Thursday, September 30, 2010

Handmade Holidays: time to start?

Last night, while at screenprinting class, our teacher showed an example of some fabric she's been decorating to use in a quilt she has been working on... that will be a Christmas gift. The holidays? Already?

Her comment kinda shocked me (I'm still pretending that summer isn't over!), but she has the right idea... might as well get started now so its not a mad dash at the last second and you dont have to assemble gifts in the backseat of the car on the way to your aunt's family gathering. Not that I was doing that last year as J drove us to the suburbs... anyhoo...

So now I'm inspired to get started on my projects. Though the first step is to choose what I want to make! I came across these felted stuffed animals from Martha Stewart I bookmarked a while ago and think this little pig is too cute to pass up any longer (love that tail!).

Picture from Abbey Goes Design Scouting. Adorable.

Anyone else planning to make gifts for the holidays? Would love to hear what you're planning... I need ideas!

(PS: here are some of the projects from last year!)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fabric Painting for Non-Painters: Freezer Paper Stencil

Often feel like items I sew or buy need a little something extra... I do know how to screenprint, but often what I want to do is a one-time project, so I need a simpler approach. My favorite go-to technique is using a Freezer Paper Stencil. Ridiculously simple and inexpensive, I recently used it to decorate a canvas bag I was giving my cousin with her birthday present inside.
* Design you want to stencil onto the item - I chose to do her first initial, so printed out a big, fancy "R". (For this technique, pick something relatively simple in black & white)
* Freezer Paper - you can find it at your local grocery store near the plastic wrap and aluminum foil... but be sure to buy freezer paper, not waxed paper!
* Pen/ Pencil/ Marker
* Scissors or an exacto knife to cut out your design
* Fabric Paint
* Paintbrush (I like the foam brushes)

Freezer Paper Stencil

1. Print out your design... here you can see the "R" I used (Chopin Script, for anyone who is interested!)
2. I place the printout under the freezer paper (shiny side down!) & trace around the edges with a pen/ marker. You want to trace around the outside edges of all printed (black, in my example) areas. The freezer paper has wax on one side (the shiny side), so you want to be sure that this is the 'back' of your stencil.
3. One I have the design on the freezer paper, cut on the lines: you'll end up removing the printed/ black areas, so that all is left is everything except the design you want to paint. The really neat thing about this approach is that you can have 'floating' areas, like inside the top of the "R" - with a traditional stencil, all pieces need to be connected, so this is a great perk of the freezer paper stencil.

Freezer Paper Stencil Steps

4. Once the design is cut out, iron the freezer paper stencil you just created onto the fabric, using the warmest setting available for your fabric. Make sure that you place it exactly where you want to apply the design, and pay special attention to the edges to make sure that there is a good bond between the fabric and stencil.
5. Paint in the design! Paint over all the open areas (where your fabric is exposed) - I like to do two coats (letting them dry completely in-between)
6. Let the paint dry completely and then peel off your freezer paper stencil

Almost done... Read the instructions on your fabric paint for how to make it permanent - normally you need to heat-set (iron) the paint after its been applied to ensure it wont wash off. Then, admire your finished product!

Finished Bag
So cute... and so much better than the plain bag!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beautiful Inspiration

I have a soft spot for quotations and inspirational words... as a teenager I paint-penned them around my room on my inexpensive shelves (as you imagine, didn't really look quite as cool as I pretended!).

These days I fulfill the need for inspirational words and pretty things together with inspirational posters/ prints - our home office is covered in them and while my husband would argue that we have more than enough, I just don't see how that could ever be possible. To compromise, I sometimes 'window' shop online... as I'm doing over at Eva Juliet's etsy shop (which I just found via To Be Charmed). How lovely are these prints?!

Never Too Late, by Eva Juliet

Monday, September 27, 2010

Supper Club: Keep it Simple!

When we first started having Supper Club get-togethers, I was stressed out about my first hosting. See, I don't really cook. I've gotten better over the years as I've had more occassions and practice (Last year I served Easter dinner for 10, with a ham & lamb! Serious progress!), but having people over makes me feel like I need to prepare a Martha Stewart-worthy spread. Which of course would be amazing, but certainly has not always been within my reach.

Baked Ziti
Image via Real Simple, picture by Petrina Tinslay
The thing is, your friends are coming over to see you, not judge your cooking! They want to chat and share a meal (with my friends, and some wine!) and hang out. So my advice to you is not to stress out too much over the food... make an old standby that you know turns out well - nobody (except your significant other!) will know that its your 'go to' dish.

My favorite meal is this Baked Ziti recipe from Real Simple, though I normally make it without the meat (I'm veggie) and prefer to use a Campanelle pasta (the ruffled edge & loose spiral are great in a baked dish). I'm a huge baked pasta fan for dinner parties - you can make it ahead of time (and it often tastes better if you do!) and then it can be baking as your guests arrive, making sure that you can hang out and mingle instead of slaving over the stove.
On that note, I think that Real Simple has great, simple (pun intended) recipes for anyone just starting to cook. Plus the reviews and comments are invaluable when choosing something worthwhile to try.
We typically have the host family provide the main course, and then others help bring sides/ appetizers/ dessert/ wine... two of my favorite appetizers are an Herbed Ricotta spread (seriously so easy - literally just ricotta and herbs)- in the summer I have fresh herbs in the backyard, so its basically the simplest, cheapest - yet super yummy! - thing to make. The other favorite (which I've mentioned before) is a cheese fondue. Get some fruit, veggies, and bread for dipping, follow this easy recipe, and you're all set!

Fondue & Dippers

So while I dont think you need to stress out about what exactly you're serving, I do think you need to set a nice table like grownups. Use real dishes and silverware, cloth napkins, and put out some flowers. No matter what you're serving, those small steps will really help show your guests that you care about them and want them to have a memorable evening.

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Series: Supper Club!

Lonely table.I love a good get-together - of course special occassions, showers, and parties are super fun, but really what we do most of are smaller, casual gatherings with a group of friends. We have two sets of friends (4 couples in each) that try to get together once a month... everyone is so busy, that its nice to have a little 'club' to help make sure we get to see one another. Sometimes we meet out at a restaurant, but mostly we just rotate around hosting and have one another over for dinner... especially in these tougher economic times, its nice for everyone to get to spend time with friends but not have the night cost a fortune!

SO... whats the reason I'm telling you all this?!
Picture from vasta on flickr

One of the topics that I love in real life and have been meaning to talk about more here is entertaining. So on Monday I'll be kicking off an 8-week series called...

Every Monday for the next eight weeks (September 27 - November 16) I'll share menu and theme ideas, and hopefully will inspire you to host a Supper Club get-together of your own!