Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Findings

I'm going to start including more neat tutorials that I've found in the course of the week here. Doing is better than just looking, right? Hubba and I just bought the wood to make the coffee table! There are a lot of other plans on Ana White's website, too, if you're looking into making furniture.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Make a Light Box for Under $20

Winter makes me lazy. I get out of work and the sun has already set, it's cold, and I just don't feel like doing much of anything. The only free time I had to take photos in natural daylight for my shop is on the weekend (which I never think of doing at the time) or on my lunch break. And the lunch break photo session doesn't happen often. So when I came across this tutorial to make an inexpensive light box, I made it right away. No more excuses, laziness!

Here's what you need and about what it'll cost you:
A big box, the squarer, the better (Free)
A piece of poster board ($1 at Dollar Tree)
White muslin fabric to cover the holes (I already had this but you can buy $2 a yard cheap stuff from JoAnn's)
Two lamps (Standing lamp was $5.99 and clip on lamp above was $9.99 at Target)
Daylight bulbs - 60 watts ($5 for a pack of 4)
Box cutter, tape, scissors

Buy your lamps before getting your bulbs so you can check the maximum wattage your lamps can handle. I bought 100 watt bulbs before finding that the only lamp that could support that bulb would cost $30.

Follow the tutorial here to put it all together!

Here's the first photo I took without any adjustment:

And after a little adjustment in iPhoto to brighten it up:

Not perfect, but it'll get there. I might take the photos into CameraRAW or Photoshop to lighten up the shadows more. But overall, it's a success!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fabric Love - Pure by Stof House Designer

Modern designs, simple color pallet, large, simple prints .. ahh, this is my kind of fabric! Stof House is a large fabric distributer in Europe based out of Denmark. It was hard to find information on this collection specifically, but I think it was designed by one of their on-staff designers.

I'm working on my first quilt (eek!) and am using the seed heads in grey (bottom right corner) as one of the fabrics. It is beautiful in person .. high quality quilting cotton and just perfect.  I'll fill you in on the quilt soon, but as my mom said, "I've never heard of anyone starting to quilt with hexagons." Should be interesting!

To order some of this collection, which was just released recently, visit Hawthorne Threads. They have more color choices then what I have displayed above. For more on Stof and their fabric collections, click here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Create Your Own Font for Free!

Seriously .. so excited for this! One of the reasons I've been wanting an iPad is to download all the cool apps, including FontMaker to make a font with my handwriting. Now I have one less reason to get one! On, you print and fill out the template, scan it in per the instructions, and download your font! Super cool, right? And free!

The image above was created in Word using the font I made. I just used a regular gel ink pen (I didn't have any medium size felt tip pens) and it worked fine other than a couple of light areas on the U V W and w.

Thanks to The Cheese Thief for posting this!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Crochet Bow Pattern

I've been making bows like crazy! They're really simple to crochet and look super cute with a high bun, as an accessory on a bag or for clipping back your (or your girl's) hair. I'm going to add a whole slew of them to my Etsy shop so if you don't know how to crochet, you can buy some cute bows soon here.  This is my first crochet pattern, so if you have and questions or need clarification, leave it in the comments and I'll respond!

Little Bow Pattern
Worsted weight or cotton yarn, size 4mm hook
American terms: ch=chain, hdc=half double crochet, hk=hook, st=stitch, sc=single crochet, sl st=slip stitch

Main Rectangle:
Ch 20 or desired length of bow.
Row 1: Hdc in 2nd st from hk and each across. Ch 1. Turn.
Row 2: Hdc in each stitch across. Ch 1. Turn.
Rows 3-4: Repeat row 2.
Sc around entire rectangle, with 3 sc in each corner, to create a finished edge. Fasten off.

Small Middle Rectangle:
Ch 10. Work on one side of chain. Sc in 2nd st from hk and each across. 3 sc in last ch. Sc in each st returning (down the other side of the chain), ending with 2 sc in the final chain. Sl st to first st. Fasten off with a long tail.

Pinch the main rectangle together and sew middle rectangle on using the long tail. Fasten off.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Findings - Steampunk Edition

In honor of my lovely brother-in-law, who has encouraged me twice in the last two weeks to make steampunk-style electronics to sell, here's a collection of a few steampunk items for sale on Etsy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tomato Sausage Risotto Recipe

This is one of my staple recipes. It's easy to make from what you have at home, comes together in one pan, and is super delicious.

Tomato Sausage Risotto
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4
Adapted from

1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup orzo pasta
1 bunch (10 oz) spinach or kale, chopped, tough stems removed
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and onion, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion translucent, 3-5 minutes.
2. Add pasta, stirring until coated, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
3. Add tomatoes. Simmer covered over medium-low heat until liquid is absorbed, about five minutes. Add water one cup at a time, waiting until the previous cup is absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in Parmesan, spinach, and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fabric Love - Tsuru by Rashida Coleman-Hale

Rashida Coleman-Hale's next collection, Tsuru, is inspired by her childhood growing up in Japan. Tsuru is Japanese for crane. Just look at these beautifully coordinated oranges, blues, and yellows! The little birds' feet prints are my favorite, followed closely by the flying cranes and the flower print. So pretty!


Rashida Coleman-Hale is already popular for her cute and fun Washi collection.

See more from the designer, see her blog, I Heart Linen. If you'd like to purchase Tsuru, visit Hawthorne Threads, search "tsuru" and you can enter your email to be contacted when it becomes available.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Panera Style Tomato Soup Recipe

I love me some Panera tomato soup. Every time I go there in the fall and winter, that's what I order. I've been looking for a good copycat recipe for a while, and hadn't found one until just a few weeks ago. When I was still in my apartment, I tried a recipe for this soup that called for, among other things, six cups of milk. Six. It was so gross that I still remember the milk content of the recipe. I wish I had photos of that soup to show you, but just picture salty (yes, I did try it) tomatoes floating in milk. Gross.

Luckily for you (and for me!), I came across this recipe from Running to the Kitchen. I can seriously vouch for this one .. I've made it three times already! My encounter with this recipe luckily coincided with my fall tomato crop. This recipe also freezes well. Just freeze soup in freezer bags in two cup portions. Then set it on the counter about an hour before you're ready to eat to let it soften up, put it in a pot and heat it up! Super easy homemade soup anytime.

Panera-Style Tomato Soup
Serves 5-6

8 large tomatoes, quartered
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 piece of whole wheat bread, toasted and cubed
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place quartered tomatoes on the sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cut off top of head of garlic, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and place on the sheet too. Bake for 45 minutes.

3. While tomatoes and garlic are roasting, heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and saute until softened, about 6 minutes.
4. When tomatoes are done roasting, add them and the garlic to the pot, and cook for five minutes.
5. Add parsley, tomato paste, vegetable broth, brown sugar, and bread. Simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Do not be afraid! This is what your soup will look like after step 5.
6. Add cream (or milk) and parmesan, and stir. Remove from heat, and blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until creamy.

There you go! Make yourself a grilled cheese and enjoy! If you don't know what to do with all that leftover tomato paste, freeze it! I made tablespoon-size blobs on wax paper and stuck them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them into a freezer bag. You can also do this with the heavy whipping cream, except use ice cube trays, of course!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Findings

New little weekly entry on the blog showing some things I spotted on Etsy and happen to love! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fabric Love - Lotta Jansdotter's Bella

I've really been getting into fabric recently .. as in the last six months or so. There are so many cute collections, so many things you can do with it, so many new things to learn .. ugh, love it. Did I tell you that I'm now thinking I'd like to open a fabric and yarn shop in my hometown or nearby? Yep, it's that serious. Serious enough to go to a business class and start writing a business plan serious. I'm going to start showing you some of my favorite collections that inspire me to create on the blog. Not so into fabric? It'll give you something cute and sweet to look at. :)


This collection is not really new anymore in the world of fabric .. It's been out the last couple months. I've been itching to get my hands on some, but the frugal, "you don't have anything to make with this" side of me pushed me back until a couple weeks ago. Alas, I caved. And thankfully so. I wish I could've bought the whole collection (minus the bird ones .. I don't really see where those fit in with the rest) but my frugal side was there to hold me back again. Look at this pretty:

Now what to do with it? My first quilt, maybe? A pretty tote? I'll figure something out. If you're looking for somewhere to purchase this collection, the blog Fabric Shopper Online has a list at the bottom of this post. On that list, the only one I've purchased from is Contemporary Cloth, and I don't know if it was because they were having a sale or what but it took almost two weeks to ship my fabric (and three more days to arrive) with no notification about the delay .. wouldn't recommend. I would recommend Hawthorne Threads, who's not on that list, but I've had a good experience getting fabric from them and they even sent me some advice for starting my own fabric shop.

You can also read all about the Bella collection from its designer here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Michigan Football + Picnic/Rainy Football Game Blanket Tutorial

My sister and I got tickets for the UM football game last Saturday in Ann Arbor from her boss. When we looked at the weather, we were trying to decide if we wanted to go (there was a 90% chance of rain the entire time we were there), but decided to tough it out with some rain gear and a cool blanket I made from a tutorial on The Mother Huddle. See the photos below. The tutorial is towards the bottom.

My purdy sister

It rained a lot ..
.. But we were still happy. :)
The blanket in use

I was planning on making this as a picnic blanket over the summer, like it's intended to be, but never made it and with the imminent rain, thought it would be perfect to flip over and use the vinyl side as rain protection. Here's how it's done.

Picnic or Rainy Day Blanket

A vinyl tablecloth (mine was purchased at Wal-Mart)
A fleece blanket (I reused an old one from around the house)
Scissors, thread, sewing machine

1. Lay your vinyl tablecloth right side down on the floor. Lay your blanket on top. If any dimensions are significantly bigger than the other, cut it down so there's about a three inch border all the way around your blanket. In the original tutorial, her blanket was larger than her tablecloth so she cut that down to match. My tablecloth was too big for my blanket so I cut it down (see below).

Chopped blanket
2. Fold the extra table cloth over to create a border around the blanket and pin. The nice thing about vinyl tablecloths is they have a finished edge. If you cut your tablecloth like me, you should double fold over the edge of the tablecloth that has been cut to hide the unfinished edge.

3. Add an elastic strap by measuring to the center of one of the short sides and pinning a length of elastic there.

4. Sew all the way around, going back and forth over the elastic a few times.

5. That's it! Enjoy your non-wet-butt picnic and cozy sitting-in-the-rain blanket!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Business Cards on the Cheap

Look what I got yesterday:

Hello, cute box. The envelope even had a "Yay!" sticker on it, which is exactly what I said when I saw it was in the mail. They know me so well already.

Mini business cards! I love anything miniature and these are just so sweet. They're from Moo, a printing company I came across from a blog I just started reading, megan E sass. If you have an Etsy shop, you can take advantage of an offer they have going to get 100 of these little cards for free (though there's a $5 shipping/handling fee). If you ask me, $5 is totally worth it for these high quality, front and back printed cards. 

I'll give you a look at a couple other cheap things I've taken advantage of to get the word out there. In the past, I've ordered business cards from Vistaprint, which I purchased a deal on (I can't remember if it was Groupon or LivingSocial), so if you're looking to get a deal on business cards, keep an eye on the deal sites. At the time, I didn't know what I really wanted to specialize in, so I designed some generic ones in Illustrator with my logo and info that were pretty versatile.

A picture's worth a thousand words, huh? The minicards do a much better job of showing what I do, but you can add photos to the ones in Vistaprint if that's what you'd like to do too.

There are lots of websites now that show DIY business cards. For the sales I make in my shop, I don't like using my fancy cards to attach to packages, so I often make quick tags with my website info on there and tie them on the item with some matching bakers twine.

For these, I use scrapbook paper I've had around forever cut into 2"x4" rectangles, a corner punch, a slot punch for the hole (or just a regular hole punch), and a stamp kit I found at a garage sale. The kit is one of the best things I've found at a sale and it can be used on a lot of different projects. It's similar to this one that I found at a flea market. Both were under $5 each:

I also designed a stamp and had it made into a self inking stamp on Vistaprint using that deal. I use it to stamp random things, like the outside of packages.

So there you go! A few ideas that I use to promote my shop. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Strong Bad Crochet

Have any of you seen Homestar Runner before? My sister and I used to watch it all the time on the computer growing up and thought it was hil-a-ri-ous! Strong Bad was mine and my sister's favorite character. 

So when she randomly suggested one day that I crochet a Strong Bad and sell it for mad money, I decided to make one for her for her birthday. Given the limited number of Strong Bad crochet patterns on the interwebz, I made this up from scratch. I'm kicking myself now for not writing down the pattern, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway. :)

Doesn't the light in the background look like the backdrop from a 90's school photo? An ode to the 90's popularity of this little guy. I totally did that on purpose ..

Yay for geeky crochet! Hope you're having a great week! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crochet Hook Holder

If you've looked at my Etsy shop recently, you probably noticed that I've been doing quite a bit of crocheting. Who doesn't like a cute little octopus? Or some flower coasters? No one, I say, no one. *Side note: Over the weekend I told my senior neighbor that I crochet and she kind of laughed about it. I know it's kind of dorky and something stereotypically for older people, but I love it anyway! My husband would tell you that he experiences the full scope of my crocheting endeavors because they cover (and I mean cover) our coffee table for weeks on end. I've decided recently to get a little more organized, for both of our sakes. All of my crochet hooks were housed in a recycled jar covered in a crocheted cozy, which worked for the time, but the jar was knocked over often, it was noisy (metal in glass..) and I had to transfer all the hooks into my tote to go places. p.s. Check out this tote:

I made this tote almost exactly like I saw one online for knitting. And, obviously, it's just a joke! I had someone concerned about me taking this in public because I might offend people..!
Now THIS was not in the original: I made some nifty slots to put my hooks in on the go.
Moving on. I saw this tutorial online a few days ago to make a clutch for crochet hooks and supplies, and thought it was such a great idea.

I made it the same day. Here's what mine looked like:

Not too shabby, right? It looks super cute, but here are a few issues I had and how I remedied them. The first issue was that my hooks have bamboo handles and are much larger than the ones the author used.

This means wider slots for hooks, which means less hooks in the holder. It also meant that the fabric bunched up a lot more when the hooks were in the holder, making it all ripply. Not cute. The clutch was also really floppy. I decided at this point to make it like this canvas roll up storage for some of my paint brushes. I cut off the button, and rolled the whole mess up to see where to sew the button again. I like it SO much better. It's a good throw and go option too.

If you decide to make this, you can just wait to put the button on until the end and decide if you'd like it as a clutch or roll up. Just make sure to only sew the button on through the first layer of fabric.

Here's another issue I had: You'll notice in the photo above that the inner-most hook slot is empty. That is where the scissors are intended to go. This is clutch not meant to be turned upside down. The scissors fall out. And you wouldn't want to drop scissors on your cat, your foot, or like a knife into the floor, would you? (I did two of these three .. I'm not telling which) Here's my solution.

Velcro it up! I did this after the fact so it was a big pain hand sewing everything on, but if you add the little flap just after you sew on the slots for hooks, it would be super easy! I also added a little patch to hold straight pins, since I use them a lot for temporarily holding on octopus tentacles before I sew them on.

That's it! Easy storage for crochet hooks. It took me around an hour to make from start to finish .. plus a little more for the hand sewing additions after the fact. Check out Little Birdie Secrets' full tutorial here!