Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I learned from my Facebook fast

Happy Easter! The Lenten season is over!
So I mentioned I tried to give up social media for Lent.

That didn't entirely work.

I did stay away from Facebook, which is my primary temptation, and I turned off all notifications on my phone, so that helped to keep the beasties away, but...

As you know, I still blogged.

(Because I couldn't decided if that counted or not.)

I still mentioned said blogging on my Facebook page.

(Because otherwise how would you know I blogged.)

(Actually I found my 'hits' were slower to build but still reached the same height...who needs fb?! Wellllll, let's not get craz-ay...)

And I still scoped out my kids' photos on their preschool's Facebook page when bestie told me to do so.

(Because they are kinda adorable and I'm kinda obsessed with them.)

(I can say this right now because they are not presently in my presence.)

But otherwise I have to say, I did not miss the distraction of the computer. I even had to turn it on to pay my bills!

And I didn't miss the carpel tunnel from constantly scrolling through my phone at everyone's posts whenever I had a spare moment.

It was supremely hard at first! And I had no problem diving back into my addiction yesterday.

But it was good. It is good to break yourself of all-consuming habits sometimes.

And since I can't seem to adhere to real diets, my Facebook diet was a good exercise.

Oh does that count for exercise too??

What I learned: 

1. Not everything you/your children do is share-worthy. I often wrote down cute little things they said or something that popped in my head, thinking I might share it when Lent was over, but when I look at it now, eh. 

2. Not everyone is being truthful in their posts. There is no. effin. way. people are as perfect as they say they are! Take even me, for instance. I found some hidden pressure from within to make sure people knew when I had a successful moment in the middle of the day. How could I not share this?! But when I thought about how that related to what other people must be sharing, it made me feel better. They are not perfect. I am not perfect. We don't have to share everything to prove that one way or the other. Just relax and think everyone/everything is fine, and it is. Magic!

3. People will still care. I started texting with some friends with whom I normally communicate through Facebook. Even some phone calls! Which is actually nice! (When the kids aren't in the background diffusing any chance of complete conversation.) I started sharing via email with the grandparents and friends, and I gave up on random people finding my stories via Twitter, Google +, and Facebook, etc.

4. It's a diversion, not an activity. I really picked my head up and looked around more! I found different ways of diffusing my own anger when the kids upset me, and I channeled my energies into quilting, reading, cleaning, DIY projects... I had a little more headspace to plan dinners and family time. It's really a bonus to my day, not fueling any other part of my purpose in the universe. It's great to share your every move, but it doesn't necessarily have to happen in that moment. A little time and a little editing make for a more *quality* sharing moment (Like blogging! ;-b) My life isn't any different, just less noisy when I take a break from it. And sometimes, you need the noise! But sometimes you just. don't. 

5. I vacillate between the desire to stalk and the desire to share. Because I just couldn't help myself from blogging, I think I realized I may tip the scale over towards more of a compulsion to share rather than to stalk. And I know people who are the opposite. Being a performer, this is no surprise. But I wonder if that makes me look self-centered. At the very core of me is just a VERY. SOCIAL. person. And I like to bring out sharing in others by sharing first. And with my pedigree, stalking is seriously hazardous to my health! So it's not a bad thing to hang back once in a while when more than half the people I know are doctors, lawyers, professional performers or tech gurus. I heart you all! But I have to go wipe my son's ass. 'Scuse me.

All in all it was a good little exercise and I recommend it if you are considering. But it truly takes a full week or two to start to feel the effects and get in the groove; you can't just go for a day. Hmmmm, that's what people say about all diets....maybe I should take my own advice...Now onto that juice fast...bikini season is upon us!!! I'm about 10 pounds up from last year, y'all...so the beer belly's back in black and if you see me on the street make me drop and give you 20!!!
I do this for YOU, folks. You could never embarass yourself as much as I do ME!





Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Auction success!

Remember those handprint - Eric - Carle - inspired - quilts I made for the kids' school auction last week? The first one (A Tiny Seed)? Then the second one (Brown Bear)? And then - huff, puff - the third one (The Very Hungry Caterpillar)?? 

Well I'm sooo sorry to keep you in suspense...the quilts were a hit at the auction! 
Natch.
Actually I was more than relieved they all got bids, and the first two really went up and up! 
Mama may have had some celebratory signature cocktails.

The third one was soo big, I think it really intimidated our 5-day class friends! You have to have a big enough space for it, and luckily this pretty lady does: 


Truth be told, she was guarding the bidding sheet tee hee; I think she really liked it. 

So I'm spent, people!!!

But no, wait, I want to catch up on the holidays...

Hmmmm....who could this be for?? A special someone born on St. Patty's Day, perhaps??

And I re-opened the ETSY shop, and already got an order for my new offering: 

Green Lantern! 


And I had to put these two together, of course...

Even Wal-Mart is sold out of Frozen panties! Glad I could whip these up.
But sorry, they're just for my daughter!!  I can't seem to get my hands on any more of that fabric!!

If you have some leads...send 'em straightaway to your fave twyn mommy...

You know I'll pay the favor back...

in quilts, apparently!!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Lego table built for twins! DIY from KidKraft Train Table


OMG this was super duper easy.  First of all, there are a dozen tutorials out on the interwebs about making your own Lego Table so you can pick and choose a lot of elements you need to trick out any table you already have!

Quick & Dirty:
  • Grab a table
  • Order Lego flats ($4.99 for 10 x 10's, $14.20 for 15 x 15's)
  • Use Liquid Nails to Glue them on to table
  • Space them properly with legos, use books to weigh them down and 'cure' overnight
  • Add rails, buckets, magnet strips from Ikea with screws & power drill

Our Lego Table Story:

As for us, I was hoping the train stage would last a little longer...longer enough for them to really put their own track designs together and ask for fancier and more complicated sets...but alas, this table has been a multi-tasker from the start. It was one of the first pieces the kids could pull themselves up with before the age of 2 (right when they got it) and at such a height that they enjoyed playing with all kinda of toys on top of it.
So even though we are starting to let the train sets go, I'm not letting the table go. It needs new life. It needs to be a part of our new Lego obsession and be brought back from the dregs of the basement, back into its once proud spot in the family room. (Maybe the wooden building blocks can take a pausa.)

I browsed the many tutorials online and most people seem to buy a new ikea table to cover for this purpose. Then you buy the Lego "base plates" and stick them on with gorilla glue. I particularly consulted this tutorial from kidsactivitiesblog.com.
These "Trofast" Tables could work if you wanted to start fresh, and the bins fit underneath!
So now you have a table, you ordered Lego flats, so next you glue. You must do some math. I came up with the design after learning the standard plates are 10 x 10 and asking my children if they wanted any "roads". They said no. That made it a little easier (and cheaper.) 

Also I was not planning on cutting any base plates as filler...so I designed to add some bins and possibly magnetic storage just like I saw in this tutorial from kojo-designs.com. The question was to make the little magnetic storage "bins" towards the middle, or the edge? I chose middle because that is how most play tables (including the one at their school) are set up, especially in this tutorial. Also, rods on the edge for hanging buckets! But I wasn't sure if the KidKraft Table could withstand a drilling. 

Are you surprised I immediately took out my graph paper, normally used for my quilt designs? ;)
I had in mind two parallel workspaces so that each kid had a zone of their own. [Got twyns!?!]

The other unique part of our train table is that it is made of two "planks" that can be flipped over to reveal a play scene. I wanted to preserve this functionality if possible, so that is another reason I kept my design light in the middle. 


So I ordered the Lego flats on Amazon.com. I price-shopped between Lego.Com and Amazon.Com and because I am a prime member, it worked out better to go through Amazon, but we are talking a difference of a few dollars. $58 total for 2 X-Large (15 x 15) Base Gray Plates ($14.20 each), 4 Green (10 x 10) Plates ($4.99 each), and 2 Blue (10 x 10) Plates ($4.99 each.) 

 Then I went to Ikea to shop for my accessories. 
These magnet tins would be a perfect fixture in the center of the table.
There are a ton of rail/bucket options! I chose the cheap plastic ones.
So I got home, put the kids to bed and got to work. I spaced it out according to my design. I actually screwed the magnet bar on first before I glued the flats so that I wouldn't disrupt the table during 'curing.'




Then I glued. I used "Liquid Nails." I think I could have used more on the edges. We'll see how long they last. Remember the kids have to pull legos up off of this thing! 


The last tidbit of info I received from every tutorial was that you must keep Lego spacing in mind when joining the plates. You may need some wiggle room. So I utilized legos to set the spacing while the plates were 'curing.'


My last "issue" to address was that the drawers in this table started out flimsy, came off eventually, and left a gaping hole in each side. I thought I might be able to add the magnet strip or hanging buckets there, but I couldn't find anything that fits that size exactly. Hubby might build something later. For now, we'll just keep bins underneath. 
All done! Now curing and waiting for the morning reveal.
Immediate hit
The twyns saw it this morning and started playing right away. My son shouted "A. REAL. LEGO. TABLE!!!" and I swooned, of course. They loved putting little characters in the tins, and the fact that I actually separated the legos out by color. They wanted to use the 'green bin' then the 'red bin', etc. 

I liked that I kept the negative space for play and display, but my son wanted more lego flat space. So we can always add more! It would just require some cutting and sanding, but as any mommy knows, your work is never done...

HAPPY FRIDAY!!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Charity handprint quilt #3:The Very Hungry Caterpillar [aka problem child]

This is the final post of three handprint quilts I created this past month for my twyns' preschool auction. You can see quilt #1 (A Tiny Seedhere and quilt #2 (Brown Bear, Brown Bear) here.

Finished size (binding completed post-pic) 74 " wide by 80 " high
Well let me start this post by saying after all the work I did, of which you are about to read, I've decided to enter the 'butterfly block' design in a block contest! Please go vote for it here, if you please! You can vote once a day for the whole month of May. If you browse the other entries you will see what a novice I still am, and that will make you feel better about following me in my journey to quilter stardom, since you knew me "when."

Now, back to quilt story/tutorial. And there is no usual TwynMawrMom "Quick & Dirty" points on this tutorial, because everything was Slow & Painful on this one!! But this is so I could iron it out for you, my sewing friends, so that it will quick & easy for you, hopefully. [hee hee, nervous laugh...]


Start with design & pattern: 24 students, (that's 12 butterflies):
Ohhhhhh....this quilt. I thought I had chosen a pattern for it, then I wasn't happy, then I wanted to incorporate the Eric Carle fabric panels I had purchased, then my daughter was playing around with them...and then we came up with butterflies. But no pattern. So I created my own. And it took a few [i.e. many many] tries! When creating your own pattern you have to constantly stop and adjust and assess at every turn. It takes a lot longer, and you are filled with doubt most of the time.

So, like I said, we saw this butterfly panel and decided it would be the perfect size to match up with a pieced butterfly, using the hands as the inside of each wing.


Because I wanted to make butterflies and add the stem, I had to both trim the original 8 x 8 handprint blocks 1/2 inch on the inside (palm) side and adjust the seam allowances around in the HST's. I will adjust the pattern for you my reader accordingly so you can keep 1/4" seam allowances.

I also decided (upon quilting expert friend evaluation via text pics), that the butterfly should have symmetrical wings, duh! So I ripped out the bottom butterfly shown on the bottom of this pic, and came up with the design on the top. It's hard to see in this pic, but it features red on the bottom, then orange, then yellow, blue, and finally, violet.


Since my HST's generally come out small, I gave myself a little wiggle room in the solid blocks, which are the white central rectangle in the upper row of each butterfly, and the red center squares in the bottom row. 

Just to be safe I also assembled each butterfly separately rather than "assembly row" style, so that I could make sure they had an internal harmony/match-up of points before assembling the quilt as a whole and encountering size/matching issues there. 

That's what sashing and borders are for!  Although I had some trouble with that, too...

By block number 5 of 12, I finally figured out that I wanted to piece it by doing the inner butterfly, the bottom two red blocks, then add the yellow-orange-red outer border, then piece the whole top row on. Another negative to starting your own pattern and not caring how the math/seam allowances worked out!!! 7 more to go...

So I was able to start piecing all the red rows together, the yellow/orange side panels onto the handprints, then the top row. Assembly-line style! I show you this piecing process illustrated in the following photos. I opened up and ironed most seams whenever possible to help flatten out all the points. See the pretty butterfly effect on the wrong side of the fabric? Quilter porn.

 


Don't forget to add the grosgrain ribbon "V" as antennae in between the top and middle 'rows'. Alternatively you could use a stitch in the final quilting or a type of applique.

 

And..... here's the block you've been waiting for! Sorry to make you read about all my design issues. But I'm hoping it will encourage you to create your own! (pssst...get some graph paper.)


Since indeed the final block is quite large, I think you could also make a great pillow out of one block for a family member or teacher. Just sayin'.

Final top assembly: 
It was hard to resist adding green to these butterflies to balance out the color, but I knew the quilt as a whole would balance more nicely, just as the first one did, if I saved the green for the negative spaces. It also served to tie all three of these quilts together thematically.

I struggled with how to complete the quilt top:

Staggered with the butterfly in the middle? 

Green in the negative spaces?


Eric Carle filler fabric in the negative spaces?


In the end I came up with no negative space at all, and utilized the entire center Eric Carle fabric panel of The Very Hungry Caterpillar story: 


Again I measured the 'butterfly rows' against the middle panel, and it did not work out exactly. I added more green sashing to help, but it is still a little 'off', where I added a second green row to the center panel. It would have been better if I had trimmed the butterflies more to match the inner panel. But the green is nice to tie it all together.

Now onto quilting: Using the Longarm for the first time!
After I finished piecing the top together and realized it covered my entire queen-size bed, I made a call to Steve's to rent the longarm for the first time. If you recall I took the 'certification' class back in January and had a great time, so for some reason I thought that meant I could get this thing quilted in 2 hours time.

Hahahahaha....except that it took an hour for me to re-learn how to load it properly onto the frame. But this is why Steve's gives first-timers the first two hours free. You're going to have a learning curve. 

Robert was so great and was helping me every ten minutes. There was even some tweaking he needed to do to the machine, and once I got going, since I went with a random "butterfly flying" type design, I was actually done in about two hours. 
No I was not planning on a random design but then again, I AM random...
Oh, and there was that other little hiccup, where I cut the batting the wrong length and needed to hand sew a bit more on to finish off the whole thing...

See how the fuzzy off-white stuff has ended while the quilt top goes on? Yeah, that's not good.
But overall I have to say amidst moments of complete panic that I just destroyed this quilt, I had moments where I felt really proud and happy that I honored my own creative voice. I chose a variegated (rainbow) thread and just went for it.


Finishing up: photo shooting, binding, labeling:
I picked up the kids and had just enough sunlight to photo the quilts before (hoping to) finish them off that night and hand them into the kids' school the next morning. I wanted them done. The time was now. 

So who knew photographing a quilt was a whole other skill!?! 

The kids helped quite a bit....riiiiight....
Trimmed the batting and evened out the backing so that it was even all around the quilt. Folded over twice (for the self-binding method I mentioned in my earlier posts here and here) and pinned in place to machine sew around the edges.

Added the final label at 12:30 am. 



Then mama slept. 


And now it has only been a week, but I kinda miss those buggers hanging around the last few weeks...

Thanks for reading! Please comment below or email me at twynmawrmom [at] gmail [dot] com if you have any questions about the pattern or process whatsoever! 

I'll let you know how they do at auction! 

[Unless they go for $20 each, then you'll know why you didn't hear about it ever again...]

Don't forget to vote for my block here
(in MAY!)
:) 



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Charity Handprint Quilt #2: Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Finished size 53 inches wide by 61 inches high
This is the continuation of my "Handprint Quilts" posts as I just recently prepared three quilts for the three different classes at my twyns' preschool.

For instructions on preparing the handprints, and to see a smaller pattern possibility, see the first post here.

In this quilt I thought I would challenge myself with free-motion quilting. But the course I signed up for did not quite align with my timing to do so. But at the first session the teacher insisted I get a walking foot, so I used this video to confirm attachment and function and off I went to sew some more straight lines! But this time, the difference is, *hopefully* no puckering!

Do you use a walking foot for something other than quilting? In the video she mentions stretchy fabrics, so I'm intrigued if this could help with a) my minky issues and b) my knit issues. I have issues. Sigh.

Quick & Dirty on Quilt #2: 21 students

  • Obtained handprints on original 8 x 8 blocks
  • Used fabric featuring Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? for inspiration 
  • pattern: "Sweet Caroline" by Anita Peluso from Fall 2011 Fons & Porter's Easy Quilts (Digital pattern and photos available here.)
  • Adjusted pattern for 21 handprint blocks plus 21 Brown Bear feature blocks
  • Tied it in with other quilts by using green fabric in border
  • Quilted at home with walking foot in straight lines across diagonals
  • Self-binding from folding over backing and machine finish.
  • Finished size 53 x 61.


Slow & Painful on Quilt #2

First up: adjusting the pattern:
I must have an aversion to following patterns completely. But honestly as I scoured the internet for handprint quilt inspiration I didn't find an interesting pattern that I could play with, and I wanted to do a little more than typical rows of blocks. So I encourage you to see beyond the patterns and put handprints anywhere! Here's me marking up the pattern "Sweet Caroline" by Anita Peluso that can be found here.

For this one I knew I'd mess up the cool blue-and-white checkered pattern but it allowed me to fit 21 handprints and 21 Eric Carle blocks with a cool four-patch filler.  I just trimmed off a few rows to make it fit my numbers and drew in the hands where they would lay.

Origin pattern
Next up: Piecing strings and strings of squares:






I did my best to create enough 'different' four-patch combinations so that no color would be meeting itself throughout the quilt. I also tried to disperse the different colored handprints so that they weren't near each other, but, you know, a lot of those girls chose purple ;).

These squares are cut from 2 3/4 strips, and if you keep feeding pairs into your machine, you will have less thread and time wasted in putting them all together. 

Once again I had to trim the handprint blocks that are 8 x 8 to 5 x 5 for the pattern, on the diagonal! Some of the hands were a little bit larger in this 3-year-old class, so it was a tight squeeze but I managed it (some are less diagonal than others.) 

Finally, the Eric Carle squares were cut from a fabric panel I purchased at fabric.com and I added a bit of trim to each one so that they would also be 5 x 5 to fit the pattern. I tried to stagger those as well.


To finish the quilt I just cut a 5 inch strip of green fabric to match the other two quilts as the border.
The green fabric stretched a little more than I liked. I guess I cut it wrong?
Once again I then wrote each child's name on his/her block with fabric pen before starting to quilt. 

Now onto quilting:
I managed to do all of these quilts assembly-line-style, so I pieced all the tops before starting any sandwich-ing and quilting.

So needless to say once I finally completed the tops I was ready to be done with the project and wanted to quilt, quilt, quilt three days in a row to finish. This was apparently how I found myself double-fisting on coffee:

Like I mentioned I didn't learn enough free-motion quilting before deadline to attempt it on this quilt, but I did get to use my new walking foot! That really helped keep my straight lines straight. If you don't know, the walking foot grabs the top of the quilt with its own feed-dogs while the machine has feed-dogs on the bottom. So both layers are being grabbed equally at the same time and there is less struggling and tugging and bunching. You can literally sit back and let the machine do the work.


I then, once again, trimmed the batting only while leaving the excess backing to fold over for my binding. Self-binding, my savior! As I mentioned yesterday. The only way I do hand-binding anymore is if my mom's visiting and she does it. She knows I always have about ten hand-sewing projects for her on any given time she visits.


And that's it! 

Quilt #2 complete! 

Tune in tomorrow for Charity Handprint quilt #3.

Tired yet?! Me too!!

Did you have other recommendations for me 
for my new walking foot? Do tell!




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