Monday, January 31, 2011

Studio Reorganization

Some how, after every project, my studio is an overwhelming disaster.  I knew after the holidays were over that I needed to find a solution.  I cannot work in chaos, it sucks the life right out of me.  So here's what I started with:

I'm pretty embarressed to even admit to these photos, but it's the truth.  It just wasn't working for me.  So I cleaned out and reorganized.

 I started with my closets.  I couldn't see what I had so I ended up dragging it all out into my work space and digging through it.  I pulled out all my fabric and separated it by type and color.  Then I organized my scraps the same way, using the ziplock bags and bins to hold them.  Same for ribbons, bias tapes, etc.  I used an old embroidery floss box to separate buttons.  The large boxes at the bottom of one closet hold yards of apparel fabric that are waiting for the some day that I need them.  As well as clothing that waits to be repurposed.

And I cleaned out all the rest of my shelves, getting rid of anything without purpose.  I rearranged so that I can use the extra boards and shelves from our garage and we don't have to buy anything new.  I now use the shelves beneath my cutting table to hold completed orders that need to be shipped and current projects (and their supplies).

So far, so good - my studio is working much better.  Even when I do make a mess, it's faster to clean up.  Of course, it also takes some discipline to put things away as soon as I am done with them rather than thinking to myself, "I'll pick it all up at the end." 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quilt Block Tutorial - Disappearing 9 Patch Variation

Before I begin, allow me to caveat this tutorial by saying that I am not an experienced quilter.  I just started doing some quilting this Fall, encouraged by my friends who started a virtual quilting bee for our group.  My month is February and this is my block.  I wanted something perfect for using up scraps and stash fabric.

I started with the idea of a typical Disappearing 9 Patch but then made the following changes:

  1. Cut the following pieces from scraps and stash fabrics.  This block can also be made from a charm pack of fabric.
          16 - 2.5" x 2.5" squares
            5 - 4.5" x 4.5" squares

2.  Arrange squares to your liking.

 3.  Sew the 2.5" x 2.5" squares as shown.  Press seams open.

 4.  Sew the two rectangles together to form a 4.25" x 4.25" square.  Press seams open. 
*I don't use pins often, so to keep my corners lined up I start sewing approximately at the arrow in order to keep them lined up.  Then I flip the fabric and finish the seam.  That's probably cheating and many people would probably argue that pins would be faster, but it's the easiest way for me.  Even with pins I still end up with mismatched corners.

 5.  Your corner squares are complete.

 6.  Sew the 4.5" squares into three rows as shown.  Press seams open.

 7.  Sew all three rows together to form a complete square.  Press flat.

 8.  Cut apart along center lines. 

At this point a friend of mine pointed out how the cutting does not allow for seams when either sewing the blocks together again or when sashing into the quilt top.  So the symmetry is lost as noted in the picture below.

So here are two ways to create a symmetrical block.  First, by using smaller scraps to create individual blocks.

 1.  Cut the following:
       5 - 2.5" x 2.5" squares
       2 - 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles

 2.  Sew 2.5" squares as shown previously.  Then sew as shown above.  Press seams open.

 3.  Sew the two rows together as shown above.  Press flat.  You will now have a 6.5" x 6.5" square.

And now the second method for a symmetrical square using the Disappearing 9 Patch tutorial.

Rather than cutting 4.5" x 4.5" squares, cut the following:

2 - 4.5"W x 5"H (A)
2 - 5"H x 4.5"W (B)
1 - 5"H x 5"W (C)

Assemble the pieces in accordance with the chart above and sew according to the tutorial.  You will end with four 6.5" x 6.5" squares.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Muffins

It seems we always have some form of chocolate chips in the house, so when I needed to whip up a breakfast side dish at the last minute I immediately thought of chocolate chip muffins.  I don't have a tried and true muffin recipe so off to google I went...I decided to try the Joy of Baking Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe.

I chose the Joy of Baking recipe because it was detailed and simple, which is always helpful with a new recipe.  I found the batter to be a bit wet but I only added a tablespoon of flour for fear of making the muffins chewy or dry.  In the end they did turn out a bit too sticky so I think if I try this recipe again then I will try a bit more flour.  Or....does anyone have any suggestions?

And minutes after the muffins were in reach, Lil' Hoot had her hands on one.  The muffins have been taste-tested and deemed edible, very edible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Order to Chaos

In the midst of post-Christmas clean up I always get the urge to purge.  With all the stress of recent events, bringing order to the chaos has been cathartic. 

I started in the kitchen with our pantry.  The left door of our pantry was hanging crooked and two of the hinges had completely pulled out.  With only one door left on the pantry I have been unable to use the child safety lock, which has meant that Lil' Hoot has free access to the contents.

As you can see, the lower half of the pantry was barely in use.  Our bread was stored on top of the cabinet to avoid being squished.  All my baking supplies are shoved onto one small shelf so that I had to dig to find things and often had no idea what supplies I had on hand.  The art supplies were haphazardly thrown into a basket where I could never find what I needed and had to stretch just to reach it.  Not to mention the eyesore of a half doorless pantry.
As a temporary solution for the door I used wood glue to put the chipped wood back into place and reattach the hinges.  I spread out my baking supplies on two shelves with clear containers so I can also see what is behind the first level.  The breads and crackers moved back down to their original home on a pull out shelf.  I added a bucket on the lower left to hold root vegetables.  Lil' Hoot still rearranges the pantry from time to time but since I can now put the safety lock in place, her access is better supervised. 
I also slipped our foot stool on the lower left side so I could also make use of the upper level cabinets for storing supplies for arts and crafts.  I found that an old Velvetta container was the perfect size for storing colored pencils.  Lil' Hoot's crayon bucket and a yet-to-be covered markers bucket fit perfectly to the left of the supplies basket. 

Such simple changes that make baking, cooking and crafting more accesible and enjoyable on a daily basis!  Any tips for making it even better?  How do you organize your kitchen?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Hold

I know I promised new, fun posts starting today and it was truly my intention, but sometimes life gets in the way of our plans. Unfortunately some medical concerns demand my full and immediate attention for a few days. As soon as I feel better, I promise to get back on track.