Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sewing together Baby's Book of Computer Science

There are directions on how to sew together the Baby's Book of Computer Science on the fabric itself, including diagrams, but I thought I'd put together a post with images showing how I sewed it together. I ended up making a few small changes to my written directions, since I had to write them before getting to actually sew it together and all.

Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 1
Being an organized sort, I cut out all the pieces and trimmed them down to the marked seam allowance. The gray (or yellow) 1/4" outlines are all supposed to be hidden in the seam.

The first part of the sewing I tackled was to finish all the flaps. I started with the 1/0 flaps for the binary page. Contrary to my printed directions, I decided that they were too small to sew inside out and then flip right side out, so I just folded them together right side out to start with and simply blind-stitched them.

First, I folded in the seam allowance:
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 2

Then folded it in half and started blindstitching from the folded point:
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 3

Here's what the finished flap looks like. You don't need to stress about the neatness of the stitching too much since this side gets sewn down to the page.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 4

Once I sewed all four of those flaps that way, I sewed them onto the binary page. Since I wanted them to be equally able to be in the up and down position, I sewed them so they'd default to sticking straight out of the page. Not quite sure if there is a name for the exact stitching I did, but it was pretty much like blindstitching. With each stitch I went all the way through the bottom of the flap and sewed it to the page on alternating sides.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 6

Which looks like this from the back when it's all done:
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 5

Next, I worked on the flaps for the page with all the different "Hello World" programs.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 7

I did try to sew these wrong sides together at first, and then turn them right side out with just an inch or so to go in order to minimize blindstitching, but decided that like the 1/0 flaps these are just too small to make it worth it. So I started out by folding them in half.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 8

To get the corners to curve nicely, start with just a little reverse tuck.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 9

With each stitch, turn it in a little further.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 10

Then just keep turning the seam allowance in and blindstitch all the way around.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 11

Once I sewed all the language flaps together, I sewed them onto the page. Since I wanted these to lie flat by default, I whipstitched them on.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 12

Once all those flaps were in place, I heaved a sigh of relief. Ahhh. If you're following along as you sew one of these yourself, relax! The hardest part is done. Next, I folded the four page segment (that was now thoroughly be-flapped) in half right sides together, and sewed the two middle pages together top and bottom.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 13

When that was done it looked like this:
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 14

Closing in! Next step was to pin the two-page segment onto the four-page segment, right sides together. I triple-checked that all the pages had "up" in the same direction.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 15

I sewed all around except for a few inches along the bottom, then turned it right side out. I used a skewer to push the corners out to get them as square as possible.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 16

Then it was just a matter of blindstitching together those last few inches.
Baby's Book of Computer Science Construction - part 17

See this post again for images of the completed book!

I also included a little rectangle on the fabric that can be used to create a little closure for the book (if you add a button, snap, velcro, or the like) but I decided to skip it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Visualize Whirled Peas

Previously, sweet potatoes. Now, peas!

Peas for the baby

These were a big hit right away. Every other food I've introduced to the boy has required a few offerings before he was willing to eat much. With this stuff, he just gobbled it down from the first time. Fine by me! It has a great color and smells great, too.

I just boiled a whole bag of frozen peas and creamed them up in the food processor. Like before, I froze individual servings in aluminum foil. This resulted in quite a few servings socked away, so it's a good thing he likes it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lots to catch up on

Whew! Another holiday season survived. This one was particularly special, being my firstborn's first Christmas.

I have lots of stuff to blog about, but the main accomplishment I wanted to mention was that I sewed up two copies of the Baby's Book of Computer Science (fabric page here) in time to give one copy to each set of nephews/nieces! The book was a big hit with both sides of the family, so I'm really glad I was able to finish the sewing in time. I am really proud of this thing.

Baby's Book of Computer Science - front cover
Baby's Book of Computer Science - pages 1 & 2
Baby's Book of Computer Science - pages 3 & 4
Baby's Book of Computer Science - back cover

I'm going to sew another copy for my son now, since being just eight months old he wasn't going to mind if I didn't have it done in time to give it to him strictly on Christmas.

Along with sewing those two books, I also managed to finish the baby blanket I had in progress so that I could give that one, and the other finished one, when we were visiting family for the holidays, even though they weren't actually Christmas presents. The last thing I finished was the pie-of-the-month calendar, which I gave to my mother. In the rush I didn't get a picture of it completed, but all I did was a basic hem around all four edges so it pretty much looks exactly like the picture of the plain fabric.

I'm really pleased with the amount of crafting I've been able to do over the last few months, so here's to keeping it up in 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baby's Book of Computer Science

The challenge this week was to create a pattern for a cloth baby book that could fit on a fat quarter. I thought of the old saw, "write what you know," and being a software engineer, decided to try to create a book for babies that goes over some fundamentals of computer science!

The first page explains binary numbers, first by visually representing the first four powers of two. Then there are flaps that let you construct binary numbers from 0 to 15. The second page demonstrates the three most basic logic operations ("and", "or", and "not"). The inputs are what people say about whether the baby can have candy, and the outputs are whether the baby actually can have candy!

The third page shows the classic "Hello, World" in a number of languages. I had to include Java, since that's the main language I use in my day job. Also mandatory was C, since it's such a fundamental and important language. To round it out I included shell script, Perl, and Ruby. Then I found that I had room for one more program, and decided to include Lisp - since its version was small enough to fit in the remaining space, plus it has a funny name! Each of these "Hello World" programs gets hidden by a little flap with the language name on it. Since the four smallest programs were about the same size, I drew a little symbol above the program to make it easier to match up the flap with the correct program - a pearl and a ruby for Perl and Ruby, obviously, then a nautilus shell for shell scripts. I went a little free-association and used a mustache for Lisp.

The fourth page contains demonstrations of the three characteristics needed to make a language Turing complete - loops, "if" statements, and storage of variables - depicted with situations familiar to babies.

The front cover is a baby using a computer. As anyone who's been around a baby these days knows how interested babies are in computers, smartphones, etc - all the fun stuff adults pay constant attention to. The last thing I finished in this design was actually what was on the screen on the computer on the cover - in the end I decided just to go with a robot. Hard to go wrong with cute robots! Finally, on the back cover I went with the classic "parts of a computer" diagram, a staple of beginner computer science texts. I've always seen that done with a standard desktop computer. However, more & more people are using mostly laptops (or tablets, even) for everyday use, so I went with a laptop. And since I used a macbook on the front, I showed a windows laptop on the back, for maximum cultural diversity. :)


I'm really happy with how this came out! I got a number of enthusiastic comments on this one. I haven't received the printed fabric yet, so I'm waiting with baited breath to get that & be able to sew one of these up for real!

My design came in 21st out of 68, with 210 votes.

Incidentally, see above how I finally figured out how to embed a fabric image that links directly to its page on Spoonflower? I mean, I know I could do that myself manually and all, but I was hoping Spoonflower had a widget that did that for you. As it turns out, they so - but I couldn't find it anywhere. I even emailed tech support and suggested that as a new feature! I must not have described it very well, as the lady who replied just gave me a generic response instead of saying, uh, dude, we have that already... A few days later, lo and behold, I suddenly saw that there was a link below the fabric image on the page that said "Embed" which produced the little embed graphic seen here! As it turns out, that feature had been there all along, but it's only visible on certain pages. It's funny, there are two different ways to get to a fabric page. If you navigate from the main page of your own account, the page URL looks like this:, and just below the lower right corner of the fabric image the only action is "Zoom." But if you navigate to the fabric any other way (such as the links on the left hand side from another fabric page) the the URL is just this:, and suddenly you can "Tweet" and "Embed" too! Strange. Well, at least I figured it out eventually, and I'll be able to use that from now on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homemade baby food

After a month or so of solid food, I've finally managed to make some homemade baby food for my son!

Sweet potatoes for the baby

This is simply two sweet potatoes, baked for an hour at 425 degrees, peeled out of the skin, and mashed up thoroughly with a fork. In the picture I'm dividing it up into servings, and wrapping each in foil for freezing.

Previously I'd given him some store bought sweet potato baby food, which he really liked and gobbled up. It took him a few times to come around to this stuff, but today he finally ate nearly his whole serving of it.

The other thing I've made for him is mashed-up banana. That, however, is not nearly so photogenic! I just mash up about a quarter to a third of the banana right before feeding time (and then eat the rest of it myself!). He has taken a long time to warm up to that as well, but when he got some this evening he really scarfed it down.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Feathers in multiple colors

The contest this week: feathers. I decided this time to just go literal and do feathers, simply scattered in a pattern reminiscent of basketweave, but play around with color a bit. My starting point was the website COLOURLovers, which lets people name colors, create color palettes (up to five colors together) and apply them to repeating patterns. They even have an integration with Spoonflower, so you can get designs you create on COLOURLovers printed out by Spoonflower, but I haven't made use of that myself. I have created some palettes & patterns though, and you can see them here. I have used palettes created by others in some of my fabrics before - the cameos and the wrestling mask so far. Anyway, you can also vote for any palettes you like as your favorites, and see which others are favorites. Here are the palettes on the site which have been favorited the most. I found it very interesting how many of those are reminiscent of the infamous teal/orange palette overtaking movies.

First, I decided to work with this one:
Color by COLOURlovers

When I sketched the flower design initially, I used black outlines and quick ovals of color to decide which feathers would be which colors. I kind of liked the way that looked, so I kept the black outlines in the final design. Once it was done, though, I liked it less - looks a little too 80's. I was tempted to keep tweaking it but in the end just left it as is. I think this color combo might be used better by making the proportions less even - emphasizing some colors and leaving some as just small accents.

Feather fabric - bright colors

Next, I tried this one:
Color by COLOURlovers

I used the brown for the outlines instead, resulting in this design. I like this better, so this is the one I entered in the contest. I think my design is a bit leaden, though. Not one of my best efforts, since I couldn't think of any twist or inspiration like I usually try to.

Feather fabric - calm colors

There were many, many designs which were a lot like mine - scattered, tossed, and otherwise evenly distributed feathers. It was the first thing that came to mind for me, and evidentally for many others as well! Another big theme was peacock feathers, which I didn't surprise me in the least. My design came in 116 out of 224, with 63 votes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The thrilling story of the Robot baby quilt

So, I made this quilt for my first nephew. By the time my first niece was around, I had my Spoonflower account and wanted to use that to create the top for a whole-cloth quilt for her. My brother is a giant nerd like I am, and sci-fi figures heavily into our mental space. So, robots!

Robot baby quilt

The backing & binding is flannel cut from a bed sheet, like the first one I did.

Robot baby quilt

As you can see, I actually finished & gave this quilt almost three years ago. Amazingly for me, I actually got it done in time for the baby shower, before she was born! But only just barely - and there's a reason why I never got any photos of it until now.

I spent a lot of time getting the design the way I wanted it. I decided doing a grid of five robots by seven robots would produce nicely-sized bots. So I sketched 17 different robots, each of which was colored in twice (one flipped the other direction), plus an 18th robot which was only used once. Can you find the unique robot? Hint - it's a reference to a sci-fi TV show! My brother's favorite show, in fact. Next, I got the robots into the grid - I tried to make sure that duplicate robots didn't end up in the same column or row, and that there were no groupings dominated by a single color. It ended up being like a very colorful form of Sudoku. I suppose it would have been easier if I'd placed the robots first, and then colored, but no matter!

By the time I finished all that, there was no time to wait for a proof from Spoonflower before ordering the final cloth. There are a few tweaks I would have made...but heck, I'm pretty sure if I don't point those things out, nobody else would notice. So I'll say no more.

By the time I had the printed top delivered, and assembled it for quilting, there wasn't much time before the shower. All our family is up in Northern California, so we were going to visit my husband's family for a day or two on the way to the shower. I made sure to make the bias tape for the binding before we left since that's pretty much impossible to make on the road. I was still furiously quilting at the start of the trip. I went with a simple quilting scheme - an oval around each robot. I finished that up at my mother-in-law's house and started on the binding. The day of the baby shower, we left her house to drive to the town where the shower was (two hours away) and I kept sewing the binding in the car. I think I had two sides left where the binding needed to be sewn to the back when we arrived at my mother's house, just an hour or two before we needed to go to my brother's house for the shower!

Next, it got really hilarious. My brother, completely unaware of my frantic efforts to finish sewing, kept calling and asking me to prep things for the shower! I can't remember all of it, but at least one request was to look through our parents' stuff to find some obscure AV cable for the music setup he wanted to use for the shower. I delegated to mom instead, ha ha.

I still had a few inches to sew when we had to leave to make it to my brother's house on time - about 10 minutes away. I grabbed a gift bag, so I could just shove the blanket in and not have to wrap it, and kept sewing in the car. I finished just as we pulled in to their street and shoved it in the bag. That is cutting it close!

It was a hit. I had kept the whole thing a surprise from my brother and sister-in-law, so they were delighted to realize that I had not only sewn the quilt, but drawn the design as well. My brother recognized my drawing style. They later told me that it made a fun playmat as well - my niece would sit on it and poke at the robots.

Since the party was so hectic, and I only had the finished quilt in my possession for about five seconds, I didn't have a chance to get a picture of it. I never managed to remember to get a picture at visits after that either. However, this year at Thanksgiving I finally was able to make some time and grabbed a few quick snaps.

Robot baby quilt

Hopefully I'll have a few more finished quilts to post here soon!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My first Spoonflower sale!

Someone bought my Hanukkah calendar! Pretty exciting. She even messaged me asking if I could make it available for sale a few days before I could. (Spoonflower doesn't let you make a design available for sale unless you purchase at least a swatch of it first to proof it) So as soon as I got the proof of it, I flagged it for sale and viola, she bought it the next day! I got a blistering $1.10 (10%) commission out of it. Woohoo!

I do crafts almost entirely to make gifts for people, which as far as I know are mostly well received. But it's a different kind of feeling to have someone (a stranger!) actually want to buy something of mine on purpose, of their own volition.

Actually, I have made one other "sale" on Spoonflower - when someone bought a swatch of my Christmas ornament pattern. Just a week or two after that happened, they finally changed the policy so that you get the 10% commission for swatches too. Of course!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kites with kites

This week's contest theme was kites, with the extra stipulation that it be a small print. Usually they have the contest voting on samples showing a fat quarter of the print, but for the small print contests it's just a eight-by-eight swatch. I struggled awhile to come up with an idea that wasn't simply literally kites, until I remembered that "kite" can also mean a kind of bird! Things really came together when I Googled kites and found the swallow-tailed kite, which has a wonderful silhouette and bold black & white coloring. I decided that the black & white birds against a blue sky with red kites would make a nice combo. I had fun working with such a small palette - no shading or anything like I've done in most of my recent designs.

Fabric with kites playing with kites

My design came in 52 out of 153, with 100 votes. There was one other design that had kites (the birds), but not also with kites (the toys!), which I did end up coming out ahead of in the votes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent style calendar

Well, I messed up last week's contest. Plus, the contest ended on Thanksgiving, so I couldn't write about it until now. The goal was design an advent calendar - it didn't necessarily have to count down 25 days until Christmas, but the idea was some kind of counting calendar with things hidden in pockets or behind doors. I originally wanted to do a full advent calendar like the ones my mom made when I was a kid. She made two, which were these wonderful Victorian-style houses made of paper, with pictures behind the doors and windows. Since we celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, she would always put pictures for the days of Hanukkah that fell in December. For instance, in one calendar it was simply menorahs with the right number of candles lit, and in the other the pictures told the story of Hanukkah, with little stick figure Maccabees liberating the temple and finding the miraculous oil that lasted eight days. She also put in a picture for the Winter Solstice, which falls on the 21st or 22nd. Since those days change every year, she had to move around all the pictures. The remainder were filled in with more traditional holiday stuff. The first calendar had drawings of different ornaments on each day, with the 25th showing a tree with all of them hung up. The second one showed a snowman with more and more features each day. She said that a hard lesson she learned after making the first calendar was that having all the windows & doors at different sizes each year made it really hard to switch it around! She sometimes had to redraw the pictures if they ended up in a really different window. But then, some years later when she made the second one, she forgot about that in the rush of inspiration - and made all the windows & doors different sizes again. Oops!

So anyway, I do eventually want to make something like that of my own, with pictures for Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Solstice that move around every year, but since I had been spending my limited crafting time finishing this quilt, I had only a few days to work on the advent calendar for the contest, so I quickly decided to be less ambitious. I still stuck with the Victorian-style house though. I realized I could do just Hannukah, and have only eight openings to deal with! So I drew the house, with a menorah in each window, and then coverings for each window & door. It was fun to come up with eight different menorah designs! As I was making it, I was thinking to myself, wow, it's pretty cramped to fit this on a fat quarter with only eight! The openings/pockets for a regular 25-day calendar must have to be pretty tiny! Ah, foreshadowing.

Anyway, I finally managed to wrap it up in the early evening the last day for contest entries. I would have loved to have gotten more detail on the house, but I'm still happy with how it came out. I uploaded the design to Spoonflower, and entered it into the contest. However, I noticed that on the page where they show you how it will look when people are voting, it looked strange - instead of filling the whole rectangle, my design floated in the middle with a huge blank margin all around. So I took a look at the contest page again....and oops, it turns out the idea was to create the calendar on a WHOLE YARD, not a fat quarter! Eeeeeuuurghhhhhhhhh.

I wrestled briefly with the idea of trying to hurriedly adapt it to fit on a yard. Perhaps I could make a version where you could buy either a fat quarter and get just what I'd done so far, or buy a whole yard and get extra decorative bits, like backing, strips to hang it with, etc. Then I decided to just go with what I had. I'm just doing this for fun, after all, no need to stress! I still left it as a contest entry - no reason not to.

After all that, my design came in 28th out of 41, with 111 votes. I'm sure I would have done better if I had done it correctly and filled up a whole yard, but I was the only one to do a Hanukkah calendar, so at least I stood out in a good way in that aspect!
Hanukkah calendar fabric