Summer Jam*

I had never made jam, but I always wanted to. When one of the honchos at work brought in a huge haul of cherries from his orchard, I saw potential. So I took several pounds of them and asked my stepmom to teach me how to to make jam.

After searching awhile for jam recipes with cherries, I decided on a recipe and bought some blueberries. We adapted this recipe for Blueberry Cherry Jam, and doubled the batch. Aside from pitting the cherries, which took about forever, it was so easy! It ended up making 18 jars, some of which will be put into baskets with other goodies for Christmas. [Side note: every year, we have made several different varieties of cookies and given them in fun boxes or tins to family and friends as Christmas gifts. Though this has become something people look forward to, it takes WAY too long and is WAY too intensive for us to continue stressing over in the days right before our gift exchanges. This year, we're trying something new; something we can do most of the work on months in advance. We'll collect baskets and include a few different jam varieties, and then I'll bake some sort of fancy bread loaves to put in, as well. I'm trying to come up with some other (easy) goodies to include, but it's still early.]

Two weeks in, we had already gone through a jar and a quarter of the Blueberry Cherry jam, which, in case you're wondering, came out amazingly delicious.

The jam in question. Note that the jar on the right has already been dipped into.

Then, the aforementioned honcho brought in his harvest of apricots. Knowing that my father-in-law goes nuts for anything with apricots, I decided to try my hand at making jam without help. I borrowed my stepmom's canning equipment and made two batches over two days, which made two pint jars and ten half-pints. This recipe was even easier than the last, and I'm fairly certain there'll be more jam before summer's end. I haven't tried the apricot jam yet, but it looks and smells good, and I think my father-in-law is going to thoroughly enjoy his presents this year (and so will I, because the man is nearly impossible to shop for).

*Be glad I didn't give in to my urge to title this something punny, like "We Be Jammin'," "Jam On," or "Jammin' Mon."

Patchwork Pillows & Futon Cover

Remember when I made my first quilt, and saved the scraps and leftovers for pillows? I finally made them!

Before I tell you about them, I need to gush about the triumph that is my futon cover. Notice the tan serving as the background to the pillows and quilt. This is possibly my finest work.

See, once upon a time, I got this futon for free from a friend of my dad's. It wasn't like any other futon I'd ever seen, and folds uniquely, too. Therefore, no store-bought covers work for it, and no patterns I've ever found apply. For awhile, I used a fitted sheet and tucked it in strategically. This was functional, cheap, and easy, but required a lot of adjustment to look decent after you sat on it. A few months ago, I decided to make a fitted slipcover, pinning and sewing fabric to make a cover that only fit the futon when it was up and folded. This was my first time trying to slipcover a thing, and while it worked for a little while, I didn't allow enough give in the seams, and soon enough, the slipcover that I worked on for days was ripping pretty much all over. Also, there was slippage in places there shouldn't have been, resulting in it being too taut in other places. Long story short, it didn't really work out.

So I hatched an idea for a new cover. A simple cover. A, dare I say, brilliant cover. My plan was thus: Take two oversized sheets. Sandwich the futon mattress, laying flat. Sew on three sides, attach velcro to the last side. Turn inside out, pull over mattress, and voila, a futon cover that was cheap, simple, pretty, with more give and a lot less necessary tucking than previous options.

As you can tell from the wrinkles, some tucking IS necessary, especially after certain dogs use your newly covered futon as their personal playground, turning cartwheels and somersaults. However, it just takes one quick hand swipe to get all of the wrinkles onto the inside of the fold. The velcro was pretty ingenious, as we can adjust to allow for a little more or less give as needed. The other cool thing about this type of cover is that when we need to make the couch-futon into a bed-futon, we can just unfold it and throw on a blanket and some pillows (provided the cover has been washed recently).

That was probably WAY more discussion about the futon cover than strictly necessary, since I know that you're really here to see the pillows. I made two: one from the smaller bits of scraps, and one from 4 1/2" squares.

Scrappy pillow.

Squares pillow.

Here's another bit of brilliance. For the backs of the pillows, I used fabric leftover from the futon covering; particularly the parts with pre-hemmed edges.

I'm not sure why all of my photos turn out crooked. :/

So all I had to do was sew around the four edges, and presto, pillow. These were SO easy, they took (maybe) an hour, hour and a half to make. Including the patchwork. I'm not sure why I dragged my heels so long before making them.

Baby Matt's Felt Name Book

The trouble with "I'm back" proclamations is that after you make them, you have to have something to say. Since my last report, I have secured a job; I'm almost five weeks into a new gig as a Sales and Marketing Assistant, which has been interesting, to say the least.

So blame my (extended) absence on the stress and learning curve of a new job, on summer break, or on a lack of crafting. Until a week or so ago, I hadn't been doing anything much in the way of creative pursuits, but I'm coming up on some deadlines, so I have a few things to share. I'll start with just one today: my nephew's first birthday present, Baby Matt's Felt Name Book.

Soon after I wrote this post, I started sketching plans for each page, which consist of one letter of Matthew's name and a picture of something that corresponds with the letter. Then I bought what seemed like a billion pieces of felt and some assorted notions. I started working very slowly on the pages of what would become the felt name book.

In almost six months, I had completed only two pages. Last week, I realized that I had just over a month and a half before Matt's August birthday to do the other five letters, the cover page, the title page (you'll see), and to bind the thing. I had to get working. Here's what I've got done so far:

M is for Mittens.
This one isn't as crooked as it looks; it's just the way I took the picture. This is mostly felt with ric-rac and button trim for the mittens and snowflake buttons on the background.

T is for Train.
This is all felt except for the wheels, which are black buttons. And the embroidery floss, obviously.

T is for Tree.
This one took forevvver. The leaves are three different hues of green felt that I cut into tiny pieces and sewed on individually. The daisies are buttons, as is the bee.

H is for House.
This one took a similarly long time. The black trim was originally going to be quilt binding, which proved to be too thick and apt to fraying for this purpose, so I used little strips of felt, instead. The middle of the sun is a button, as are the flowers; the little plaque on the right is also a button that says "Home Sweet Home."

W is for Whale.
The whale's got a googly eye, and the fish are buttons. The seaweed and waves are ric rac, and the bottom of the seaweed has a variety of seed beads and sequins.

I've got another page about halfway done, but I'll wait til I have the rest of the pages before posting anything more on this project. What do you think so far?

*Obviously the many buttons and small parts are a choking hazard; I'm sure it will be implicit, but the book will be given with a note about it being meant to be looked at with close supervision. I also made sure all small pieces were firmly attached fo ensure as much safety as possible.