Sue Spargo’s Textured Embroidery Craftsy Class

You might recall that I signed up for two Craftsy courses earlier this year. Today, I present to you my first finished project, from Embroidering Texture and Dimension from Sue Spargo.

I ordered her fabric kit but could not justify spending an equal amount on the threads (once I become “pro”, I won’t mind spending for upgrades!). Instead, I used what I have left of a starter pack of cheap stuff Boy bought me many moons ago. Honestly, that wasn’t a terrible idea – most of the colors worked well and were chunky enough to stand out from the felt. Shrug.

My first challenge with this course is that the course itself was not what I expected. I am new to Craftsy and did not understand two important things: 1) that the cost of the class does not include supplies (this was a “DUH!” moment, considering how cheap the courses are), and 2) more related to the class itself, I had expected a step-by-step guide of how to replicate one of her pieces. What she offers is the inspiration to go at it yourself, explaining how she chooses combinations of colors and textures, and she does show you step-by-step on some stitching. In the end, that method of teaching is more valuable as it teaches you critical thinking skills on how to pull something together with your own imagination, but until I realized that, I was uncomfortable!

But my second (and largest) challenge was that my imagination is picky. Though I do enjoy looking at Sue’s bold and vivid work and I relish in her texturizing, overall it is not my personal style. I am not a fan of butterflies, and I felt very uncomfortable having so many “clashing” colors in the fabric kit without explicit directions of how to put them together so that they look as great as Sue’s. And toss that in with no step-by-step, use-these-stitches-together guide and I found myself squarely outside of my comfort zone. For a while I was frustrated (not with the class – with myself!); ya’ll know me: I generally whip out projects as fast as I can (sometimes too fast!) because I have clear ideas of the final product. This? Not so much. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with it once I got it done because I just sort of kind of hated the whole thing (no offense, Sue!)! Give me color combinations I swoon over, or shapes I collect in my mind’s inspiration vault, and I’ll go to town with ideas! But this… this was a challenge, for sure.

I figured a good inspriation would be to order Sue’s Creative Stitching book and make a small practice sampler of them. It probably helped, but honestly I am not quite sure how to explain that, somehow, it all did eventually come together. I cut out all the felt butterflies, and then continued to hold off working on the project. I finally added the cotton appliqué to them, and then sat on it. I began figuring out the background embellishments and was able to finally begin stitching on that. But then once the background of soft oranges was completed, guess what? It was shelved once again. Finally, I made the bold move to Just Make.

The background was the easiest part. I just had to keep things in the same general color family and hue. Here are just a few things I worked on for that: bullion knots couching twine as a border; small seed beads arranged around the edge of a micro-fiber cloth (found object from some tech item, I’m sure); and finally colonial knots anchoring ric rac along a pinked strip of felt as well as colonial knots decorating printed fabric, attached with the buttonhole stitch. Other stitches for the background were simply quilting (running stitch) and backstitch on cotton, varying sizes of Algierian eye stitch on cotton, flystitch outlining cotton, seed stitch on velvet, couched yarn along a piece of upholstery fabric, and ladder herringbone stitch along a ribbon with variegated thread. Look for them in the close-ups of butterflies below!

Adding the stitches to the butterflies seemed daunting at first but really once I started, the process just went. I stopped stressing over it – the idea was to learn, and surely I was doing just that! I will list a few, if not all, key stitches used in the individual butterflies below each photo. All the bodies were outlined in outline stitch, stem stitch for the antennae, topped off with colonial knots. (Note: I did not keep a record as I made each one, so it is entirely possible I have some mismarked!)

Stem Stitch, Whipped Woven Circle, Crested Chain, ZigZag Chain Stitch

Buttonhole Scallop, Stem Stitch, Back Stitch, Bullion Rose, and what I call “reversed” Blanket Stitch

Stab Stitch, Colonial Knot, Outline Stitch, Pekinese Stitch

Double Laced Running Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Colonial Knots, Split Stitch, Straight Stitch

Italian Knotted Border, Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch, Scroll Stitch

Colonial Knots, Straight Stitch

Straight Stitch, Bullion Knot, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch, Stem Stitch, Crested Chain Stitch

Closed Fly Stitch, Staight Stitch, Coral Stitch, Split Stitch, Woven Wheel Stitch

Split Stitch, Scroll Stitch, Seed Stitch, Blanket Stitch

Triple Chain Stitch, Detached Chain Stitch, Chain Stitch, Straight Stitch, Stem Stitch

Woven Circle Stitch, Straight Stitch, Palestrina Knot, Chain Stitch

Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Bullion Knot, Coral Stitch

Colonial Knot, Straight Stitch, Split Stitch, Pearl Stitch

Bullion Rose, Colonial Knot, Stab Stitch, Chain Stitch, Buttonhole Scallop Stitch, Straight Stitch

Double Whipped Chain Stitch, Colonial Knot, Stem Stitch, Straight Stitch

Some stitches were much easier than others, and some took a lot of work. Many people who have seen the pillow ask how much time it took. I estimate, based on the number of Netflix shows I watched, that each butterfly took about 2 hours to embroider (not to cut out, and not to appliqué). The rest of it was done in piecemeal throughout much of the year, so it is hard to really know, but I would hazard a guess of maybe 60 hours, give or take. Cutting, ironing, planning, seam-ripping, youtubing/reading for instructions, and so on – maybe I should hazard a higher guess, huh?

And once I realized my new window seat just had a boring white pillow, I checked the measurements of the panel and realized that with a little top and bottom border (reclaimed from fancy faux suede napkins), I’d have a pillow case. Tada!

 

Bee Yoga

This is actually the last “completed” project I have done recently. I was doing some archaeology work this summer and stayed with a gal named Ellie. She teaches yoga and raises bees! I convinced her cat Sampson to fall in love with me, too. I wanted to give Ellie something since I was staying with her for two weeks, including her birthday, and she offered to teach me yoga for free (though the timing never worked out for me) – and she gave me some of her homegrown honey! I thought a small cross stitch project would be appropriate and require less time than surface embroidery (ha, lesson learned!).

It is my first piece that has absolutely zero knots! I don’t mind knots, but I thought it would be good practice. Here you can see my neat and tidy back:

I borrowed the ideas from two sources: Embroiderbee had this great quote that I thought fitting for Ellie’s interest in yoga, plus I added the bees from it. Daily Cross Stitch had this little image that I used for the beehive portion and the inspiration to add the little movement trails on each bee.

Without planning this project ahead of time, I had no thoughts in mind of how to finish it or even the supplies to do so. Luckily, I hear Ellie is a crafty gal herself!

Capture One

So I fell off the blogging wagon a bit when Apple decided to stop supporting Aperture and therefore managing photos became extraordinarily menacing. Boy got me Lightroom but I could not get on board. Part of that was how it imported my Aperture library all fungled and so I just didn’t think too highly of it from the get-go. After much complaining, he set me up with a trial run of Capture One and even though apparently the interwebz claims it to be quite difficult, I took to it with ease (though the price tag might be more of a pill to swallow!).

So on that note, I hope to be adding quite a few posts once I get everything sorted out appropriately (because I have been crafting!). In the meantime, check out how I reworked that Scandinavian-inspired heart for my guild I wasn’t digging. The colors are more “English rose” than Scandinavian, but that’s because it was my first foray into the world of legit perle cotton so I just picked some colors without a project in mind. I think I love legit perle cotton. This was made with size 12. I am not sure what it will be yet so for now it is just hanging out.

more buttons

I embroidered three more buttons for my guild’s State Day event later this year. Remember, these each fit within a 1-inch diameter circle!

Two patterns came from 500 Simply Charming Designs for Embroidery. Everyone’s favorite is that wee mouse!

And one came out of the Scandinavian Stitch Craft book, though it is my least favorite out of all of them. I will need to practice these stitches a bit more.

And at our last guild meeting, we were shown how to transform them into buttons, using Dritz’s half ball cover buttons size 60. The process is fairly straightforward: remove the little hinge from its back; tape in a super powerful mini magnet; tightly wrap the fabric around the pokey edges; snap on the back; glue on a brooch locking bar safety pin; glue on a little disk of felt; tada!

Yet, one of the ladies pulled out a device and some thread and in just a few seconds, she had a handcrafted cord! I immediately was head over heels for it and bought my own! I went cord-making crazy with a lot of “scrap” threads I had laying around. It is pretty cool, I have to say, and adds just the right finishing touch, no?

Corbet’s Stitch Sampler: W

As a self-taught sewing beginner, I have not purchased many patterns. Almost everything sewn here at theCrafties has been found through the generosity of people providing their ideas for free online (or gifted to me by people I know!). However, as I am moving into an intermediate level, I have begun to look for specific projects.

I find myself always drawn to two lovely ladies: Sharon B of Pintangle and Mary Corbet of NeedlenThread. It is not that they are the only ones up to such rich encrusted embellishments of embroidery; nay – many creative stitchers abound on the Great Internet! I just find their writing styles pleasant and their love of teaching their craft to others to be inspiring. I am always learning something new with them, and they are not afraid to show their own humanity in flaws and disappointments which helps me stay in the game myself when the craft has begun to frustrate me.

So anyways, one day I want to create a masterpiece of a crazy quilt like Sharon. I blame my Aunt Sandy et al. for starting that. (In fact, that quilt may be the singular reason I picked up embroidery!). And one day I want to sew as regularly (and as amazingly) as Mary and be hip to the history of what I am doing (part of the reason I joined the EGA and local guilds; in fact, if I could blend anthropology and art history and needlework, I would seek out less European varieties and become their master!).

When I saw that Mary was selling her Stitch Sampler Alphabet, I just had to have it. Of course, it was scary. How could I possibly recreate such lovely letters? I printed out a color copy at Boy’s office and used his book-binding machine to make a shelf reference copy, but she is quite right! The electronic copy is amazing for quick link referencing and blowing up images! Then it sat on my shelf between alternating periods of me drooling over it and shying away from it. But then our friends Tim and Becky came in to the picture: they were getting married and what better gift than a handmade W for their new shared last name?

I did not have the appropriate type of threads available, so I used a couple of strands of embroidery floss. I am still looking around for a brick-and-mortar store that carries more varieties in types and colors. I might have to give in and buy them online in the future. Oh, Amazon and such, why must we have a love-hate relationship? It turned out completely fine, though I did consider redoing it if I could find the right threads (I checked one more shop a county over, but to no avail). Mostly, it was the braid stitch that looked a bit thin.

Overall though, I was quite proud of my W, and had no idea that such “complexity” was actually pretty simple. In fact, I had done this project before the blackwork heart, and that is one of the reasons I had originally scoffed at blackwork being anything more than simple stitching. Heck, if I could do this, of course I could do that! Looks are so deceiving.

I used seven colors, and I think nine different stitches. I had previously only knew two of those! In a single letter, which took only a few hours, I had learned seven brand new stitches. My favorite is the scalloped buttonholed chain stitch. I had always wondered how people did that!! At first I was afraid to pull too tightly, but once I realized that wasn’t an issue, I crammed them on there and, pop! Scallops!

I stuck the W in a shadow box and had big ideas. Their theme was simple and rustic, and I found a small stem of cherry blossoms that matched their invitation, as well as a tiny canning jar. It was gonna be awesome. But the tiny jar was still too fat, so I had to scrap that idea. I tried a couple of others: a string of pearly beads to mimic a string of lights. Nope; that just clashed. A band of crocheted ribbon – I liked it on the bottom, but it was too much for the top. A “Mr&Mrs” woodcut; it looked off in bare wood so I painted it their colors of brown and pink, and nope. Looked horrible. In the end, after time ran out and all craft stores had been searched, I left it as a simple ribbon at the bottom and let them decide if they wanted to add to it. But of course, I did not take a finished photo! Why must I always forget that final step so often?!

Luckily, Tim and Becky loved it and sent me a photo of it on their bookshelf, so you kind of get the idea of the finished project:

EDIT: Tim brought it back for me to photo. How nice of him! :D

 

Wrapped hoops

One of the things I am trying is wrapping my hoops. I first learned of this from a Craftsy class for Celeste Chalasani’s Stumpwork: Raised Embroidery Essentials (no, I have not started this project yet; I need more time to feel ready for it!). I know that several people I follow with feedly tout its importance, but I hadn’t really ever had issue. Of course, I hadn’t really ever sewn much either. Before I start Celeste’s class, I decided I really needed a wrapped hoop since I would be using a fabric I am unfamiliar with (I’ve only done cotton and linen to date). If a professional who is teaching me is telling me that I need something, by golly, I am going to listen and consider it seriously (why was that concept so hard for my university students? They wouldn’t even buy the book!). That’s also why one of the first things I did was buy what I named Johnny 5 – I doubt you will see the resemblance, but I am quite fond of the critter:

It is a Frank A. Edmunds & Co’s universal craft stand that I found at a local craft shop with a super-duper coupon. It isn’t something I researched specifically before I bought it, but it was something I desperately wanted to try. So, when it was just 20 bucks, I said absolutely yes please! And   I. Love. It.   It might not be the greatest, and it might not last long, but it is awesome nonetheless. I should have bought one years ago. I was worried I would have to sit all proper like – nope! I can work it so that I am perfectly slouched as the usual, even sometimes with my leg crossed over it or while I am half laying on my side! Ha! (I know what you are thinking, but I can still maintain really good embroidery form, trust me;) I was worried it wouldn’t stand still – nope! It is pretty good and tight. I was worried my threads would catch on all the protruding gadgets – nope! Of course not, they are all at the top (and you can hide the hoop’s screw too). And – bonus – my light clips right to it so it is perfectly where I need it, no matter how I sit!

So anyway, on to the wrapped hoop story. I went in looking for twill tape as suggested by the professionals. I came out with super discount fabric tape from the scrapping section. It may be a bad idea; time will tell if it becomes unsticky or moves around or whatnot, but at the cheap price of both the tape and the bamboo hoops I have (since I haven’t yet committed to nice ones), I thought it would be worth a shot. So rather than my hoops being boring white, they are going to be covered in lovely designs!

No, you wouldn’t really ever see the lovely design unless you aren’t using them, and if you aren’t using them, you probably have them stashed away out of sight somewhere, that’s true. But I like the idea anyway – it’s a zakka life for me! The point of wrapping them is to keep your fabric tight in the frame and rarely I have noticed that my stitching fabric does get a bit loose at times but I just continue to sew on it as is. However, now with learning more complex stitches, it will behoove me to keep a tight set-up. Part of that is the cheap hoops I use that do not have a crevice for a screwdriver so I can only hand-tighten them, but I am wondering how well this wrapping business will correct the issue. They also say I should always remove the hoop after each sewing session, else I could permanently mark the fabric. This has not once been a problem for me, yet I did try it with the blackwork heart … but then I quit doing it after a few days. Baby steps, people.

Learning to Love Blackwork

At my last embroidery guild meeting, we learned how to do blackwork embroidery and were shown the EGA pattern Learning to Love Blackwork by Linda Dorril (if you become an EGA member, you will have access to it to try for yourself!).

I have come across blackwork embroidery on the great internet before, and I did not think much of it. It uses counted cloths which I haven’t been a fan of in the past, and it looked simple enough: a single thread with simple geometric designs.

Alas, I was naive. Blackwork is one of the most difficult things I have done in the embroidery realm. Counting really matters, and the more complex the design, the more focus needed! The method we used was the Holbein stitch, sometimes also called the double running stitch. I prefer calling it Holbein because it is named after Hans Holbein the Younger, a painter who visually preserved the embroidery in his paintings of Henry VIII (yes, that one). Some believe that his first wife Catherine of Aragon (whom survived his worst ill temper but that he divorced through annulment) made it a popular style for the well-to-do. I have an art history background, so I loved that it is part of Holbein’s world (I first was introduced to his “the Ambassadors” with a sneaky skull) and I really truly enjoyed Showtime’s The Tudors, so the combination was fascinating.

The most difficult aspect for me wasn’t the counting – I felt like I met my match in a world of sewing that married itself to another pastime of mine: puzzle-solving. It was neat; it was fun; it was surprisingly tricky sometimes. I kept exclaiming to Boy how I just couldn’t get over how naive I was before I began! By “skipping” every other stitch, sometimes it was difficult to know where you were going. No, the difficult part was that Holbein stitch is traditionally used on fabrics of cloth where you’d see both the front and back (like the cuff of a flouncy sleeve). Thus, the front and back needed to look identical and nice. The backside looking nice? Not my strong suit. Although the image below looks decent (except for the blurriness and giganto knots), I decided no one would be seeing my backside and just sewed as usual. I’d say about ⅓ is done in correct blackwork style, but the other ⅔ went off key a bit (okay, quite a bit sometimes!).

The other issue is that I went off the chart and tweaked the design without drawing it out. I shifted center; I expanded the shape a little; I added extra bits to fill in what I felt like were way-too-noticeable gaps. Perhaps that was seeking a level outside of my beginner skill. Much undoing, redoing, undoing, and redoing was had. But eventually I gave in to my frustrations and the idiosyncrasies I had created and decided I had a finished product.

Folk Art Florals

So, I did it – I bought the rest of the project from a seller on eBay!

I was shocked by how small each panel was – but then I read the print on the actual project and realized that they were exactly the size they are suppose to be! Ha! Anyway, I stitched them up real quick like. Couldn’t help it. It’s addictive.

And then I was unsure how to flatten the fabric out. I checked my go-to gal, Mary at NeedlenThread, and found her post on Damp Stretching and Blocking Embroidery. Now, I do not have a corkboard or tacs, and I wasn’t in the mind to wait til I could go buy some, so I just used what I had on hand: pins and needs-to-be-replaced carpet. It worked as you can see in the above photos, though! Another new technique has been added to my repertoire.

Pennsylvania Dutch Tree

What is old is new again! This is a candlewick embroidery project (yet another aspect of sewing I had never heard of – though it kind of makes sense considering I was all of 4 years old at the time this hit the shops, as marked by the printed date on the bottom of the fabric!).

In the April embroidery guild meeting, we each got to rummage through items from one of the former members who had passed away recently. Since I am new to the guild, I did not know this person and it did feel a bit awkward sorting through her items but we were assured we could take as much as we wanted. There was so much stuff, it was pretty neat to go through. Unfortunately for me, it was entirely cross-stitch with patterns that clearly were from the 80s – just not my style. Or, so I thought! Mixed in with these items was this adorable panel that clearly deserved me to complete it and hang it up in my craft room, wouldn’t you agree?

Candlewick embroidery is the art of using knots (originally out of thread for candle wicks, if you can believe it!). This pattern called for colonial knots, which I also had never heard of. A quick google told me that it can be used interchangeably with french knots since they look the same. I struggled with it at first, the same way I struggle with crossing my arms “the other way” (cross your arms with “the other arm” on top; I dare you to try it, ha!). I really had to think with each knot at first, and in fact had to rip out the first flower to begin anew. Somehow I ended up simply making backwardly-wound french knots. While I like french knots, they can frustrate me. Mine tend to stand upright and therefore be spikey rather than flat and rounded. Once I mastered the colonial knot, though, I joined the ranks of those who prefer it. The knot does what I want it to do! Huzzah!

The pattern, called Pennsylvania Dutch Tree, is from the Creative Circle, and designed by Charlotte Reilly. I checked google and you can find it on ebay. I hope to find the other two panels that match and then transform them all not into something to be framed as suggested by the pattern, but a mini-quilt to display on my blank craft wall. Wish me luck!

embroidered buttons

My embroidery guild is hosting the State Day this year, so each member is assigned to make two buttons. I enjoyed making such tiny (one inch) pieces so of course I made more (and I might still, yet!).

This pattern might look familiar to you: it is the same I used for my O-hoop.

Oh, and my gosh, have you seen this Monoprice Ultra-thin Light Box?! Holy smokes, it is amazing. And not cost-prohibitive. And it comes in two sizes so you can pick what is best for you. And it dims for the perfect amount of light. My neighbor/step-mother-in-law got one and I was dumbfounded that I hadn’t heard of it and that it was so cheap.

My second button pattern came out of a book my sister-in-law bought for me: 500 Simply Charming Designs for Embroidery. I am no pro when it comes to satin stitching but I am getting better with every effort.

This pattern came out of a book I picked up spontaneously once at one of the few brick-and-mortar stores still in the area (in the next county over! I am so sad to see them vanish). It is called Scandinavian Stitch Craft. I have since added that part of the world to my bucket-list and will likely want to buy all the things. There is a local Vikings shop that deals in Nordic, Scandinavian, Sami, etc items and we picked up this Ekelund Kuse table runner. I pretty much love everything in that shop – even the jewelry (which makes me sad because I am not a jewelry kind of gal but if I were, this would be where all my monies went!). In fact, the owner has made several pieces used in the HBO series – how cool is that?!

This last one is just a lot of colonial knots. You’ll find out why I became a huge fan of them in a later post:) Down with the french knot!

We will be transforming our creations into actual buttons at a future guild meeting.

ribbon candy ornament

My MIL and I attended our first embroidery guild meeting in March. The project for the meeting was a ribbon candy ornament by Calico Crossroads using perforated paper. I hadn’t heard of such a thing! But, I signed up for it and worked on it here and there since. Mostly, I did so when I was waiting for the rain to stop in Zelda: Breath of the Wild (❤️).

It was quite monotonous and not my favorite: it uses so much thread, and only about two inches gets done within 45 minutes! (I didn’t time it, but that’s how long the TV show is that I used to get me through when I wasn’t playing Link.)

I did mess up here and there: to make it double-sided, you must make each slash twice before moving on to the counter-slash that forms the “X” or cross (also making that one twice). Sometimes I forgot if I had done only one, or already two. And the backside is a bit messier because I did not always catch my tails neatly, as you can see in the above photo.

It’s sewn paper – hello! I cringe at the thought of what will become of this piece of paper in the years to come! In the end though, for now, I have a dangly ornament that matches my craft room. And, I did finally perfect the double-stitch, so there is that!

cat + toilet paper

I have two cats. Sasha is the kitten of the family, and her spunky personality often gets her into trouble. Maya, three years older, is like a little old lady cat, prim and proper, and she rarely does anything wrong. The one thing she does (and Sasha actually doesn’t!) is eat the toilet paper. We have two bathrooms, but one rarely gets used unless guests are over, so that toilet paper was never safe (we can hear her usually going at it in the other bathroom to yell at her). Sometimes, we’d discover an entire roll had been unwound, with her little nibbles all along the side. Yikes!

I eventually decided I had had enough of that, and just kept it in the bottom drawer. However, nice guests thought we had just ran out and restocked it, or they were too polite to poke around and dealt with tissues rather than discovering where the TP was (since I did not always think to let new guests know). If it went restocked, the TP enjoyed a short adventurous life. If it went unstocked, I felt like a jerk for not mentioning it. So, I came up with this ugly idea:

That worked, but I wanted something much more awesome. And a bit explanatory. Eventually, I came across this image (which may or may not have originated here):

For the record, we did try hanging the roll the other way, but she just tore into it, the little bugger! So, I took that image, photoshopped it, added some words, and embroidered this:

I added some home decor fabric to the back to give it some heft.

And then sewed it around a roll to have the proper size. Dare I say, it looks so much better than the original! And, my guests get a kick out of it, too:)

cross stitch bunny

So in yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the embroidery guild gave us a needle book and a pattern to make a bunny on the cover. Well, ta da!

I added my own little details: french knots in the top and bottom border, eye, and nose; a two-color vertical line at the spine; and rather than long stitches, I made some Turkey work for a puffy tail (I learned how in the Craftsy Stumpwork class videos).

[P.S. I no longer have Aperture for photo editing, (thank you Apple – NOT!)  and to be frank, I have not had a chance to learn more than the very introductory basics inside the replacement, Lightroom. Aperture had a handy auto “quick fix” feature that I haven’t located yet in the new program (fingers crossed it is there somewhere!), hence the somewhat less than stellar images of late. I just cannot get myself to care about photography or real photo editing – I miss my auto button, bah!]

cross stitch 101

One of the things I’ve done this year is sign up for some creative classes. Craftsy was offering a buy-one-get-one event in January so I enrolled in my first two: Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo and Stumpwork: Raised Embroidery Essentials with Celeste Chalasani. I like to only work on one major project at a time (otherwise my life would be chaos) so I started with Sue’s but it is still a work-in-progress so I will have to share that with you later.

In the meantime, I found a somewhat local embroidery guild, Needle Artisans of Northwest Indiana, and they happened to have a free cross stitch class at my county library this last weekend so I asked my MIL to go with me (she’s done cross stitch for a good chunk of her life but is interested in what the Guild itself might offer). I have never tried cross stitch because I am self-taught and thought cross stitch might be too… uncompromising? Additionally, a lot of the patterns are boxy and though pixelated images are in vogue now since Minecraft and whatnots, it just isn’t my style. Yet, I do appreciate and adore antique cross stitch, so there’s my conundrum for ya.

I was very pleased with the event! The library had some books set aside related to cross stitch and embroidery. There were two table areas set up; one for members who brought projects to work on during the class (a nice variety!), and one for the class itself. They had several volunteers acting as teachers for us newbies and ran through the basics of needles, threads, cross stitch fabrics, and tricks. There was a third table set up with show-and-tell projects, too, so we could see some finished handiwork.

I was not sure I would learn much other than whether I liked cross stitching (cross stitch seems rather simple and I know about threads and whanot through embroidery) but it is so true you can learn something new every day! I learned three things that is ridiculous I never knew. First, I’ve been separating threads wrong my whole life! I always peeled them apart, like a Twizler pull-n-peel (and mumble at the occasionally knot). Instead, you just grab one, and hold the rest between forefinger and thumb as you gently pull. Duh! The other thing I learned is that the thread brand I use most, DMC, tags one of the paper loops with a handy little symbol (pun intended!) so you know which end to pull from so as to avoid knotting it up. And last, I don’t need to make knots, because I can just capture the tails under my other stitches. Why did I not know these things?!

The guild provided us printed directions, fabric, thread, tapestry needle and wooden needle case, and a baggie to take it all home in (each table also had scissors and a metal needle threader for us to borrow). We began learning with this tiny little “I like you” balloon image which I adore because it is something Boy and I often say to each other.

We were given a choice of needle book size, small or large, for a bunny pattern. I picked the large one to get more practice since the smaller one would not fit the border. I am working on it now.

On top of that, there was a pile of free sample kits to choose from when we finished. I chose these little picnic ants and finished it the same day, on our way to Chinatown (my brother was in town so my husband and I went with him and our Chinese friend for the Lantern Festival).

Overall, I was quite delighted and will probably become a member even though they aren’t located as conveniently as I would like. Their mission is focused on education, and that’s what I want out of it! There are two local area shops they mentioned, as well as a convention happening this spring in Chicago. Super excited to see where this takes me!

O hoop

As I mentioned last time, I purchased my first pattern off of etsy from KnottyDickens and printed it directly to the fabric via a short tutorial at NeedlenThread. I never intended to stitch the phrase on it, so before I printed it, I edited the image and made the center blank. My first go was just to be a test; then, if it worked, I was going to find a cool font and use a phrase I liked. I hadn’t spent much time deciding what that would be because I was a little doubtful of the magic I was hoping for.

It worked though, and brilliantly, I must say! And so I began stitching immediately. Only about half-way through did I realize, oops, I should have printed this out on a separate piece of fabric with a phrase to follow. Of course, I could always do it the old school way and trace the words onto it, or just simply write them in my own handwriting. But I came to really appreciate the lack of words. And, for reasons untold, an elaborate O just seemed to fit, so I’ve decided to leave it as is.

I don’t know where I will hang it, so for now it is on a temporary hook. Thank you, 3M! (Disclaimer: 3M has no idea I exist.)

2016 makes

I hadn’t posted a lot there toward the end of the year, huh? I was in the midst of a tough semester, to sugar coat it. I survived, so there is that! 2017 is going great. I hope that with my new teaching schedule and perspective on life that I’ll post more often because, well, I hope to have more creations! In fact, I’ve been a busy little bee – I even signed up for my first Craftsy classes (January is buy one get one free so I bit the bullet!).

First up, I made Boy a bag for his blood sugar stuff. He doesn’t have any blood sugar problems, but the dude gets a bit crazy about health sometimes and thought it would be worth buying a lot of stuff to test it. And it is fun to check every now and then, the science-y part of me will admit. He chose the fabrics out of my stash. I adore his choice for the inside: it reminds him of his grandma. I think it’s a cute little zippered pouch – it’s got little sloping shoulders (the tabs) which, of course, is an oops, but I think they are fun! I followed the same techniques outlined here.

I learned my very first paper-piecing project! I was so excited, since I love English paper piecing, but I was a bit scared with it being on my machine rather than by hand. It was so much more work than I imagined! The two methods are not related at all, in my opinion. I really didn’t care for it, but then the end product was something I was pretty proud of, so heck, maybe I do like it! (My inner crafting self is a bit schizoid I sometimes think.)

I followed lillyella’s Undercover Maker Mat pattern which was very easy to understand. I made a huge mistake (of course!) but left it. Do you see it? (The main fabric pattern is upside down! Ack!) I added my own little touch of a felt tab to stash a couple of needles and pins (it can be tucked back into the pocket). I also used twill measuring tape to have a ruler handy at any given time! And, with the way I sew (on a coffee table!), I do not have the space for a mat – instead I toss the cover over the edge of my couch. So, on the back, I could add one of my favorite buttons!

I also learned you can print directly to fabric! With a normal printer! What!! I came across NeedlenThread’s post and just had to try it. Transferring patterns is one of the reasons, I feel, that I do not do a lot of embroidery. But now…. now the world is opened up to me! I tested it out with this Knotty Dicken’s pattern, the first pattern I ever purchased from etsy. I’m moving up! I completed it in 2017, so I’ll include that in a later post. I was scared about making those roses – what kind of complicated stitch must that be?! How time consuming?! But, you know what? That is easier than a stinking back stitch, that is! Holy cow!

I also attempted to make a compass. I found the image as a random google image search and I tried to chase it back to the original owner, but since I don’t have pinterest, I couldn’t. I am dissatisfied with it as far as my intent (I want to make a set of hoops with a travel theme for my guest bedroom) but I did a great job, considering, so I think I will turn it into something for a travel-y friend of mine.

Well, thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet. May your 2017 be a creative one!

leather book cover

This project has been floating around my house for quite some time. Frankly, the idea of sewing leather was scary to me, so I hemmed and hawed a lot, but eventually I got through it! I had a swath of green leather from years ago, waiting for an interesting project so when my friend asked to make a book cover for her to keep records of her weaving endeavors, I decided now was the time.

leather_book_cover_1

I had the feather inspiration from Maureen Cracknell Handmade, and used hers as an outline. My version is intentionally not as delicate as hers with the idea that the chunky-ness would work well with the leather. Now that it is done, I am not so sure, but I would rather not copy someone else’s work exactly anyway.

leather_book_cover_2

My first hang up was cutting the leather itself. See, as I mentioned, this was stored in my closet for years, so it wound up with some creases and wrinkles. Can you iron leather? I am not sure – the internet says yes and no, so I tried a few methods on some scrappy edges and just couldn’t tell if it was working or not. Another problem is the nature of the leather itself – there are parts of it that just do not lay flat because that was not how the leather grew… I did have enough of it where I could cut a fairly flat piece out, so that is what I did (it was not the way I would cut if I was trying to get the most out of my yardage, if you know what I mean!). I will say it cut like butter, though:)

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I used my rectangle hoop to stitch the feather onto the leather after I had embroidered it. I delayed here for a long while also because I was not sure how I wanted to do the outline. I tried a few methods on a scrap piece, and settled on using an outline stitch that I had just properly learned for the Zelda crest mug rug I recently made. I did vary between six and three strands, but you can’t really tell. I am still learning embroidery, you know. Plus, I could not find a hand-sewing leather needle that was straight. Mine was not only gently curved at the tip (a feature I actually fell in love with and will search for embroidery needles of like kind) but also had a 90 degree bend before the eye. That made the motions a bit trickier, as you can imagine.

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Then, I delayed even longer yet because I was not sure my machine would appreciate sewing through leather. I did buy heavy duty needles, but since they did not specifically state “for use with leather”, nor did they have a cutting shape to their point, I was concerned – but it was all I could find at the store. Lucky for me, my leather was very thin and supple, so as long as I went slowly over where the leather was folded, it sewed great! I used my little clothespins to hold the layers together. Since both the leather and fabric was thin, I used a heavy-weight stabilizer to make it feel sturdy, and a brown ribbon for the marker.

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I used my quick & dirty method so I only had to sew two straight lines, adjusting for the size of the notebook obviously. I only chose this method because I didn’t want to put my machine through any more torture than necessary.

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I included a standard composition book; in the event she fills one up and needs to add another, it will be easy for her to find a notebook that fits.

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It feels really nice in your hands! The leather gives a nice grip but is so very soft!

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And now, I embark on another hexagon project! Yay! This was the first time I have ever cut squares in bulk – I felt like a quilter. While cutting, I asked myself if I would like to quilt yet – my family all does it so maybe I should join them. But the idea of having to cut more than this tiny stack (which felt monstrous while cutting) still has me holding off on that venture… for now.

fabric_stack

zelda crest mug rug

Boy and I both adore the Zelda games, so this is really for both of us, though I tell him it is his:)

zelda_mug_rug_1

I got the pattern from Our Nerd Home, and embroidered it over break. This one is really thick compared to my first attempt! I used three layers of fabric all told, with some thin batting and stabalizer between the first two (the third simply covered my crazy embroidery backside). It has a really great heavy feel to it, I love it.

zelda_mug_rug_2

It was, however, the first time I tried using bias tape, and I could certainly use some more practice!

chocobo mug rug

Do any of you know what a chocobo is? It is a bird from one of my husband’s favorite game series: Final Fantasy. I came across this image from HowToDrawManga3D.com and decided to try  my hand at a mug rug one day over break.

how_draw_chocobo_finalfantasy

I embroidered the chocobo onto some yellow fuzzy fabric I had, and for the first time, I experimented with different number of strands. The bird was mostly done with 6 strands, but the beak and feet were done with one. I was impressed at how much of a difference that really can make – not necessarily with this since it was on fuzzy fabric and all one color, but for adding texture in future projects.

mug_rug_chocobo_1

I really did not know what I was doing with the mug rug, so I learned a lot here. I made it up as I went with whatever materials I had handy. (What I mean is, I did not spend time planning it, which is noticeable!)

mug_rug_chocobo_2

For the binding, I had to sew two strips of fabric together (I used some left-over canvas from the applique piece I recently did). I also decided to quilt the mug rug after I had sewn the chocobo to the front, so I had to be tricky and hand-finish some of it to complete the look without sewing over top of the chocobo.

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He loves it and I have more planned. Maybe, since my in-person classes got cancelled this semester, I will complete a few more!

First applique experience

I finally wrapped up my sister-in-laws 2-year-belated wedding present and gave it to her. In this post, I am going to talk about the process. When she sends me over a photo of it hung on the wall in all its glory, I will post the final look.

I learned many things. One, I like appliqué as much as I like hexagons. For her project, I used all free materials, except we purchased the background (a nice canvas for structure) and the trim (upholstery piping). The rest came from her grandmother who has passed away, her stepmother (my neighbor, a quilter and giver-of-scraps), and what I had in my stash (some gifted from my friend Leslie). I used a template I found on the internet, but for the life of me I cannot find its source again. Grr! I did not use the giant one, mostly the three on the left and a few of the one on the bottom right.

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The process was simple – cut paper templates out, baste stitch around the edge and press.

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Oh, so two, I learned the difference between ironing and pressing. And three, that you can burn your ironing board cover :(

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Kaite was very lax about what she wanted. Or where she wanted to put it. So, I tried to stick with neutrals and her general house colors, but she also said to make it a bit fun. I selected a rainbow of colors and fabrics.

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Not all of them made the cut once I started putting them together. I think I only used about half of the ones I had prepared. Here is a look at all of them:

applique_flower_hanging_1

My inspiration came from this image, I found through a foray into Pinterest (I do not have a Pinterest account, for the record – but I scope it out every now and then. But not having it prevents me from locating this art’s owner…).

flower

A long time ago, I bought this rectangular embroidery (?) “hoop” (is lap-quilt frame more appropriate?) for a project that I hope to embark on soon for a coworker of mine. (See a theme here about belated projects?) It worked out really well! I pinned the petals in place, and then appliquéd them on one by one. And four, let me tell you, Star Trek TNG is starting to get really, really good. I am almost on Season 4 and I am just now starting to understand why the internet thinks Picard is such a badass (when I was little, he was just the old man!). Now, I know.

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An easy roll-over over to finish the edge:

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Even with the original choices for this pattern, not everything made the cut in the end. You’ll see that in the finale in the next post.

Then, some embroidery for the bride and groom – standard backstitch in a complimentary brown.

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I had to cut it to size, and I lost some of the petals here. It was slightly crooked so to square it off; more got chopped off than originally planned. Then, of course, adding a quarter inch seam all around ate some of the real estate too.

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I had another piece of canvas for the back trimmed out with pockets for a rod – to either be hung vertically or horizontally (the embroidery works with both!). And, to either be hung so you do see the rod, or with spaces so you can use rod hangers behind the whole thing so the hardware doesn’t detract from the view. I wasn’t sure how they would hang it, or if they would want it hidden or not. I sewed the front and back face-to-face and left a fairly large hole to turn it out. More pressing and ironing. Then I sewed the trim to the backside (I was too afraid to try to get it perfect whilst sammiched inbetween). I also wanted to hide the edges of the canvas for the rod pockets, but with them being that small, I could not get them to turn out. The sides are nicely hemmed, but the bottom isn’t. And ironing them was a pain also, so I went with fray check (the darkened line across the bottom). I mean, it’s the back, right?

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See those sweet scissors? Boy got them for me for my birthday! He says no embroiderer is complete without gold swan scissors. He admires them for their engineering and is sad he is not allowed to use them (he’s learned the hard way about my sewing sharps!). I should mention he is the one who picked out the background and trim for Kaite’s project. He’s very proud of that.

Hopefully she will send me pics along soon to show you the front so ye can be dazzled.

I also learned finally how to not end up with crazy knots all over the backside (in all of that, I had one knot – in the embroidery – and I was able to get it out before I tied it off!). I was so proud of it I took a photo, but the thread is too much the same color as the canvas and you can’t tell what’s going on. Just believe me. It was cool.

Crafternoon: Felt flowers

Over the weekend, I hosted another crafternoon. I printed out several templates from around the web and between my friend Ashley and I, we supplied felt, scissors, glue, thread, needles, buttons, and beads. Sites included How Joyful, Make & Do Girl, Lines Across, and some general ones I found through google image search that I can’t locate the original site for.

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Everyone also brought a snack. We had cheesy turkey quesodillas, blueberry muffins, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes, zucchini chocolate muffins, fresh blueberries, and fresh chips with queso and salsa.

There were four of us, a small group, and I wondered at how many I had actually invited and what would have happened if that number had been doubled. Out of everyone I know, I have the largest table (easily seats 8), and we certainly filled it with just the four of us!

Ashley made flowers to match the theme of a shadow box she is making and sent me a photo:

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Some flowers were much more time intensive than others, and so I decided I am too impatient to make the more complicated ones. I did enjoy learning some new tricks, like how to make flat 2D flowers more 3D. Oh, and how easy some of them turned out to be!

Mine were just randoms, so I could learn the process, though I might use that embroidered one for a book cover:

crafternoon_felt_flower

I forgot to take photos during the crafternoon, so I do not have any more to share. Katie made her new niece and nephew (twins!) a little gift: flowers for a headband and a small little bowtie. Courtney was creative and made the little cloud flower out of two different colors and added a button in the center, then she stacked a bunch of complimentary colors together for one of the 2D versions. Everyone’s flowers was pretty awesome and it’s a shame I didn’t take photos. Hopefully next time!

If you’ve been following, my hexagon pillow top is complete, and I bought a pillow form. But life came up and once again, it looks like I will not be finishing a project for a while. We have changes around the house (siding, windows, HVAC system, and a lot of other smaller jobs), I am in an intense gross anatomy workshop, my summer class began about two weeks ago, and it dawned on me the other day that the fall semester is almost upon us and I still have classes to prep for that. Oh, yeah, and a grant application for an archaeological project.

But I hope to squeeze time for some crafternoons, at least once a month. We floated around several ideas and it looks like paper quilling might be next!

Lysa’s match needle book

Here it is! This is the result of a pattern I tested for Lysa, the most generous gal to have given me a free kit to make my own (serious goodness, right there!). I truly felt that this little needle book was one of the most clever things I’ve seen around. I just had to have one, and I am so grateful she is so awesome to make that happen:)

Here you can read about the SMS Giveaway she hosted with books she crafted herself. I did not find the pattern troublesome so I am optimistic that she will have it ready at her shop soon enough so you can make your own match needle book! I also enjoyed using such a thick stabilizer; I had never used anything other than stiff interfacing and having something like stiff felt was brilliant. I am going to totally look into this option for future projects.

(Read on if you wish to hear a story about lightning, the evil doer.)

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This project was also perfectly timed. It is late June, but Mother Nature doesn’t realize it, so we have been enduring storm after storm after storm (I am listening to thunder as I write this). Thursday circa 9pm, lightning hit our house. Of course, Boy has installed all the high end surge protectors one could possibly own, but lightning is a force in itself. Apparently, and who knew, lightning can use the internet back door. It looks as if Comcast (the cable internet people) did not ground the cable outside our house, and the jolt of electricity came in that way, zapping anything directly connected to the internet (the modem, router, all the switches and miscellaneous devices to make the internet work in the house, the Vonage phone box, possibly the main phone, a smart tv, a PS4, and two media boxes). So, without the ability to do much work, or watch movies on Netflix, or play video games, I sewed!

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We thought it had also damaged our Wii U, and PS3, but when Boy brought home some equipment from the office the next day to get back online, they both magically turned on and were also able to connect to their networks. Phew. (Seriously, is there anything worse than losing all your saved games??) Now, something we cannot figure out is why our Onkyo receiver is fried as well, not being an internet device and all. But, who can say we puny humans will ever understand the force of lightning?

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Keeley is DONE

Soooo long in the making, but I was stoked to finally ship her off to her creator. I’ve posted about her here, here, and here, but here’s the final piece!

felt_keeley_framed

Also, I had a dilemma to solve – how to add her “pow” markings by her fist? I knew my embroidery skills were not up to the task. Then I had an epiphany – I could draw them on the plexiglass that frames her! I tried my favorite over-the-counter pen (Pilot’s Precision V5) and a trusty sharpie, neither having the results I envisioned. Then I dug around my craft room and found black puffy paint. Bingo!

felt_keeley_pow

Keith blogged about her here, and you can see in the first shot that I had trouble getting her in the frame without bunching up the background. But under the right lights, that isn’t noticeable. If I were to do it all over again, I would have a lot more structural planning. For this project, I just jumped right in. I had no plan on the outcome – I was relieved that it fit in a standard record frame, but that was utterly by accident. Without planning for how it would end up, I made due with what I had. And I would totally do this project again – Keeley is one of my favorite things I have ever done!

Felt Keeley progress

She is coming along quite fantastically! I tried my hand at a few different methods to “ink” her outline. I settled on couching black yarn with black thread. Originally, the yarn I bought was way too thick so I had to trade that in for something thinner. I wish now that I went with more of a rope than yarn because of the fuzzies up close, but from far away (as she will be hanging on a wall) she definitely kicks butt like the superhero she is.

Felt Keeley Comic practice Good news, Keith will be in town in August so I have a solid deadline to get her finished. Sometimes I need that, you know? And thanks to my “step-grandmother-in-law” Ruth for the giant embroidery hoop!
Felt Keeley Comic practiceFelt Keeley ComicFelt Keeley Comic practice

This type of embroidery is new to me. Usually, my left hand is under the fabric and I can feel when my thread gets caught. Couching the yarn, however, means my left hand stays on top to guide the yarn as my right hand works the thread around it. As such, the back of this piece is horribly embarrassing – but to allay any doubt in your mind that I am making the awesomeness that this is and not faking it somehow through photoshop, I thought I’d share:

Felt Keeley Comic practice

things on my table

I am sure you have been expecting pictures of my new kitchen but it has been really hectic here. Not only is there still much to be done with it, but Boy also has moved his company to a new location so that has taken a higher priority of our time. I will leave you with this tease though:

kitchen remodel wip

I also began scrapping again since I recovered my craft room. I posted all the pages I have made in my personal book, but I have yet to show you my Peru scrapbook. I started it shortly after my return in 2007, and school got crazy so I never finished. This is a shot of me trying to work out the layouts for the day trip to the national museum in Lima:

Peru scrapbook wip

I also need to get in gear if I want to participate for the Sew Mama Sew giveaway, hopefully coming up in May. I’ve had so many ideas for covers but it is time to start working them through. This isn’t intended to become a cover, more like an idea board of options while I work through the problems and creative process and await my nice wool felt shipment. (I just may have purchased the dream bundle at WoolFeltCentral, ooo la la!)

bookcover ideas

And have you ever heard of 31bits? Apparently there are a few companies out there doing something similar but I must say this one rocks – anthropology for the win! One of the founders is a cultural anthropologist who saw these Ugandan women, having survived and been displaced from the civil wars, making paper beads and jewelry but with little market in which to sell. 31bits was developed as a way to give them a client base and therefore a way support themselves and their families. Unlike other “parties” out there, this one is neat and simple – you get a box of goods, you sell what’s in the box directly to your friends, and you ship back what didn’t sell. No overhead of shipping, waiting, or returns. No obligation to try to get to a certain price-point to get discounts. Just an honest transfer from their hands to yours. I’m not much of a jewelry gal but Boy felt the urge to buy me this bracelet:

31bits jewelry

(Oh, that background? Well, one day I must tell you of the gorgeous quilting my Aunt Sandy does – in fact if she is reading this, she should really consider having a website to show case her work!)

cubicle wall art

My friend Leslie gifted me lots of crafty supplies – fabric, binding, lace, ribbon, sheeps wool – all kinds of stuff. So when I started messing around with the table runner thing she gave me, I decided it would be hers. (I posted about it here and here). She has had a major adjustment or two in her life recently so I stitched the beginning of my favorite quote on it. The original idea was to stitch the whole thing but I decided it would be too cluttered. It will spruce up her cubicle wall nicely, don’t you think?
cubicle wall art

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,

It became a butterfly.

-Anonymous

fabric family tree

If you missed it, you can read about the creation of the fabric family tree. Im super thrilled to finally get it framed.

paperpieced_family_tree_framed

I ran into a slight bit of a problem as the size I wanted was 16 x 24, which is not standard for photo frames. It is, however, standard of poster frames but poster frames do not come in the “floating” style (nor are they glass, but Ill take what i can get). I ordered two as a quick way to put it all together, instead of finding plexiglass for the backside elsewhere.

I was prepared to work with tutorial at How Does She? to make my own floating frame: Floating Frame Tutorial. But i lucked out because i was able to use both plexiglass pieces in one frame without any hotglue or other additional work. (The jury is still out on how you can see the little tabs though …).

Its been delivered into the care of its new owners, yippee!

And now I have a frame without any plexiglass but Im not deterred because “empty frames” make cool art. For instance, Make It and Love It shows two project ideas just for the holiday season: Christmas Wall Vinyl and Simple Christmas Decor.

What do yall think?

a family tree

So Im gonna say it: Im pretty proud of this project. It took me upwards of about 30 movies to complete (all by hand!) so I dont really care to calculate the time spent on it but it was a good time (i mean hello, i watched more movies in a month than i have in the last 5 years combined – thank you streaming netflix!!). Its true what they say – hexies are addicting. I was afraid to start this project because I had never done paper piecing before, nor had anyone I talked to. However, the tutorial over at craftstylish was well explained and easy to follow. And paper-piecing is quite simple! Honest!

Here is the backside:

paperpieced_family_tree_back

The idea for the project was a culmination of a couple of things. First, i had tagged this article at disdressed. I normally lean toward non-traditional quilting ideas, so hexagons-turned-tree-wall-hanging caught my eye. I have literally hundreds of things tagged in my RSS feed though, so it got lost in the pile for some time.

Then i was gifted lots of sewing things from my MIL when she needed to clean house to relocate. Included in that bunch were some items she had been in possession of since the passing of her mother. So here i was with pre-cut hexies waiting to be used for something special. But again, they were lost in a pile of fabrics awaiting the right time.

paperpieced_fabric

Once Boys brother had set a date for the wedding, I began poking around for ideas. A quilt came to mind, but are you kidding me? Im too much of a newb to take on that task and something that large doesnt interest me (yet). Eventually, I decided to lean toward doing some sort of family tree, since I know Kev is really into those things. And somehow all these dots got connected and I knew what to do!

paperpieced_fabric2

I picked the pre-cut hexies that I thought the couple would relate to the most and went out to buy matching colors. (Quilters cotton and heavyweight interfacing were the ingredients.) I even found this cool hexagon generator over at incompetech which i was able to size exactly to the pieces cut by Grandmother Dolores. The font I used was eye-balled from my favorite ever font GirlsAreWeird by John Martz/Robotic Attack Fonts (but I used the custom preview option at dafont to help me visualize the names).

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I sewed a little sweetheart on it, which was akin to the image on their Save-the-Date cards.

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Two little apples at the bottom for their kids and bam! Project complete :D

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<Well, it will be housed in an 18×24″ floating frame, but thats beside the point.>

paperpieced_family_tree_front

Now, those 30 movies did involve lots of accidents and learning so I doubt it would take me that long to do it over again. And yes, there are some hiccups that really irk me and i now know what to do and not do for a future project like this, but overall I think its sweet! Congratulations to the happy married couple:D

Next post = 100th Special! :D

crafting!

While my house may be under construction, i have squeezed in some artsy time. Im working on a super secret project that i cant post about until after a wedding, but its coming up so I thought id put a shout out there to watch for it.

What i can share with you is this super sized bookcover. I will eventually post patterns but they arent ready yet so chill out there, cowgirls. Patience is a virtue:) I am happy that now Ill be able to offer two sizes : the standard “mass market paperback” size and the standardish larger “trade paperback” size such as this one:

Purple Butterfly, a la Heidi Grace
Felt and Embroidery (Chain stitch and back stitch)

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Check out size descriptions here: Wikipedia Paperback Types

Crafternoon!

A while back I discovered the idea of a Crafternoon. Unfortunately I dont remember where the idea came from, but when you google it, you can see different takes on the theme. The general idea is to get together and make projects while you hang out. Since a lot of the people I know either have kids or young people in their lives, I thought a Tooth Fairy Pillow was in order.

tooth_fairy_pillow

I printed out the pattern from Larissa at MmmCrafts and gave everyone a folder with some felt. I also had tons of colored felt, buttons, thread, stuffing, etc for people to get creative with. The skill levels ranged from advanced to very beginner. Even the kids got to participate.

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And of course we had snacks. It was pretty successful overall! Almost everyone left with completed pillows – I still need photos of two more but I was excited to share the idea with you  (I noticed that the craftier a person was, the longer it took them to make one – doesnt that seem like reverse pyschology?!)

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Here is the one I made. I suppose I might give it to my niece when she comes of age (Im considering making a new one or showing her mom how):

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Doesnt she have a bit of a Flamenco Dancer to her? If I were to do the pillow again, I might use white fabric (so the mouth pocket doesnt show through as much – I just had the craft felt on hand) or something colored. If you check out MmmCrafts other works, the colored ones are pretty sweet: mmmcrafts turns two and tooth pillow for Isabelle. Thank you so much for posting the tutorial, Larissa :D

experiments

I havent been crafting as much as Id like to lately, but ive been doing some much needed things around the house so i forgive myself. I have been playing with some ideas though and learning more embroidery. This is my sample so far (candidate for worst photo on thecrafties thus far):

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The first few stitches can be seen in detail here. So far I have learned something like 24 techniques. Here are the latest ones, so you can see them better:

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Huh, maybe i shoulda pulled out the iron for that. But anywho. I also worked a bit more on this thread art experiment thingamabob. I decided it should go vertical. Im still pondering on how to fill in the empty space up top, as you can see.

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And I made this bookcover a while ago, but I hadnt posted about it. I made a fabric flower for the detail by somewhat following a How-Tuesday post at Etsy. I havent decided yet if I will stitch the leaves up at all, and this is the first cover I made with a fabric glue on the page marker. I like the way it turned out but Im not sure if the marker is too stiff now. The book I am currently reading isnt the right size to give it a go so the jury is out on that at the moment.

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thread art experiment

I get a lot of inspiration from crafters who use natural fabrics with delicate things like doilies, tatting, and lace. The look is very simple and clean but still elegant and sophisticated. Recently, I was happy to have been gifted a lacey table runner with a flower motif.

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But I just dont know what to do with it quite yet. The previous owner set me in the right direction I think by including some pieces she cut off. I took note and clipped a flower out.

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As an experiement, I grabbed some linen that was cut incorrectly for a book cover and thought I would try stitching the flower to it with colored thread to make it pop. The thing is, I really like it (whatever it will become) but now I am limited on what it can be because it was a very timely project and on scrap cloth – I wish i had known i would like it and worked on something more manageable, but c’est la vie.

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Im thinking maybe something I can frame? I think Ill add more things to the cloth but what those things will be is still in question. What do you think?

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I ordered The Embroiderer’s Handbook a while back and have finally decided its time to start my sampler. I have intentions on making a pretty sampler once I get the hang of what im doing, but for now Im excited to learn new techniques and content with just sketching them out on a cloth. (Sharon B at In a Minute Ago, who catalogs tons and tons of stitching and her amazing thread art, suggested I use Evenweave Linen 26 but I only found 28 and its working out for me okay.)

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Likely, I will post pics as i go along. Flipping through the book has really been fun and I cant wait to get to some of the sections. Here is what I have so far – not much but I just started:

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How have you learned embroidery? Do you have a favorite stitch? Any tips to share? Im all ears!

Pril and Ay

For my niece – I am a bit late with the April gift, so its two for one this round! The pattern came from FutureGirl, out of the Sasha the Seahorse pattern. Thanks again Alice!

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One day Ill get to play with beads and sequins but she is still far too little so nothing but french knots and other embroidery for now. I love love love the shape of sea horses, dont ask me why. I had fun making them, but I will warn you that the adult is just a tad bit more difficult than the baby to make, since you need to combine two pre-stuffed parts (the body to the head). But if I can do it, you can too! :)

surprises

So there i was, straightening my sheets the other day and as I flipped the top sheet over to tug the bottom one, I was greeted by this huge monster.

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Perhaps he wasnt as mammoth as I had originally thought, but mind you *i was just in the bed*. Literally, like 60 seconds before and it was found right where i lay. He was just shy of a quarter in size. After about an hour search (seriously, what took me so long??) i discovered it is a Parson spider, and although not poisonous, people can have reactions. Hooray.

Its their world too you know. I almost never kills bugs (mosquitos are the only exception). I put him outside so, you know… he can come right back in. But hey, it was raining so i didnt want to go far:P I like to live dangerously.

The other surprise is that I whipped out this glasses case for my MIL. It was a very simple project but i didnt truly follow the directions as you can see from the design. But you can follow them here, from Design Sponge. She always has reading glasses laying around so I thought this would suit her. It is also the first time i got to use the button elevator tool she gave me – very handy indeed!

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crafty catch-up

One of the projects I made since losing my usb cable is Ruar, the Starfish. I used some gifted fabric and felt, did a little embroidery with french knots and fern stitching, and sewed and stuffed. My neice loved it, as it was small and fit in her hands and mouth:) I got the pattern from futuregirl, from her super cute sea creatures set. Since i committed myself to one toy a month for the year, you can expect to see other creatures from her set here in the future.

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Another project I made was a very belated project – a purse for my sis-in-law kt. I was a little nervous at how small it came out but shes into small purses so it was a perfect choice for her afterall. Phew. I also learned how to do one of the fancy stitches on my sewing machine. I still need way more practice with that, but I was really excited about it! I got this pattern from Made By Rae. Its her internetly famous buttercup bag pattern.

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I also made a a little monster for my friends daughter as a birthday present. I had fun personalizing it for her from RevoluzZza’s How to sew a RevoluzZzionary monster tutorial.

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This is the first bookcover made with my new process. Im very proud of it because it has a much more quality feel to it but its just so easy. I took some pics for a tutorial, but the light was poor (much like most of my photos) so I am going to sit down tomorrow and make a better effort. Hopefully, fingers crossed, ill have the tute up soon.

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There is still one more project to talk about, but Ill save that for tomorrow. Good night and dont forget to change your clocks!

Janu the whale

There is this cute little kid that I had promised a slew of  toys for, and she is now a whole year old! Man, how time flies. I will attempt to make her a gift every month for the year, as long as I can rack up enough sea themed goodies. It will be fun to see how much better Ill become after all the practices.

Since this is the littlest she will ever be on her birthday, I started with the largest of the sea creatures – a whale. I found the pattern over at Small Dream Factory. Its not the whale I had envisioned originally, but in the end, making a humpback whale was pretty cool. I only wish that I had enlarged the pattern a bit (the whale is only as long as my hand).

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Arent you proud that I was oh so clever enough to think to stick some yarn out the top for the water spout? :) Of course, I really dig embroidery, so i just had to embellish the polka dot fabric (which, by the way, was gifted to me and has therefore a bit of an heirloom quality to it).

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The pattern suggested to use felt for the eyes, but I wanted them to stick out more so I used some of grammas buttons I had left over from the baby shower. Here I ran into a problem though, as I sewed myself into a corner. The buttons were too close to the edge to use the sewing machine (OH! Did i mentioned that as part of our wedding gift, Pseudo-Mom-turned-MiL gifted me her awesome Bernina and all kinds of goodies?!?!) So i sewed what i could, and hand stitched the rest. Then i was paranoid I could never turn it, what with these giant buttons and all, but luck smiled upon me, phew!

I also was clever enough, if i must say, to add some detail on the underside. I just poked some yarn through, then went back over it with white thread to tack it down.

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To top it all off, it is stuffed with some bells inside so it rattles! She loved it, however briefly that lasted, and honestly that was more than I expected. But apparently I won her with the buttons, so i will keep that little tidbit in mind!

Charlotte’s blanket

This post was a long time in coming. And when i say long, i mean loooong. She was born in december!!  But I just got word that the gift was received and loved (phew!), so now you can see it.

Her parents chose the “all you need is love” bedding set and painted her room a soft blue with a dab of orange.

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I wanted something to match, so I went with “sherberty” colors. I had started the throw before her birth day, hand embroidering all the hearts and cutting out all the blocks.

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I had even started sewing it together at my psuedo moms house since I didnt have a machine at the time, but, well, my creative mood strikes in the middle of the night so i rarely went over there to complete it.

I had made one of these before, so I pretty much knew what I was doing (one day, Ill post it in Lost Treasures). In theory, it is a simple project. I measured and cut exactly this time, so that my corners would match better. Regardless, I failed at that. (Even after pinning a lot of pins, it still got unequal by the end of the rows.)

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I also failed piecing it together in several regards. Lets just say I used my seam ripper almost as often as the sewing machine. There is one piece misplaced, what I like to call a little game for Charlotte and her family to find;) In reality, it was too late by the time i noticed it and i was not going to undo half the quilt.

For the rag look, you go around all the edges and clip them, being careful not to clip a seam. I happened to clip two seams, but no big deal, as I could hand stitch them back together. Right? HA! What I had thought was two seams turned out to be something like 77 seams clipped, because of the way the material was folded to clip, i was clipping farther with the bottom part of the scissors than what i was seeing on top. I sucked it up and re-did almost all the stitching with the machine. Something i like to call super quality with reinforced seams;)

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So, I washed it, right? And then like, all these holes appeared. Nothing to do with my clipped seams that I painstakingly corrected. No, I blame it on the sewing machine tension, something I am still learning how to adjust. Some of them were really bad, as you see here:

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So back to the sewing machine, with newly adjusted tension. Oh, and washing it made all the little lint pieces stick everywhere, so it didnt look as nice and new as it had prior to the washing.

I had needles break, threads snap, and bobbins jam. I ran out of thread at one point. I wanted to truly start all over and burn it in my dumpster, just dont tell Charlotte that. But boy stood by and supported the torture that this gift became. The most upsetting part was that after all that hassle, I just did not want it to fall apart after Charlotte received it and washed it. So when I realized that at every intersection of heart square corners, the seams were loose, I about lost it. But i returned to an old quilter’s trick of tacking with yarn. Although afraid that after one more wash, it would be my luck that the yarn untied itself, I tried to remain undaunted. Thankfully it worked, even if the neat little ties became little white puffs.

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Although it is the most problematic project to date, I learned SO MUCH. I learned about sewing machines, needles, tension. I learned how to tackle different problems. Hell, I am an expert seam ripper now! So even though it did not turn out as beautiful as I had envisioned it, I put my love into it and came to grips with its faults and love it. Here is my favorite part, a little something something for personalization (the purple lines are from a fabric marker and has faded).

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So here it is, in all of its misshapen glory. First, the bottom:

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And now the ragged top:

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a dudes bookcover

I have a quilted bookcover that i picked up at a local arts and crafts show. I love the thing. It helps keep my books in great condition, and even resist dog eared corners and the occasional spill (its just enough to soak up the wetness while i whip the book out of its cover). Plus, the bookmark always stays put, and as a friend once pointed out to me – it allows privacy of the book you are reading so people cant make judgement calls. (Do people do that??)

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I wanted to try my hand at making one because i didnt see any that were embellished. Im thinking embroidery, beads, sequins – whatever. Since i usually dont make anything for myself, i needed a volunteer. Tofer was the obvious choice – we read the same kind of books and i see him like every day so hes who i thought of. But…

Invaraibly, he is a dude. And do dudes want a quilted book cover? Prolly not. He liked the idea of having one, but we agreed it had to be “manly”.

So i picked up a few fat quarters and chose this as his fabric. Black and white – classic, “man” colors, and a pattern that was simple. Now i needed to embellish it, but that very word seems feminine, doesnt it?

I went with “blood red” thread and followed some of the pattern. Two things:

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1. I had to color the pattern so i knew  where i was sewing, but also so that any  stitching gaps werent as obvious. My red  pen turned more pink on the fabric, so  that would be something i would change  if i made this one again but in general, you cant really see it.

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2. This part of the project was done before i had even more practice at embroidery and so I used all kinds of crazy stitches. Were i to do it all over again, i think i would use a chain stitch, and definitely vary the number of threads – by using the same everywhere, it gives it a very flat appearance. Lesson learned.

I didnt have a pattern. I kind of looked on the internet but wasnt quite confident that they matched the cover i owned. So…i winged it. I measured 3 times to cut once, but admit i cut sloppily for the outside piece because i had expected that i overshot the seam allowance more than i actually did. Good news though – i didnt run into any problems! Just had to adjust my sewing to make the edges straight.

So i had two peices of cut fabric and therefore a dilemma: My purchased cover was quilted, but i felt that would take away from the pattern and dudelyness of it. I could tack it with small stitches here and there, but again, i was worried that wouldnt be a good move. So i called my psuedo mom and she suggested finding a kind of hem tape. One Joanns trip later, I had Stitch Witchery to work with.

Since I wasnt sure how stiff it would become, i only used it in three strips – one for each flap that would get folded over, and one down the spine, where the embroidery was. It was an incredibly easy process, and was only barely stiffer than the fabric – i assume after a wash or two, you wont even be able to tell. BUT… somehow part of my fabric yellowed a bit. I tried to figure out what caused it: (a) i had already washed the fabric, so it wasnt any kind of bleeding from using a damp cloth with the stitch witchery (b) if it was caused by the stich witchery, it would have been in a different place, and at each strip (c) i used the same amount of time on each place, so it could also not be from too much heat from the iron. I am still at a loss at how it happened (though i am leaning on that it just must be from the heat of the iron), but Tof thinks its not noticeable and its his cover so Im good with it.

The last detail is the bookmark. A simple black ribbon sewn at the center of the top. Chris really digs dragons, so i searched Etsy and found artdawgs. The size of this pendant seemed good, and the colors were perfect. (It was also my first Etsy purchase, hooray!).

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The token had a tiny little hole and the larger black ribbon didnt fit through it well. I improvised and sewed a smaller black ribbon along it. The first time was purely by machine, and it got crinkly. I used a zigzag stitch at 3 with length 4.

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The second time, i stitched it by hand in long stitches, just so that when i used the machine, i wouldnt have to pull it left or right to keep the little ribbon center, which probably caused the crinkle.

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It lies pretty much flat, so it worked! I did change the stitch length to 2 though, and it gave a really sturdy feel to the bookmark.

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So, without any further adieu – voila!

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and then the bird landed

This is a project i have been working on for a bit. I got the bird pattern from Spool Sewing.

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It was very easy to piece together by hand although I altered where the opening was for the stuffing because i had chosen very thick felt to use as the fabric so i needed something larger to turn it out.

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And my usual trick of using a teeny tiny crochet needle (12/1.00mm) to assist in turning out the smallest corners worked like a charm.

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I also took boys suggestion and stuffed it extra full – i could have still added some in the tail area, but it was hard to do since thats where i left it open at. Originally, i thought that by using this cool fancy felt, it would be enough to have a cool fancy bird.

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As it turns out, the more you work the felt, the image burnished onto it begins to fade. So my birdie was pretty blah.

I decided it would be cool to embroidery the pattern on the felt and chose black as a stark contrast to the solid red. I was excited because it really looked cool. However, the more i worked it, the pattern disappeared completely in parts, so some of the pattern was done free hand. Thats totally ok by me except i didnt really know how to tie it together. To me, it looks like a few different patterns on one bird, and I am still sorting out whether i like that look or not.

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I felt that if I had continued the patterns to the bottom as well, something would be lost. So i ended the patterns at the seam line and needed to tidy it up so I chose to line the seamline with black. I think this look would equally be cool, if I had done black felt on the bottom.

I also started to trace the seam line with an actual stitch through the felt, here and there when I had extra thread but not enough to continue a pattern. At the end, i decided to use a full 6 strand rather than 3, and loop it around the stitch from the seam itself (red thread). So sometimes those two lines are separated visibly, but as my first of this kind – its awesome. :P

It took me so long because my finger was sore from pushing and pulling the needle so i took some days off between to finish. Another drawback is using white stuffing because it does get pulled out here and there and looks like cat hair (i do have cats, but i am fortunate that they dont shed much). I need to look into ways to dye stuffing. Any ideas?

another flower pin

Along with my brothers birthday gift went his likewise belated christmas gift, which I also needed to include his girlfriends present. Im saving for a trip to france on top of the stress of buying a new house that needs a little TLC, so my money is quite reserved. Solution: homemade goodness! In fact, i hope to eventually always have homemade presents, but alas they require time and skill – two things i am trying to collect more of.

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For Carrie, i wanted to try a different approach. Princess Lasertron uses such awesome color combos, so I wanted to be a bit more daring. I still dont know how she does it, her eye for color amazes me, but here is what I came up with.

I also had more time to spend on it, so like the wrist corsage I made for the mum-to-be back in January, I made quite an effort for the stitching to be just as neat on the back as it was on the front.

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I hope she likes it! :)

imitation flatteration

Most artists learn through copying. It makes sense – humans pretty much do it with everything: language learning, cooking, fashion, gadgets. What’s fun about it is adding your own spin and making it yours. This is how the world evolves. Something I will always try to do, though, is to never make money off of someone else’s idea. So in my search for creating “products”, those projects that I copied will never meet the standards. But, alas, sometimes I just have to try my hand at something, regardless of how blatantly obvious it is as a copy.

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This project was inspired by Princess Lasertron. She designs these brilliantly colored felt flowers, with all kinds of awesome buttons. She is a big hit currently in the bridal world, a new take on a traditional item. I strongly urge you to check her out, you’ll fall in internet love with her immediately, I just know it.

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I was simply itching to try this out, so what better opportunity than my pseudo-niece’s baby shower? The host and moi (as co-host) wanted to try our best to not be traditional, so this idea would be awesome as favors.

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I had no prior skill to felt crafting or even embroidery. I google searched, and came up with Sharon B’s dictionary of stitches – so helpful!! I learned maybe like 10 different stitches, and have plans to learn lots more. She has some amazing possibilities on her site.

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Anywho, I went around to local antique stores looking for jars of buttons and came up pretty empty-handed. So while visiting my gramma in Southern Indiana, I tossed it out to her that I was searching for buttons. Gramma is whom I inherited my packratting ability from. If anyone would have buttons, it would be her. And she didn’t just have some. Oh no, she had literally maybe 9 pounds worth of buttons collected over the years by her and my great gramma. I spent hours picking and choosing. It was très difficile, but I managed to borrow about 4 pounds worth.

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The host provided the felt and thread in colors that matched her theme. My pseudo-mom (she would be my Mother-in-Law should I ever get married) suggested using stencil paper. Great idea! I used my Cricut Expressions with a couple of different borrowed cartridges that had flowers and cut in two sizes – small ones of about 1.5” and larger ones of about 2.5”, so that I could stack them. I also made two sizes of leaves, in two shapes, that were about the right proportion to the flowers. Using a disappearing ink fabric marker, I marked all the felt and cut away.

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Another difficult stage in the process was matching up the buttons and colors. Princess Lasertron works with a slew of color palettes. I found myself being constrained to monochromatic themes. I don’t know how she does it. But then again, the color choices might have assisted me had they been my kind of colors (I prefer the colors that look so good, you could eat them:) These colors were not edible for me.

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I started with embroidering all the leaves, as singles or as sets of two, in all kinds of stitching. Then I put together a flower, found buttons to match, and began embroidering. I learned early on to sew the pin clasp first, as doing it after everything was stuck together was difficult. Sewing the buttons on came last, although ironically, sometimes the placement of the clasp made that part difficult too. Once the flower was completed, I matched it to a style of leaf and then moved on to the next. I definitely do not have these down to a science, even though I made 32 of them…

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I wanted something a little more special for the Mum-to-be. Princess Lasertron makes wrist corsages also, so what the heck, I’ll try that too! The host had realized that better color choices would be more fun, so she had bought some yummier colors. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to buy matching thread. Under normal circumstances, I could have gone out and bought some, but it was down to crunch time and neither of us had the time to do it. So, fortunately I had a box of embroidery equipment on hand from my pseudo-mom. She did not have purple thread to match the new colors, but she had black and a silvery kind. The flower creation turned out to not match the original ribbon I had picked out and it was about midnight the night before the party. What to do? Well, again, Fortune smiled upon me. Two years ago, my bro and his girlfriend visited and I found a nice piece of black ribbon in the room after they left. It was perfect. (See, packratting really does save the day!)

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I also wanted her flower to be better quality, but I could only work with what I had, so I doubled up the leaves and the back flower, for two reasons: it would be stiffer, thereby looking nicer on a wrist; and I would be able to hide the crazy ugly stitching on the backside. It was a learning experience to sew between two fabrics, but I achieved the look I was going for. It turned out super nice, and everyone loved all of the flowers.

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Craft itching satisfied, party favors succeeded.

The drawbacks to this project were: I only had one shade of fabric marker, so on the darker fabrics, it did not work so well. I do not have any other experience with fabric markers, so perhaps it is normal but maybe it was because I was using it on felt or the marker wasn’t a good brand, but the ink disappeared almost too fast to cut the shapes, even when I went over the stencil several times. I also originally attempted to make the backside of the pins look neat, but gave up. Some of them had the knot so close to the edge that it peeked out. We also used thin felt, and I believe that a thicker, sturdier felt would look more quality. The pin backing, being so tiny, is a little difficult to clasp and unclasp. And as I said, in my opinion, better colors would have been more inspiring to me, and might have allowed me options beyond monochromatic schemes.

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Also, check out these cupcakes that the host made:

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And how cute are these baby face cookies? Jill from Jill’s Sweets & Treats made them.

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