Wednesday, August 29, 2012

T Turns One in T-minus Three Days

Our Sweet baby T is turning ONE on Saturday. Fastest year of my life. We keep birthday bashes pretty small around here for the first year. Just family. Limited gifts. A few decorations. But loads of merriment, memories, sugar and picture-taking!

 I finally started in on the prep for the little big guy's big day. I decided to go with a sweet little theme and will tie it in here and there.

One of our birthday traditions is a crown. I love love love the etsy seller, Dream Child Studio. Her felt feels so good and it's so thick! With the elastic backing, the crown will be able to be worn year after year!

And his tee to match.
Bought a cheap target long sleeve, fabric fat quarter and basically followed this applique tutorial. I zig-zag stitched around the border after ironing the number on. $6 later, I had a super easy personalized look.

Almost ready to celebrate our sweet Baby T!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Featured! Hooray!!

My "Rise & Shine" pallet art was featured on tatortots & jello a few days ago!! Yippie for colorful creations. I loved the tin can lanterns and the amazing quilt also mentioned. So many creative projects!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whatever Craft Weekend Sponsors

LAST Craft weekend post, pinkie-promise. {part one and two: here and here} I wanted to share some of the amazing products and sellers that graced us with goodies over the weekend. I'm pretty sure my bag was split between SWAG and antiques I found while shopping. Even some of the crafts we did were sponsored.

We made felt pillows using Benzie's felt. Amazing! I'm a sucker for the stuff and am SO SO happy to finally have a quality source to buy felt from! Tute for the flower pillow inspired by here.
{I went a little stripe-y...rebel..}

Lisa Leonard showed us how to hand-stamp which was SO fun and NOT as hard as I imagined. Although I don't think I could sell my product! She provided all the supplies for us to make one with the option to make more. So sweet of her!

We used Benjamin Moore new line of chalk board paint on some trays for an instant chalk/magnet board.

And our final sponsored craft was from SayHello. They provided these adorable pennants to turn into a chalk board style banner. How awesome is that?! SO many ways to use this!
  Now, I'm eyeing their ampersand to paint for our master. I love it!

 We had some major goodies all ready and packed up for us to take home. 
BrowardPatch- the cutest camera strap cover! And I've been wanting to get one forever so it was just perfect! I put it on my camera first thing.
House8821- a tablecloth!! um, already IN use!
Pleated Poppy- her fabulous ruffle pin + a store discount. yes! i'm digging her zippered pouches.
Dear Lizzy- ribbons, trim and lovely tags
Amy Tangerine- adorable stickers and a mini scrapbook
Jenze- sweet Thank You cards + store discount. her paper products are super cute and so affordable!
Thirty-one- craft organizer bag
Crystal B- sweet ring
Knitty Bitties- awesome mug rug with cute fabric. and her hoop art is to die for!
made by jewls- cute little fabric covered earrings. all of her shops' funds go to completing their adoption. head over there!!
Studio Calico- truck load of amazing scrapbook goodies. the paper is so happy, i must figure out a craft to use them ASAP!

And the ever-adorable "YAY" banner from the fabulous Heather over at CMhandmade was waiting on each of our beds! Seriously, love getting custom banners from this girl!

Wowza! So much goodness! Just knowing that most of these are women who were inspired to start a homemade business just blew me away. I love that! And I love getting to use/wear my new products and remember what an amazing time I had.

photo credit: meg duerksen

Other Craft Weekender's Recaps...

Nicole: here; who also just started The Orange Bird with an amazing mission and cute products to boot! I snagged an adorable wrap bracelet that I wear everyday!
Lisa: here and here
Meg: here

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Expansion expected to be complete by February 2013!! Things are about to get a little bit wild around these here parts. ;)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hand-Tied Baby Blankets

This is our first guest post on Swenson Style!! Hooray! From none other than: MY MOM. My mom blogs {mostly about their travel adventures or time with the grandbabies} over at Dave and Edie. She's here today to show you how to make one of her go-to gifts for expect mothers and their sweet babes! Here's a little of how she stumbled upon these great handmade gifts...
{my fabulous mom and me!}

Take it away, Mom!

I am invited to a gazillion Baby Showers...really....that many...sometimes all in one weekend.  I just hang with very fertile people..which is really funny since I have only one child.  I was spending so much money for gifts and not feeling like it was special.  I was talking about this, well perhaps my husband may have mentioned the money part, when the husband of my long-time friend said "hey, why don't you have my wife tell you how to make a blanket".  He also added that each blanket was special, one of a kind, tailored to the recipient...I especially liked that part. And one time, in a land far, far away, I sewed all my own clothes, so I figured I could do this. Easy peasy.

I wasn't quite sure what I was doing at first.  I shudder to think about those first few blankets I made, apologies to all the early recipients. And I wasn't having much fun.  Did that stop me?  NO!  I had my sister and friend help me out. This friend is a crafter extraordinaire.  She does it, dolls, cards, scrapbooking, quilting, smocking and I've probably left something out.  As soon as she pulled out one of her many sewing machines and said "let me put on the walking foot", I knew I was in good hands.  Well I knew after I asked what a walking foot don't need one when sewing garments because the fabrics are not as thick and only two layers. However, when you have many layers they don't move through the machine well.  This frustrated me to no end while I was sewing on the binding.  My seams were AWFUL, I'd rip them out and do everything over and over, and the corners were total YUCK.  Now I have a walking foot and have made so many blankets that I'm proud to give them as a gift.  And when I show up at a shower, that new mother can hardly wait to open the blanket...even if her mother-in-law has made the same thing (I used hip colors that I knew the young mother would LOVE...because my lovely daughter taught me).

I'm really having fun doing this and I hope that I can encourage you to make a hand-tied blanket.  And with the following instructions I think you'll catch on faster than I did.

Relax, sit back, fix something to drink, and get ready to learn how to make a hand-tied baby blanket.  I'm going to be walking you through this in excruciatingly painful detail in the hopes that you can make one on your own.

If you want the quick read, just read the bold writing.  If you're up for my rambling, and I think it's all very entertaining and informative, you can read the whole thing.  Warning...this is long.....


1 1/2 yards of fabric for the top I generally select a cotton print and sometimes a printed flannel, something you'll find in the fabric section at Jo-Ann's. I also buy from Hawthorne Threads when I want something totally cool, hip, and happening...and I can wait a few days for delivery.  You can make the blanket so special by the fabrics you select.  Even pink John Deere, which I find mind-boggling that they have John Deere everything and everywhere (could be with my geographical location).  You can even find college and team logos, and characters (i.e. Disney Princesses). In the beginning, I bought in bulk when it was on sale, but then the blanket wasn't especially made for that person so I didn't think it was as much fun.  I like to be thinking of the recipient while picking the fabric and making the blanket.  I pray with the tying of each knot because that's just how I roll.

1 1/2 yards of fabric for the bottom I like something soft on the bottom side.  If you don't have much experience, or perhaps for your first try, I recommend you stick with flannel....stay away from anything thick or stretchy.  With flannel there are plenty of great colors to use. It's soft, inexpensive, and the easiest to work with.  I still use flannel because I like the way it feels and there's always a fantastic color selection.  My other go-to fabric is "Soft & Comfy", or as I like to call it, Fake Minky.  Very few people can appreciate the real Minky (although once you feel it, you KNOW) and Fake is so much less and more readily available to me.  I've worked with some of the plush fabrics but they stretch, clog your machine, are difficult to pull the yarn through, and leave fluff all over you and your home.

Batting, for in-between There are many options for batting.  Thin and flat are the in thing now because people fear that a baby won't lift their head and can suffocate. But go with what you're comfortable with.  When I began I used the crib size package of fiberfill.  I now use Warm & Natural by the bolt.  I buy 3 yards of the queen size (90 inches wide) and can get four blankets out of that.  Warm & Natural is available in a crib size package online at Jo-Ann's.

Yarn Select a color that will match the bottom fabric and look good on top.  Some of the yarn shows through the bottom. I buy the least expensive and have a large inventory since you get so many blankets out of each one. Just match it as best you can. I seem to have the most of this brand.
Satin blanket binding, two packages This can be the most expensive part of the blanket, seriously.  There are so many colors available now. Have some fun with your colors. You could make your own binding but I LOVE to run my fingers across the satin and it makes the blanket look so luxurious....splurge.

Sewing machine Anything with a straight and zig zag stitch is good. You don't need to have much experience sewing. This is basic stuff...really....I mean it.
Large needle You're going to use it with the yarn so make sure you can fit the yarn through the eye.
Sharp scissors Yeah, bring out the good ones that you hide from the family.

These items would be REALLY nice to have:
Needle threader There is NO way I can thread the needle without one.  They're cheap, buy it.
Six inch square cardboard or plastic Since I make so many blankets, I LOVE this tool.  I was using cardboard and then the husband of the friend who got me started in this went to TAP Plastics and had squares made for his wife and me.  Isn't that sweet?  I love these people....and not just because of the blanket stuff.
Walking foot You can get by without this if you are only going to use cotton and/or flannel fabric.  If you go for any of the plush (soft & comfy) or stretchy fabrics you will want one of these to remain sane.  They make life so much easier....really.  They can run you, at retail, $25 to $60 dollars.

What you do:
Begin with washing your fabric.  The Soft & Comfy fabric does not need washing, all cottons and flannels do.  I just give it a quick wash and toss it in the dryer (I'm a clothesline gal, but I use the dryer to get the full shrinkage).

Next step is to iron the fabric.  This gets the wrinkles out, allows you to really check for flaws (which you should be doing while the salesperson is cutting the fabric or you'll have to go back to the store and this is always at a horrible time which messes up your whole crafting spirit.  So really, pay attention when the fabric is rolled out for cutting) and just makes your blanket look so much nicer (and since mine are for gifts, I really want them to look beautiful).  I do not iron the Soft & Comfy, but I iron cottons and flannels.  I've skipped this step and then regretted that the blanket looked wrinkled when I gave it as a gift.

Now find a large flat area to lay everything out.  The bottom fabric is laid out on the bottom (now you know why I call it the bottom fabric, clever, huh?) with the "right side" (this is not a political commentary.....the "right side" is the side you want to show to the world.  Most fabrics have a good side and a back side.  On a print the pretty print side is the "right side") facing down.  On this blanket the "Soft & Comfy" which is a solid bright pink with bumps is the bottom fabric, so I have that laid out first with the bump side facing down.
Then I lay out the batting.  Since I purchase the queen size on the bolt, for the first blanket I have a HUGE amount of batting that is awkward.  I lay it out against the smaller size of fabric, usually the top print, and cut it a bit larger all around.  If you buy the polyfiber fill crib size, you are going to pull and stretch it out all over until it gets was fine when it was all I knew, but I really prefer the "Warm & Natural" now.
Lastly I lay out the top fabric with the "right side" showing.  I line up the top fabric with the batting the best I can.  The fabrics will not all line up because, well, they're different widths and not all cut exactly. Just watch the salesperson.  They will be a bit generous on the cuts, to make sure your project isn't shorted.  This not an exact science.  Fret not, it's going to all work out and look lovely.  You OCD people, just chill. Being a bit of a perfectionist myself, I know the anxiety you may be feeling. Does it make you feel any better if I tell you I put pins through out the blanket?  I like to keep things in place after I've gone through all the trouble of lining things up.  Pinning keeps things in their place, I LOVE pins. I especially like the long pins with a big end. Something like these.
One thing to check out before you cut....look to see if there's a name along the border of your print.  If there is, check to see if your binding will cover this.  If you're using a light colored binding, the name may show through....not a good look.  If it will show up, simply cut in far enough so you're cutting the name out.  You won't lose that much on the size.

Break out the good scissors and cut.  When I first started making blankets, I laid them out on the floor.  My friend who first taught me blanket making still does this.  She's younger than me...and she reminds me of this ALL the time.....only 9 months younger.  I prefer to stand up so I use my beautiful, big island....which makes my husband crazy because he doesn't like stuff out, but he loves me so he's adjusted....and I clean everything up right away...most of the time.  When you're finished all the edge will match up, honestly.  And to all you OCD perfectionist, really, stop trying to make it perfect...remember when you tried to trim your bangs and just ruined everything?  Yeah, don't do it again.  It will all be wonderful when you add the binding.

Doesn't that look neat and tidy?  I will say that since this print has a definite pattern it is much easier to line things don't restrict your selections to patterns easy to line up just because I said that.  Let's get on with the next step......

Thread the needle with yarn. I yank out three arm lengths of yarn to thread.  If you've never used yarn before, getting the starting thread is a little tricky.  There's always an end sticking up that looks like it's the one to pull, but that's wrong.  Look on either end, in the center, for an end to pull.  This is the way to do it.  The yarn will pull out easy and not require untangling or unwrapping.  I always use a threader for help threading the needle, it keeps me sane and those around me happy.  Pull the yarn through until the ends meet, you want the yarn to be NOT tie a knot at the end.  This makes for a very long strand when you begin.  You're going to do this about three times before you're finished. 

Hand-tying with yarn. Take that cute little 6" square template and lay it down in the bottom corner of the blanket.  I always begin in the bottom left, there's no magic to could select any of the other three corners to begin.  I'm showing you this with the cardboard template because it shows up better in the photo.
This part will make your fingers sore.  Push the needle through near the upper right hand corner of the template.  I can push this through, but it can be really tough so I use a tool....I snagged my husband's pliers!  Make sure they're clean and never return them....they might get dirty and you really do not want to make marks on your project.  Look real close in the photo and you'll see that the batting may actually begin to come up with the yarn.  Fret not, it all works out.
Pull the thread through until you have about 1 1/2 inch of yarn that has not been pulled through.  The yarn never goes through equally so as you're pulling the thread and are getting to the end, you may need to pull one side to even it up.  Then bring the four strands tight while you even it up and cut with your scissors.  Tie it once and then tie it again.  If you're so inclined you can think of a prayer for the baby.  I feel this makes the gift extra special.  
This is what it looks like on the back side.  You can see just a little bit of pucker.  Sometimes the yarn will show, especially if the yarn is in contrast to the bottom fabric.  Again, this is why I select a yarn color that matches the bottom fabric.  It just looks so much better.

Now move the square along to mark the next spot to properly position the next knot.  When you get to the far right (remember I start on the bottom left) you most likely will have a little extra.  Fret not.  You're going to move up to the next row.  Depending on how much I have left over, which is different every time, I may begin the next row lined up to the far right of the fabric.  This will alternate the knots on each row.  It's a judgment call.  Sometimes it looks good and other times not so good.  With this blanket, since I only have a couple of inches left at the end, I think it'll look odd to alternate....just not enough difference.  So I'm going to stick with lining everything up the same on each row.  Again, not a huge decision, just up to you.  It makes no difference on the structure of the blanket, it's just a design thing.  See how everything lines up so pretty when you're finished tying all the knots? Don't mind the lighting in the photo, this is still the bright pink pattern and not orange as it looks here.

Attach the binding. Now you're ready for the most tedious part of the project. This is the part that was the most challenging for me.  There are two things that I finally figured out that make this a breeze. Use lots of pins to put it in place and use a walking foot.  Those are my two secrets.
The binding has one side that's a little longer than the other.   Lately I've noticed some are the same length.  Anyway, you're going to open up both packages and sew the two together at one end.  You'll begin with the top of one package and then take the center out of the other package.  This is the only way they'll line up properly.  I actually pin it before I sew it.  Again, I take the time to pin because things do shift. Then fold the corners in and iron them down.  It just looks nicer when you don't have bits sticking out.  Take the time to do this.

Line up the binding so the folded edge meets the end of the fabric.  I like to begin with the seam at around the half way mark.  It looks nice to have things equaled up and not all helter skelter. You want the binding to be snug against the edge without pulling the binding.  The binding should be laying flat, no puckers, not so tight that the crease disappears.  When it all looks good, pin.  Please note how the position of the pins.  This makes it easier to remove the pins as you're sewing.
Here's another useful tip for matching up the spool of thread with the proper & easy too!
Pay special attention to the corners.  You want them neat and tightly squared. And pinned.  This is the tedious of the tedious.  Fret not, it just takes patience (which I pray for daily) and practice.  See how nice it looks when it's all pinned and ready to sew.  See how many pins I use? It keeps it from bunching and pulling.  I tend to be tightly wound and i find myself clenching and pulling which is not a good thing when sewing the binding to the blanket.....or good in anything for that matter....I'm a work in progress.  When your ends meet you should be directly across from where you started.  My uber crafty friend will actually sew this end like I did when I attached the two packages together.  I just overlap the ends, tuck, iron, and pin.  Now you're ready to sew!

Set the machine to a zig zag stitch.  When you begin sewing you will want the bulk of the blanket on the outside, which means the binding is in your right hand and the bulk of the blanket is on your left.  This is why I pin the way I do.  I can pull pins out as I go along.  I use my hands to guide it along, keeping the binding flat and tight.  You may still get a pucker, just smooth it out as you go without pulling and making it worse.  Often you can fix things at the corner.  If not, you can sew and have a little pucker.  It's not the end of the world and really will look fine. Fret not.  See a theme here?  Just try not to get hysterical if there's one little pucker.  It's part of the handmade experience.  Now if it's full of puckers, then you may want to rip and replace.  If you've pinned properly and fully and not clenched it as you sew, it will all work out okay, really. And you can see that I stitch the corners.  I sometimes hand stitch here.  I don't like the gaps because a small child may pull at it.
Be sure to check the back as you go along.  Just to make sure you've got it all lined up properly and the binding is attached properly.  Sometimes, especially if the binding doesn't have that bottom side a bit wider than the top side, and you're sewing too close to the edge, or didn't properly pin it, you can end up overshooting the bottom side of the binding and have it flapping along, unattached.  Not where you want to be.  I especially check at the beginning when I start sewing.  If you're going to have a problem fully attaching the binding, it will be at the very beginning.  And if you have a problem when you begin, it doesn't get any better as you sew along.

Clip any strings left hanging, admire your work, and wrap that blanket up!
 Oh, and I always place the handmade card (that's an entirely different post, aren't you happy about that?) in the box so it doesn't get lost....and I like the look of the gift without the card on top.

Dimensions of the finished blanket. This depends on the size of your narrowest fabric.  Since I'm mostly using 45" wide fabric, the finished blanket measures around 44" by 52".

Total cost of the finished blanket. This depends on the fabric you select, if things are on sale, or how many coupons you have for JoAnn's (or wherever you shop).  Since I already have the yarn and thread,  and plenty of coupons, this blanket ended up costing $35.  I have made beautiful blankets with flannel and/or cotton for as little as $20.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rise & Shine {Pallet Art}

Mmmmkay, so I know how I mentioned here that I was working on a piece?! Way back in MARCH?! So, that piece. I didn't really love it. It took up the dining table for way too long since I just couldn't get to finishing it. I was forced to move it into the garage where it was abandoned. Until last week. 

Leave it to crafty inspiration or whatever, I lugged my big pallet canvas back into the house one night and just got to work. I actually already had some words stenciled on it so I had to work around those and cover them as I went. I was inspired by this google image...

With some frog tape, sponge brush and craft paint, I just went for it. Most of it was free hand and I worked pretty quickly through it. No lolly-gagging this time. I just wanted to create something and finish it. Well most of it.

I used the cricut machine to make stencils for the "Rise & Shine" then painted those on a few days later.

 W hung it up with some screws, wire and a heavy weight picture hook.

This is what it was meant to be...right?! It's such a fun bright piece that lightens up our downstairs!

It looked a little lonely up there so I added something else. Excited with my version of the "pallet art madness" trend!

Rise and shine and give God the glory!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why I Went to Kansas {Whatever Craft Re-Cap}

So..back to my incredibly inspiring and FUN weekend in Kansas. At the Whatever Craft Weekend. This is why I went to Kansas...
{the weekend's agenda}

Several months ago, I put my name on their waitlist all the while thinking I'd never get picked. But picked I was, so I bought my plane ticket. And my parents generously birthday-gifted the weekend's cost for me, so I was in!

My weekend started off bright and early {read: 4am} on Friday for my flight. I was able to connect with the three other California girls in Dallas and travel our last leg together. Even though it was an early morning, I simply basked in my freedom. Freedom to walk around or sit, freedom to eat whatever, freedom to nap, freedom to read, freedom not to talk or be spoken to...I'm sure you get the picture. FREEDOM.
{Arriving in Dallas. Baggage claim in Kansas.}

 Thanks to Instagram, I also connect with a local gal, Niki, who generously went along with my plan to get pedis before we got picked up. Leave it to the Californians to go rogue and stick in their own fun. ;) Those few hours were heavenly and much needed. Fifteen extra minutes of massage, anyone?! I may or may not have passed out while in my chair. 
{fresh toes.}

Then it was off to the craft house and meeting the rest of the ladies. We had a delicious "traditional style" Kansas meal. Settled into our adorable rooms. And got to crafting!! We made the signature ruffle aprons and talked late late into the night. The fabric choices were out-of-control happy and oh-so-girlie. My kind of heaven.

Ladies busily working late into the night. I'm convinced that if I had still kind of craft space and beautiful supplies, I'd be way more productive! At least, I need to get me a cutting mat, suction-cup handle ruler thingy & a rotatory cutter. It's about time for these investments!

 One of the great aspects of the weekend was not everyone was crafty. Some women had never even touched a sewing machine before. Meg did a great job teaching the newbies and all the ladies were willing to give an extra hand. Allison gave me a quick tute on fabric flowers and Judy {the one in the stripes, next to Allison}  provided an extra nudge with my ruffles. :)

Once my apron was completed, I hit the sack... hard.

The following day included more amazing homemade meals, thrifting/antiquing, and more crafting!
{lingering over coffee before a delish breakfast}

Then onto antiquing, thrifting and junking!

 Post shopping, we hit up Sonic's happy hour. I'm pretty sure this was my first Sonic experience. Then it was back home to compare loot.
Lots of fun stuff!! Way overwhelming too. There were a few things that caught my eye while I walked around, but I decided to look at them later. Mistake when you're with a big group!! Some of the ladies walked away with those pieces and I may have had some slight envy!  E LOVES his Wizard of Oz book and I'm afraid that Kansas is one of the first few states he knows. Ha!

 Lisa Leonard was an honored guest and educated us in the ways of hand-stamped jewelry as part of the evening of crafts. She and her twin sister, Chrissie, were some of my favorite people from the trip. I'm so happy we at least live in the same state and have a chance at hanging out again! If only Niki lived closer!!

Sunday went quick with breakfast, pictures, and good-byes before I was back in the airport and heading home. The weekend was such a wonderful experience. A treasured memory I'll hold dear.
{meg & kimberlee sandwich! seriously, amazing hostesses!}

Some amazing and wonderful women! And such a delight to hear their stories and learn about what the Lord has done in their lives. I'm so thankful He worked everything out so I could go on this weekend adventure. I definitely walked away with way much more than I put in!

And funny, that even though I had this wonderful freedom and weekend away to myself, I thought about my boys almost every waking moment. I missed them. Wondered how they were surviving. Texting W pictures from my weekend while seeing some from theirs. FaceTime.

 The boys did great for W and even slept in for him! Waaaah?! Not fair. But I was happy to know that I can go away and everyone will miss me very much, but will still do great. Hmmm, where shall I fly off to next?!

 My only regret was not getting to cross off a bucket list item while in Kansas. Like our trip to Wisconsin a few years back, I got this close to milking a cow. Udder sadness! ;) Kerry, who picked us up from the airport, is married to a dairy farmer!! At least now I know someone who has a cow I can milk. I'm totally going to take her up on her invite! Guess that means I'll be back...
{next and last post about Whatever Craft will cover the amazing sponsors and SWAG we got! Stay tuned!}