Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Tis the Night Before Christmas... Last Minute Gifts to Sew, Other Ideas, and the Paper Doll Tree

MERRY CHRISTMAS to those "down under!"

by The Pleasant Times Sewing Editor, Miss Thread

"Tis the night before Christmas, and all thro' the house,
Every creature is stirring, and even the mouse
Is running to hide, and trembling with fear,
At the process that makes Christmas presents appear.

The children are trying to sleep in their beds,
While the sound of the sewing machine runs through their heads,
For Mama is in the next room running a race,
Wielding scissors and scattering pins at an incredible pace.

You wouldn't think fabric would make such a clatter,
The neighbors must wonder what is the matter,
Away Mama sews, the needle flies like a flash,
For Mama must sew- because she's short of the cash.

And Christmas is just in an hour, she knows,
She can almost make it, if she sews and sews!
And under the tree, Christmas presents will appear,
And she can rest her sore fingers until this day next year.
-written by the daughter of the Desperate Poetess. 

Now, we all know if Mama would not wait until the last minute, she would not be in such a dilemma, but of course there are some of us in this world that cannot seem to get moving until then (and we never learn our lesson, do we?). Therefore, today I think many of you may appreciate this post. It is rather last minute, I do apologize for that; those in Australia who needed it yesterday will not be happy with me, I know. It will be here for next year!

. When Christmas comes 'round and I am in need of inspiration, patterns and instructions, I run to the Sew Mama Sew website, to their list of tutorials. Here are some quick and easy sewing projects using your fabric stash, that I found on that site, with a couple of my own thrown in. Make one up tonight!

Some tips for last minute sewing:
Print out the instructions, it is handier than running back to the computer (I find tutorials have to be printed in color, because grayscale makes details in the photos hard to see, but that could just be me and my failing eyesight).
Put on some Christmas music, it helps keep you in the mood, and it can be somewhat calming if you choose the right tunes.
If you get tired, go and lay down and close your eyes for five minutes. You make more mistakes if you are tired.
Keep some chocolate around, and a pot of tea. Do not place your tea cup near your fabric or the project-- of all nights this is the night that you will spill it.
Read all directions through first, and endeavor to understand them mentally, it keeps you from surprises.
In order to keep these projects "quick and easy" try to limit adjustments.
You will not be as quick with a new project that you have never made before. The ones I found were not difficult and I was able to make them up
Keep your stash up-- velcro is always so useful and you need to keep it in stock!

Click on the titles to go to the instructions!

This project was surprisingly quick, so much so I was able to make two without trouble. Besides a small amount of fabric, it takes a silk flower (take the bottom petals off of a floral arrangement, and put the rest back. No one will ever know) and hot glue, and velcro. If you have these things, give this a try for your seamstress friends!
 It is surprisingly comfortable too, so much so that I made one for myself!


 This is a very easy bag to make. It is easier than it seems when you read the directions. Give it a try! It isn't just for kids, either! They are useful in any room, and in the car, too. All it takes is fabric.
 I made this one with a contrasting liner. I thought it would make it a bit easier to see what was inside:)

 This cloth sandwich wrap opens up into a place mat. It takes fabric and plastic and velcro. I used a zip-loc type freezer bag for the inside of this one. I changed the shape of the one I made (not a good idea when you are last-minute, by the way, because you have to adjust other things too), dictated by the fabric print I was using:
 These are re-usable, you just wipe them off!

 This is such an easy project, I can't even tell you how easy it is. It uses up those little bits of trim in your sewing stash, and takes a small bit of material. You could make a dozen in one night.

 This one is my own project. Personally, I am scratching pot holders off the list as quick and easy. If you had a pretty fabric print, and had no patchwork to do (or had a spare patchwork block from your last quilt) it would be faster than mine. The binding was tedious to hand-stitch.

 The potholder was made to match a holiday tea-towel.

 This is a really, really clever and cute project! It takes a yard of fabric and some insul-brite OR plain potholders (and I suppose you could make your own easy ones with batting if you had to). This one took me 5 hours, but it would have taken 4 1/2 hours less if I had not decided to use scraps and make my own patchwork yardage (find the fabric, measure, measure, cut, cut, place this print here and then there, decisions, decisions); if I had not put the patchwork in backwards three times, and if I had not substituted ribbon for the fabric tie. Just use one yard of fabric and make it easy on yourself!
 Despite the time, I really was tickled to see how it turned out. The pot-holders are sew in to the hem!

 This one takes fabric, and flexible plastic for the window in the bottom. This kind of plastic is used around my house to cover & protect pretty tablecloths; no one will notice 4 inches gone from the edge of one of them! However, I realize that many of you will not have this kind of plastic on hand. Try looking at packaging-- bedding comes in thick flexible plastic bags, for instance. Otherwise you could just make a plain front out of pretty fabric. You could use something like this as a gift bag, too.
 I used some braid I had on hand in my stash. Also, the top-stitching on this bag is all decorative stitches.

 This one is my own project. It was not designed for Christmas at all; someone had given me a big lot of one yard fabric pieces, in hopes that I would make some children-sized clothing with it. After a while, I realized that children's clothing was not going to pop out of this fabric on its own, and if I waited for it to sew itself, it would not fit the said children (who just won't stop growing!). So, in an attempt to appreciate the fabric in a useful way, I serged yardage together into a blanket. Two layers of material, front and back, were serged as one piece to another two layers, and so on until I had a large patchwork looking blanket. One side of the blanket is smooth, the other with serged seams you can see.
 I had no idea how useful these blankets would be. I use them in the car. They are good for naps, for pillows on long trips, for propping up babies in their car seats when they are asleep, for covering seats, for padding furniture in the trunk, for picnics, and I am sure much more!

Now for the paper doll tree: Lettie Lane and her friends (from the early 1900's) were all over the little white tree. I just love their winter cloaks!

And here's a clever idea I saw: A tea-cup display that was being stored next to a dresser, became a handy place to keep the wrapping paper rolls upright.

Other last-minute gifts:

A loaf of home-made bread is always appreciated.
So are boxes of oranges.
A set of home-made cards are useful.
If you can get one, and don't care about the price, a pretty, good quality magazine is a fun gift. After all the presents are opened and the excitement is over, one can sit down with a cup of tea and relax and enjoy the magazine.
I am sure there are many more things you can think of!

Some tips for next year:
Remember bigger is not always better.
A framed photo or series of photos can mean a lot to relatives.
If you are out and about shopping during the year, and see some little thing that is nice but you think you don't need it, consider buying it anyway for a Christmas gift. Keep a Christmas basket or box in a closet and fill it with these little things. Buy wrapping paper on sale and put it there, too. The only last minute thing you have to do is wrap gifts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Felt Snowflake Tea Wallet

Thank you to everyone who joined in with us here at The Pleasant Times for the Snowflake Week! It was so much fun looking at your posts. We were tickled to get such a nice response!
Since we began with a tea, we'll end with some tea to take home, in a snowflake-themed tea wallet!

 I have made this tea wallet a couple of times.  There is another version of the tea wallet in felt here.
This is the way I did one recently to give as a gift to a tea lover, with snowflakes on the front and the back:

The "ingredients" are felt (I used pink), contrasting felt (I used white sparkle), a snip of ric-rac (you could use ribbon), a shank button and some tasty tea in individually wrapped bags!

 Using small paper snowflakes as templates, I traced them on to white sparkle felt, folding in half to cut them out, and reserving two little hearts for use inside the wallet. You could do all kinds of applique designs on this project!

 The size of this wallet is 8 inches by 5 inches. Cut one piece out of pink felt for the front cover. If you do not mind it being a thicker wallet, you can make one piece for the front and another one for the inside, lining or backing this one. It makes it a bit easier and hides stitching. I wanted mine to be less bulky, so I did without.

 Cut two 2-inch by 8-inch pieces for the inside pockets.

 Hand-stitch the snowflakes carefully on the front (and what will be the back once it is folded), hiding the long thread stitches & knots behind the snowflakes so they do not show on the back of this piece. I tacked the flakes down at all corners, with a few tacks around the middle. All you should see on the back of this piece are a few small stitches holding the snowflake on.

 Turning the piece over, take a  small 2-3 inch piece of sparkly ric-rac and fold and stitch to the inside  right edge.

 The first skinny rectangle is placed on the large piece,  about 1 inch from the bottom. Hand-stitch to the large piece, just along the bottom edge. I stitched very carefully through this piece, and barely through the larger piece to keep the thread from showing too much on the front (this is where it is nicer to have two separate large rectangular pieces, but if you are careful you can get this on without stitching through the snowflakes on the other side.)

 The two little white hearts are stitched on to the remaining skinny rectangle...

...that is then laid over the other sections. Pin all this together, stitch down the middle, and then all the way around the edge (going over the stitching of the ric rac) about 1/8 inch. The neat thing about doing this in felt, is that if the edges are a bit uneven (for instance, if they shift during stitching), you can trim them!

 Here you can see the edge stitching, and the middle stitching.

Finally, sew a button to the front right side, fill with tea bags, fold the wallet, and pull the ric-rac loop around the button to keep closed.

I hope these instructions are clear; feel free to email me if something is not working! -Editor

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?

...we hope to all week long on The Pleasant Times and your blogs, too!

Note: I will leave this post on top all week, and will pre-date new posts so that they will appear just below this one. Check back in a few days to see new posts! Scroll down to see participant links! -Editor

To kick off our week-long Snowflake Event, we invite you to join us for tea!
The table is set in shades of white, with clear-as-ice glass and shiny china dishes.

The menu includes sandwiches, veggies, cookies and of course, tea.

The sandwiches are cucumber-orange. They are cut in a diamond shape, and each diamond is placed just so to make a 6-pointed snowflake.

These sandwiches are so very good, you must try one. Home-made bread is spread with neufchatel cheese, and topped with one mandarin orange slice, and a thin cucumber slice.

Icicle sticks are made from parsnips and turnips, and placed in a crystal sugar & creamer. Snowy cauliflower  and more sliced cucumbers are in the other dishes. On the left is our delicious sour cream dip (sour cream, dill, onion powder, garlic powder and salt, in that order and made to your taste).

And for dessert, you may have just a wee bit of each...

Snowdrift cookies (which are actually half "Whoopie Pies;"  the recipe is from the new Martha Stewart holiday cookie magazine, with the banana omitted, we also recommend to cut down on the amount of sugar a bit.)

Snowballs and mini snowflake bites,

and these giant snowflakes, which can be sliced into smaller pieces. The snowflakes are sprinkled with coconut flakes, and some are sprinkled with an edible clear glittery product from Wilton.

And for the tea, we have a variety of winter-time favorites. We tried to think of ideas in our Test Kitchen of a change from the usual sugar cube. We bounced around various ideas, and decided on this one. We made a very thick paste of powdered sugar and cream, and piped it in snowflake shapes on a plate. Then we froze it. The hope was, that these little frozen snowflakes would float on the top of the tea for just a second before sinking to the bottom, but alas! it did not work that way. However, we still think it was a nice touch for this snowflake tea party.

The centerpiece is a beautiful footed bowl, ruffled at the edges, filled with our paper snowflakes and a battery-operated LED candle that has been glittered with Epsom salts! Surrounding that are some wee "snowballs" and buttons in shades of white (which have also been scattered on the table).

Now it is your turn!
p.s.-- if you do not have a blog, but wish to participate, please feel free to email thepleasanttimes @ (no spaces) to submit photos.
Note: I will leave this post on top all week, and will pre-date new posts so that they will appear just below this one. Check back in a few days to see new posts! -Editor