April 11, 2014

Front Porch Container Gardening

Pinspiration from The Gilded Mint

Spring has sprung in the South, and I'm hoping that our last freeze has come and gone. My green thumb has been itching, so I dug into Pinterest to look for some container gardening ideas for my front porch. Last year, because of some landscaping work that had to be done, I really didn't do much except put a few ferns and begonias in pots on the porch here and there. This year it was time for a change!

My Pinspirations:

Source: Decoratingho.me
Source unknown
Source unknown

Source: The Gilded Mint

I love the hydrangeas in the containers by The Gilded Mint, and I think the picture sold me because my door and porch look very similar. So, away I went to one of my favorite local nurseries and found:

1. Two Planters - I actually found my planters at Home Depot after I purchased all my plants. They were more expensive than I had hoped, but I knew I would pay much more at the local greenhouse. I also knew that they would be protected from the weather and last a good long time on my porch, so I decided to commit to them. Make sure you get planters large enough for what you're planning to put in them. The two I purchased are 18-inch squares, but I would have been happier with something closer to 21-inch squares just to give the roots a little more wiggle room. I love the zinc finish on the planters in the photo above, but the only similar version I could find was waaaay out of my price range.

2. One Boston fern - Yes, that's one fern for two containers. My thinking here is that I want to give the fern a chance to grow and not be immediately root-bound in the container, so I cut the root ball in half with a pair of shears and placed them in the backs of the pots. (That trick also saved me $10.)

3. Two Hydrangeas - Do not buy hydrangeas that are already in bloom. These have been warmed up in a greenhouse and I'm guessing may go into shock during chilly spring nights. Instead look for smaller hydrangeas that are thinking about flowering. These are an investment around $30, so make sure they're happy and healthy.

4. Two Sweet Potato Vines - I love these limey vines and they just need to be kept trim. They like to spread, so keep an eye on them. They're nice and inexpensive at just $2-$5 each.

5. Two Asparagus Ferns (tentative) - I haven't purchased these yet and am planning to see if the three plants I've put in my planters fill up the space as they settle in and grow. The dimensions of my planter seem smaller than what was used above, so I'll add these ferns later if there's room. They are tucked away in the back of the Pinspiration photo so I'm not sure anyone would miss them.

The container 2 days after planting - the little purple flower was a leftover from the flowerbed plantings earlier in the day
I'm hoping to see blooms starting to appear once the hydrangea gets settled a bit. It's a spring to fall bloomer so my porch should have some color until I need to find a place in the yard to over winter them. Grow baby grow!

April 3, 2014

Woodland Baby Shower

My new niece or nephew was due this past Monday, and she/he seems to wish to make a grand, fashionably late entrance into the world.  So I figure it's as good a time as any to share the baby shower that Jen and I hosted for our sister Emily after Christmas, when we were all still in town together.  (My immediate family is spread out across 4 states, so we have to cram a lot into the limited times when we're all together.)

The baby's room is decorated with a woodland theme (see this post), and we decided to use the same theme for the shower.  I was in charge of invites, and I picked up some funky owl note cards at Target to turn into invitations, but then I found these baby fox invitations from Classicology on Etsy.  I checked with Jen and Mom and they agreed that the foxes were in and the owls were out.

Jen and I pinned a lot of woodland party and baby shower ideas, and in the end, some things we used and some we didn't.  There are so many over-the-top party designs to drool over online, but when it comes down to it, you can only do so much.  People will appreciate any effort you make, and no one will ever know about the dozen other things you pinned and never made (like the burlap bunting that I even bought supplies for...).

Here are a few of our woodland decorations:

I cut the tops off of these bookmarks and glued them to skewers for little tuck-ins for the flower arrangements.

For the favors, I made little acorns with half mini Nutter-Butter cookies, chocolate Kisses, butterscotch chips, and chocolate frosting.  More free printables decorated each treat bag.

Jen decorated the food table with a wide burlap runner, a large vase, and dried flowers.  The vase and flowers were already on her table, and to enhance the woodland feel, she wandered to the woods nearby and clipped some twigs to tuck into the arrangement along with the little bookmark skewer guys.  We were excited to discover that the vase fit perfectly in a woodsy drawstring toy bag I made for Jen's daughter for Christmas a while back.

Our mom and her friend assembled an awesome diaper cake (spiraling the diapers instead of rolling each one makes it super classy).  We wrapped each layer with ribbon and tucked in a variety of woodland animal ornaments and stuffed critters.  Mommy-to-be Emily crocheted the owl at the top.

I brought some of the quilt blocks that I was making for a quilt for the baby's room and we hung them across the doorway as a banner.

March 31, 2014

Big Finish: Sliced 4-Patch Baby Quilt

Way back in November 2012, I made a quilt top as part of a book review. The book was Modern Designs for Classic Quilts by Kelly Biscopink and Andrea Johnson, and the pattern was a sliced 4-patch baby quilt modeled on Kelly's La Femme de la Mer Quilt.  The fabric is Riley Blake's Woodland Tails, which I won in a giveaway from online fabric shop Hawthorne Threads.  Soooooo after I finished the top, it sat around looking cute but never getting finished.  I didn't need it for a gift, and the few times I carried it around local quilt shops looking for backing fabric, I couldn't find anything that I liked.  So it continued to hang around my sewing room until a friend asked if I could make a baby quilt for her to give as a gift.  Ding!  Time to finish this quilt!

With renewed purpose, I took the top to a local shop and found this perfect Riley Blake stripe for the back. I've wanted to try spiral quilting for a while, and I decided this baby quilt would be good practice because it's relatively small and therefore easy to maneuver around and around and around.  Starting at the center of the quilt top, I drew the beginning of the spiral and kept drawing until it was 3 or 4 inches across.  Then I started stitching using the edge of my walking foot as a rough guide to continue the spiral.  After the rest of the quilting was done, I went back to the center and free-motion quilted the center of the spiral using my drawn line as a guide.

With a scrappy binding and a turn in the washer and dryer, I am thrilled with how this quilt turned out.  The spiral quilting was fun and turned out better than I expected.  It's so crinkly and cool - I just love it and I'm glad it finally got finished and sent to a new home to be enjoyed.

Linking up to Fresh Sewing Day at Lily's Quilts
Lily's Quilts

February 24, 2014

Woodland Nursery

My sister and brother-in-law are expecting their first baby in just a few weeks.  When they thought about decorating the baby's room, they decided on a gender-neutral woodland theme and started with dark teal walls and a bright orange rug.  Then they chose the fabrics pictured above, and my mom and I volunteered/were recruited to make loads of fabric items for the room.  When we were all together in early November, we sorted through this fabric and decided what would be used for the various handmade items.  Many of the fabrics are from the Michael Miller collections Norwegian Woods and Norwegian Woods Too; you can find links at the end of this post.  (The colors in the photo above are the most accurate - the others are a little bright thanks to the limitations of cellphone photography.)

On my mom's list were crib sheets, changing pad covers, and a crib skirt.  My list included a couple of accent pillows, the crib bumper, and a quilt for the twin-size daybed that my brother-in-law would create in his woodshop.  My mom started by making crib sheets and covers for the changing pad.  Then she sent me her scraps to include in the quilt.  After she finished the crib skirt, she sent her leftover fabric and I got to work on the bumper.

The accent pillows are from a panel print that had 4 panels -- foxes, birds, leaves, and squirrels.  I forgot to take better pictures of the pillows because I was in a rush to finish them up in time for the baby shower, which was also woodland-themed (more on that in another post to come soon).

Here's a peek at the finished quilt.  I'll share more about it soon too.

Some of the fabrics used in the room:

February 23, 2014

Best Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf

I'm always on the lookout for a good knit or crochet infinity scarf/circle scarf/cowl/whatever you want to call them.  I'm a little picky about the bulk -- too much and it looks like it's consuming your head, but not enough and it looks deflated and sad.  Last fall I found a promising pattern from Purllin at http://purllin.blogspot.com/2012/12/december-seed-stitch-infinity-circle.html.   I made a second one for another friend's birthday gift. Then I made one for myself, followed by one for my first friend's sister.  Then it was my sister, my sister-in-law, me again, and a third friend.  Then a third one for myself.  It's pretty clear -- I'm in love with this scarf.

Can you tell that I hate how I look in selfies??
This scarf is knit on 36" US size 15 circular needles, which I had to order from Joann.com because they don't stock needles that large in stores around here (unless I want to pay big bucks at a specialty yarn shop...which I don't).  Aside from that annoyance, I love everything about this cowl.  The yarn is Lion Brand Hometown USA.  It comes in all sorts of bright, team colors for sports fans, but it's also available in some nice neutrals, including black with colored flecks, charcoal, black and silver, and a flecked oatmeal.

Me crouched by window seat for light + curious cat
Something came over me the last time I was standing in front of the yarn, and I picked up this jade green to try.  I knew I'd keep it for myself, so even if it was hideously ugly, I could at least wear it around the house to keep warm.  Turns out I love the color and it looks particularly nice with my dark purple winter coat.  I call that a win.

I've now made 9 of these scarves, and I'm not making any promises that I won't add more to the list.  It's a great pattern, with soft yarn, and it only takes a few evenings on the couch catching up on the DVR to finish.  If you're looking for an easy project for yourself or for a gift, I encourage you to give it a try.

January 14, 2014

Little House Ornaments

I made this little house thanks to Sew Can She, which offers free daily tutorials delivered via email.  This one comes from Retro Mama and originally appeared here.  (That's where you can find the instructions, too.)

I made this first little house to send along with some fabric mail to my friend Kelly at Stitchy Quilt Stuff.  It turned out so cute that I just had to make, um, five more.

They were a lifesaver for all the ornament exchanges I found myself involved in for Christmas, but they'd also be cute decorations to have out all year long.  It was fun to dig through fabric scraps - even those tiny scraps that are good for pretty much nothing but that I can't seem to toss in the trash - and create the different combinations.

January 12, 2014

Sewing This and That

After a few recent quilt finishes, I've been enjoying the freedom that comes with small projects.

Puppy dog embroidery -- I found this embroidery on Pinterest, but I have no idea of the original source.  Luckily, it's simple enough to do without any instructions, so I just started stitching.  I tried the bottom two pups first.

I printed out the photo, taped it to my living room window, and traced each design onto a scrap of fabric using a water-soluble marking pen.  I stitched each one in a 4-inch hoop.  I'm not especially skilled at embroidery, but I can handle the basics -- backstitch to outline the dogs, (messy) satin stitch for the eyes and noses, and a split stitch to make the bottom line stand out a bit.  (Wild Olive has a great series of tutorial posts on embroidery basics here.)

After I finished stitching, I took the pieces out of the hoops and spritzed them with water to erase the marking pen lines.  I used some inexpensive craft paint to paint the hoops navy blue, and I sealed that with a matte spray sealant (next time I'll use a glossy version).  I cut white wool felt to glue to the back of each hoop to cover the unsightly knots and stitches (and forgot to take a picture).  A little piece of ribbon made the hoops easy to hang.  I sent these to my friend Anne along with the quilt I made for her new baby boy.

Baby bibs -- I've lost count of how many baby bibs I've made over the last few years, but it's a lot.  It was time to replenish my stash, and I found this great rocketship flannel (Joann's) that pairs so well with some lime green terry I had on hand.  (Check out more bibs here, here, and here.)

Memory game -- Last up is another memory game for my little friend Anna who recently turned 4.  I think this is my 4th game, but again, I've lost track.  This one definitely comes in my favorite drawstring bag, though.  It's fabric from Sarah Jane's Out to Sea collection.  Each time I start one of these games, I'm reminded of how many pieces are required and how tedious it really is to put together.  But by the time it's done, I've remembered how cute it is when it's finished, and how much my little friends enjoy playing with it.

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