Sew Sew

Thread Garden fabric by Lellobird, photo by Spoonflower

This week my design placed 4th in Spoonflower’s sewing-themed fabric challenge.

I’m a bit of a geek about researching and recreating vintage-looking labels and ephemera, from record labels to library circulation cards.

So it was fun to study old wooden spools and come up with my own take on them, combined with stitched leaves, for my Thread Garden design. This was a limited-color-palette contest, using Pantone’s Greenery color of the year, plus black, white and tan. I really like the fresh, spring green of Greenery.

Photo: Spoonflower

The Craftroom

The Craftroom fabric by Lellobird - photo by Spoonflower

I got my start in online design contests doing tee shirts back in the day, so it was especially fun to merge tee shirts with fabric design in Spoonflower’s 2017 T-Shirt Design Challenge.

It was tricky picking a 3-color scheme that would work on both light and dark shirts, but a lot of fun to think of all the things to put in my The Craftroom fabric, from spools of thread to googly eyes to a swatch of one of the first fabrics I designed at Spoonflower. I’m pleased to say my design came in 8th, against some very lovely competition.

I’m already thinking about ways I can use all the bits and pieces from The Craftroom in other projects – you might be seeing that sweet little bird in a blockprint sometime soon!

(Photo by Spoonflower)

Take a seat

Lovely Chairs tea towel by Lellobird

For tea towel season (they make great gifts!), I’ve turned the chairs from my Take a Seat fabric into the Lovely Chairs Tea Towel, available now at Spoonflower.

As a fan of art, design and architecture, I love chairs – chairs from all eras (but especially mid-century) have such great lines, even in simple silhouettes like these.

Lovely Chairs tea towel by Lellobird

Family recipes

Grandma's Sugar Cookies tea towel by Lellobird at Spoonflower

I’m pleased to announce that my entry in Spoonflower’s “Grandma’s Kitchen” tea towel design challenge made the top 10 this week! This was such a fun theme to work on — starting with going through recipe cards with my mom to pick out a few family favorites.

We settled on my grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe, for which she was mildly famous (at least within our extended family). She used to press the cookies flat with the cut-glass bottom of a drinking glass before baking them, leaving a pretty flower pattern on the cookies. When she passed away, each of her kids got one of the glasses so they could carry on the tradition. Pretty cool.

Of course, my grandmother knew her recipes so well she never had to write anything down, so this recipe card is actually written in my mom’s handwriting, and carries the marks of many years of vanilla extract and buttery fingers.

Grandma's Sugar Cookies tea towel by Lellobird at Spoonflower
I decided to play against the vintage scanned recipe card with more modern accents, like a stylized drinking glass and cookies and simplified lace doilies in the background.

You can buy the Grandma’s Sugar Cookies fabric at Spoonflower, or have Roostery sew up a set of their Orpington Tea Towels (it prints the right way round, even though the preview may be sideways).

If you’d like to give the recipe a try, here’s the slightly modified version (replacing shortening with butter) we made this week to celebrate:

Sugar Cookies
Makes: 6 dozen cookies

2 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
4 c. flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Sift together baking soda, cream of tartar and flour. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Beat in flour mixture.
  6. Chill in refrigerator (at least 1/2 hour or up to overnight). Or, if you’re lazy like me, skip this step entirely…
  7. Roll dough into small balls. Place on greased or silicone-mat-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Press dough balls flat with fork or bottom of glass, dipped in sugar.
  9. Bake 8-10 minutes or until firm and golden.

It’s the Bee’s Knees

The Bee's Knees tea towel by Lellobird

Last week’s Spoonflower theme was Prohibition Cocktails – it turns out that America’s ban on alcohol in the 1920s gave rise to some clever mixed drinks, most of them designed to conceal the less-than-ideal flavor of bathtub gin.

After considering the Whiskey Sour (with fun-to-draw cherry garnish), the Sidecar (with its whiff of Jazz Age elegance) and the Gin Rickey (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drink of choice), I settled on the Bee’s Knees, because it sounded good (gin, honey and lemon juice), and because I like to draw bees. (Nobody said artists were entirely logical creatures.)

I studied up on Art Deco style, picked the honey-est yellows and dug out some vintage-looking fonts, then ran the whole thing through the excellent Mister Retro Permanent Press filter to give it a vintage printed look.

The end result was The Bee’s Knees Tea Towel, available now at Spoonflower and Roostery.

My design just squeaked into the top 25 in Spoonflower’s contest, coming in at #24.

More tropical quilts

Tropical quilt

My last post about the Matisse’s Seaweed quilt reminded me about some super-simple tropical quilts I made a few years ago. Inspired by the high-end versions at Pottery Barn Kids, we chose a bunch of coordinating tropical and shirting fabrics (from the fabric store, my stash and even some cut-up clothes), cut them into 8″ squares and sewed them together.

It’s a really basic quilt (I’m not entirely sure the machine sewing-in-the-ditch stitching I did to hold the layers together even technically counts as quilting, although I love that term), and I am definitely not precise or patient enough to make it perfect, but I like the way they turned out, they came together quickly and the kids were pleased to get to pick their own fabrics.

Tropical quilt

In the wild: Tiny rhino cuteness

Baby shoes made from Lellobird fabric by Casey Dumadag

Casey Dumadag (@littlecaycam on Instagram) shared a photo the other day of the adorable baby shoes she made from my Rhinoce-Roses Tiny fabric. Casey had asked me to scale down my original Rhinoce-Roses fabric to baby-size for this project, and it worked out beautifully.

Both fabrics are available at Spoonflower, and at least 10% of proceeds from sales of these two fabrics goes to the International Rhino Foundation, a nonprofit which works to help save the world’s rhinos through conservation and research. And speaking of babies, IRF is currently fundraising to support the birth of a new Sumatran Rhino calf at their sanctuary in Indonesia – you can read all about it on their blog and even host your own “baby shower” for Ratu the mama rhino.

Rhinoce-Roses Tiny fabric by LellobirdRhinoce-Roses Tiny fabric by Lellobird

Spring color: Watercolor egg garland

Finished watercolor eggs

Today feels like kind of a dark day in the world with the news out of Brussels, so I thought I’d share a cheerful springtime craft to try and counter some of the sadness. Sometimes it just feels good to lose yourself for a little while in making something beautiful.

Fall is really my favorite season, but secretly I admire Spring’s enthusiasm, with plants and birds and color popping up all over the place. This garland captures a little of that exuberance. We made eggs since we were in an Easter frame of mind, but you could use the same technique to make butterflies, flowers, geometric shapes or whatever strikes your fancy.

Inspired by Emily Sanford’s Spoonflower blog post about blocking off areas with tape before painting with watercolor, we’ve been experimenting with negative space and washes of abstract color around here.

Someone recently gave us a giant pad of drawing paper, so we used that and cut each sheet into two 9×12″ pieces. It was sturdy enough to stand up to the watercolor.

First we cut strips of painter’s tape the width of our paper. The only tape I had on hand was really wide, so I cut it into narrower strips. As long as I had to cut it anyway, I used the fancy craft scissors on some of the strips to get a scalloped edge. We used plain blue painter’s tape because it’s what we had on hand, but other kinds of art tape would work, too.

Speak softly and carry a big brush.

I’m trying to learn from the kids how to loosen up my painting style (kids are great mentors when it comes to art!), so we used big brushes, lots of water and lots of color. While the paint was still wet, we sprinkled sea salt in a couple places for special effects. All ages had fun playing with the washes of color and ways they combined.

The big reveal: Peeling off the tape.

Once the paint dried (that step took almost 24 hours, so plan ahead), we peeled off the tape to reveal the white stripes on our eggs-to-be. The paper on the left is mine; the right is kid-made. Our tape took off a tiny bit of the top layer of the paper, but not enough to bother me.

Painted papers.

Then I cut an egg-template, which you can download here — since it took me a solid half-hour of fiddling to make what I considered the perfect egg shape (they’re trickier than they look!), I figured I’d save you some time. I put lots of eggs on one page in case we wanted to color and cut out more eggs, but you really only need to cut out one for this project. Each egg is 4.5 inches tall.

Tracing the eggs.

Lay the cut-out space over your painted paper and decide where you want your egg to be. I like using this method because you get to see exactly what the egg will look like. When you’re happy with the design, trace lightly around the inside of the cut-out shape with pencil, then cut along the pencil line.

You could attach the cut-out shapes on yarn, baker’s twine or ribbon. I just hung mine up with tiny clothespins, since we have an existing ribbon strung up that we use for garlands throughout the year, switching out the items.

Watercolor egg garland

The bunnies are traced from the shape of an old notepad I had and cut out of scrapbook paper and other random papers we had around the house. The whole thing is happiness on a string!