A little while ago, I was part of an ATC Address Card swap on Craftster. (An ATC, for the uninitiated – as I was – is an Artist Trading Card; you can read all about them here.) The idea was that you would create cards for four swap partners that featured your name and address on one side and a brief biography and/or likes and dislikes on the other, so that you would be able to exchange birthday cards, random crafted items, or even swap stash. I’m a sucker for anything that might mean more mail coming my way, and despite not being a papercrafter (or, um, able to draw) I was on it.
One of my partners went completely above and beyond, and I was shocked to receive an envelope too large and too fat to hold just a 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ card. She had filled this thing to the gills with assorted pieces of cardstock, embellishments…all sorts of different colours and textures to play with. As soon as I opened it, I knew I’d have to come up with something amazing to send her. I’m not a papercrafter, though, so I played to my strengths, and when I saw the pattern in my stitching stash, I knew I had found my something.
The pattern is by Emma Congdon, but I changed up the colours a bit and really prefer the rich green to the original shades of yellow. I love typography, and given that the recipient is a prolific and multi-talented crafter, this was just too perfect for her.
She wasn’t expecting anything and so this proved to be a complete surprise when she came home after work one day to find it in the mailbox. And really, isn’t that the best kind of mail?
Nostalgia makes everything better, doesn’t it? Food is tastier, music is better…all because of the memories associated with it.
When the “I Love the 80s” swap showed up on Craftster, I was so, so in. The cartoons! The neon colours! I think that was probably the first generation of kids that was marketed to hardcore by businesses, and it showed in the Pinterest rabbit hole I found myself falling down. I think I could have made a career (if a low-paying one) out of curating just the right Popples and Strawberry Shortcake pins.
Apparently not many people feel that way, because when sign-ups closed, there were only three of us signed up. We did a round-robin swap, which sounds more family-friendly than “three-way” – Person A sent to Person B, Person B sent to Person C, and Person C sent to Person A. It was a three-point swap, which meant that your swap package should take three or more hours to craft or cost $30 or more in supplies.
I found a truly outrageous pattern to stitch up:
I found neon craft acrylics to paint the hoop, too. Between the colours and the sparkly aida fabric, it popped. But it felt kind of underwhelming on its own (despite meeting the 3-hour mark), so I made a felt-appliqué My Little Pony to go with it.
Luckily, the same purple paint complemented Glory’s mane and tail perfectly.
I felt pretty good about my package, but hoo boy, did my partner ever spoil me!
A mug rug! The 80s-est (it’s a word now) notecards ever! Even a Caboodles! But the Lisa Frank shrine really shone, and needs a little love of its own.
I was seriously blown away by her generosity, and quite frankly by the utter perfection of her choices. It seemed like if it was on my swap questionnaire, it found its way into my package. I thanked her profusely, of course, but couldn’t let that be the end, so I felt-appliquéd a hoop for her, too.
What else do you send someone who brought such cheer to your day but Cheer Bear? All right, and some chocolate, too. (By the way: that purple door in the background isn’t long for this world. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing a different backdrop for hanging crafts.)
This all culminated in mutual goodwill, and I was a little sad to see it all over – this was probably the most fun I had ever had in a swap, playing with the colours and characters. As it turned out, one of the Craftster members hadn’t been able to take part in the official swap, and so with a brief private-message exchange, we were able to work out details of a private swap.
My new partner was a collector of My Little Pony as well, and in the course of our exchange, I quickly hit on exactly what I had to make for her.
And Medley! (I’ve also seen it spelled “Melody”, and if someone knows which is right, let me know.) Gaah, the detailing on her wings stressed me out. I kept worrying the definition wouldn’t come through.
I still wanted to include something else with them – I might be a lot of things, but I’m no one-trick pony (ha!). While Googling the Wuzzles at work one day, I discovered just what an amazing collection of vocal talent that show had. Bill Scott (you might know him as Bullwinkle J. Moose, Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody…) was on it, but – and this is what did it for me – so were Henry Gibson and Joanne Worley. I had never heard of them, or of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, as a kid, but present-day Witty Child just about fell out of her chair.
But how to immortalize their characters? More felt appliqué? Nah. Embroidery would be nice, but I’d want to do a fill stitch of some sort to capture the colours better than an outline alone could do, and I didn’t have the time for that. And for the first time ever, Michaels provided me with something useful, in the form of fabric markers.
The markers gave me the colours I was looking for, and worked really well on the tea towels I used. They even held up after being washed, and I can’t imagine how many hours and needle-induced callouses they saved me.
It seems that my partner and I were kind of on the same wavelength, because I got home one day after work to find these waiting for me:
Felt-appliquéd My Little Ponies! Cotton Candy will always be #1 in my books. And Lisa Frank kittens! That neon yellow on both of them (fleece for the ponies, and embroidery floss for the kitten) positively draws the eye. Who am I kidding, I can’t stop looking at either one of them.
When I signed up for the 2019 edition of the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster, my mind danced with possibilities. I had done it a couple of years ago, when it was the Sunshine in a Box Swap, but everything was in sunny shades of orange and yellow. This time, I had limitless options. I chose pink as my colour, and couldn’t wait to see what bright hue my partner had picked. Ooh, or maybe that would be hues, plural! When I saw her colour was navy, I was temporarily flummoxed.
It’s so dark. Wasn’t that akin to sending a big box of gloom?
Still, if navy was what she wanted, navy was what she was going to get, and I scanned her Pinterest for ideas (gleaning a few Christmas ornament how-to’s along the way), until I hit a pocket of beachy Pins. Something sea-y would work well! A quick trip to Michaels later, I had two packages of iron-on embroidery transfers and a set of blank, navy-striped tea towels.
I’m pretty sure the lighthouse design is bigger, but it went more quickly than the beach chair one did. Weird.
I kept things super-simple, and used a basic backstitch to outline everything. Partway through the first one, I panicked – although I knew I was using navy thread, it looked almost black. (Though this clearly didn’t panic me enough to stop stitching and switch colours. Go figure.) It must have just been a trick of the light, because when my partner received her package and posted pictures, the lines were definitely navy. *whew*
I also made her the Poochie bag we all know and love from a couple of posts back:
I stuffed the bag with some navy goodies: blueberry-scented votive candles, a tin of blueberry mints, some washi tape, navy gel pens…
I couldn’t wait to see how she ran with my request for pink, and I wasn’t disappointed!
I can’t knit, and so I’m in utter awe of the cabling on the hat. The texture…oooh! (The unicorn lights, of course, went straight to work with me to brighten up my cube.)
…my true love gave to me: a whirlwind tour of Germany! (Cheaper than a plane ticket, and more fun than lost luggage and boorish seatmates.)
Yes, it’s January, but as far as I’m concerned it’s still the holiday season – so here’s the final installment of Craftmas 2018! Superstition says that whatever you’re doing as the clock strikes midnight on January 1 is a harbinger of what you’ll be doing that year. I was asleep at the time, but this is still pretty darned close…my way of starting off 2019 with a bang.
One of my nearest and dearest is of German descent, and when I saw “Pretty Little Berlin” by Satsuma Street, I knew I had to stitch it for him. He’s actually been there, albeit when there was still a wall down the centre, and this seemed like a fun way to document his travels.
This was such a fun stitch! The pattern didn’t include the city name – I charted that myself and added it in – but it did include a handy guide to the spots included in the piece, and I can now pick out, say, the Brandenburg Gate or the Television Tower (which I had previously thought of as only das große, spitze Gebäude) from a photograph. It’s always a good day if I can say I’ve learned something!
I framed it in a 9″ square shadowbox. I had originally contemplated painting the frame yellow to match the train and the Beetle, but I think the white offers a contemporary sleekness.
Because I’m kind of weird, I took pictures of my progress and turned them into a stop-motion video:
(Make sure your sound is on!)
The lucky recipient was really pleased with the finished product – and as for me, I’m just glad to be finished stitching it.
As always, thank you for looking, and for hanging out with me all year. Cheers to a great 2019! 🙂
…my true love gave to me: a pretty little Kokeshi!
I’ve long held a theory that, when it comes to gift-giving, the seemingly most random collection of items is immediately elevated if they share a common theme. You would normally never gift-wrap a package of microwave popcorn, but paired with a bag of Twizzlers and some jujubes, it becomes part of “A Night at the Movies”.
So what do a hand soap from Bath and Body Works, a scented candle, and some chocolates have in common? If one is Japanese cherry blossom-scented, one is Japanese plum-scented, and one is mandarin orange-flavoured, you’ve got the makings of Japan in a box. (Note: Yes, “mandarin” is typically associated with China, but Japan grows them, too. I looked it up.)
This was the cheaper-than-a-plane-ticket gift I decided on for my aunt, who used to travel quite a bit before she got married, had a kid, and basically stopped having fun of any kind. In fact, when I was really young, she had traveled to Japan and the Philippines, so this really seemed like an appropriate choice.
Years and years ago, Cross Stitcher magazine had featured a pattern for three Kokeshi dolls, to be stitched on red fabric which was then sewn onto a plain black tote bag as a decorative panel. The idea of having a finished stitched piece bouncing around unprotected, suffering the wear and tear that a tote bag typically will, seems like a waste of stitching. But there was nothing preventing me from choosing just one to stitch and finishing it in a slightly more conventional way.
I chose the green because her open-concept living room/kitchen area features green quite heavily. The frame was acquired for only a few dollars, but the glossy black compliments the design perfectly. And does that red fabric ever pop!
Who couldn’t use one of those in his or her repertoire, especially at this time of year? There’s so much to get done, and anything that doesn’t involve preheating, rolling, cutting, frosting, etc. can’t be all bad.
And so I present to you my recipe for Cuban Lunch. They’re based on a defunct chocolate bar (which was apparently resurrected earlier this year, but I haven’t seen it anywhere), and are a crowd-pleaser if ever I saw one. You can make a lot quickly, and they’re perfect for gift-giving or cookie trays. A few years ago, I gave little care packages to the management team at work, and within half an hour everyone had IM-ed me to say thank you – except for the men in the group, who IM-ed me to say thank you, and also that they had eaten all six in one shot.
What you need:
2 cups each of semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and butterscotch chips. If you buy these things in bulk and actually want to measure, great; I find that your standard 300g bags found in the baking aisle give you what you need
1 1/2 cups crushed ripple potato chips
1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts
Optional, but nice: a kind person to help you set out your mini cupcake liners, and to set out more when your hands are occupied by chocolate-coated utensils and you realize you’re getting way more of these from the recipe than you anticipated
Set out your mini cupcake liners. The recipe I found has a yield of 75, but whoever wrote it must have filled their liners fuller than I do. This may take some experimentation on your part, so keep a few extra nearby. Also, the tinfoil is not strictly necessary, but prevents you having to wash your cookie sheet when you drop chocolate on it – and you will drop chocolate on it.
Chop your peanuts and crush your ripple chips. I like to use a mini food processor for the chips, but if you have some holiday rage to work through, a sturdy Ziploc bag and a rolling pin make a wonderful substitute. Set them aside for now.
Put your 6 cups of baking chips in a microwave-safe bowl. I like to fold them all together to prevent weird pockets of one kind or another in the finished product, because I’m like that. Once you’re satisfied that your mixture is as homogeneous as it’s going to get, microwave it on high for 30-second bursts. After each round, take it out and stir it before putting it back in for another 30 seconds. Yes, this is a giant drag, but chocolate likes to hold its shape even when it’s at a melting point, so check and stir, every single time, until everything is completely melted. No one likes scorched chocolate.
Once the baking chips are completely melted, fold in your potato chips and peanuts. It can seem like a lot to integrate, but keep at ‘er. Your mixture should look something like this.
Spoon the mixture into those mini cupcake liners you so painstakingly peeled apart and placed on your cookie sheets. Once they’re all filled, they’ll need to set. They will set up at room temperature, but some time in the fridge or freezer helps immensely. If you live somewhere cold, use nature’s freezer! (Just make sure you don’t have any neighbourhood wildlife creeping around.)
These can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature or in the fridge, and look so cute in a little cellophane treat bag tied up with a bow.
…my true love gave to me: a skulk of foxes for the tree.
For the past nine years (counting this one), a Christmas ornament swap has been hosted on Craftster. Charmingly dubbed a Sweat Shoppe swap, it functions like a cross between those holiday cookie exchanges and a chain letter: you sign up for either three or six partners, make three or six like ornaments to send off, and receive ornaments from either three or six different people. Because you’re not crafting something specifically for someone, many participants made their ornaments well in advance and wait for sign-ups to begin.
I had been tempted by it in the past, but never had anything made ahead of time and never had time to start anything once sign-ups began. This year, some magical wave of forethought seized me, and I started my sewing early. When sign-ups hit, I was ready. I had found this pattern by Maisie Moo on Etsy, and gave it the old college try to make sure it would turn out, be an appropriate size, etc.
I named him Les, and he has a home on my Christmas tree. 🙂 I’m glad I practiced on him, because it gave me a chance to tweak the instructions a bit. Rather than cut out teeny, tiny black eyes from felt, I traced them onto the white pieces and embroidered them using raised satin stitch. I also used finer stitches than the instructional photos showed. And…I’m not sure how the scarf, at the length prescribed by the pattern, was supposed to wrap around his throat and have a tail to fringe – so I made it about 1 1/2 times as long so that I had a little room to play with.
Because I have apparently learned my limits after many, many years of Craftmas (official and unofficial), I signed up for three partners and not six, tempting though that was. These little guys were so much fun to stitch up!
I named them Redd, Michael J., and Renard – just think about that for a sec – and all three have made it to their new homes, despite the best efforts of the postal service to waylay them.
And now that they’re finished, and I should be thinking about the zillion other things I need to get done before Christmas, I can’t help but think what sort of ornaments to offer next year…
EDIT: By popular request, here’s what I got in return.
A fabric tree from Alberta. (Front and back.)
A cozy cardinal birdhouse from Massachusetts.
A shaker ornament from Pennsylvania – the tree was up by the time the postal system finally decided to get it to me, so it got photographed in its natural habitat. 😉