Saturday, December 29, 2012

Norwegian Ammonia Cookies

I had promised to bake my husband some of his favorite holiday cookies. Better late than never, right? We'll call these New Year cookies. They are Norwegian Ammonia Cookies. I got the recipe (and the horn salt) from my friend, Gail Brooks. Horn salt is also known as baking ammonia. And yes, your oven will smell like ammonia but it isn't very strong and the smell doesn't linger. The cookies DO NOT taste like ammonia. Each year Gail drives up to Poulsbo, WA, to stock up on horn salt. I have one packet left in my freezer, for next year, and then I guess I'll be trekking to Poulsbo, too. Here is the recipe for these delicious cookies, in case you happen to have horn salt on hand.


1 cup butter
1 cup Crisco (or other shortening)
2 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
3 cups flour
2 tsp. horn salt (baking ammonia)

Cream butter and shortening, add sugar and coconut then stir in flour and horn salt. Roll into balls the size of walnuts and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees until just slightly brown (about 17 minutes).

The cookies are fragile until cooled so be careful when removing them from the pan. Let cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container or frozen for future use.

These cookies are incredibly crispy and highly addictive. We joke that there is "crack" in them. Maybe because of how horn salt looks in the little package.

The cookies freeze very well. In fact you can take them out of the freezer months later and they will taste fresh baked.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Last Christmas Gift

I actually have a few more gifts to make but they will have to wait until I take my Bernina in for a tune-up. They are all garment projects and I am fussier about how they turn out. While I love all the doo-dads on the Kenmore 1802 (buttonhole attachment, design cams, monogrammer) the plain ol' straight and zig zag stitches are a little unreliable. I think this particular machine has lived a rough life.

So here it is, my version of the Burda Charlie Bag. This is a market bag that stores in its own pocket (which lives inside), in your purse, and can come in quite handy when you are at the check-out counter and realize you left all your reusable grocery bags in your trunk.

This bag is destined to be a Christmas gift but I will definitely be sewing more of them. The directions call for using a serger. I still haven't made friends with mine. Besides, a shopping bag needs to be sturdy. I opted to use bias tape along the handle edges and French seams on all the inside seams.

When I sew them I want them to stay sewn! I didn't have quite enough of the print fabric so added some solid black to the bottom. It looks like I meant to do that, doesn't it? I attached one of my labels as a finishing touch.

And here it is, all tucked into the little storage bag.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My One Hour "10 Minute Table Runner"

Yes, the sewing probably takes 10 minutes. However they forgot to figure in choosing the fabric, washing it, ironing it, cutting it, (some actual sewing), turning it right side out, ironing it, making sure the sides were even, pinning to line things up, (more actual sewing), turning the points out, more ironing, and finally the decorative top stitching. I have been wanting to sew one of these for a while and finally got around to it this morning. I love how it turned out.

A close-up of the decorative top stitching.
It reminds me of a string of holiday lights.

The top stitching might be hard to see unless you click on the photo to enlarge it. I decided on the subtle approach and used matching red thread. I wanted the lovely poinsettia fabric to be the focal point, not the stitching. Here is the link to the Youtube tutorial in case you'd like to make your own 10 Minute Table Runner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Amber's Apron

I was having a tough time thinking of a gift to sew for my eldest daughter. She loves to cook, likes retro styles and the color teal. How about a vintage inspired apron? I dove back into my fabric stash to see what I could come up with. I didn't find anything in teal but I think turquoise is pretty close. Throw in some sparkly rick rack and some bias tape and we've got ourselves a very 50's looking apron.

Here is a close-up of the pocket detail complete with monogram.

The backside of the monogram.

I don't mind if she happens to stumble upon the blog and see this. It's been mailed with instructions to "open early". I hope she loves it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Bag For Izzy

Pssst...did you notice my little snail (above) is slowly moving along?

This is another quick Christmas gift for little Izzy.  The pattern and tutorial are from the FREE course. I love sewing for little ones. They usually aren't very fussy and appreciate handmade things. I always tried to convince my own children that handmade was better because mama puts love into them and the stores don't. All of the fabric for this project was already in my sewing room. I love shopping the stash, trying to see what fabrics and colors will work together.

Obviously the focal fabric was the 1/2 yard of Boyd's Bears print. I fussy cut it to best show off the teddy bears. I went with a vintage piece of cotton floral for the lining because the blues and pinks matched the colors in the bear print. I nixed the small solids, above, in favor of a solid pink cotton/poly blend.

I had planned to use my Singer monogram attachment to write out the name but it is on the fritz. I had to hand embroider it, instead. I think it turned out better, actually. Here is the bag with the lining attached.

After the lining was poked down inside the bag the top edge was stitched and some channels added for the drawstring.

The drawstrings were an absolute booger to make. I had to switch needles 3 times because they were bouncing off the poly blend fabric and refusing to form stitches. I finally switched to a ball top needle and had better success (but still not very good). Once I had the drawstrings sewn it was another PITA to get them turned right-side-out. I persevered and finally got the job done. You wouldn't think such an easy little bag would give me such fits.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Very Happy Cat

I can cross another gift off my "must sew" list. I started this cat yesterday morning and finished it up this afternoon. I had to wait for the pieces to dry after I washed out the blue marker. The most time consuming part was the embroidery. It was slow going. I hadn't embroidered anything in a long, long time. I had to break out my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework to refresh my memory. That is an awesome reference book, BTW. Here is my finished cat, followed by my step-by-step how to. If you'd like to sew a Happy Cat of your own, here's where I got the pattern.

The first step is to print out the pattern and directions. My computer was not cooperating. I had to open each pattern piece in a new window and print it from there. Once the pieces are printed you have to tape them together. I trimmed off all the extra paper bits to make the pattern easier to trace. I also went over the cat's features with a Sharpie so they would show through the fabric. I don't have a light box. Instead I used painters tape to stick the pattern to a window.

The features were traced with a water soluble marker.

Then the most important part, giving the cat a personality.

The nose is a piece of gray fleece.
I used a blanket stitch to sew it on.

Before sewing the front and back together I applied  fray check to all the embroidery knots. I sewed the cat together with 1/4" seams, using a narrow zig zag, and went very s-l-o-w-l-y as the tutorial recommended. I left the bottom of the cat open for stuffing. I stuffed it very firmly taking special care to make sure enough stuffing was packed into the arms and legs. The bottom opening was hand sewn closed.

The last step was to give the cat some toes and make sure to apply fray check to those knots, as well. All that remains is to wrap it and place it under the tree. I hope little Izzy likes it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Addictive Towels & Android Annie

Christmas has come early for me. Meet my new toy, Android Annie. I'm sure she will be my new best friend but right now I am completely befuddled by her.

I am behind the times, having never even had a smart phone. This is way over my head. Won't this be cool to prop up next to my sewing machine so I can watch my online sewing courses? That's how you lure me into using modern technology. Craftsy, here I come!

Meanwhile I have become quite addicted to making these silly hanging towels. I made 2 sets yesterday. First this wine themed pair for my own kitchen....

....and a coffee themed set for a gift.

Now that I had 3 sets completed it was time to dig out a buttonhole attachment and get the buttonholes and buttons put on them. I have been sewing these towels on my Kenmore 1802 but had never attempted to use it to make buttonholes. It was high time. I dug around in my sewing accessories until I found the attachment that is shown in the 1802's manual. It is this funny shaped one piece jobber. Kind of looks like a pizza slicer.

It is super easy to use. You change out the slide plate cover and replace it with one that has a little pinion gear on top. Then drop the feed dogs by pushing a button on the front of the machine. The buttonholer attaches behind the pressure foot with a screw. Then you select the size of buttonhole produced by rotating the selector wheel and swing the buttonholer under the pressure foot and place the wheel over the gear. Almost as easy as those built in 4 step buttonholes but these look much nicer.

These old Kenmores are such a bargain. Unfortunately they are usually missing many, if not all, of their attachments when you find them used. I had to search for the correct slide plate pinion gear and the buttonhole attachment (which I found in 2 separate places) but it was well worth the effort. If you know what you are looking for, they are out there. I also have a fancy monogrammer for the 1802 but have not had a chance to play with it yet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hanging Hand Towels

These turned out so nice, makes me wish I'd used better quality towels. However it was the three Dollar Tree towels that gave me the inspiration in the first place. I was there to pick up some $1 tape measures to use in making "snap shut" bags as shown in this tutorial (I guess I need some duct tape, too). Here are my first set of hanging towels. I still have to put in the buttonholes and sew on the buttons, but you get the idea.

I made them a little different than was shown in the tutorial. I didn't have quite enough of the produce print fabric to cut out all the patterns pieces. 

I opted not to tape the 2 pattern pieces together but to cut the fabric pieces and sew them together with 1/2" seams. This allowed me to use a plain green on the backside.

I also chose to use fusible interfacing instead of fleece. This added some stability without adding a lot of bulk. Besides, I have a bunch of old interfacing that's probably been around since the 70's. I need to use it up.

The finished tops. First the front and then the back. I used a 3/4" seam at the opening because I wanted as much of the cute fabric to show as possible.

Now to insert the half towel. First I added some pleats so the top measures 6" wide. I pinned the pleats in place and secured them with 2 rows of basting stitches.

Now for the fun part. I inserted the pleated towel into the hanging top so that the basting stitches didn't show. I then edge stitched all around the topper which secured the towel in place. To make it extra strong I also used a decorative cam to sew some satin stitch diamonds a little ways from where the towel was inserted into the topper opening. I wanted to be sure that towel wasn't going to be pulled out while folks are drying their hands. The bow was an afterthought. I am sewing these on my vintage Kenmore because I want to take my Bernina in for a tune-up. Unfortunately my Kenmore seems to have a mind of its own as far as stitch length and width are concerned. The diamonds were an inconsistent size. The bows are meant to distract you from that fact. Is it working? The final picture shows the back. The green fabric helped stretch the pretty print.

I used cherry red thread for the edge stitching and will be using matching red buttons. Everything was from my stash except the $1 towel. Not bad for a quick and thrifty Christmas gift. Now to make the other 2 sets.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Handmade Christmas

I want to sew most of my Christmas gifts this year. That's my plan. We'll see how far I get. I'm going to start with a few smaller items and work my way up to the more involved projects. First up are some hanging towels made using this tutorial. My goal this year is to create nice, useful, thoughtful gifts using fabrics from my burgeoning stash. These towels were store bought but the hanging tops will use some fat quarters that I already own (the wine themed towels are for my kitchen). I will also use buttons that I have in my collection.

Towel patterns and directions.

I'm not sure how well the prints will show up with the towels folded like that. We shall see. Next on my list, this adorable stuffed cat for a little girl in my life. Ever since I stumbled across that web site I've been wanting to sew one of these joyous felines. I thought I had some pink fleece in my stash but it turned out to be this odd knit fabric. I think it may be a type of double knit fleece? It has very little stretch to it. I think it will be perfect for this toy and should wear better than the polar fleece does.

The front side is fluffy and the back is a knit. Here are the pattern and instructions all ready to go.

I had a devil of a time getting the pattern to print. I ended up having to open each pattern piece in a separate window and print them that way. My last little gift idea for today is this coin purse.I can use up small pieces of cute fabrics and also use some of my sewing machines' fancy design cams. Win-win! I found the metal purse frames at JoAnn Fabrics.

While at JoAnn's I also picked up some more of that fusible fleece (for bags) and some rip-stop nylon for rub out mats. I'll post the finished items as I get them done. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pipe Bag Is Finshed!

Today was a much better day for sewing. I don't think I made any mistakes. I cruised right through and completed my new girly pipe bag. So pretty! I can't wait to tote it to this month's pipe club meeting. Now to make some matching drawstring bags for my pipes.