's sister was going to move in over there, we knew we would have some drastic re-organizing to do in order to fit our stuff back in our own space.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We sorted, donated, recycled, and threw out a bunch of stuff, and in the process of reorganizing, I was struck with the idea of creating the library I've always wanted. (Well, okay, so it's not the one I have planned out in my mind, which includes a fireplace, huge, cushy leather chairs and floor to ceiling built in shelving throughout the room, but it's as close as I'm going to get in the place we are now.)

The space now contains 6 bookshelves, a cushy leather office chair, two tall 4-drawer filing cabinets (those were already there too) and a small desk.

These two bookshelves sit on top of a dresser that our old neighbor left for us. The dresser is solid wood and very heavy - and very nice. He bought it new and had it less than 3 years. It faces my sewing area and holds a variety of sewing supplies and projects. Putting the dresser there accomplished a couple of important things. First, it divided the rooms. Now you have to walk through a small "doorway" between the dresser and chest freezer in order to "enter" my sewing room. This should cut down clutter. (That and the fact that the children have been banished from this space unless they are actually sewing.) It also provides a great place to keep my current projects separated, and has plenty of space for supplies. When I put it in, though, all I could see was the top of a dresser that would be a catch-all for piles of junk again. That's when it struck me that I could put the bookshelves on top of the dresser. (This is not an entirely new thought, as we already have two long dressers like this stacked one on top of the other in our master bedroom - one for my husband and one for the one-year-old. We were out of floor space inside too.)

I love how this provides a barrier between library and sewing area. The desk was a happy accident. It was one of the last things that had to be moved from next door and there wasn't anywhere else to put it. I backed it up to the dresser, and it makes a great study area. My six year old spends a lot of time at this desk drawing and coloring while the daycare kids nap in the afternoon.

Here's a better picture of the dividing shelves. I'll give you a tour of the new sewing space tomorrow. The shelves are somewhat organized, but I will need to go through those one of these days and edit and organize. I also have more books coming in the mail, so I will need to make space for those too.

There's quite an assortment of books in this space. Everything from classics, to homeschooling books, to hymnals and sheet music, old Taste of Home magazines, recipe books, and the big tall shelf behind the office chair is all Bible study related books. My husband is a Bible college graduate. The Bible shelf is still mostly double stacked, and I still have books in boxes out here too.

So not everyone has an exercise bike in their library, and that doesn't exactly evoke thoughts of relaxation, but then not everyone has a treadmill in their sewing room either. But I'm guessing by now you've figured out that I march to my own drum beat. Not to mention, I don't have room indoors for an exercise room either - ha.

So what's this awkward empty space? It is going to be my indoor built in bookshelves ... eventually. This is a very odd space that was left when the designer of this home couldn't figure out what to do with it - ha. No offense. We love the layout of the home, but at the end of the hallway to the bedrooms, the bedroom doors angle into the rooms - you walk toward a "v" shape at the end of the hallway, where the doors connect. But this little space is left over. It's a good amount of space - almost 20 inches wide and 30 long. I had one of the bookshelves here, along the longer wall section, but it fit so well in the garage that I moved it. I have all the materials for creating built in shelves - floor to ceiling - along the shorter section. I've just been so busy with getting the garage in order and our junk out of the neighbor's way that I haven't had a chance to put this together. Maybe this weekend ... but then that's what I've been saying for a month, lol. No rush now that I've got my garage in order. I'm going to take some time to enjoy that space! Besides, I've been thinking, maybe I'll make an "L" shaped bookshelf and extend the shelves onto the longer wall too. I'd need more supplies for that though, so I'll probably just start with what I had planned, and see where it goes from there. That's how I approach all my projects.

Anyway, hopefully I've inspired some of you to make the most of what you have and quit waiting for someday. Oh, and by the way, did you notice, I now have "floor to ceiling" bookshelves? Just like Beauty and the Beast ;)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looks Like a Duck, Quacks Like a Duck, Tastes Like a Pigeon

Okay, so I've never actually tasted a pigeon. Who knows, if it tastes like quail, it could be a really good thing. My point was that dinner looked and smelled like Pizza, but tasted more like biscuits. Here's what we had...

It started with 3 1/2 cups of Bisquick mixed with a cup of milk. I was actually about a cup short on the Bisquick, so I mixed in some flour before adding the milk. It worked well, and I think I've discovered a way to make my Bisquick go farther ;)

I used my cookie scoop to scoop out lumps of dough into a greased 9x13.

Then I poured a jar of pizza sauce over the dough balls.

I added pepperoni and a generous amount of mozzarella cheese...

then added mushrooms and black olives.

I baked it at 375 for 30 minutes (we're over 7,000 ft. elevation. If you're lower, you might need less cooking time).

YUM! Even though it didn't taste like normal pizza, it was very good. I think regular pizza is much better, but if you don't have time to make regular dough, this is a good alternative. On a scale of 1-5 we rated this 3.5 to 4. Not outstanding, and somewhat dry because the biscuits swell so much. I think it would have been better with regular dough balls - sort of like monkey bread. But like I said, when you don't have time to make bread dough, this is a good quick alternative. One bonus was that it is very filling. It stretched our pizza toppings so that we didn't need as much pepperoni and such. I don't think it makes much difference whether you drop scoops of dough in the pan or press it flat. The biscuit dough tends to suck up the moisture of the pizza sauce though, so don't skimp on the sauce.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

King of the Castle

When I was selecting playground equipment for my daycare, I wanted to make sure I had something my 6 year old could play with too. I couldn't put in a big slide or anything because I can't tear up my lawn and put in protective surfacing like wood chips or gravel, so I had to stick with stuff that had a platform no higher than 2 feet. I let my 6 year old pick out a playhouse. He decided he wanted a castle, "So I can be the king."

I'm not sure why that didn't occur to me as a bad idea ;) but thankfully he has been very nice about it. The one thing he insisted on was having a costume. We have a bunch of princess dress up clothes we picked up at our local thrift store for next to nothing, but we didn't have anything boys could wear.

I whipped up this outfit in very little time. It started out as a tablecloth we never used. I cut a hole out of the middle to go over his head, then tied grey crushed velvet ties on the shoulders to cinch it up. Very flowy and Julius Caesar like, if you ask me. A tie at the waist holds everything in place. The one accent I spent a lot of time on was the crest. It matches the crest on the castle. I used waxed paper to trace the design on the crest, then layered that over red and yellow flannel and began stitching with my machine. I had intended to cut around all the lion very closely, but my machine was acting up and I couldn't get a good tight stitch. I had a miserable time getting the waxed paper off, but eventually was able to remove most of it. It would have turned out much nicer if I had hand embroidered it, but it is just a costume that is meant for outside, and he wanted it right away. Anyway, for a quick project, I think it came out really well. He made the crown himself. We aren't supposed to have play weapons in our daycare, so I didn't buy him one. He improvises with a foam noodle.

PS - He's not in pain. He's trying to do his impression of a fierce king who cannot be defeated in battle. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Identity Crisis Inspiration

I think my blog is having an identity crisis - ha. I started this blog as a place to record crafts, but lately it's been all about food, gardening and getting organized. I'm having some serious crafting withdrawals.I got to thinking about what sort of craft I was in the mood for last night, and I started thinking about the Over the River quilt pattern I had seen on the quilt shop hop last year. It has a lot of hand embroidery on it and the pictures look just like my Grandma's old farm in southeast Nebraska. Even the house and barn are just like hers were. The middle say "Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House we go." I have been wanting this pattern for a year. So, I figured this would be as good a time as any to start it :) I'll be ordering it this weekend.

My grandmother - Dad's Mom - was the person who taught me to embroider. She taught me to love sewing. These are a few things I have from her house. I know some of this was embroidered by her, but I imagine some of it was embroidered by others in her family. She lived in the farmhouse that her grandmother originally lived in, so it could be that some of this is that old. I remember stitching with her while she was making this "Monday" tea towel. The script of this word could have been written by her own hand, but I think most of these towels had the words on them already. Her handwriting was just like that. I have several of her iron-on patterns as well.

This is a pillowcase that looks like it has wedding bells on it - at least that's what I think they are. I don't remember Grandma crocheting though, and a lot of these pieces have crocheted lace trim. So these could be someone else's work. There sure was a lot with crocheting though, and I have a lot of crochet work from the house too, so maybe she was just not crocheting anymore by the time I was old enough to know about anything.

Here's a close-up of one of the bells.

I have a whole set of these dishtowels with birds. Grandma didn't make things "for company." She used the things she made. She lived on a farm quite a ways from town, and she wasn't fancy. There were always people coming over to visit and stopping by at all times, so I guess she was always "company ready" - though I think she would have laughed at that term.

This piece is a round table cloth - for a small side table. There are six bluebirds carrying flowering branches and big pink flowers swirled around the edge.

This is a small table decoration - are they still called doilies if they aren't all crochet? Anyway, this is oblong and has very delicate stitching, and a different stitch than most stuff Grandma did. It is done on a burlap like material and has a variegated pink crochet trim. I'm not sure that Grandma did this one. The fabric seems older and the stitching is a lot different than the other things. The oblong shape of this makes me think it may have been made to go under a lamp.

This is a secretary I inherited from Grandma's farmhouse. I love this piece. I don't know how old it is. There are stains from an ink well inside the drop down desk area. Dad doesn't remember how long it was in the house either.

This is the top section of the secretary. I have put a lot of the things I got from Grandma in it - mostly things that are from her house. I keep a lot of the crochet and embroidery in there. I have used the embroidered pillowcases and things as shelf liners.

I love this tea towel because it is so different. Strips of fabric are stitched down to make the birds and ribbon. Fun. This seems very much like something Grandma would have done.

Here's a closeup of one of the birds. I'll have to try this method sometime. I really like using this type of tea towel, and I think the fabric pictures would hold up better than embroidery ... hmm, I may have just found my next project lol.

This is one end of a table runner. The other side is identical and the center is sort of an oblong shape.

This is one of the table runners I am using in the secretary. I love the soft lilac colors. It reminds me of the huge lilac bush at Grandma's house. We always had an Easter picture taken by the lilac bush when I was little.

This might be my favorite piece in my collection. I think the birds and flowers are so pretty, and this pillowcase hasn't been used much. It's just like new.

Here is one of the crocheted pieces from Grandma's house. I saw a pattern for this online one time and would have purchased it but it was ridiculously expensive. Someday I would like to make one of these, just to say I did ... good reason, huh?

When my husband and I were married back in 1996, I made a pillow for our ring bearer. The rings were tied onto the red ribbons (not the smartest plan since our 5 year old ring bearer flopped the pillow around until the rings came off and one fell in the grass at our outdoor wedding. Thankfully I saw it fall.) The wedding came before I had a chance to finish the rope hearts. I really should finish that sometime - ha.

The pillow matched our wedding invitations on the right of the picture. The ceramic cowboy bride and groom was our cake topper (the other little couple belonged to my mom). I copied the picture from the card onto the pillow and embroidered it. I was way out of practice, having not stitched anything in at least 10 years, and I used the only stitch I knew at the time, which made the words look jagged and messy. It didn't occur to me to do it any other way. The crochet work on the pillow was already there. It started out completely covered with the lace and I carefully cut away the center section and whip stitched the remainder down to the pillow so it would lay flat. We did a lot of things for our wedding from scratch and had a beautiful ceremony in the park.

So, now that I'm thinking about embroidery, I'm running away with ideas ... Christmas ornaments, new stockings, snowman pillows, and even a Christmas sampler quilt with a snowman motif. We'll see. I'm sure I won't do all of that. I definitely want to do the Over the River pattern. I think it was made just for me ;)