Pinterest Christmas

My dearest Honey is beginning to dread the words “so I saw this cool thing on Pinterest,” likely because he’s come to expect me to completely obsess be inspired to do yet another project. Miss L’s birthday party may have been one such project. And Christmas just may be another.

Before Thanksgiving, I was talking to Honey about our need to replace the 10-year-old Christmas tree. “You know,” I said, “I’m really tempted to just leave all the ornaments in the attic this year and just start fresh.” And he said, “Okay.” Which I interpreted as “go right ahead.”

Whether that was his intention or not is completely irrelevant. What is important is that I consulted him on color scheme (“If I were going to change things up, would you rather do this or this?”) and I did my best to do it on the cheap. That meant having my oldest pull anything out of the attic that worked with the new colors (silver, white and aqua, with a touch of red) and scouring Target, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods for inexpensive decor items I could use. Oh and of course making a few things, too.

Want to see?

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Oh Christmas Tree. Tree and many ornaments from Target (mostly the shatterproof kind since the tree is situated in the middle of the greyhound’s indoor track aka the dining room) but also some from Home Goods etc. and our existing stash. Ribbon garland from Hobby Lobby (50% off). Star from that W place. Tree skirt made by me.

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Coffee table. Candleholder thingy from Home Goods; candles from my stash.

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Dining room light fixture. Most of the ornaments from the attic. Snowflake/crystal drops from TJ Maxx. Bow ornaments from Target.

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End table in the living room. Silvered glass tree from TJ Maxx. Glitter house from Hobby Lobby, painted and glittered by me. Tiny tree from attic.

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Foyer. Holiday sign a free printable I found on Pinterest. Brush tree from Marshalls. Ornaments and garland from Target.

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Foyer light fixture. This is seriously one of my favorite touches! Paper star from Home Goods ($4!!) with stash ribbon added.

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Stair railing leading up to the living room. Stockings made by me (aqua feather wale cord from my stash + Platinum Delovely Damask from Antiquity by Michael Miller). Garland from Michaels (60% off).

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We have a sort of half wall along one side of the dining room and where the stairs come up, open to the foyer. It needed something but it couldn’t be anything that could fall off the ledge since it likely would end up broken thanks to either us or the cats. I made a really simple banner garland with more of the damask fabric and a glittery aqua ric rac (Hobby Lobby, 50% off). It’s hung with some of those removable 3M hooks with more of the Target ornament bows to hide the hooks.

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Fireplace hearth and mantel. Seasons Greetings garland, mini trees and pots we had (I freshened up the pots with some white paint). Ornament garland from Home Goods. Silvered tree and glass owl from Marshalls.

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Schrank in the kitchen. A work in progress. Wreath, stands and ornaments we already had. The “gifts” are wrapped boxes I had on hand. Glass owl from Marshalls. Banner garland made by me.

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Kitchen sink window. Mason jar we had; I just added candy canes from Target. Silver glitter snowflakes also from Target and hung with monofilament thread, suspended from monofilament thread strung on two 3M hooks. Lighted garland from the attic.

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Kitchen cabinets dressed up with ribbon (50% off at Hobby Lobby). I used tiny clothespins (Joann) to clip the Christmas cards we received to the ribbon. It took two rolls of ribbon to add it to all the tall upper cabinet doors (8 total) and we’ve just about filled them with cards.

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Tree in my studio. I’ve had it three years and this year decorated it with the items I made for L’s birthday party. The tree skirt is my design (created for the FreeSpirit booth at Quilt Market with different fabric).

We had a few friends over for a casual open house, which of course meant I did a little cooking:

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Tablecloth from Home Goods. Table runner made by me with a different colorway of the damask fabric. Centerpiece put together with silver tray and candles we had (I Mod Podged glitter on the pillar) and votive holders from Target. You can see more of the food on Flickr, if you’re interested.

The Countdown Begins

Growing up, we always had these cool German advent calendars to help us mark off the days until Christmas. My mom was German and it was such a key part of my childhood memories that I continued the tradition with my own kids.

The boys are all grown up now (and might be known for plowing through an entire calendar in one sitting rather than opening one door each night) but we continue to get advent calendars for them and their little sister. In recent years I’ve considered making one — because nothing makes you feel quite like an underperforming crafty mom like the Internet — but never quite found a style that really meshed with my taste.

Enter this handy little book:

Countdown Calendars popped up on my radar earlier this year and I couldn’t have been more excited*. There are several countdown events with calendars and a nice selection that are just perfect for the Christmas season. Some of the designs aren’t really my style but one really stood out to me and I quickly picked out some fabrics for it to create a shop sample.

Candy Cane Lane

Candy Cane Lane (p. 16) is pretty fun and leaves a lot of room for personalizing. The book calls for button numbers but I opted to use my expensive paperweight embroidery machine instead. If I had to do it again, I’d leave off the flat piping. I struggled to get it to lay flat; there’s just too much bulk in the seams with all the on-point stuff (which is definitely not my strong suit).

It also merits pointing out that I’m not a quilter and also should not work on projects after 9 p.m. I was so eager to finish the calendar that I kept working until 11 p.m. After I finished the entire thing (including the binding), I realized that “squaring up” is not quite what happened. In fact, the top edge of the project has a very noticeable slant. Feel free to copy me — it’s a trend I’m sure will be all the rage in the coming year. *wink*

Miss L is excited about using it and I’ve already loaded up each pocket with a piece of Dove chocolate.

*Disclosure: The book is published by Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing, which is also my publisher. I paid retail for this book at my local LQS. I received no compensation for writing about this book and all opinions are mine.

Sweet Dreams

Early in 2009, I made a Sleep-Over Quilt for Miss L using some of Patty‘s first line for Michael Miller, Andalucia. I realized right away what a great gift it would make and planned to whip up some for Christmas. Little did I know that I’d be swamped with a major deadline around the holidays and would not have the chance to stick with my plan!

Of course, I wasn’t willing to give up on making at least a few gifts, especially one I thought would be enjoyed by my nieces. So I took an unexpected detour and bought prequilted fabric. It may not have the same cachet as something sewn and quilted personally, but I took a gamble that our 4- and almost 7-year-old nieces wouldn’t mind.

I found the fabric at JoAnn ETC and was surprised to see Dena Designs on the selvedge (Dena also designs fabric for Freespirit/Westminster). A quick sprint through the aisle helped me find two coordinates I could use for the pockets. (The green dot binding came from my stash.)

Originally I thought to use the trimmed quilted fabric for the straps and would just bind the edges but that didn’t quite work out the way I envisioned. Instead, I used some nylon strapping I had on hand. I’m optimistic it will hold up as well. It’s not an heirloom type of quilt, so the modification didn’t really bother me.

I added a personal touch to each quilt by embroidering the girls’ names on the outermost pocket. The personlization stitched out while I worked on the pockets, and really didn’t add any time to the project. All in all, I think I wrapped up both blankets from start to finish in one day. Not bad for a last-minute homemade gift!

Jingle Pup

Christmas is almost here and I’m nearly done with holiday sewing. I haven’t made it through everything on my list but I’ve accomplished the big things, and I can be happy with that.

One of the gifts I was most looking forward to making is this polka dot dog carrier. My parents adopted a little Yorkie about a month ago and are absolutely just smitten. Every time I call, they update me on his latest goings on and even took a picture with him for their Christmas letter.

I just knew a cute little carrier for Bailey would be perfect, so I grabbed McCall’s 5151, some home dec fabric and got to work.

I did fall back on the Peltex for this project. The pattern called for hair canvas but I had a time of it finding some locally, so I pulled out the evil Peltex and just sucked it up. It did a nice job of giving the bag structure, and it was infinitely easier to use it for the bag exterior than the lining.

The bag has a hard bottom, made with an insert cut from a piece of chipboard I bought at the home improvement store. I also drilled holes through the board and inserted the bag feet through the holes to give them more stability and hopefully keep them from pulling through the fabric.

The pattern was really easy to sew, even with the Peltex. It’s only five pattern pieces and I pretty much got the entire project done in an afternoon (although my sewing was spread out over a couple of days because I squeezed it in between a bunch of errands).

Checker This Out

Probably the biggest challenge of my crafty Christmas has been coming up with gifts appropriate for the guys in my life. And of that category, the next challenge was coming up with something for little boys — specifically, my almost-7-year-old nephew. Last year, I made him a cool knight’s cape and shield, so I really didn’t want to make him any dress-up stuff for this Christmas.

And then … epiphany. I remembered a neat play quilt I saw on the floor at Intown Quilters. I hadn’t looked at it too closely but I did notice that it featured a checkerboard, complete with fabric checkers. (I found out later from Sarah is that it’s a free pattern from Michael Miller Fabrics, Checkers in the Garden.)

To make your own checkerboard blanket, you’ll need three fabrics. I think I bought one yard of the main fabric (used for the border  and the back of the blanket) and a half yard each of the other two fabrics (used for the checkerboard and the closing straps). You also need fusible fleece (my piece measured 26.25″x26.25″) and Velcro (I bought a package with three sets of pre-cut squares).

Using your rotary cutter and ruler, cut your two fabrics for the checkerboard into four 3″ strips. Set the excess fabric aside.

Lay out your fabric strips, alternating the two fabrics. Stitch together with a 1/4″ seam and press all the seams in the same direction. Use your rotary cutter and ruler again to cut eight 3″ strips across  your sewn striped panel.

Pick up every other strip and turn it to the opposite end so that you form a checkerboard pattern with the strips. Sew the strips together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams in the same direction.

From your third (main) fabric, cut two strips that measure 3.5″x20″ and two strips measuring 3.5″x26.5″ (before cutting, you may want to measure your checkerboard to make sure the numbers are correct for your project).

Match the long edges of the 20″ strip to the left and right sides of your checkerboard, then sew together with a 1/4″ seam. Press the seams toward the border pieces. Next, match the long edges of the 26.5″ strips to the top and bottom edges of the checkerboard and shorter border pieces. Sew them together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams toward the border. Set aside.

Use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut two 3.5″x12″ strips from one (or both) of your reserved checkerboard fabric. Match the long edges of one piece, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4″ seam. Position the seam in the center of the tube and press open. Repeat with the other strip. Put the sewn tubes on your cutting mat and use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut 4″ from one end of each tube. Sew closed one end of each of the four pieces, then turn each tube right side out and press.

Place one short and one long tube together, right sides together, and match the raw edges. Baste near the raw edge. Set aside.

(Before cutting these next pieces, measure your bordered checkerboard to make sure the numbers match your project.) Cut one piece of fusible fleece and one piece of your main fabric to 26.25″x26.25″. Follow the fusible fleece directions to adhere it to the wrong side of your bordered checkerboard.

Next, lay the fleeced checkerboard right side up on your worktable. Grab the pair of attached tubes and place the first pair so the inside edge lines up with the right edge of the second row of checkerboard. Pin in place (the raw edges of the tube should line up with the raw edge of the border). Place the remaining pair on the opposite side of the checkerboard, with the inside edge lined up with the left edge of the seventh row of checkerboard. Pin in place, then baste both straps to the border.

Place your main fabric square (the one that allegedly measures 26.25″ square) with the right side on the top of your checkerboard. Pin together and sew with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 4″ gap on one side (no more than 2 inches from any corner) so you can turn your board right side out. Trim the corners, making sure not to clp into the stitches. Pull the fabric right side out through the gap, then press, making sure to turn under the edges of the gap. Topstitch around the perimeter of the blanket, close to the edge. (Be sure to move the straps out of the way as you topstitch!)

Measure over 3/4″ from the edge of the shorter strap and pin one of the Velcro tabs to the piece, then stitch it down. (The seam of the tube should be on the underside of the strap.) Repeat with the other shorter strap. Repeat the measurement and Velcro application with the longer strap, except you’ll need to sew it to the seamed side (and make sure that you pair up the hook and loop pair appropriately, or else the straps won’t hold closed). Now you’re done! You can roll up the checkerboard and fasten it closed with the straps.

I made my checkers by tracing 2.5 inch circles on a piece of fleece, then embroidering a crown (the design came with my Babylock Emoré)  in each circle (actually 12 crowns on each of two colors of fleece). I stacked the embroidered fleece on a sheet of plain fleece, then sewed within the circle to secure the pieces together. I used the traced circle as my cutting guide for each checker.

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.

Cirque de Sewing

Don’t be fooled by this simple purse. There is far more to it than meets the eye.

This purse required feats of strength and agility heretofor unseen in my sewing studio, and thankfully not witnessed by anyone in my family because I’m certain they would never let me live it down.

Here’s the deal: My mother-in-law 1.0* asked me if I could make her a quilted purse for Christmas, but it needed to be able to stand up on its own because she puts it on the floor under her desk at work. No problem, I said.

I’ve been carrying my own Run Mama Run bag for the past six months and thought it would meet her requirements with a little modifying. The biggest modifications would be to attach fusibile fleece to the exterior fabric and quilt it, and attach Peltex to the lining so the bag would be nice and stiff.

Now, I’m pretty much a big avoider of Peltex (and its evil pal, Timtex) on a good day, so why on earth I would decide to work with it on a bag this style is completely beyond all comprehension. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice and stiff and stands up like a soldier at attention (OK, maybe at parade rest — it’s not tht stiff). But that stiffness is what makes it such a challenge to work with. Pinning the layers together proved a bit painful. Plus, there’s not a lot of yield when you’re trying to twist and turn a Peltex-stiffened purse around the free arm of your sewing machine. The sheer inventiveness of my acrobatic sewing surprised me and sometimes was a little uncomfortable (I’m not as flexible as I used to be).

And then I had to slip the purse exterior through a four-inch gap in the lining, through which I then had to force a very unyielding Peltex purse form through so it would be right-side out. Methinks I did not plan this project as well as I’d hoped.

The final product is, in fact, a quilted purse that stands on its own. While my sweet MIL may not be able to appreciate the work that went into it, she’ll still be happy with the gift and the love that went into it. And I’m pretty sure the little bit of blood from stabbing myself while pinning the Peltex-lined pieces together doesn’t show.

*I have three. You know you’re jealous. 🙂

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?

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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!