An Armful

Only one week until Christmas and I think I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m fairly certain it’s not an oncoming train, too.

My goal of makingg many of my Christmas gifts has turned out pretty nicely. There are a few things that aren’t going to be done (no way I’m going to be able to make one, much less two, kilts in a week) but I’ve gotten so much accomplished.

Here’s an armful of my sewing projects, before I started boxing and wrapping. I still can’t believe I made all of those purses! By my count, I’ve sewn around 15 purses. Granted, they didn’t happen all in one day (or week, or even one month), but I’m still pretty pleased with the results.

Somehow in all this sewing I still have avoided making a purse for me! LOL! I’m hoping to rectify that once I get done with the last of my Christmas sewing, but I’m not holding my breath.

I also made a few — OK, about a dozen — coffee cup cozies. I reverse engineered based on a cardboard sleeve from Starbucks and love how they turned out. I used Insulbrite and they keep things nice and cozy. If you want to make some yourself, then check out this great tutorial (which I found after the fact).

And I’ve got to share one more purse, another Melly & Me pattern. I think I’ve had my eye on this pattern since it came out but never added it to my collection until after we came back from Market and Sarah had stocked it at the shop.

I think it’s easily the largest purse I’ve ever sewn. To give you some perspective, it’s hanging on my size 4/5 children’s mannequin. Definitely the bag for the gal who carries everything on her shoulder. The pockets are nice and roomy, too.

The embroidery and applique were all done by hand, which took a little while. Oh, but it’s so worth it! And I think the gift recipient agrees: she immediately loaded it up with all her stuff. That is the best thanks I could ever hope to get.

Purse-o-nality

There are going to be a lot of purses under the Christmas trees of the people I know and love this holiday season. They’re lots of fun to make, don’t take a lot of fabric or time, and are easily tailored to each recipient. Plus they’re just about as useful as you can get, so no worrying about giving someone a present she’ll just end up having to dust.

I’ve made two of the black-and-white stripwork purses on the left using Autum’s great tutorial (scroll down on that page). You really can’t tell but there’s a matching key fob hanging ver the front of the bag (it’s the same wallpaper type fabric as on the purse, so it sort of blends). I actually embroidered the recipient’s name on the fabric before I made the fob, which I think makes it just a little more special. Don’t you?

The second purse over is another Melly & Me bag. I’ve waxed poetic about the patterns before, so I’ll spare you today. Just note that some lucky person is getting a little of my Japanese Sleeping Beauty fabric with that gift. It’s definitely very girly. It’s probably one of the smaller purses I’ve made, so it’s not the gift for the friend or family member who carries her entire life in her purse. *cough*cough*my BFF*cough*

The other two purses in the photograph are both from Cassie Barden’s book, The New Handmade. I’m not kidding when I say that I’m really enjoying the book and there definitely will be more of both of these bags coming down the pike. The blue (made with Erin McMorris’s Park Slope fabric) is the Flea Market Purse. I couldn’t find bookboard for the bottom insert, so I used plastic canvas instead. It’s so pretty and I can’t wait to make one for me. The patchwork bag was made with more of Melissa Averinos’s Sugar Snap fabric. This one, I think I’ll make an exact duplicate for me. It’s so soft and pretty! The buttons are actually vintage ones given to me by one of my son’s coworkers. They were a perfect match for the green in the fabric so I just had to use them.

I made eight of these cute little bags as goodie bags for Miss L’s birthday not-party and they were a huge hit. The pattern is the makeup bag from Fig Tree Quilts Easiest Accessory Bags Ever. Even making eight of them, they sewed up fairly quickly (although I did omit the handles) and it was no big deal to personalize each of them with the guests’ names. I actually think the gym bag and laundry bag patterns (included) would make great graduation presents. There’s also a purse option that’s in between the gym bag and makeup bag that I’m dying to make. You know, because a girl can never have too many purses.

In Pictures

I’m a huge fan of giving photos and photo-related presents at Christmas, especially to family members. My parents love to tell me how they need absolutely nothing and not to spend a dime — not the best way to plan my gift list.

My oldest is a senior in high school this year, so I’ll definitely be doing some nice, big prints to give all four sets of grandparents this year. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, so it’s OK to not have his siblings in the picture. I hope. The storyboard up there is likely what I’ll be framing to give to them, although I’m not 100 percent certain if those are the pictures (and text) I’ll be using. Pink Ink Studios has some great storyboard templates for sale (although you need to be comfortable with Adobe Photoshop and layers to use them), if you want to make some of your own. I like to get mine printed at either MPix or Scrapbook Pictures. To save a little money, I try to make sure I use standard sizes so I can buy a ready-made frame and mat instead of having to spring for custom framing (it’s also a great timesaver, if you are in a hurry).

I love combining cute with useful, so photo calendars are another favorite gift on my list. There are tons of services available that let you plug your photos into ready-made calendars (Snapfish, Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, FedEx Office/fka Kinkos, Zazzle). Or you can buy a digital scrapbooking kit that will let you do the same thing. I prefer the kits, because you have more control over the final product. I’m a huge fan of the calendar kits from Shabby Miss Jenn Designs and the Shabby Princess. I’ve bought from both sites and been delighted with the final product every time. Probably my favorites are the CD-case calendars. They’re compact in size and so useful, sure to be a hit.

Continue reading “In Pictures”

Tiny Trees

I’m plugging away on my Christmas gift list still, which is great for my gift pile but not so productive on the blogging front. So look for a slew of Crafty Christmas Countdown posts here in the next few days as I wrap up this year’s blog project in time for you to have all the inspiration you need for your Christmas lists.

I saw the cutest Christmas trees at Starbucks last year but didn’t want to plunk down the money for something I thought I could make. Instead, I picked up a papier mache tree form at Hobby Lobby, three sheets of 12×12 scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, a paintbrush and some white paint, then made my own.

It’s so easy, but a little time consuming in a rather repetitive way. First, I painted the entire tree white. You don’t have to use white; I chose that color because the paper had white snowflakes and also because it coordinates with my decor. While the tree was drying, I cut each sheet of scrapbook paper into .5″x4″ strips.

I swiped a bit of Mod Podge on the top third or so of the back of each strip and adhered it to the tree, starting from the bottom and working around the perimeter of the tree. Each successive row overlaps the row below it slightly (I think I finally realized it worked best to overlap by about a half). I didn’t worry too much if the tree wasn’t covered completely because the cone is painted white.

The tip was the trickiest part but I just worked slowly around it and bent the paper gently so each piece wraps smoothly around the top of the tree.

After everything dried, I used the handle of my paintbrush to gently curl the loose ends of each paper strip. I’m planning to add some silver snowflake buttons to the top of the tree and maybe some glued white glitter to give it that shiny “snowy” appearance.

Not so much a lover of the paper tree? Then maybe you like it’s companion just a bit more. I stopped into the quilt shop one day to check out what was new and immediately fell in love with that little felt tree kit from Artgirlz. Is it not the cutest thing ever? I planned to put it up in my studio but Honey has fallen in love with it, so I think I’ll let him take it to work. It was nice to have something to work on during my Thurday night TV binge last week (Ugly Betty then Grey’s Anatomy — and please don’t get me started on that Izzie storyline. Ugh.) I just sat on the couch and stitched the felt balls and beads around the tree, kind of randomly and without a lot of worry other than trying to make sure I didn’t put two items of the same color right next to each other. It’d also make a nice project to stick in your purse and pull out for those times when you have to just sit and wait.

Thankful: 20. A craft store close enough to my house that I can run out to pick up more elastic when the 300 feet of it I know I own has gone missing.

Apronistas

Although I  haven’t been writing about it, I have been busy working on gifts for Christmas. There are going to be quite a few folks receiving aprons this year. They’re so fun to sew but also really practical. Plus they make for fun packaged gifts to give. You can make potholders, homemade cookie mixes, felt cookies (instructions below), mini cookbooks, Mom-n-me aprons — really, whatever you can think of to stretch your creativity.

It’s a great time to be making aprons, too. There are so many patterns and tutorials to be had to sew aprons for all types of personalities and figures. I’m a huge fan of Meg’s Sew Liberated (formerly Montessori by Hand) patterns. They have such great style and I love the results. I’m planning to make her Lola and Lolita aprons for someone on my list who may or may not read my blog. ~_^  I’ve previously made her Emmeline apron (that’s me wearing it at left; see the reverse here) and love it’s versatility; it’s perfect for those times when you just can’t choose one fabric for a gift recipient.

TipNut.com has compiled a list of 54 free apron patterns plus another 50, which is perfect for those of us who are trying to craft on a budget. Some offer PDF patterns you can download and print, while others provide tutorials for drafting your own. Some of the ones that caught my eye are the Jeans Apron, Dishtowel Apron, Pleated Embroidered Apron and the One-Yard Apron.

Two of my favorite specialized apron patterns are hosted on blogs I read regularly. Autum’s craft apron is so cool and practical, definitely the apron to make for the crafter in your life (especially one who avoids the kitchen at all costs). Sarah’s gathering apron is just the perfect gift for your favorite urban homesteader or maybe your aunt back home with the fabulous garden (or pecan tree). Come to think of it, I could really use one to help haul the laundry back upstairs …

Some of the favorite aprons I’ve made are ones I drafted myself, basically measuring and cutting rectangles and strips for the main panel, waistband and ties for half aprons (so fast, so cute and fun!). I especially like doing those for the little girls on my lists but there’s no reason you can’t do them for boys, too. Or dads! Think of how fun it would be to choose fabrics completely different from the ones you normally buy (hey, that’s pretty good shopping justification). Denims, twill, camo, flames — just have fun and go wild!

The same applies for trims and embellishments. I added the lace on the bottom of this apron I made for my niece last Christmas on a whim but I think it just makes it. When you’re at the craft store, check out all the great iron ons, patches and funky embellishments. There’s no rule that says you can’t use rick rack or pompon trim on an apron, and it’s a great way to try your hand at adding embellishments or using up the last bit of one you used on another project, since the yardage requirements will be much less than that of, say, a skirt.

I hear my niece loved the apron we sent for Christmas but the felt “cookies” I packaged with it were an even bigger hit. They’re so easy and inexpensive to make that you’ll want to pack up a dozen with every kid apron you make. I boxed mine in a treat box from the Martha Stewart Crafts line I picked up on clearance at Michael’s, but you could just as easily use cellophane or paper bags tied with ribbon, raffia or strips of fabric (great way to use up the edges you trim to even up fabric).

All you need is craft felt — I used a light tan and light pink — an embroidery needle, two colors of embroidery floss (a light tan here and a darker pink) and some pillow-filling material.

Trace and cut out two circles for each cookie out of the tan felt. I used the bottom of a small bowl I keep on my craft table. I used the same bowl to trace circles on the pink felt, then free-handed the icing blobs within the circles and cut them out. I pinned the “icing” on one tan circle and stitched around the edge with my sewing machine.

Use the contrasting embroidery floss to add “sprinkles” to the top of each cookie. Vary the angle and spacing, but try to keep each line close to the same size, kind of like real sprinkles.

Change your embroidery floss to the tan. Stack one “iced” circle with one plain tan circle and use a blanket stitch around the edge to attach them together. When you have about a inch to two inches left to completely stitch around your cookie, tuck some of the pillow filling in the middle so the cookie puffs up a little bit. You don’t want it to be stuffed, though. I add what’s equal to about two of my thumbs, for reference. Then finish stitching around the edge and — voila! — felt cookies.

Multiplicity

One of the requests I’ve had regarding the Crafty Christmas Countdown is for gifts that can be made in bulk. Boy, can I relate to that one! With so many people on my list, I find it important to have one or two gifts I can make lots of, especially if it’s something that works for either gender.

Probably my all-time, No. 1 gift I make in bulk is food. Cookies, breads and the like are always a hit. And if you have freezer space, you can start making them up to six months ahead of time (assuming you can stand to heat up your kitchen during the summer).

My friend Katie has a great tutorial for creating patchwork fabric bookmarks. They’re probably not enough to give as a solo gift (better for stockings and maybe as gift toppers for a little something extra) but worth making a stack to have ready for giving.

I think scarves are always handy (depending on where you live, of course) which makes them great for gifts to crank out in multiples. I don’t crochet but I’m still tempted to try one of these Crocheted Ribbon Scarves from The Caffeinated Crafter. This Patchwork Scarf tutorial from the Sew, Mama, Sew blog is designed for kids but I bet it’s fairly easy to modify for grown ups. Or make this Scrap Scarf from JavaJem.

One of the gifts I’ll be making this year will be reusable grocery bags. I’ve made the switch myself and bought about 15 bags (and another dozen for my folks) but really wish I had made them now that I’ve seen all the great tutorials out there. These would be great for using up old (or thrifted) bed linens or some clearance fabric that was too good of a deal to pass up. Plus, they’re such a handy gift that can be used over and over again. Check out these great bag-making tutorials:

Makin’ a List

A couple of folks reminded me that I skipped a rather large step in my discussion of Christmas gifts. I mean really, who starts talking about gift ideas before she even makes a list?

guiltily raises hand

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In my defense, I was just so excited to get working this far ahead that I neglected to talk about one of the most important parts of the process. I don’t know about you, but I keep a notebook with me at all times. In addition to jotting down lists of things to pick up from the store and the random outfit sketch, I also keep a running list of gift ideas for others. I have even been known to start that list as early as Dec. 26. (Please, don’t hate me.)

What I’m finding each year is that our holiday gift list is growing. In working on this year’s list, I jotted down L’s Teacher 1 and Teacher 2. I know she will have two teachers at preschool this year and they’re going to need gifts. She also has a ballet teacher and a teacher at gymnastics.

Honey gives something to his assistant each year, so she’s on the list. So is the gentleman who cleans his office, and the nice guy who works in the parking garage. That’s seven people so far — and I haven’t even started with the family members and friends!

I’m on a first-name basis with both the mail carrier and the UPS guy. (Segue du jour: my UPS driver and I are from the same small town in Alabama. We actually graduated from high school a year apart, although neither of us remember the other.) Yep, gotta have a little something for them.

I have a lot of fun with gifts for the teens in my life, mostly because it’s a blast to find something that’s just right for them. They’re another welcome addition and number at four (and counting).

My BFF and circle of friends often present the biggest shopping challenge (four). The bestie basically buys what she wants when she wants it. Of course a handmade gift is the perfect solution for that! (BTW, if she thinks I’m going to write what I’m making her, she is wrong!) The other three are varying degrees of difficult, either because of dissimilar tastes or my occasional tendency to go overboard with a gift.

Seventeen gifts leading into the family stretch:

Husband
Parents (2)
Kids (3)
Inlaws (5)
Siblings/inlaws (14 — not sure if we are exchanging with all of these)
Nieces/nephews (17 — although I’m not sure about all of these)
Other special relatives (5+)

If I’m counting right, that’s potentially more than 60 gifts to make for this year. In fact, I’d have to make something every 2.5 days until Christmas if I want to create a gift for each person on my list. Kinda makes you see why I’m starting so early this year!

Scrabblicious

I have this tendency to see something crafty and think, “Oh! I bet I could make that!” That’s pretty much the case with these Scrabble tile pendants. I’ve admired them on many occasions but just never gotten around to trying them until last week.

Can we say “fun”?

I started off with this great tutorial. Definitely worth checking out before you get started. I ended up buying the Aanraku bails online because none of my local craft stores carry them. (I’m sure I could find them at a bead shop but the one closest to me moved and now it’s not so close.) My first batch of Scrabble tiles came from the local “treasure shop.” When I started shopping around to see if I could get better prices, I found that better deals could be had on Ebay and Etsy.

Epoxy is easy enough to find, and I used Mod Podge for my adhesive. The ones above were made with some older scrapbook papers from my still-too-large stash as well as fabric. I have to be honest; the fabric is easier to work with, in my opinion. The main challenge with both is finding an image that’s small enough for the tile, which is .75″x.8125″. On the other hand, that means you can use up some of those small scraps that aren’t big enough for pretty much anything else.

I’m still not sure I’ve got down the epoxy thing yet. More bubbles than I would like and some coverage issues. If you’re going to do a lot of pendants, I’d recommend doing them in small batches of three to five. Twelve at a time? Save it for when you get faster.

I did not “cure” the epoxy on the first batch I did but the most recent I did, and I plan to continue with that. Of my first three pendants, one dried sticky. The other two were fine, so I’m not sure what I did differently but obviously it was wrong.

My Christmas gift-giving list has quite a few folks who would appreciate a custom piece of jewelry, so I plan to make many, many more. (If you’re on my list and get one, act surprised!) And they’re really not that expensive to make, especially if you raid your existing supplies. I think the batch of 100 Scrabble tiles I just bought was about $12 (a good bit cheaper than the 20 cents/tile I was paying). The most expensive item is the bails but I think that’s not something I’d want to skimp on.