Other Crafts

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Actually, in this case, you don’t need to! There’s a handy pull string to reduce your smashing by 100%.

I had seen these mini pinatas ages ago on the dearly departed Craftster, and saved the tutorial for myself despite being an asocial and unromantic weirdo. I managed to find the original tutorial using the Wayback Machine, but also took my own step-by-step pictures in case that ever ceases to be.

To start with, you’ll need to cut out two hearts from cardstock or posterboard. Mine are just a hair over 8″ across because I was using letter-sized cardstock, but you’re limited only by your imagination and raw materials. You’ll also need a “side strip/strips” whose width will dictate how deep your pinata is (and how much you can stuff inside it). I cut three 2.5″ wide x 11″ long strips from another sheet of cardstock, but only wound up using two of them.

Once I taped my two strips together, I could start attaching them to my first heart. I ran pieces of masking tape along one edge of my new double-long strip and then starting curving it along the edge of my heart and taping it down. Your edge will – nay, should – be shorter than the full circumference of your heart; that gap is where you’ll add your candy.

Here’s one spot where I deviated from the original tutorial: while I only had one heart attached to the edge, I poked a couple of holes in the edge and added a hanging loop, in case the recipient wants to display it.

Once I was satisfied a) with the size of my candy door, and b) that my hanging loop was secure and I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata, I added my second heart and secured it to my edge with even more masking tape.

Now the raison d’être: add your candy. If you want this to be hung/displayed for a while, you may want to be mindful of the weight of whatever you’re putting in.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata anymore? I lied, kind of. Once the candy is in, you can cover the opening with a folded-up piece of tissue paper, but to add a pull string you’ll need to affix that to the inside of the pinata above the opening, then tape it to the underside of the tissue. It’s a bit fiddly, and if I do one of these again I might attach it before I add my second heart, just to save fumbling around after. Make that pull string good and long so that your recipient has something to grab onto!

And now…you get to decorate! This was less annoying than I thought it would be. The girl who wrote the original tutorial used shredder scissors to fringe her tissue paper, but I did it old-school with normal scissors, and managed to not completely cramp up my hand.

I decided to go for a quasi-ombré look, and overlapped rows of tissue to keep it looking full and fluffy.

Once I got the heart faces done, I cut short pieces of my fringed tissue to do the sides. I used your garden-variety glue stick for this, and it was shockingly neat: no gluey residue, and practically zero dry time.

Finally seeing the light of day! Once my tissue-papering was done, I made a little instructional tag for my pull string, just in case there were any doubts as to what to do.

This didn’t take me too long, overall – a couple of episodes of Lolita Podcast – but just long enough to serve as a good reason to not be polyamourous.

Thanks for looking…happy Valentine’s Day!

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!

Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.

Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.

I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.

These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.

When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.

I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.

If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a calendar to count down daily.

The saga of this advent calendar started almost a year ago. A few days after Christmas – not Boxing Day; I’m not insane – Mr. Gummi Bear and I hit the streets to check out a few stores. He wanted to look for some jeans, and after a fruitless search for a pair that fit properly, and a life-regenerating coffee at a Starbucks that was tucked away in an out-of-the-way Sobeys, we found ourselves in a scrapbooking store. I was looking for some stickers to send a swap partner, and thought they might have a bigger selection than Michaels.

Near the front of the store, they had a table of Christmassy supplies marked down by 50%, and even though I’m not a papercrafter per se, I wandered over to see what they had. The advent calendar kit jumped out at me. It comes with everything! And it’s half-off! “I’ve got a whole year to put this together!” I crowed, tossing it in my basket. It was going to become a much-loved heirloom, I could feel it in my bones.

Shortly after it arrived home, it got set aside and forgotten about until early November.

When the latest restrictions on gatherings came into effect, and it became apparent that our weekend carousing (read: getting takeout and watching Netflix at his place) was going to be stymied, I thought this might be a fun way to keep a piece of me around (sort of) as December wore on.

It really did come with everything. All of the little pieces for the pockets were cut out and pre-scored for folding, and (bonus!) even came packaged in the right order so I wouldn’t have to sort them out later.

The kit didn’t include instructions for what to do with the tags, so I opted for the corny, bad Dad-joke route.

The most tedious part, probably, was cutting 6″ lengths of baker’s twine for each of the 25 tags. If you look really closely, you can see the “25” not looking super-firmly attached to the pocket – I don’t know what kind of adhesive their stickers had, but it wasn’t great, and I wound up touching up a few with my gluestick to make sure they would hold.

All laid out and ready to be packaged up and given to the lucky recipient.

There was about 11.5 feet of baker’s twine left over once all the tags were tied, and I left it all as one length so he could decide for himself whether he wanted one long row of pockets, or a 12-13 split, or 5 rows of 5, whatever he wanted.

He opted for a single length, and even found some complimentary cutouts of Christmas lights to add to the ambience.

OK, so it might not become one for the generations, but it’s (almost) a way to be together apart, and a fun way to start the holiday season.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Other Crafts

Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov

Some time ago, I was sorting through some of the…ahem…treasures I’ve managed to accumulate over the course of my so far brief and unexciting life. When I came across a key, I knew immediately that it had belonged to my first car. That car has long since gone to that great scrap heap in the sky, and the key had no practical value to me, but I couldn’t just throw it away. No, I had to memorialize it somehow! What to do? Wear it as a pendant? Turn it into a super-confusing keychain (“But what’s this one for?!”)? I set it aside for further rumination.

Oh my gosh, I loved that car! I paid for him myself, and promptly named him Humbert (yes, after that Humbert), because when you’re all of 21, what’s cooler than having a dirty old white car named after a dirty old white man? (I now know the answer is “Probably anything”, but I didn’t get out much.) Suddenly, I had my own transportation to and from university and my summer job. I could play designated driver for the cute guys I worked with. I could be ridiculously puerile and go joy-riding with my cousin, driving past my crush’s house and hoping no one saw us! All the possibilities!

He had cheap vinyl seats which I promptly covered with cheap red-and-black polyester seat covers, upon which I spilled at least one Caramel Coretto, probably more. He had a sunroof that I could open with one hand; closing it thusly when rain came out of nowhere, however, eluded me, and I recall a few wet drives down major thoroughfares, trying to steer with my knees so I could use both hands to wrestle it shut. His white paint made him the ideal canvas for painting peace signs and rikki-tikki flowers in watercolour on his rear column.

In short, he was perfect.

When I was in Michaels back in the spring, I was lucky enough to stumble across 40% off shadowboxes. Further rummaging yielded a picture of me perched on his hood, and because I’m sappy, I finished the whole thing off with a couple of dimensional stickers.

The red fuzzy dice really classed him up, no?

The finished shrine is currently occupying space on the kitchen table until I can figure out where to hang it. However, I’m feeling rather self-satisfied at having actually done something with my sentimental detritus for a change.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a last-minute Christmas quickie!

(Get your minds out of the gutter…)

I’m not going to do a big, long how-to, but keep it simple: I used this tutorial to create some golden snitch chocolates for a friend’s stocking.

They came together really quickly; I had Discord open in the background while I worked (because apparently I keep glue at the computer desk), and it took less than 10 minutes to get all three made.

There’s no way these were getting back in the cellophane sleeve, so instead, I’ve tucked them into a little organza bag to go at the very top of his stocking, and hopefully keep the wings from getting crushed.

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

She’s still preoccupied with 19…19…1985

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.

Gusty!

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.

80s-themed crafting: can’t stop, won’t stop.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Other Crafts

Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr…

When I adopted my oldest from the local humane society, they lined her carrier with what I think was once a pillowcase (essentially, a nondescript piece of flannelette-like material) for the ride home to ward off the January chill. When I adopted my second, they tucked into her little cardboard carrier a small afghan made of six blue-and-pink granny squares. I’ve still got the cat, and her “baby blankie”, and the blankie gets treated with kid gloves on laundry day: gentle cycle, lay flat to dry.

It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that when I got it in my head that I wanted to learn how to crochet, I practiced the basics by crocheting simple squares to be sewn into blankets for the humane society. I don’t exactly work on them tirelessly, but it’s proven to be something to occupy my hands while I watch TV or talk on the phone, and over the past while I’ve managed to churn out six:

In approximate chronological order:

Unlike the others, which are made of a worsted-weight yarn, this giant granny square is made from a baby yarn and it’s so soft:

I was really excited about this one! It gave me a chance to try some different techniques, and provided wonderful justification for keeping back issues of Bust magazine:

Hopefully these will help some other kitty settle into his or her furever home.

And yes, my cat still sleeps with hers:

Thanks for looking – and remember: adopt, don’t shop! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

…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. 😉

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

Where my witches at?!

I’ll skip the whole “Ooh, Halloween!” preamble, because anyone who’s been reading this for a while knows how I feel about it (and if you don’t, check the Halloween tag).  Spoiler alert: I love it!  Obviously, joining the 2018 iteration of the Vintage Halloween Swap on Craftster was a no-brainer.  My partner has received her package, so I figured it was safe to post this now.

My partner’s era of choice was the 1920s-1930s, and “witches” was among her favourite themes.  This might have pushed me just a wee bit outside my comfort zone – my Halloween aesthetic runs toward “cute” and “cats”, and is just a bit more modern – but one of the fun aspects of swaps is trying something you might not ordinarily try.  An Etsy search for “1930s Halloween” yielded, among other things, a high-quality jpeg version of this image:

2018 Swap 4

(This, of course, is a low-quality image courtesy of a Google search.)

She was Art Deco-y and fun, and I decided to interpret her in embroidery.  Using my lightbox, I traced the basic outline in pencil before going over those lines with a transfer pen.  Once the design was transferred to my fabric, I colour-tinted the image before starting the actual embroidery.

2018 Swap 5

Naturally, I didn’t think to take a picture after transferring and before tinting.  This will be a recurring theme.

After setting the crayon, I used a simple backstitch to define most of the image – I had tried stem stitch, because I think it permits more gentle curvature, but it was proving to be too bulky and weird.  I used a bit of satin stitch on the witch’s eyes and mouth, an some French knots to create the polka-dot pattern on her sleeve.

2018 Swap 6

Her hands in the original image reminded me of a Barbie doll’s steel-fork fingers, so I attempted to humanize her a little bit.  Her overall look reminded me of something, too, but I couldn’t figure out what for the longest time, until it hit me: she’s a tad Claudette Colbert-ish,  I think.  Same era, same shot-from-the-left, same well-defined lips…

That’s a regular wood/bamboo embroidery hoop she’s framed in (5″), painted black to really make the colours pop.

When I had gone to Michael’s to pick up the fabric, floss, and hoop for her, I saw a display of unfinished wooden light-up decorations, and lo, they had a witch one.

2018 Swap 1

It did not occur to me to take a “before” picture until after I had started applying yellow paint – I told you that was a recurring issue.

2018 Swap 2

Even after one coat of craft acrylic, she looked pretty good, but this picture definitely showed me the need for a second coat – and that I had to paint the edges black as well.

2018 Swap 3

This picture doesn’t really do it justice – lit up in a dark room, it positively glows.

Consider Halloween crafting season to be officially underway – thanks for looking! 🙂

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

It’s time to play the music; it’s time to light the lights…

Remember my twinchies?  Gah, that seems like forever ago.  (“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” – Kermit the Frog)

Anyway, I had so much fun making them that when another round of the twinchie swap appeared on Craftster, with send-outs in September, joining in was a no-brainer.  I might be a bit late in posting these, but think of them as undiscovered gems.

My partner had a variety of themes offered as suggestions, and I was thisclose to running with Bob’s Burgers – can’t you just picture Louise’s bunny ears immortalized in four square inches of felt?! – when I saw that she also had Muppets on her list.  In that moment, the first coherent thought in my brain was, “Beaker!”

Muppet Twinches 2

That was followed a split-second later by, “Bunsen!”

Muppet Twinchies 4

It wasn’t until I began trawling the internet for source images to use, scrolling past picture after picture of Dr. Honeydew, that I realized with a start that he bears a striking resemblance to my dad’s old boss, only slightly more green.  I tried to find a picture of him, but came up empty-handed, so you’ll have to take my word on this.

With Bunsen n’ Beaker done, how could I round out my quartet?  Statler and Waldorf would have been fun, and practically begged to have a note included in my swap package complaining about what terrible needlework this was (“Ha ha ha!”), but they didn’t feel as iconic to me as some of the other Muppets.

Iconic Muppet?  Why, that would be…

Muppet Twinchies 5

Miss Piggy was the most challenging of the four, I found.  Her various pieces felt a bit more jigsaw-y to me than the others, and trying to capture that heavy-lidded look on a very small canvas wasn’t easy.  But the sparkly fuchsia background seems perfect for the self-proclaimed star of the show, and there’s a joke in there somewhere about casting one’s pearls before swine, but I haven’t found it…  (Comments welcome below.)

Knowing that my partner had already received a Kermit twinchie in the previous round, I couldn’t grab for the low-hanging fruit for my last piece.  Instead…drumroll, please…

Muppet Twinches 3

Big Bird!  Stitching him up made me so happy!  The bright yellow and blue felt, the thin lines of blue and pink around his eyes to make them pop…and those fun little feathers on top of his head to add some texture to the whole deal.

All together:

Muppet Twinchies 1

They made it to my partner with all their embellishments intact, and had me envisioning an entire installation of felt Muppet portraits…

Thanks for looking! 🙂