The less exciting part of being a crafter

Most of the time craft blogs (including this one) are full of pictures of finished projects, yummy stacks of fabric and carefully styled supplies. And while I wish that was all there was to crafting, unfortunately it's not! Today I've been busy with a boring but necessary crafting task - pre-washing a ton of fabric.

I've got a patchwork project in the works, and I hate being unsure when I pull out a fabric from my stash whether I've pre-washed it or not. Especially for patchwork that will be used and washed a lot, pre-washing is important. These days I try to pre-wash new fabrics as I buy them, but I still have a ton of un-washed fabrics in my stash. My goal is to wash and iron my whole stash in the coming months.

Two IKEA blue bags full of fabric, whew! I'll be spending the next two weeks finding little bits of thread all over the laundry room, the couch, my clothes, and in the most unlikely places... And now it's time for an even more boring task: All that ironing! I'll spare you the pictures of me at the ironing board, binge-watching Stargate episodes. The things we do... :-)

Patchwork memories

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with projects right now - I have way too many WIPs in the works but I keep thinking of new ideas which I just HAVE to put into action right away... It's exhausting! I might have to put a moratorium on any more new projects for now, so I have time to catch up. Curse my short crafting attention span!

This patchwork project was an example of that short attention span. I have several big hand sewing projects going right now, but suddenly I felt an urge to start a machine sewing one. I have had the idea for a cushion cover using photo fabric in my head ever since I made a memory quilt using the stuff waaaay back in 2008 (see it here). And now was the time!

The photos are all from my Instagram feed over the last 1,5 years. The photo fabric sheets are Blumenthal Craft PhotoFabric from Swedish craft store Panduro, but I've used other brands before and they are all pretty similar - I know Michael's and JoAnne's carry them for example. Just feed the sheets through your (inkjet) printer, rinse and iron. For memory quilts and patchwork, the important thing is to make sure you buy photo fabric and not iron-on transfer paper. The iron-ons leave a sort of plastic coating on the fabric, which makes for difficult quilting and just doesn't look as nice. I think these prints came out really well, especially considering that they are Instagram shots (which have a pretty low resolution to start with). What do you think?

I had a blast choosing the color scheme to go with the photos, too. I went with blue to fit with the rest of the cushions on our couch. Another chance to use the awesome text fabric I bought a few weeks ago! Now I just need to actually sew this project together - no starting new projects until it's done! We'll see how that goes...

Hexies, hexies on my mind

It's been over two months since my last hexagon quilt post! To hold myself accountable (and make sure the hexies won't languish indefinitely in my cupboards in favor of some instant-gratification-type project) I thought I would post periodic updates - so here's what's going on in hexie land (a.k.a my living room floor - the only surface in our apartment that is big enough to lay all these out) these days!

I have made a total of 405 hexies so far - that translates to about 2/3 of what I need for the backgound and about 40% of the total hexies needed for the entire quilt. Slow but steady progress! I'm still focusing on getting the background hexies done first. The other day,  decided to lay out the first three lines of letters, just to get an idea of what the background will look like and what the ratio of white to patterned hexies should be. I want the background to be interesting, but it can't be TOO interesting or I risk taking the focus away from the letters. This is what it looks like so far:

And yes, I am fully aware that in these pictures the alphabet actually says A, B, C, D, E, K, L, M, N, F, G, H, I J. But don't worry, the final quilt won't! :-) As I was laying out the hexies on the floor I realized too late that I had gotten the lines mixed up, but since the point  of the exercise was mostly to determine the ratio of white to patterned pieces I didn't bother rearranging them.

Even though cutting out hexies is quite meditative, I have to admit that cutting hundreds of off-wite solids isn't that exciting. Can't wait to start on the actual letters. And now I really need to decide on colors for the letters - I have been thinking about this for months and I still can't decide! Oh well, I still have over 200 background pieces left to make before I REALLY have to make the decision...

That's my progress so far! If you feel like making your own hexagon alphabet quilt, check out my pattern tutorial here.

Instax update: New film and a trip to the museum

Time for an update with some of my latest Instax adventures! This weekend Keith and I visited the Swedish Museum of Natural History here in Stockholm - not the best natural history museum I've been to, but the building itself is beautiful! And on Sunday we spent some quality time with my sis and the two cool kids pictured above - the sunglasses were totally their idea!

These are the first shots I've taken with the "AirMail" Instax film I bought a while ago. I really like it! The blue-gray border softens the images a bit, and I'm thinking the "air mail" border makes them especially suitable for fun mini postcards!

I have a few other "special effect" films that are waiting to be used. I'm excited to try the "Comic" one - possibly I'll save it for when we visit Stockholm ComicCon next month!

Rustic Walnut Bread Recipe

Fall is really here! It's been getting darker in the evenings, and last week we had several days of rain. I've been going into fall mode by cooking hearty (and probably not-so-healthy) dinners - and baking!

Walnut bread is a favorite of mine - so simple to make and always turns out well. This time I made one small loaf and several hamburger buns (to go with this awesome recipe for black bean burgers - seriously, try it!).

This recipe is easy to vary according to your own tastes (and what you happen to have in your cupboards). You can use any type of milk and experiment with different types of flour. I added in some spelt flour this time, because I love it's rich nutty flavor. It's also easy to veganize the recipe - just leave out the egg for brushing.

My recipe uses fresh yeast because that's the kind that is most widely available in Sweden, but you can easily adapt the recipe to use dry yeast if that's what you prefer.

Rustic walnut bread

Makes 2 small loaves or 15 buns

50 grams fresh yeast
2 dl cashew milk (or any other plant based milk)
4 dl hot water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
750-850 grams flour (I used mostly all-purpose white flour,  with some spelt and rye mixed in)
3 dl chopped walnuts
1 egg (to brush)
1 dl white sesame seeds 

1. Crumble yeast into a large bowl.
2. Mix cashew milk with hot water (the mixture should be warm, not hot). Pour mixture over the yeast and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.
3. Add sugar, salt and about 2/3 of the flour. Combine well.
4. Add the chopped walnuts, mix well. Knead the dough for a few minutes, adding more flour as necessary until the dough is firm and doesn't stick to your fingers.
5. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
6. Pick up the dough and knead it lightly. Shape the dough - here you can choose either to make two larger loaves or about 15 individual buns. Or a combination if the two, like I did! For loaves, shape into two loaves and score the top lightly with a sharp knife. For buns, separate the dough into 15 balls and flatten each ball until roughly 2 cm thick. Use a fork to poke some holes in the top of each bun (this prevents large air bubbles from forming inside the bread).
7. Cover the bread with the tea towel again and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. If you are planning to brush the bread, crack your egg into a glass and stir with a fork until the yolk and egg white are combined.Set aside.
8. When the bread has risen, brush the egg over the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
9. Bake at 225 degrees Celsius (roughly 440 Fahrenheit). Loaves will take about 25 minutes, buns about 15. Allow to cool.


Smash Book Sunday

I have been using smash books to record memories for years now. A smash book or smash journal is a simple way to capture life as you go along - similar to a scrapbook but much less hassle. Smash booking really just goes back to the roots of the scrapbooking phenomenon. For hundreds of years, people have been making simple memory books to preserve mementos from daily life - I know I did this long before I ever heard the term "scrapbooking"! The basic premise of the smash book is that you can just "smash" anything you want into your journal - photos, notes, lists, ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, left over packaging or anything else you can think of. No need to worry about elaborate layouts or fancy embellishments, and no need to spent hours and hours on making records of your life because really, that sort of gets in the way of actually LIVING it!

Ever since I was a kid, I've tried to keep "normal" journals, but I never seem to be able to keep them going - I'll buy a pretty journal or note book and make an ambitions start but before long, entries become more and more sporadic, and eventually I'll just give up. The blank journal pages tend to intimidate me, make me feel like I need to have something REALLY good to say before I even put pen to paper.

Scrap and smash books work so much better for me. For one thing, the pages are not big, blank and intimidating, but colorful and inspiring. Most smash books use  scrapbooking type papers in different colors which sort of "set the tone" for each spread in the journal. And they are designed for a mix of mediums - you can write, draw, glue, collage or do whatever you like to the pages, they are sturdy enough to hold up. I do a fair bit of journaling in my smash book, too, but the pressure is much lower. Most of the time a few short paragraphs is enough to say what's going through my mind, but if I want to expand on something there's always room.

Another thing I love about my smash book is how portable it is. I often bring it with me to record travels and holidays while they happen, rather than waiting until I get home (and have inevitably forgotten half of what went on) to put photos into albums or journal my experiences. I keep all the things I need attached to the book using an elastic band, so it's easy to just grab the book and go!

I use K&Company brand smash books because I like the size and quality, and the sturdiness of the covers make them ideal for taking along on your travels. In this photo you can see what I like to keep attached to my book at all times:

- A Smash stick: This is the specialized pen that comes with the K&Company books and attaches with an elastic to the side of the book. It's got a black ink pen on one end, and a mini glue stick on the other. Super convenient!
- A black ultra fine point Sharpie: I mainly use this for writing on Instax prints (which most regular pens can't manage).
- An extra glue stick: The glue in the Smash stick is not very heavy duty, so I like to keep an extra glue stick with me for photos and heavier items.
- A pair of Smash scissors: Another K&Company product, these scissors fold up to become no larger than a normal pen or marker.

That, plus a few odd bits of paper, is all you really need to Smash book on the go.The pages you see here are a few of my favorites from my 2014 smash book - it's my third one and I think I'm really starting to find a style of memory keeping that works for me. I'll be sharing more pages as I go along, hopefully they can serve as some inspiration to someone out there!

More machine embroidery: Big Bang Theory and a unicorn!

I went to see my mom again this weekend, and as usual my visit involved the two of us shutting ourselves up in the studio for hours on end and playing with my mom's amazing sewing machine. Such fun!

Since I actually managed to sell four of the pieces I made last time, I thought I would continue on in the same vein: Geeky, girly and slightly subversive! This is one of the designs I created which I really like:

I also made this design as a homage to everyone's favorite geeky TV show, the Big bang Theory. Did you get all the references?

I'm having so much fun thinking up new motifs, sayings and quotes that need to me immortalized in embroidery form. I'm not even sure what I'll do with all of these yet, but I'm sure I'll find a use for them somehow... I ran in to a small snag when I got home though: I realized that I need to buy some more embroidery hoops for framing all the embroidery - I've used up all the ones I had on hand. Will post more photos as I finish more pieces!

Stockholm Chocolate Festival

What did you do this weekend? I visited the Stockholm Baking and Chocolate Festival  - an annual fair focused on all things sweet. There were chocolate tastings, baking competitions, trade talks and of course LOTS of stalls selling amazing treats.

Apologies for the poor photos, I was a bit too focused on what was going on in the stalls (free samples!) to pay attention to my camera. I could not resist buying one of these huge "artisan" chocolate bars either:

Yum! There was a house and home trade show going on at the same time as the chocolate festival, so I actually scored two fairs in one day. I didn't buy much though, mostly I just walked around and soaked up the inspiration.

Among other things I had the chance to chat with craft book writers and bloggers Sania Hedengren and Susanna Zacke who were busy promoting their latest craft book and showing off this amazing vintage caravan. Isn't it adorable?

The inside was equally sweet, decorated with vintage wallpaper, linens and crochet. It's always been my dream to ride off into the sunset in an old VW camper van (this article could totally have been written by me), but a caravan as sweet as this could do the trick as well!

Dresden plate potholder

Time for more hand sewing! Keith and I have been listening to this awesome audio book (in Swedish) for several weeks now. We love listening to audio books together - it's much easier to concentrate on the story (and not get caught up in the dishes, dinner or whatever you're doing while you're listening) when you have someone right there with you to discuss it with. We have taken to listening in our combined office/craft room, that way he can work on projects at the desk and I can sit at my sewing table. It's been great. The only problem is that it's hard to go to bed when we get caught up in a particularly interesting chapter! I started this hand sewing project last week to have something to do while we were listening, and it only took two (rather long) evenings to complete.

This potholder/trivet is completely hand sewn, made using my new favorite technique English paper piecing and a perfectly sized Dresden template (which Keith created for me using some computer program or other - don't even ask), and the layers of Insul-Bright and Warm&White batting are held together with some simple hand quilting. I really need to work on my hand quilting skills, as you can probably tell!

I do think I did well on matching the fabrics for this one though. The "hipster kitty" fabric in the center is a really neat Spoonflower fabric by independent designer Andrea Lauren. Although it seems that this particular print has been discontinued since I bought my swatch, I can really recommend a look through her huge library of spoonflower designs.

I really like the text fabric as well, so much so that I bought it in three different colorways. I can see myself using it a lot in future. In fact, I'm already planning on using the blue one for an upcoming project - but more on the later. Have a great week!