Friday, October 29, 2010

Another Smocked Ornament

Tonight I finished this little candy cane ornament.  This may be the last ornament for the Handmade Ornament Swap.  It is an adaptation of a smocking plate by Ellen McCarn I picked up a couple Saturdays ago at the Bernina store, which is the only heirloom sewing store we have in town.  (I just realized I haven't "featured" them in my blog, so that may be the subject of another post sometime).

Once again, the smocking was the easy part.  I seem to really struggle with finishing the ends once the smocking is complete.  When I did the Christmas tree smocked ornament, Beautiful Daughter #1 suggested I try to finish it like a wrapped candy.  Since this ornament was, in fact, a candy cane, her suggestion seemed natural.  Still, I'm not perfectly happy with how the smocking fits over the ball.  Because the smocking isn't stretched over the ball, it is pretty loose in there.  But, as my Aunt Margie used to say, "You're not supposed to play football in it!"

Then, because batiste ravels like crazy, I had to come up with a way to finish the ends.  I decided to crochet around them.  Amazingly, the red crochet thread matched the embroidery floss pretty well.  A few of the little batiste ends refused to be corralled, but I guess it's OK - it is a candy cane, after all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

There's Something About Fall....

There's something about fall that has always stirred something in my soul.  I love fall colors.  I love the change in the leaves.  I love the cooler temperatures.  I love the smell of a new box of crayons and sharpened pencils.  I love turkey and cranberries and pumpkin pie.  I love jack-o-lanterns and candy corn.  Fall somehow bespeaks change - in good ways.  Something about fall means winding up and starting over all at the same time - the possibility of growth and change.  Yes, I know that symbolically, it should be spring that gives that feeling, so maybe it has to do with school starting in the fall, but it always seems like fall is alive with possibilities.

Somehow I always feel more creative in the fall.  Last year, as we were waiting for our new granddaughter to arrive, I crocheted countless receiving blankets.  My grandmother used to make these - one for every baby - and they were a treasured gift for every new mom.  I had honestly forgotten about them until we were expecting our own grandchild.  I was compellled to resurrect the tradition.   I must have gotten just a LITTLE carried away, because Wonderful Husband wondered if any baby could use THAT many blankets.  Perhaps not, but I was on a roll.

This year, sewing and quilting have intrigued me, and I have had a lot of fun creating all kinds of things.

And it's always fun to get ready for Christmas.  Too many years, I have been in a rush and shopped out of desperation at the last minute to find something - anything - to give to the ones I love.  This year, I hope it will be different.  This year, I want to (mostly) create thoughtful gifts that are both useful and come from the heart.  With any luck, I will achieve that and have fun in the process.

Meanwhile, happy fall!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Harvest Y'all

I think I've mentioned that I've been on a table runner kick.  I don't know why, but these small quilties just intrigue me these days.  They are fun to piece, they go together very quickly - even without the serger - I don't have to fight with them to quilt them by hand or on the machine, and I can finish them in a couple of hours, which makes me happy.

The other night, I blogged about taking my ugly prototype runner apart.  It just wasn't working.  It looked like this:

I just hated the gold leaf, and when I tried to make it stand out, I made it look REALLY ugly.  The center looked like this:

And when I took out the yarn, the needle had made such big holes, I ended up taking the whole center motif out.

This runner was my prototype, and I intended to give it away.  The Pensacola Quilter's Guild has a booth at the Arts Festival every year and they sell hand made items to raise money for some of their other charities, I think.  So anyway, it just wasn't up to par.

Tonight, I sat down to put the new center in.  I got the pattern from Kimara and Michelle at Wee Folk Art.  You can find it here.  I enlarged it a bit, and then appliqued it on the machine.  I have to admit that it was something of a challenge to replace the center when the rest was already quilted.   Here is the finished product (the center detail is at the top).

I think it is much improved.

On a side note, I think I have figured out the camera a bit.  It still doesn't have the flexibility of an SLR, but I'm finally beginning to get some detail in the shots.  Check out the tone-on-tone detail in the fabric in the photo at thte top of this post.  And, they are (mostly) in focus.  Again, much improved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is the third time the charm?

I am beginning to feel tormented by this smocked ornament.  Maybe the third time will be the charm.  The smocking was easy, but covering the cut ends at the poles has been a true challenge.  Actually, this is the 4th end "treatment", but number 3 got out of hand.  I actually liked it, but not on this ornament.  So, is it ready for prime time?  Or should I kick it to the curb?  Hmmmmm.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Token of Love

Today, Wonderful Husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  For the last several years, we have pretty much celebrated by going out to dinner, but since it was Saturday, WH and I went on a jaunt down the Gulf Coast to Destin.  (BTW - no oil anywhere, despite what you may have heard).  We did some early Christmas shopping at the Eglin AFB BX, and then stopped for a wonderful Gulf-side lunch at Angler's on Okaloosa Island.  (Beautiful Daughter and I had stopped there on our little jaunt in April, and I thought it was a great place for us to enjoy the Gulf, the beautiful sunshine, and each other.  Soooooo pretty.)  As usual, yours truly left both the camera and the phone in the car, so no photos.  But suffice it to say that the sun was shining, the temperature was moderate, the humidity was low, the waves were sparkling, boats were going by on the horizon, para-sailers were practicing their stunts, and we were about 30 feet from the water with little between us and the view but air.  So nice....

Lunch finished, we betook our overstuffed selves back in the car and journeyed on down the coast to Destin.  We stopped briefly at Destin Commons (Beautiful Daughter #2, there is a brand new Forever 21 there now) before going on to SanDestin and visiting the outlet mall.  Such a pleasant day, spent with my own true love.

 When we got home WH presented me with this great gift he had made for me himself.  A gift of love.  (A few weeks ago, I had asked him if he thought he could make me a device to store my ribbons.  They had outgrown their small space and I was tired of hunting all over for them when I needed to use them.  I showed him the ugly plastic ones in the Stampin' Up! catalog to give him an idea of what I was talking about.)

So here is the result!  I love it!  It is perfect!

I love how there is space underneath so I can contain the small items that seem to get lost on my work table.

I love how I can see exactly what I have when I start a project.  No more wondering what ribbon I have that might go with something else.

I love that the project was made with love.

And the project now has a name - it has officially been dubbed "The Blue Thingy."  Every time we say it - it cracks us up.  And WH seems proud of his accomplishment, which is nice too.

Thank you, Wonderful Husband, for a great anniversary.  I hope you had fun too!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learning Curves

Sometimes, the things you create don't turn out as you expect.  You have a vision, you execute it, and something just isn't right.  That's the way it has been for me lately as I have tried out new things.  I see it in my mind, but when it comes down to it, it's just slightly off.

A couple of weeks ago, I created a fall table runner.  It was a prototype of something I was really excited about, but it just didn't turn out as I expected.  At first, I realized that the gold leaf in the middle just faded into the background.  It didn't have any pizazz.  In fact, it was pretty blah.  Luckily, Beautiful Daughter #1 is also in the creative mode lately, and I can always count on her to give me honest feedback.  Truly, when she says she "doesn't love it", it needs work.

Always one to use things at hand, I decided maybe if did a little large-scale embroidery it would add what it needed.  Frankly, that was a disaster.  Not only did it not have pizazz, but it looked positively crude.  NOT the right answer.  I played around with other color combinations in a couple of other table runners I made (see, I'm really into table runners this year) and they turned out ok, but every time I came back to this one, I just shook my head. 

Finally, tonight, I sat down and took out the yarn.  That was a real mess since the yarn has so many threads and the needle holes were so big.  What to do now?   I decided to try the same technique, only with perle cotton.  Nope.  It just had to come out.  So I sat down and ripped out the entire center motif.  Creating the new one will have to wait for tomorrow.

Then, when I posted my second ornament for the Handmade Ornament Swap, I was a little hasty.  I thought I followed the instructions, but when maggieb says to trim away the excess, she means ALL the excess.  I didn't realize until I took the photo that it was so lumpy.  Beautiful Daughter #1 also said she "didn't love" the ribbon.  Well, it was a little big and floppy, it's true.  In my own defense, it was late at night, and that's what I thought it looked like in the picture.  Anyway, it's back to the drawing board.  I had thought about crocheting a crochet lace flower for each end, but if you can believe it, I am out of both red and white crochet thread.

So here is attempt #2.   Better now?  I may still try the crochet idea, or look to see if I have some lace in my stash, but I'm going to chew on this look for awhile.  Comments are welcome

Anyway, it's funny how sometimes you have to look at something for awhile and mull it over before you figure out what's wrong. 

And it's great to have feedback from people you know will be honest with you and tell it like it is.   Thanks, Daughter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For Love of (a) French General

Last month, when the kiddos and I were in Seattle, my sister introduced Beautiful Daughter #1 and I to a fun craft store - Ben Franklin Fabrics and Crafts.

We had such a good time in there.  The first time we went, I was actually a little bit proud that I didn't buy very much at all.  In fact, I didn't buy any fabric at all!  So totally out of character.  I bought some ribbon, and some greeting cards that later became birthday gifts, but I didn't buy any fabric...

And then I went home and the remorse set in.  I guess you would call it "reverse buyer's remorse".  Truth is, I was in love - with French General.  Nothing would do but I make the trek back (this time with Beautiful Daughter #2) and satisfy this intense craving.  I just love this fabric.  It is somehow so elegant.  I had visions of all the things I could do with it.  It stirred all my creative juices and the ideas just started flowing.  The store had both Lumiere de Noel and Rural Jardin together, and I couldn't wait to get home and start putting it together, but I could only get fat quarters of some of the pieces.  Funny how the reds went so fast.  

Honestly, I like it just as much now as I did in the store. 

And I really seem to be into table runners this year.  Not so much trouble as a quilt, and they don't take as much fabric, but you still get the thrill of the creation of it.  I especially like the way the patch in the center pulls the piece together.

Here is the finished product.  Do you think it will make nice Christmas gifts?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Smocking We Will Go

Tonight I finished the second ornament for the Handmade Ornament swap.  I got the pattern online from maggiebsmocks.  Her instructions were great and very easy to follow.  She had great pictures.  Unlike maggieb's photos, the photo above was taken with my phone and therefore is not very crisp.  I think I need to work a little more on the "poles".  They just will not lay flat.  Must be a learning curve there I haven't grasped.  But, in general, I like it.  Another thing the photos don't show very well is the colors, which are aqua and red.  The beads are random colors, just to give the impression of ornaments.  I was toying with the idea of a jingle bell, but haven't decided yet whether I like the idea or not.

Meanwhile, I need to get the photos off the camera (which is not cooperating) so I can finish my tutorial.  I have tried everything I can think of to retrieve the pictures, so tomorrow I will take it to work and see if our computer guru can get them for me.  If not, I guess I'll try the camera store.  Barring that, the only other thing I can think of to do is to re-create the item so I have the pics I need.  Very frustrating.  For the most part, they weren't bad pictures.  I bought a new memory card, which I hope will solve the problem.  I'd hate to think it was the camera itself.  That would make me cry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Belated Birthday Pinwheels

Today, I am visiting Beautiful Daughter #1 and Dear Son-in-Law and their adorable Abby-girl.   Even though I have seen Beautiful Daughter #1 recently, I haven't been able to give her the last of her birthday gifts - not enough room in my luggage.  So this is her gift.  The fabric is 2 Summer Basket of Flowers Charm Packs by Moda, and the design is just a basic pinwheel.  It was more fun to make than I thought it would be.  I hope it will look nice in her guest room.

Today we were busy here.  We went to breakfast, then to several garage sales, and then to a fabric store (imagine that - the two of us in a fabric store!!)  We exercised a great deal of restraint, however, and bought only what we needed.  We came back and made some banana bread, cored and peeled a ton of apples (Beautiful Daughter has such a neat tool for this - it was fun to use and went so quickly!) and made applesauce and 2 apple pies.  I made some banana bread, but it was a little dry.  It might have been the altitude, but....

Then we started to organize Beautiful Daughter's sewing room.  Her sewing space is a corner of her laundry room, so space is at a premium.  We made good progress.  And in between, I got to play with Abby.  She is such a little character.  I had a blast.  All in all, a fun, productive day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Elf Shoes

Tonight I finished my first ornament for the ornament swap Beautiful Daughter #1 and I are doing.  Lousy photos though.  I'll have figure out a way to take a picture without shadows or blurs or at an angle which doesn't catch the detail.

The Fabric is Amy Butler.  I used an elf shoe pattern from this link.  The "cuff" and the hanging loop are folded ribbon.  The shoe was sewn, stuffed, and hand beaded.  I tried a pompom at the point of the shoe, but Beautiful Daughter said it didn't work, so I tried the jingle bell.  Better?

And the other side of the elf shoe.  I purposely didn't match the patterns on the two sides, which in my OCD nature, I would have, but this way, whoever receives it can choose the side they like best.  Like 2 for 1.

So, that's it for tonight. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lanterns Bloom and Poppy Wall Art - Easy Peasy

A few weeks ago, I was surfing craft/quilt/fabric blogs and happened upon Anna Maria Horner's visit to Martha Stewart's show.  In it, she shows how to paint silhouettes on fabric.  Beautiful Daughter #2 and I had just been talking about how hard it was to find art for the walls of her apartment since she didn't want posters, and didn't want to spend a fortune.  When I saw the video of Martha Stewart's show, I knew I had found my answer.  (Just by happenstance, Michael's had 7-packs of stretched canvas on sale that week - sweet!)

It was really hard to get a good close-up picture of the beading.
Here's the back of the vase and flowers after it was quilted.  Someday, I'm going to do a quilt, and it's just going to be white, with quilting stitches to make up the design.  I think they call that embroidery, but...

I know it may sound irreverent, but I can't seem to watch General Conference without something to keep my hands busy or I tend to fall asleep.  This was the perfect project.  Three pieces of "art", quilted, beaded, stretched, and finished in just a few hours. 


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy Fall!

Don't fall colors make you just want to sit down and CREATE something?

This morning I got up with a plan.  I really wanted to get a lot of things done.  I really needed to clean my house, but somehow the draw just wasn't there (the house will just have to wait until tomorrow ).  But I did have some goals, and I'm feeling pretty smug that I accomplished most of them. Of course, I'm totally exhausted...

I finished the "S" and "Z" blocks for the Avignon Picnic quilt from Moda Bake Shop.  The "S"'s were fine, but I had a terrible time with the "Z"'s.  I'm going to blame it on the fact that my sewing room was an oven and I really should have been taking a nap.  But I persevered, and I have my blocks done.   Tomorrow - to the floor for layout.

I plugged the holes in the former duvet cover so I can turn it into a quilt.  I meant to get it laid out and pinned except my backing isn't big enough.  I'll either have to piece it, do something creative with it, or go buy something.  I'm leaning toward one of the first two options.  Anyway, plugging the holes was an accomplishment all on it's own, so I'll have to be satisfied with that.  This one I had planned to embroider/quilt once I get the "sandwich" put together.  Might be a little ambitious.  Maybe I'll finish it in my lifetime.  You think?

I did, however, get the log cabin half of the duvet cover laid out and pinned.  Not quite sure what to do with it now.  I'm leaning toward machine quilting it.  It's actually quite a stunning quilt, if I do say so myself.  Even Wonderful Husband commented on it when it was all laid out on the floor, and he almost never comments on such things.  He said it reminds him of Arizona in the fall.  Hmmm...  I was thinking more "woodland by the lake", but whatever floats his boat.  Anyway, I really like this one.

I even got to the store and bought some perle cotton (way more fun than buying groceries!)  I checked both Michael's and JoAnn's and the color selection was very limited.  Couldn't find the color I really wanted, so I will have to make do with what was there. 

What I did not get done today was a project I wanted to do to go with Beautiful Daughter #2's tree quilt (which, incidentally, matches the leftover quilt I made from the - uh - leftovers).

I was inspired for this project by something I saw on Anna Maria Horner's website, although this project will be quite different, if it turns out.  I'll be sure to let you know.

Last of all, I received my 3 partners for my handmade ornament swap group.  Fun!!  What should I do?  I thought about smocked ornaments but there are others that look fun as well.  In searching, I discovered Fern's crafty blog that has some pics of some really cute Christmas ornaments that look like tons of fun to make.  So many choices!  And the contemplation of it all is so much fun too!  Ah, sweet!

In the meantime, I just found out that this is National Card-Making Day (it's true, I promise!) so I think I'll go make a card in honor of the occasion.

Or maybe I'll just go to bed.