There’s another birthday for my #birthdayclubhandmade in July, and when I saw the recipient’s inspiration board for the Heather Ross mini swap, which included hexis of a few munki munki prints, just a few photos down my Instagram feed from Aneela Hoey’s new all-in-one box pouch pattern, I knew it was a match made in heaven!
I’m usually good about giving away the things I sew. They’re sewn with a particular person and his or her tastes in mind. This pouch, on the other hand… I had to talk myself into packaging and shipping it. Guess I’ll have to make a second one for myself!
The pattern itself was well-written and easy to follow. I especially liked her method of boxing the corners, where you cut the fabric BEFORE you sew it — that was novel to me!
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of sewing curved lines OR zippers, so combining the two was a bit of a challenge. (“A curved zipper?! What have I gotten myself into?!!”) But I didn’t even have to rip out the seam. I’d say it’s a project for an enterprising beginner or an intermediate sewer. The only seam I had to rip was the one with the pouch tab at the top. The thick layers caused me to sew a little crooked, and instead of stopping and fixing it right away, I thought I could fudge a little bit. The moral of this story is DON’T DO IT, haha.
I like that there is ample space inside the pouch but also some clear pockets for smaller items you want to be able to find quickly. It’s been a real pain finding my thimble and needle when I take my La Passacaglia quilt with me to a coffee shop. I also like the simple back pockets for storing things as you work. I might keep my mini scissors in the bag when I travel, but it will be nice to have a quick place to tuck it as I spread out my project. I love the pattern, and I think the finished product is a success!
I may have mentioned that I loved our wedding photographer. She had a ton of energy, an eye for detail (“Here, let me just move these leaves on the ground so I don’t have to edit them in PhotoShop later.”), and was so certain about what she was doing that she could get great photos of the guys in just a few minutes. They all came to tell me afterward how awesome it was not to stand there for hours. I got to peek at her camera screen a few times, and let me tell you, I cannot WAIT to see the final photos!
In the meantime, I’ve been in a secret race with her. I made her a baby blanket. (Yep, she did all that great work while visibly pregnant!) I wanted to finish it and send it to her before the wedding photos were ready so it wouldn’t look like a quid pro quo, thank-you-very-much-for-the-photos-here’s-your-reward. Mission accomplished! She received the package today.
I went with an underwater theme. (Border and backing fabrics are from City Quilter in NYC. I am definitely going back there.)
The low volume squares between the boats are quilted with outlines of different oceanic creatures/items, including a scuba diver, a crab, a pelican, a dolphin, a fish, a whale, an anchor, a conch, a mermaid, an octopus…
…and a seahorse.
It was great practice with the curvy shapes that are so popular right now in the quilting world. And although I need to learn how to bury my quilting threads, I think it turned out pretty great! It’s also the first time I’ve pre-washed a quilt and gotten to see it crinkle. I’ve always been scared the quilt would shred in the wash with my rental-unit washing machines, and I wanted the recipient to at least see my hard work first!
She’s expecting a boy. Which of course reminds me of this meme:
Two weeks ago, I was married at a campground in Wisconsin.
During the planning stage, a close friend of mine, wedding-wise from having planned her own elegant wedding a few years ago, told me I should start by realistically determining how many projects I could complete before the big day, adding a buffer of a few weeks to address any last-minute issues. Then she said to cut that number of projects in half.
I felt like a total genius for deciding to focus on three big projects. Just three! That would be insanely easy, right?
The wedding was perfect, but not because I was a wedding project rockstar. I finished one project the night before we left for the wedding. I finished another at the venue the day before the wedding. The third project got halved. And I had several tantrums moments of concern the week before the wedding, which my now-husband tolerated admirably.
working on projects during the drive
What lessons did I learn from this?
1. I don’t like chain piecing or repetitive sewing.
I love finished projects with recurring patterns, but I hate sewing them. Unfortunately, Project Number One was a quilt with twenty identical blocks, and Project Number Two was bunting – 120 feet of identical little flags. It was hard to find the motivation to work on these projects each week.
I like how both projects turned out. They were responsible for almost all the color where our wedding reception and dinner were held. But BOY, did they take forever. And BOY, did I think I was going to vomit if I had to sew one more quilt block!
The quilt fabric was purchased years ago. It sat in a closet because I was afraid of making mistakes when I first started sewing. Lately, my push has been to use existing fabric instead of buying new. I thought a citrus-colored quilt would infuse color into the wedding while simultaneously using up my fabric stash. (This delighted my husband.) It also added a personal touch, representing that as a couple, we like to spend time quietly together at home, near each other but working on different projects.
HST assembly line
I used the Midnight Garden quilt block. (You can get the free template here, although I did my own resizing).
Like my quilt, the bunting was intended to use up stash fabrics, although it didn’t work that way. The bunting size I chose was a fabric hog – I could only get three flags from each fat quarter (FQ) of fabric. I ended up buying lots of new FQs. One thing I think made the project look more professional was the cotton twill tape I used to connect the flags at the top. It was also easier than making a million yards of bias tape.
2. A project that might be fun on a small scale becomes a hassle when multiplied to wedding proportions.
One project I added along the way was paper pinwheels for the tables. Learning how to make my first pinwheel was fun! About 30 pinwheels in, I realized both that I wasn’t having fun anymore and that most people wouldn’t care whether I made a few hundred more. I recalled a fantastic post from the blog A Practical Wedding that said “backdrop over details.” The theory is that a backdrop will end up in hundreds of photos, whereas the detail items are viewed briefly by one or two people and then mostly forgotten. I kept the pinwheels I’d finished but scrapped the rest of the project.
3. It’s okay to let some things go.
The pinwheels weren’t the only things I let go. Project Number Three was a set of pillow covers. I wanted to put pillows on the benches around the fire pit at the campground, which we used to host a welcome bonfire Friday night and where late-night revelers went the night of the wedding, post-dance.
There are a million sweet pillow cover patterns. I spent hours scouring the internet for patterns that would perfectly represent the vibe of the wedding we wanted.
In the end, I finished just three: one made with Heather Ross fabric because… well, Heather Ross (I made up the pattern); one with felt pigs to represent the hog roast dinner, for which we ordered our favorite Kansas City BBQ sauce (pig template here); and one with a bear, which sort of represents the groom’s surname.
I scrapped a half dozen other patterns. But you know what? I got tons of compliments on the three I finished, and no one knew there were supposed to be more! My mom said one of the sweetest moments of the wedding for her was seeing a little boy asleep on one of the pillows next to the pavilion, worn out from too much dancing.
4. It’s okay to change course and prioritize new projects.
I was a bunting-sewing machine in the weeks leading up to the wedding. But I still decided to skip making bunting for the final side of the pavilion. It was just too much.
My friends and family did all the decorating. I wanted to be involved, but (surprise surprise) was too busy the day of the wedding. I envisioned the bunting facing outward, but friends decided it looked better facing the inside of the pavilion, where everyone would be except for about 2 minutes at the beginning of the event. Genius. They also decided that the side of the pavilion without bunting would be the side where we connected the food tent, which they protected with some of the extra vintage sheets I bought. The lack of bunting on one side of the pavilion looked intentional. A million thanks to the people who made such great executive decisions (and put in the elbow grease to make the venue look amazing).
Instead of those last 40’ of bunting, I decided to make a few extra flags to spell out “Just Married” for our sweetheart table. (That’s what you call a table that seats just the bride and groom instead of the whole wedding party.) The project was worth the effort. I’m so glad I made the push to finish that one.
Once I had a “Just Married” bunting, I also wanted to dress up the sweetheart table in other ways. I thrifted a pair of wooden chairs and spray painted them yellow. (My husband, who worked construction before his present job, was appalled by the amount of overspray… but I covered every last nook and cranny!) I loved those chairs. We are storing them with the in-laws, but I can’t wait to be reunited and find a place for them in our next home.
5. You can totally DJ your wedding with an iPod.
The project that probably garnered the most compliments wasn’t one where I made something decorative; it was the playlist for our wedding dance. I did a ton of research and have a few tips to share.
First, unless you have an intimate wedding in a smallish room, you’ll need an amplifier (amp) and speakers. Your computer won’t have enough output, and even most iPod or external computer speakers don’t have enough sound, particularly for outdoor spaces. I saw message boards advertising prices between $100 and $400. For our Wisconsin wedding, we got two sets of speakers for $240 plus a refunded security deposit. One set was placed at the ceremony site. The other was used for the dance. The guy who rented us the equipment helped us set it up and showed several people how to use it.
Next, music works great in sets. Each set should be 4- 6 songs (I did 5 to keep it simple) and last around 18 minutes (on average). Each set starts with a slow song. The next song is a little faster, and the one after that is even faster… and so on. The last song in the set is the fastest song and is a finale for the set. Then you start over with a slow song. A total of about 72 songs will last 4 hours, the typical amount of time for a wedding dance. (Most DJs charge more if you go over the 4-hour mark.)
Our very first dance was the Chicken Dance. I know not everyone likes it, but it was great to get kids on the dance floor right away. It also made it easier to get other people on the floor throughout the night because we’d already set the tone as a dancing wedding. I nixed the Hokey Pokey at the last minute but got several requests from four-year-olds later in the evening. If I had it to do over, I probably would have played that one, too, even though it’s not my personal favorite. The photo below is our father-daughter dance… a polka!
I made my playlist based largely on lists of the 100 most-requested songs at wedding dances found online (examples here and here and here and here), with a polka to end most sets since both his and my side of the family like them. Many of the sets centered around a particular decade – the 1950s, the 1980s, etc. I found that while only the younger crowd would dance to newer music, almost everyone would dance to the older stuff. I’m glad I chose lots of “classic” music. I originally intended to make the last hour of the dance more modern dance/club music since older folks have usually departed by that point, but the oldest members of the family were still dancing! I made a few last-minute revisions to avoid driving them off. Tante Irene even did the two-step to Moves Like Jagger, one of the few modern songs we included!
My best advice for playlists is to include songs people can dance to. You’re not trying to impress people with your musical taste–you’re trying to get them to dance! To fit in some of our favorite songs as a couple, I played them while people were still eating. It made for some lively dinner music, but mostly it made people laugh.
Although people talk about DJing a wedding with an iPod, it’s usually done with a computer. I made playlists using iTunes—one each for the ceremony, the dinner/reception, and the dance. Include more songs than you need; it’s easier to delete a group of songs than to add new ones on the fly. Put one person in charge of the music and charge them with protecting the computer against impromptu changes from “helpful” guests. I didn’t have a huge issue until I made a change to the playlist myself, and then a few people thought they could do the same.
I wish I had also numbered my final playlist. Someone (probably me on accident) hit “shuffle,” then reorganized the songs by title toward the end of the dance. There was no way to revert to the original song order. I had to make a new, backup list of songs to avoid repeating songs that had already been played. It wasn’t a big deal but could easily have been avoided.
Obviously, be sure to have a backup (e.g. both a computer and an iPod, preferably linked to different iTunes accounts or different media players). Bring your power cord!!! If the event is outdoors, consider what you’re going to do in case of rain, e.g. we moved the computer to a table that was well under the pavilion.
At the end of the evening, my brand new husband told me, “This was the best day of my life.” It wasn’t because of the quilt or the pillows or the pinwheels or the playlist. Our focus the entire time was to spend time with family/friends and to create a place for people to have fun. These were the right goals. None of the details mattered… although I just LOVE having a wedding quilt on my bed to remind us of that special day!
P.S. Thanks to family and friends for all these photos. I didn’t pick up my camera all day!
I got married a little over a week ago and had an absolutely perfect day! Friends and family pitched in to decorate, cook, and welcome people to our newly-extended network.
Soon after our engagement, I started thinking of projects to make our day special. I knew I would have limited time to pull it all together, but I couldn’t help getting wrapped up in the excitement. It meant my blog pretty much stopped because I wanted the little touches to be a surprise to our guests. Pretty much all my creative efforts were tied up with wedding projects.
There was an exception. A few months ago, I put out this call on Instagram:
It received a positive response, and we kicked off the club with a September birthday. The project I selected for our first birthday girl was a welcome change of pace after months of wedding to-dos. In response to a questionnaire I circulated, Katelyn mentioned she liked blues and grays as a color combo, loves pillow covers, and admires the work of Elizabeth Hartman. I used those suggestions to make an Aviatrix Medallion pillow cover.
Elizabeth’s instructions are great, but I did have a moment of inspiration for connecting the diamonds. She suggests matching up the dots on her pattern with a pin. I printed two paper copies of the diamonds, matched up the dots with a pin, and used double-sided tape to stick the pieces together. Then, all I had to do for matching up diamonds was place the fabric diamonds over my paper template for perfect placement every time. It made the whole thing SO EASY!
Here are a few more in-progress shots… just because I have them. 🙂
Since I wrote “Happy Birthday!” on the package, Katelyn’s mom hid it until the appropriate day. Thanks, Mom, for making the birthday extra-special! If you want to see the other gifts, check out the Instagram hashtag #birthdayclubhandmade.
Now that the wedding is over, I’m trying to source photos of all the projects I mentioned. Can you believe that except for one selfie, I didn’t take a single photo the day of my wedding?!