Archive for the ‘Seasonal Crafts & Decorations’ Category

Falling Felt Leaves

November 5, 2012

Despite concerns that the fall color show might be compromised by the drought, the colors here in the Chicagoland area were magnificent this fall. The leaves seemed to cling to the trees longer than usual, but with a few rains and windy days, most trees are bare and the show is now over. I’m not quite ready to be done with the fall colors, however, so I decided to bring the color scheme inside with leaves made out of felt scraps.

Here’s how to make the leaves . . .

1. Collect felt scraps in fall colors – oranges, reds, browns, yellows, greens.

2. Download leaf coloring pages from the Internet. If you are feeling a bit too constrained by these, design your own leaf shapes from trees real or imagined.

3. For each leaf, cut out two sizes; the larger one should be about 1/4 inch bigger all around than the smaller one. I played with color here; some leaves are high contrast like shown here, while others are two shades of the same color.

4.  Stitch the two pieces together emphasizing what you want to in the leaf – for example, stitching around the edges to highlight the overall shape or stitching the vein pattern. I changed it up based on the individual leaves. You also have many options here for stitching – hand stitching using a variety of embroidery stitches or just a running stitch; machine stitching that takes advantage of your machine’s capabilities or a simple straight stitch. The bottom line is to make it fun and spend as much time as you want to or have.

Use … enjoy … rearrange often!

P.S. If you have a little person that wants to participate in the fun, they could glue the leaves together and then “make stitches” with a Sharpie.  Or, if old enough, he/she could use a big needle and big stitches to hand sew the leaves together.

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A Spring Scarf with “Dancing Flowers” Fabric from M and S Textiles Australia

February 13, 2012

With spring perpetually around the corner this winter, I sat down to make a cotton scarf to go with one of my favorite cardigans, a sea green one from the Land’s End Canvas line. The fabric, “Dancing Flowers,” designed by June Smith for M&S Textiles Australia is absolutely delightful and is all about spring. I bought the green colorway but it comes in a pink, too.

I was feeling particularly frugal the day I bought this fabric and so only purchased 1/2 yard. Rather than making the 22″ square scarf I initially envisioned, I made a rectangular scarf measuring 39-1/2″ x 10-1/2″ when finished.  Here are the steps:

1. Cut fabric to the dimension you want. Look at a favorite scarf to help you decide how long/wide you want it; also think about what you are going to wear it with and how you like to tie scarves. I cut the fabric selvage to selvage and 11″ wide, allowing for a 1/4″ hem all around. I would have liked it a bit longer, but since I was working with a limited amount of fabric … sigh.

2. Stay-stitch 1/4″ in all around the edge of the scarf. (Note: Click on the picture to enlarge it and see the detail more clearly.)

3. Starting with the long edges, fold the raw edge to the wrong side of the fabric all around using a generous 1/4″ fold; as you do this steam press the edge in place (watch that hot steam on the fingers!).

4. Make a rolled hem by rolling the raw edge under the fold to the inside and using a blind stitch to tack it down; roll and stitch as you go beginning with the two long edges of the scarf and ending with the two short ends. When finished, your hem will measure a generous 1/8″, all raw edges will be concealed, and the stay stitching will not show when the scarf is flipped to the right side. Suggestion:  Start at one end, not in the middle as shown below.

5.  Wear it!

Looking for scarf tying inspiration? Check out this Liberty of London You Tube Video, just one of many scarf tying videos.

If you love the “Dancing Flowers” fabric but can’t find it in your locale, Pieceful Heart Fabrics in Lisle, Illinois still had a few yards left in the store the other day. When I did a quick search of other fabric places that carry the M&S line here in the U.S., some online retailers that popped up were: CantonVillage Quilt Works in Canton, CT;  FiberWorks in Billings, Montana; and Heart Song Quilts in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Now better focus on the holiday at hand and make cards and cookies (the traditional Jackson Pollock inspired sugar cookies) for my daughter’s school party.

Hand Made, Last Minute Hostess Gifts

December 28, 2011

This year when hosting a family party, we used a theme from several years ago, “Make It or Bake It.” As the hostess of this sit-down dinner party for 26, I was tempted to purchase items (made by others, of course) for our family’s gifts for the grab bag but decided against it. Our contributions:  My husband made granola based on a recipe from the classic More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. I made an apron using a holiday dish towel from Crate & Barrel and somewhat following the directions for a “Tea Towel Apron” in 1 2 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Projects, a great sewing book by Ellen Luckett Baker, especially for someone just taking up this craft. This apron was so easy that I am going to make a few more to have on hand for hostess gifts in the coming year – it also helps me justify purchasing some of the great tea towels out there these days!

Happy sewing in the New Year!

A Family Gift: Sharing a Craft and a Lot More

December 16, 2010

We all know the holiday season is more about the giving than the getting, but I have a family gift that will soon be wrapped and waiting under the tree for Christmas morning that is a bit of both. This year, well more likely next year, the entire family is going to learn to knit and we are going to do so by knitting a scarf for another family member. I am going to wrap up four balls of yarn and each person will choose one package from the bag. Then, together we will open them up. I’ve made it simple: the scarves will all use just one stitch, the garter stitch; the yarns are user friendly; needle sizes range from size 9 to 11; and the finished scarf can not measure more than 72 inches unless the knitter is completely agreeable to the idea of making it longer. Oh, and yes there is a deadline, we have to finish by Valentine’s Day.

I love the idea that a new skill is being learned by my husband and son – my daughter knits a little – and that we are making something for someone else. It will require patience – students and teacher alike – but I am hoping that 12 months from now, everyone will pick up another ball of yarn to knit a scarf or something else for another person in their life. I’m also hoping for some funny memories to stash away and tell in the years to come!

A Simple Advent Calendar that Celebrates the Season

December 2, 2010

Where I’ve been since my last post: Thinking about this blog, raising kids, helping family, working, getting the outside ready for winter, volunteering, cooking, cleaning, working out at the gym, thinking about projects I want to make, but not actually making them. Where I am now: Writing on my blog rather than just thinking about it, making the projects I have been contemplating, cleaning out the studio, and all of the aforementioned activities. Sometimes, you just have to move the stuff you love to the top of the list 🙂

Now to share my Advent calendar idea:

For the past several years, I have wanted to make an Advent calendar, specifically a wall hanging with lots of embroidery, applique and other embellishments. I have every intention of starting it in July or August, but something else always takes priority. So on Sunday night with December 1st three days away, I came up with another idea. A simple idea that involves the whole family and celebrates the season without the commercial hoopla that surrounds this time of year.

Each member of the family (four people in our case) received six pieces of paper on which they had to write an inspirational quote, a family goal for the coming year, or something for which they are grateful. After everyone went to bed, I got busy and wrapped each slip of paper with a “treat”. For the most part, the treats are really activities that we will do the day the package is opened. So often during the holiday season, I find myself saying stuff like, “We don’t have time to play that game right now because we have to get ready for Christmas.” The treats are an invitation to slow down and spend time together. Last night, on December 1st, the treat was to make M&M cookies together after school – before homework! The house smelled great and there was lots of talking and laughing; my teenage son participated but since he shuns anything sweet, he will get soda bread, one of his favorites, tonight. We finished up by taking a plate of warm cookies over to our neighbors. It was a nice change of pace before we moved on to homework and an evening of work and volunteer activities.

Other treats packaged up include drawing a winter wonderland picture together on a really long piece of paper, inviting neighbors over for dessert (something we have been meaning to do for months), making fudge, and going to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the Tivoli theatre here in Downers Grove to raise money for Sharing Connections, an organization that provides household items to families in need. There was a bit of orchestrating required when it came to deciding what activities to do on what days – I did take a look at the calendar and planned the treat accordingly so that the activities will hopefully not seem like work. At first glance it looks like a jumble of flat brown packages, but each of the 24 packages is numbered 1 through 24.

Abiding by my mantra of “reuse, repurpose, recycle,” I used brown paper grocery bags (I knew there was a reason I forgot to take my own bags into Trader Joe’s last week). What I also love about this idea is that there is not another decorative item to box up so that it can be stored for 11 months out of every year.

Happy making!

Busy Life, Busy Hands

December 17, 2009

Regarding my lack of posts these past several weeks, I can explain: sinus infection, pink eye, my other day job (the one that pays), and ushering kids through that last heap of homework and school projects before the holiday break.  Oh, and one other thing, I have been making quite a few gifts with several more still in the works.

For the teachers this year, I have been using some of those cute holiday fabrics and leftover pieces of batting from various quilting projects to make coaster sets.  When combined with some favorite baking and hot chocolate mixes, it makes for a practical, but yummy gift.  I also like the fact that the coasters are simple enough that kids can help make them.  To make, cut out two 4-1/2″ squares of fabric and one 4″ square of batting for each coaster.  Lay the two fabric pieces right sides together and then lay the batting on top, centering it on the fabric squares.  Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, stitch around the coaster through all three layers, but leave a 2″ gap for turning right side out.   Turn right side out, press, whip-stitch the opening closed, and quilt.  I quilted these coasters by stitching just about 1/4″ from the edge so as not to interfere with the fabric’s design.  I used the walking foot attachment on my Bernina sewing machine to prevent the layers of fabric from shifting when sewing.

Several friends are getting knitted scarves — each one is different  in terms of its design, color, and length.  The scarf below, knit in all garter stitch on size 15 needles, uses two different yarns.  It measures 35 inches, a length that I really like wearing with certain coats and sweaters.  (I am becoming more and more like my grandmother who always had a cold neck — now I, too, like a scarf tucked around my neck in the house and out on these cold winter days.  At least I’m not wearing one in August yet!)  Scarves are great way to use up lone skeins, play with novelty yarns, or mix and match yarns to create an interesting pattern.

Well, back to being an elf … happy sewing!

Make It or Bake It Party Theme

December 3, 2009

Last year it was my turn to host the big family Christmas party:  A sit down dinner for around thirty people.  Let me just say my home is not that big nor is it set up to do this easily.  In the days leading up to the big party, we were busy bees cleaning, re-arranging furniture and decorating.  One of the many challenges was to find just the right size tree – bigger than Charlie Brown’s, but small enough so that thirty people could safely move around it!

A friend’s architect husband once gave us some very good advice when we were buying this house, “Don’t choose a house based on the one big party you throw each year.”  We certainly did not as everyone who came can surely attest to!

We always do a grab bag gift exchange where a person can choose an unopened gift from the box or take an opened gift from someone else.  As the hostess, I kept the game in place, but changed the rules a bit:  The gift had to be something they either made or baked.

As the game got underway, there was the usual laughter and joking around, but there was also a lot of “I didn’t know you made …”  I was amazed at the talent in my family – a cousin and his girlfriend make wine, an uncle makes wonderful bread and marmalade, an aunt makes great fudge … Needless to say, many of these gifts were taken from one another as we played the game.

If people ran out of time, I did allow a store-bought gift, but it had to be something that could be used up.  Someone brought the really expensive dish soap in a pretty bottle that I love to smell in the store, but can never justify purchasing.  That gift exchanged hands a lot – I was not the only one who wanted the dish soap!

At the end of the day, it was a great party – there was much laughter and conversation, great food, and a wonderful family with whom to share it all.

I’m not hosting the party this year, so I don’t know if the Make It or Bake It rule will stay in place and become a tradition, but I do know it was great fun and an idea I will use again.

Enchanting Mushrooms for Fall

October 29, 2009


Enchanting is not usually an adjective that comes to mind when describing Halloween — or even many Fall — decorations, but that’s what these mushrooms are!   These giant mushrooms are now “growing” in my neighbor’s yard, so I had to take a peak and a few pictures.  My neighbor (and fellow quilter) said she could not take credit for the idea — she had seen these mushrooms at The Farm, a really great farmstand in Westmont, Illinois, near where we live.  Relatively easy to assemble, the biggest challenge, she explained, was finding the right gourds and pumpkins that fit together, so that the end result would look like a mushroom.  Much like designing a quilt, she was looking at color, size and shape in making her selections.  The Farm, at least when she was there, still had a huge selection of gourds and pumpkins, so she was able to play with combinations until she was satisfied.

I know its a little late to post these directions, but if you’ve got access to a variety of pumpkins and gourds and want to give it a go, the directions are below.  If it’s too late for this year (as it is for me), file these directions for next.

  1. First, decide where you want the mushrooms to “grow”; this is where you will want to assemble them.  Next decide how you want the “stem” and “cap” to fit together (e.g., do you want the cap to angle back, to one side, or sit squarely on top of the stem).
  2. After you have collected your pumpkins and gourds, gather up the rest of the supplies — a dowel for each mushroom, a hammer, and a small saw to cut the dowel to the right size, if necessary.  This is a good project to use up leftover pieces of dowel, but the pieces have to be long enough to go through the mushroom “stem” and into the “cap” several inches.  If you want to anchor the mushrooms to the ground, allow another 4″ to 5″.   Dowels that are about 1/2″ in diameter probably work best, but you can experiment a bit here.
  3. Take the pumpkin or gourd you are using for the cap and with gentle, but firm taps, pierce the skin of the bottom of the cap; set this piece aside.  Now, stand the pumpkin or gourd you are using for the stem on end where you want the mushroom to sit.  Again, using gentle, firm taps, pierce the top end of the stem and  continue driving the dowel through the entire length of the stem and into the ground.  (A quick note here, my neighbor said that once she pierced the skin of the pumpkin/gourd, the dowel went through the fleshy part fairly easily.)  At this point, the dowel should be protruding from the top of the mushroom several inches — enough to hold the cap securely in place.   Holding the cap at the angle you want it to be when assembled, firmly push the cap onto the dowel.
  4. Step back and smile!

As you can see in the photo above, my neighbor nestled three mushrooms in with some other decorations.  The mushrooms could also work under a tree, along a walkway, or even in a garden bed.