Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

We get to open one gift each on Christmas Eve. This beautiful tea cup set was in my package!
It is a beautiful green with snowdrops. 

Even the foot of the tea cup has an elegant scallop

For a Christmas project, I printed out this old fashioned tree and garden scene from Karen's whimsy. It was a bit small, but I had many small fingers and little scissors to help me! I think I would enlarge it a bit next time. 

The Night Before Christmas
The Night Before Christmas Limited Edition
Kinkade, Thomas
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas, Old Fashioned Town
Merry Christmas, Old Fashioned Town Art Print
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My boys got tickled at this conversation in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The last of the kerosene in the lamp had been sucked up the wick and burned out, and Ma was wishing she could contrive a light:
"We didn't lack for light when I was a girl, before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of."
"That's so," said Pa. "These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves- they're good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em."

The same could be said today, for if the electricity goes out, we are in an awful way. Even those with well water cannot pump it up manually, unless they have a special adapter and hand pump. The amusing thing was, that these pioneers thought the same thing back then about their lives, only we would look back and call them self sufficient! This is the part in the series where Ma makes a little lamp out of a button, scrap of cloth, and grease. 

My projects today were the last of my gifts.

This wall hanging is reversible, so one side can be displayed at Christmas and one side in the spring. I used the border to keep it all together. The top border is actually a pocket, to put the rod through. Do not ask me how I figured out how to do this, it was mostly the "Oh no! I made another mistake!" method. The wall hanging is interfaced with lightweight fusible interfacing, but not quilted. I am not well practiced at quilting. I used the buttons to anchor a few spots, and machine stitched around the border. This one took me all day. 

My late night project was to make an album for a cousin. It took me about an hour, because I had to decide which photos to put in, etc.  I glued photos on colored card stock, and I used the eyelet took I had to make holes in the top of each photo "page". Then I tied it all together with ribbon.

This has been my handy dandy sewing and crafting tool: my very large upholstery needles!

They are great for those times when you need ribbon or yarn to go through something, and also I am afraid that when I am in a hurry, I do not go hunting for my seam ripper, but just grab this needle and pull out a few stitches to clip. I also use it for helping fabric go under the presser foot, and it is handy for finding the lost thread in my sewing machine...  I am always reaching for these needles!

Monday, December 22, 2008

On The Tenth Day of Christmas

It's getting clo-ser!

Feeling a little relieved since I have so many things now to give, I embarked on another set of bags for a family I know. It seemed a more ambitious pattern, but it is not too far removed from the wall pockets I did yesterday. These little bags are for lunches, and the big bag for the mum, for mums always end up carrying everything anyway:)

I got the pattern here. I am interested in all the different ways to give shape to a bag, because the only way I have done it is to make side gussets. The way shown in this pattern was not too different from the wall pockets yesterday, yet I found it harder to get it accurate. Also, even though I thought the animal fabric for the little bags was an all-over print, somehow I managed to sew the upright animals into the side seams, and leave the upside-down ones on the front! 

I have discovered that stiffening the material I am working with using interfacing or my favorite, Pellon Craft Fuse, makes things seem more "professional" looking. I am using up little bits of what I have left of interfacing. The sewing stash seems only a little relieved despite all the things I have been making! 

Looking for sheet music for the Christmas lullaby, "Still, Still, Still," last night, I ran across this site. I did not personally care for the arrangement after I printed it out, but it struck me I could gift it to another. I like to print out my sheet music on card stock, and with a cover page decorated for Christmas, it would make a nice gift for a pianist in a family!

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

(Or more properly, the seventh day of my Christmas preparations. )

Last night, after being so glum about the snow melting, I mentioned my doubts about more snow on this blog, then I shut down the computer. And shortly afterwards-- look outside!
BIG flakes! Bigger than last time! And look what we woke up to this morning! Winter wonderland. The light is wonderful when there is snow- almost like a summer light. It makes us more energetic and happy.
Here are some gifts with the gift cards on top instead of ribbons and bows. I was sending these away so it was better not to try to get a bow in the package just to be crushed.

Now for the big project of the day. I found a list on a blog for several different shopping bags. I wanted to do a bit of embellishment on them, or use up my scraps and do a patchwork outer edge and solid lining. I liked a lot of them, but I did not have the strong fabrics they called for.

Since time is short to sew, I chose this one, modeled after a plastic grocery sack. Yes, I know, it does not sound very special! And if you read the instructions, you can tell it was not meant to be. However, since I am using it as a Christmas gift, I wanted to make it look nice. Besides, I think that the newest trend will be shopping bags that reflect the individuality/personality/style/favorite colors of the owner. I also dislike the feeling of the shopping bags they are now selling at the stores. They are poly-something-or-other and I just cannot stand to hold one for long.

Here is my variation on the pattern I chose:

First, I made the bottom of the bag on the fold. I was too nervous about my seams ripping out on the bottom. I felt better if I did not have to make a stitch there. So I ended up with a long rectangle that was the same size as stated in the pattern. Before sewing the side seams up, though, I added a little strip pieced patchwork.

I ironed the sack then sewed the strip to the crease mark. I dislike pinning, so I try to get away without having to do it as often as I can!

After I sewed that, I flipped it over and had one nice clean edge that I did not have to fiddle with. I did not want to applique this piece on, and this way it stayed straight.

I turned the top edge under and top stitched it to the sack. I top stitched the bottom of the patchwork too, not because I had to secure it, but because it looked more consistent.
I thought of adding buttons, which would have been cute, but they might catch on the sides of a shopping cart, so I left them off.
I sewed up the side seams, and since I was nervous about the strength of these seams I did a french seam, and then top-stitched it. If this bag bursts, it will have to get through three sections of stitching first.

When I got to the step in the pattern where you are to make the pleat, I thought, "Uh oh! This is why they did not have a fold at the bottom of the bag." But then after fiddling with it, the light bulb went off in my head (or maybe that was the one in my room.... if someone slams a door in the house just right, that extra bulb on the light fixture comes on. Makes things much brighter!) and I figured I could just tuck and tack the pleat in.

Here you see the finished result! My serger was not cooperative, so I satin-stitched the top edges. I did four bags for two shoppers on my list! I hope they will tell me how long these bags stand up to wear and tear. I do not know the strength of these bags, since they are just made of muslin. I am sure it would not be wise to carry home a watermelon or a 25 pound frozen turkey in them. But for your average sack of lettuce and loaf of bread, they might just do!
I could have made a similar bag that was lined, but I did not have time. Here is the link in case one of you happens to want it. I wonder if it would be even stronger.
I am tempted to make some for myself. However, I have noticed that in the baby stages of life, those plastic bags come in mighty handy. I recycle them by lining all the waste bins with them, and they are great for diapers and for the car trash too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

Hooray! More finished projects today.

A couple of packages and the bulk of the Christmas cards were mailed off this afternoon, and then it was on to the next thing. A request from my husband: something warm for his feet.

Microwavable insoles! Since he was home all day, if he figured out what I was doing, he did not let on. I tried to sneak one of his shoes out of the closet and over to my work area, and traced it on four layers of flannel. I sewed all around the pair of "feet," leaving a space for the "filling". Then I mixed some dried lentils from the pantry with two drops of lavender essential oil. I filled a bit of the insole, then sewed it off, filled the next section, sewed it off, and then the last and sewed it shut. Each one can be heated and put in his slippers. I doubt he would want to walk on them, but whenever he is working at his desk he can heat them up and keep his feet warm.

At My Heart's at Home told me of a site where there were some beautiful bookmarks, so I did print some out for stocking stuffers. I would have punched a hole in the top and put a ribbon through, but I managed to stretch my dwindling pile of card stock by printing these double-sided. Clever me! And I got the other side upside down. So I decided not to do a ribbon, but leave them as they are. 

A very handy tool for putting Contact paper on things is this roller (is it called a brayer?) that I got from a rubber stamping store for a project long ago. It helps get things smooth.

The other project I finished (all but the frames) today was something I started early this summer: silhouettes. My grandmother once did our silhouette the old-fashioned way (shadow tracing) and I thought that it could be even easier to do nowadays with the computer.
First I got a side photo...
Then my Photoshop-handy husband found the edges for me (I think it was the magic wand tool?). Once that is done, you can fill in the profile or the background with whatever color you wish, as seen below:

I thought I was being so thrifty to print things and do something that required no money, but the thirsty little printer tells me that I am running out of ink! So it is thrifty if you forget about the cost of ink! These can also be matted and framed and will look quite nice.

It saves ink to just take the plain lines of the silhouette, and print on a colored piece of card stock or paper. Then cut around the silhouette and paste on black paper.

I read a post about using cloth for gift wrap, which I found interesting. It is so nice to have quality wrapping paper and fantastic package toppings, but they are only there for a moment of glory before getting ripped up and thrown away. I tend to rescue bows and things from the trash pile to re-use, if they are in good shape. This year, I found that the rolls of wrapping paper at the dollar store came in different lengths. If you look carefully, you can find a 50 foot roll for your dollar.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas Merry Christmas Giclee Print Buy at

It snowed Sunday night. It stayed all day yesterday and today. The weather announcer on the radio said "highs 32 degrees" which I found amusing, as that is freezing. Wow, it will warm up to freezing today! The weather report this morning from our local forecaster Miss Staley, is "Tomorrow more snow.. today crystal clear and sunny with SNAPdragon cold!" (Just in case you are wondering, you are looking at a loaded tree branch here.)

I get happy when it snows! It is interesting to me how excited snow makes people. Folks call each other to talk about the snow in their yard. And bloggers all over the world will announce the first snowfall in their area on the Internet.

I like to see the cars slow way down on our road. Usually they are roaring around the corner at 55 mph. Now they go by so carefully and quietly. I wonder if that was what it was like to live out here in the really olden days, when automobiles were first out, or when the horses and wagons went by.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon sorting scraps and ironing them, folding them, and containing them in their box. It seemed like an awful waste of time when I had so much to do, but the scraps were spilling out of their box and running all over the place-- every time I turned around they were on the floor, on the chair, on the table, and lest they should end up in the kitchen crawling into my pot of soup, I had to take control. At least now it will be faster for me to use them in my crafting.

(A tip for Seamstresses: Before putting those scraps away after you have cut your pattern out of the material, make sure to trim them. One big scrap connected to another big scrap by a string of material makes for a big tangled mess! I am a scrap saver, and I tend to save every little bit, just in case I will make a charm quilt someday.)

When I finally got to my Christmas card project, I had a good start with them, but soon weariness and the late hour overcame me, and I had to stop, and begin again this morning. May I complain here a moment? Yes? No? I cannot hear you. Well, I have to say, making cards is a tiresome mess! That does not sound very nice, does it? But it seems like there is so much to get out to make a card (if you are putting several elements on it) and if I am going to go to all the trouble to find all the stuff and bring it out of the storage area, I may as well do two dozen cards instead of one. And the card crafting area is the dining room table, with the leaf in it, and would you believe those bits of paper take up nearly the whole surface! I did find delight and pleasure in these cards, it was just the huge quantity that got to me. I found this project hard to finish. But they are finally made! Now I want to keep them. And of course, I need two dozen more than I made.

I did something different this time. Usually I would glue and glitter a card, but this time, I stitched them. Stitching cards is sew much fun! I had a dull needle in the machine already, and the sewing machine seems to like paper better than fabric as it behaved itself very well! The other different thing I did was to use some glitter paper that came in a big pad at Walmart. It really sets off the cards and there no loose glitter mess.

Here you see the card that I would usually make and send off:

And above you see the card with the stitching!

I used a lot of the "heirloom" style stitches on my sewing machine, and changed thread color often for the different cards I made. I did make the mistake of sewing one card shut! I thought about sending it to someone to see if they found it amusing that I had sewed a card shut, but decided against it. I also did a card that had a thicker embroidery-type stitch on it, and it perforated it so finely that the card started to fall apart! I wondered how they would hold up or if they would be "punch out" cards, but the others did fine.

You notice I hardly did any of them the same. That is why my brain is so tired tonight. It would have been faster to do an assembly line method, but my goal is to use up as much of my stash as I can, so I was using little bits of this and that. At least I can say no two are alike! Next time, if I do not start earlier on cards, I may splurge and go and buy some store-bought.

I use the leftover tinier bits of paper to make gift tags. These are about 2-4 inches long:

Then I threw the rest of the paper scraps away. Yes, any more tiny scraps I just threw away. I thought I should tell you all that lest you are under the impression that I am insane! No, I did not make confetti out of them.

If I can get those cards in the mail tomorrow, they may arrive before Christmas to most of the States. I need to get up early in the morning to address cards and package up some things, then it is off to the post office.

I used to complain about the post office, and their high postage stamp rates, but this year I am going to proclaim that I am very thankful for the United States Postal Service. What a service they provide. They bring my mail to me every day! And in this weather too!