Okra Flower Cake.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My sister, who makes the best cakes made me a beautiful, yummy cake for my birthday a couple of months ago.  Isn't it pretty?

I think what I like best about it is that the flower reminds me of okra blossoms.  We've seen lots of these over the summer:

We've had an awful drought, and a very hot summer, which is hard on a garden.  But the okra loved it.  We've eaten lots of okra this summer, made okra art, even thrown away some okra.  We've loved smoky okra made with smoked paprika, sometimes using the grill (talk about hot!) but more often roasting in the oven.  It's delicious with other roasted veggies, and added cold to salads the next day.  Yum.

Actually, I take back what I said about my favorite part of the cake being the okra flower.  The best part really was the inside, which was gorgeous and delicious red velvet.

It didn't last long, but we enjoyed every bite.

Tutorial: Making Baby Washcloth Lollipops.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I recently hosted a baby shower for my sister, who is expecting to welcome my baby nephew very soon.  To decorate, I put together some lollipops made of baby washcloths.

Since they're so easy to make and so cute, I put together a quick tutorial to share.  Now this is hardly an original idea.  Before beginning this project, I watched several videos on You Tube, read this great tutorial on 320 Days of Sunshine, and even purchased video instructions from Diaper Cake Baby, who appears to be able to make anything in the world out of a baby washcloth.  Putting all of that advice together, this is the method that I came up with.

Supplies Needed:

2 baby washcloths*
invisible tape
double-sided tape
baby spoon**
clear elastic hair band***
white tulle, cut into large square
optional:  ribbon or twist tie

* Although some recommend washcloths with serged edges for making lollipops, I prefer to wash babies with the ones with bound edges.  So that's generally what I used in making my lollipops.  I also like the lollipops to be big, so the bound edges worked well.  For some lollipops, I did use one bound edge washcloth and one serged edge washcloth, when that worked best for colors (it's not easy to find orange ones!).  I found good choices at Target, Marshall's, and Ross.  Stripes work great.
** I used baby spoons by NUK, which come in packages of 6, available at Target.  But any baby spoons should work.  Or you could use popsicle sticks.
*** Goody makes these, and I'm sure other manufacturers do as well.  They're sold with little girl hair accessories.


1.  Fold washcloth in half like so, corners facing you.

2.  Put a strip of double-sided tape near the left and right bound edges, along the top fold.  It's hard to see here, but if you look closely, you'll find it.  You probably don't want it right along the edge, but a little to the inside.

3.  Begin rolling up from the bottom, where the two corners come together.  To reduce bulk, fold the bottom corner over the top corner, as shown in the above photo.

4.  Continue rolling up toward the folded edge, keeping the roll nice and tight, and smoothing wrinkles as you go.

5.  When the waschloth is rolled into a tight tube, the double-sided tape on each end should keep it together.

6.  Fold, tape, and roll your second washcloth, just as you did the first.

7.  You should now have two tightly-rolled tubes.

8.  Place one tube on top of the other, making sure to put the taped edges of each to the back.

9.  Begin rolling the tubes.  You can hide the binding by folding it in a bit, as shown above.

10.  Keeping tubes aligned, roll the lollipop.  The tighter, the better.

11.  It's okay if one tube extend past the other, as happened to me here.  When you reach the end, fold the binding under to hide it (or not, you decide!).

12.  Secure the ends with tape.  I guess you could get crazy and use double-sided tape, which would be completely hidden.  But the regular tape doesn't really show under the tulle, so I used that.

13.  If necessary, straighten up your rolled lollipop to make sure everything is flush and pretty.

14.  Turn the lollipop over, place the spoon over the center, and secure it with tape.  This is important, and I learned the hard way:  Put another strip of tape across spoon handle, toward the bottom of the lollipop roll.  This is not shown in the photo, but it really helps keep everything together over time.

15. Wrap tulle around lollipop, taking care to place most of the wrinkles at the back.

16.  Secure tulle with elastic band at bottom of lollipop.

17.  Arrange wrinkles if necessary.  Trim tulle with scissors.  Keep it fairly short, so baby spoon handle will show.

18.  If desired, tie ribbon over elastic band.  Or you could use cute paper twist ties, as shown here.

19.  Admire your handiwork.

20.  Make more!

How to: Make Spoonflower Voile Burp Cloths.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Made By Rae recently claimed that Spoonflower voile makes absolutely the best burp cloths.  Pretty strong statement, right?  When my kids were babies, we went through a lot of burp cloths.  A LOT.  Naturally, as one who knows burp well and still uses them regularly to wipe noses and hands, I could not resist the draw to Spoonflower, which I love anyway, to test out the voile as burp cloth material.

My sister is pregnant with her first baby, so loads of spitup await her.  And now, thanks to Spoonflower, she's armed with a nice stack of voile burp cloths.

I ordered a ridiculous number of fat quarters of voile from Spoonflower for this project, and spent a small fortune.  But it was worth it.  There are some fantastic prints out there.  Although I ordered others, this is what I used for the burp cloths:

I learned a few things about this fabric.  It is thin.  The weave is somewhat loose.  It has a low thread count.  It wrinkles.  This is not bad at all, but it is something to keep in mind when selecting prints.  I would not recommend choosing prints with subtle color variations.  The robot fabric, for example, has a gray design on the background that's almost invisible on the voile.  And the blue lines on the pacman print just don't show up well against the dark gray.  I recommend choosing bright colors with high contrast, but remember that because there are not so many threads and the weave is loose, it will not be as vivid as what appears on your computer screen.  Also, I would not recommend choosing prints with geometric patterns that must stay in precise vertical-horizontal alignment.  The washing and pressing processes distorted my prints a little, and that was much more obvious with geometric patterns.

Rae did not mention wrinkling or pressing, so she must have a secret that I have not figured out.  Wrinkling and pressing made this project a littl maddening for me, and way more time-consuming than it should have been.

I prewashed the voile, as I do all fabric, especially when making something for a baby.  Spoonflower recommends handwashing and air-drying, but we all know that moms with babies will never do that.  And these are burp cloths, they will need to be thrown in the washer and dryer.  So I washed and dried.  I have a front-loader that's pretty gentle on clothing, and a good dryer.  Maybe I should have put the fabric in a pillowcase or something because every fat quarter came out looking something like this:

That photo is extra large because I want you to appreciate just how many deep-set wrinkles are in that fabric.  Hopefully you can figure out a way to avoid this.  But in case you end up like I did, you'll need some tools:  a spray bottle of water,  Mary Ellen's Best Press (an awesome spray starch alternative), a good steam iron, and lots of patience.

With iron set on high (cotton), I began by spraying water on the fabric.  That allowed it to lay flat for pressing.  Once I had the deep wrinkles out, I pressed with steam.  I then pressed again with Best Press.  In case anyone is counting, that means I ironed each fat quarter at least three times.  Then I ironed the backing fabric.  Put on some good music because you'll need it for this marathon pressing session.  In the end, you will get those pesky wrinkles out though.

Like I said, I saw some stretching and distortion in this process.  Straight lines were no longer straight, the edges of the prints were no longer square.  You can see that here, if you look closely at the horizontal and vertical lines.  The vertical lines are somewhat parallel to the edges of the burp cloth, but the horizontal lines are now uncomfortably off (especially on the left cloth).

I should also mention that because the wrinkles were so severe to begin with, there is still some discoloration where those wrinkles were.  If that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to use quilting cotton instead.  Or just go straight to soft cotton knits.

Speaking of backing fabric, although I have lots of knits around, I experimented with some fabrics that are made for absorbency and softness.  I bought two packages of flat cloth diapers:  Kushies Washable Flat Diapers and Swaddlebees Unbleached Flat Diapers.  I vastly preferred the Kushies, which are white and extremely soft, like a thick flannel.  The Swaddlebees seem very absorbent, but it's a bumpy, birdseye texture that also has some stretching and distortion.  The stability of the Kushies fabric provided nice balance to the Spoonflower voile, and the white color helped the print to show up a bit better.

These were made with the Swaddlebees unbleached fabric on back:

And these with the Kushies white fabric:

As for sewing, I did pretty much what Rae did in her tutorial.  I will note that because of the distortion in washing/pressing, I could not have gotten 18 inches in length out of my fat quarters.  I went with 12" x 17", which made a very nice size.  Next time I might even shave an inch off the width and go with 11" x 17".

I love looking at the stack of soft, cuddly burp cloths just waiting for baby boy.

I can't wait to see how these wear, and how soft they end up after being washed a few more times.  I have a pretty good feeling about all that.  Thanks, Rae, for the tip and inspiration!

Scene from the Sewing Studio.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's been a long time, hasn't it?  I'm happy to report that my sister's baby shower went well, and I'm happy to finally be able to post some fun things that I've been keeping under wraps (soon!).  I'm even working on a no-sewing-required tutorial, so stay tuned.

I'm also happy to be getting back to some more selfish sewing.  My head is spinning with fall sewing ideas even though it was 105 degrees here today.  We had a few days in the 90s, and pumpkin spice latte has returned to Starbucks, so I'm ready to pull out the corduroy.

While I'm thinking about my sewing to-do list, I'll post a photo from my sewing room.  These sorts of random snapshots of my sewing space always make me happy.  A bobbin rainbow!