Why ‘Take Two’?

15 Feb

 If anyone cares to know, here’s what happened to me in the last year:  I lost my dear Mr. Hot Pants, moved from the sunny Singapore back to the US, got a somewhat new job and a new apartment in a brand new for me city.  None of this came easily – reason why I haven’t blogged all this time.  It took much time and an incredible effort to get back on track.  “Take two” in the blog header is just that – I’m taking another try at my life, family, work, crafting, blogging, being a better friend.  Sounds a bit dramatic?  I agree.  That’s why I will cut back on talking and post more pictures and instructions instead.  I do hope you Take away Two or more project ideas from here!

Hexagon Quilt – Part 1

22 Dec 3

Recently I found this great quilt-along at TexasFreckles and could not help joining.  I was cutting my paper hexies within an hour of discovering Melanie’s website.  Was I at work at the time?  Of course not…

My quilt is coming along oh-so-very slowly but every day I add 30-40 hexies. The feeling of accomplishment for storing away brightly colored little stacks is wonderful!

It won’t be a charm quilt, I simply didn’t have a thousand fabric prints or the patience for mail fabric swapping.  We live so far away from all the quilting buzz… Only 17 squares fit into my fabric strips so I decided to make a “17″ quilt. I do love the number and wish to be 17 again (taking a minute to sigh and remember the good ol’ days).

Ok, done.  Now to the pictures:

1,172 hexagons will very soon (fingers crossed) be assembled into a 50″ by 60″ quilt.  To get uniform pieces, I cut out one inch paper hexagons, wrap a 2.5″ squares of fabric around each, and secure it with the running stitch.  Here’s the back view:

Getting carried away…

Ok, this would mess up my color-organized stash, but is so much fun! I should get a hobby…  Wait, I do.

Now, I haven’t thought of the design of this quilt…  Should I mix them up in one technicolor goodness, or arrange them in gradation, or construct a big tree with the rainbow-colored leaves in the center, or send the strips of hexies across the entire quilt?  If you have any suggestions, please send them my way.  I will do an extra long dance for any comment.  If nothing else, it entertains the cats.

DIY Light Box

21 Dec The magic-maker ")

Here it is – our new light box! It got too troublesome to take photos of my little projects in the morning, while jumping around in one shoe and drying my hair… See, early morning light is the best for clicking! But the next best alternative is a very expensive professional light box.  Or so I thought before making my own! Here is presenting the homemade pride of photo equipment:

See for yourself:

Everything looks so much better in the box!

The magic box itself:

As you can see, not much was required for this project: an old cardboard box, old white sheet, a lamp or two and an hour of handiwork to cut the box and sew on the fabric.

It is collapsible and very light. A very light light-box, what do you know.

Happy crafting everyone!

My Grand Russian Grandpa

21 Dec Cherry Pincushion

I remember him getting out of the truck, tumbling over, making jokes and trying to hug grandma from the ground.  He met a friend from school and couldn’t refuse to celebrate the reunion.  Grandma scolded him for drinking but helped him up and gently led him into the house.  There he ate while winking at us kids, coyly looking at frowning grandma, sweetly complementing her cooking and asking for the second helping.  That was my grandpa and that was the only time I saw him not-so-sober.  You might say, oh come on, he was Russian, right?  Drinking vodka must’ve been in his blood!  But he wasn’t a drunk like he wasn’t a scandalous rioty man of big fists or rude mouth.  Here is what he was: thoughtful, kind, smart, strong, hardworking, and modest.  Let me put it this way: if there were any ideal men out there, he would be in front of that four-men parade carrying a flag.

I often think of him: when I cut onions, when I tend to our garden, when I make tea with three spoons of sugar, or milk with berries.  I just wish we could still get together every once in a while and chat, or watch his favorite detective movies, or go out into the cold to shovel the snow off the driveway (I would wear his big mittens and he would agree to put on a scarf just to make grandma happy).  Or maybe we would drive into the middle of the forest and spend the whole day gathering mushrooms; he was always the champion of finding the tastiest white ones.

Grandpa had a favorite suit, light green and striped. It was the only suit he wore, for the outings to the city or the doctor.  It was very old but looked like new for grandpa knew how to mend it.  Yes, imagine, he could sew and also fix shoes (all kids’ shoes that ‘asked-for-porridge’ were mended by him).  He was extremely neat and had a place for everything.  Even for his little beret, green to match the suit.  I wonder where it is now.  Grandpa never wanted anything new; if it wasn’t ‘holey’, then it was spanking new, he would say.  He would keep all his needles in a cherry pincushion that I made for him in 5th grade.  He put it up next to the window in the kitchen (the place we spent most of our time).  Oh, I remember how proud it made me!

Here, I’ll show you what I made for him (this one I whipped up in half an hour just now):

Grandpa and I ate onions as if they were apples, and even though it couldn’t be very tasty I was the only one to dare it with grandpa, and it also made me feel special.  I was his little girl and I loved it.

Most of the school holidays were spent in my grandparents’ village house.  I remember taking a train to get there, a few hours surrounded by older folks returning from the days’ work at the city market.  Sometimes grandma would be among them: she used to sell potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and herbs grown in their small lot 80 km away from the city.  The train would reach late at night but grandpa would be waiting at the platform, hiding away the cigarette and swiftly grabbing the bags.  The house would be warm and the tea kettle on the stove.

In the mornings grandma would make pancakes and I would hear “Manyunya! Manyunya! Nu ti spat’!” He would marvel aloud on my ability to sleep late and mention that he is eating the last pancake so I better hurry up.  During the day we often would be out in the garden. Grandma would plant flowers or pick cucumbers and greens for dinner, grandpa and I would restack the wood logs in the shed or build a doghouse out of scraps. He was always busy building and rebuilding, fixing and reinforcing fences and greenhouses and often getting the splinters in his hands (what gloves? he would say).  Then he would trust me to take the splinters out with a needle and a dab of grandma’s perfume.  He had this huge tattoo of grandma’s portrait and her name on his left hand.  And what if you ever wanted to marry another woman whose name wasn’t Galya? Well, grandma would never let me! he would smile at her.  And she would agree – who then could she scold for sitting around the house doing nothing? He would say ‘of course darling’ and wink at us.  See, we knew that they were a team in everything, gardening, cleaning, cooking, reading the papers, helping neighbors, looking after the many stray cats, dogs and grandkids.

I thought I’d write about my grandpa today. It is such a long post already and I haven’t yet mentioned how generous and sweet he was, the gentle way he spoke, the tough and no-complaints character he had, all the things he had taught me.  I want to tell everyone about him.  But maybe I just wish I had a chance to say goodbye.  Or maybe not yet.  I’ll just imagine him still there in the house with carved windows and eaves, sitting by the fire mending an old pair of shoes and thinking of his little Manyunya.

I saw this drawing by Maria Monescillo and it just spoke to my heart.  One day I’ll make something like that to remember my grand Russian grandpa.


Making Flowers

22 Aug Green?

It’s been a month since my last post but the excuse for such long silence is much better than the beaten old ‘too busy’: we were traveling to see the family and visiting a few very beautiful places in India (photos of which are coming soon on Mr Ant Pants’ flickr, keep checking).  Well, I’m back on track!

Here are a few fabric flowers I made for a simple yellow summer dress:

It was quite a task to take photos of these on our lime tree while the cats were roaming beneath chewing the leaves and shaking the branches.

I made the flowers using the same technique as for the one on the reversible bag: cut various shapes of fabric for petals, folded and stitched them together one by one, twirled a strip of fabric, tied it in a messy knot and attached that in the center.

For the yellow flower the method was slightly different: cut a strip of fabric, fold it lengthwise, draft-stitch from one end to the other, gather and secure the thread; repeat for two-three more strips, put it all together and another flower is ready:

It takes 15 minutes at most to create one of your very own, so go ahead, try! You can make a nice decoration for a bag, a dress, a hair-band or almost anything sweet and girly.  You can also tie them to your garden plants refusing to bloom or to your cats crowding the photo-shoot grounds…

My first quilt is finally done! Thank you, thank you! You may send the flowers to…

23 Jul Finished!

Seriously, I’m quite proud of it.  I might just get those flowers myself tomorrow!  Do you want to play a little game and guess who I made this quilt for?  I am feeling so generous today that I will even give you a few hints:

- She recognizes my voice on the phone and I always hear her smile

- She has the kindest blue eyes that beam with Alan Alda élan

- She knows everything there is about growing tomatoes and is happy to part with some first-rate advice

- Her pancakes are the tastiest and thinnest (sufficient to be chosen as a wife in my home country a few centuries back)

- She is the master of deserved tender scolding and is very generous for even undeserved praise

- She loves bright patterns and comfy shoes

- She has an abundant supply of energy and enthusiasm (I sometimes think she is a superwoman)

Have I given it away already? Well, I should stop with the hints – no one likes an ‘easy kill’.  Why don’t you look at some photos of the present instead?

I made a lot of 5.5” squares from various pink/green fabric and sewed them together in rows.  After, I attached the 5.5″ white fabric strips in between the colored strips and to the sides.

Once the quilt top was complete, I locked the cats away, spread the fabric on the floor on top of cotton batting and green backing.  I then used many safety pins to secure the fabric sandwich and even  ran draft hand-stitches for every inch of the blanket (that is to make sure no folds and quirks appear by the time I got to the sewing machine).  Then came the fun part – figuring out how to quilt the top.  As I haven’t yet mastered free-hand quilting, I decided to run straight 1/4” lines in bright green thread to match the backing.

Shopping for more green fabric for binding, making a strip and attaching it by hand – an excuse for a few hours of productive TV watching.

Last step was to get rid of the draft stitches and check the coziness factor of the finished blankie!

A needle case for M

22 Jul Hidden

Now that my great old (we did our first 5 times 8 and played in the puddles together, that’s how old) friend M received her present, I can post some photos of it!  See, M is much into knitting.  Oh you should see the pretty hat I got for Xmas a few years ago!  So I thought she might enjoy this little case.  It has a lot of pockets for all knitting tools – needles, crochet hooks, more needles, scissors, cookies and chocolate bars (these are crucial for fueling the creative finger power).

I chose a strip of elephant print to spice up the cover side.  It might even remind M about our Thailand trip last year.  Feeding the sloppy slurpy drooling ellies was great fun!

Back to the case: I really like this needle guard strip – it keeps the contents of the case from slipping out and it’s another reason to use the ellie print!

Now here it is all rolled up and ready to be shipped off.  I hope M will find some use for it and won’t need to search for the needles to knit me a new hat (shameless, shameless me!).

If you have some knitters in your life, this case might be a welcomed present – it helps to organize the jumble of needles into neat rows of aluminum and wooden goodness.  I am making a few of these for my other lovely crafty friends (no names of course, it’s going to be a surprise!).  If you aren’t one of those lucky gals to get the case as a present, pause your web stumbling and go make it yourself – here is the link to the tutorial by Loulabelle.  Thanks Loulabelle!

When you sew the case, don’t just store away your needles, take them out and make something pretty and warm – the summer is almost over (sigh sigh sigh…).  Oh there there, quit sighing and think of winter as an excuse for dollying up in cozy sweaters and mittens while guzzling cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows!  As I live near the equator, I am allowed to sigh and long for the cold white winter as I make heaps of scarves and hats in defiance of plus 35 all year round but I should save this story for later…

Happy crafting everyone!

Chair Parade

14 Jul Checkers

Thank you, IKEA chairs, for your original not-so-practical white seats.  I started making these red&beige covers by hand and that helped Mr Ant’s Pants to decide on my present – a sewing machine! It is a Janome Sewist 525S and I absolutely love it.  Well, back to the chairs: since most IKEA furniture can be disassembled, I found some hex keys and got to work!  Even the ottoman got a new face.

First, I turned over the chairs, took them apart and got the original white cover off.  Next, a newspaper came in handy for creating a pattern.  I then went shopping for fabric and this stalled my project for a while (have you been to those fabric shops?  Millions of choices!!)  Once I got my hands on the fake suede which is somewhat waterproof and stain-resistant (!), there was cutting, sewing, and fitting, then more and more cutting, sewing and fitting.

Here is the result (admire my hubby’s work in photographing the chairs – he made those poor four-leggeds break some sweat as models!)

Even Ninja the cat was summoned for the job:

Artwork for the couch

13 Jul Flower detail

Don’t you just love the color of this pillow?  Red has been my favorite for a while now: it brightens the space, goes well with black/ white/ yellow and is simply great for adding a bold accent to any room.

I modified the design from Anne Kyrro Quinn’s book Felt Furnishings and this tutorial [link].  Instead of adding a strip of rosettes through the center of the pillow, I decided to attach them only on one side making something of a peonie.  As my piece of felt was rather stretchible, I reinforced it with thin cotton cloth on the inside.  As you can see, it also gave me a chance to practice free-hand machine quilting.  It was so much fun to make the twirls, like doodling on fabric!

And see, it matches our red rug.  Nice.  I’m thinking of making more pillows to work the ‘red look’: one with two rows of ruffles across the whole body, another with felt circles folded in half and top-stitched and one more with … haven’t yet decided but will keep you posted!

Happy Tuesday crafting everyone!

Key Frame DIY

12 Jul It's in the detail

This was another piece from a Valentine’s Day series.  You must be thinking “what a lucky guy, her Mr!”  But even if I got a heartfelt thank-you and a kiss, I have a feeling he’d rather get something from the IT Fair next time.  Never-mind, it is a decoration for the house!  Plus, it is a fast and fuss-free project: IKEA frame reinforced, little knick-knacks painted black and glued on, bow attached, a sweet inscription added on the back, the finished product presented with a big smile and a where-shall-we-hang-it question.

What might take you some time is looking for the tiny keys and coins under the couch cushions, buttons on old shirts, paper clips on semi-important documents, pins and rings in great-grandma’s jewellery box.  If you are anything like me, you would have squirreled away a lot of these in drawers and jars.  For the rest, give a visit to the jewellery making supplies store.  It would be fantastic to find something that’s not only pretty but also tells a story.  Can you see two kitty-cats in my frame? That’s Ninja and Pupsik, my hubby’s favorites (he might deny it, but you should see them together!).  The twirl paper clips are the same as we used for our wedding wishes book.  Put your imagination to work and a trumpet will proclaim the love to the lucky guy, the stars will align to brighten our forever-together life and the leaves will turn into the kisses due to that guy now suddenly much luckier.

I can see this idea executed in red, yellow, or green in a letter shape (for birthdays, baby room decorations or just-like-that gifts), in a house shape (to celebrate a new home), or with knick-knacks covering the whole background with two or three in a contrasting color or spelling out a fancy word.

A big thanks to Kate from Design Sponge [link] for the inspiration and the know-how!


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