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! 🙂

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! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a gift that’s very “hand”-y!

When I was little, my grandmother used to cut decorative hand towels in half and then crochet a topper on each half, complete with a loop for hanging. When she had a good stash built up, she’d bring them out at a family gathering and let us pick which one(s) we wanted. These were a serious staple of my childhood, and I can’t imagine a kitchen without one.

My own crochet skills are not as sophisticated as hers were, sadly, but when I saw this glorious fabric:

…I had the perfect plan for it.

I took a towel I had bought somewhere else (charity fundraiser?) and traced around its fabric topper to draft a pattern for myself. I found some plain red towels at the store that matched the red lettering pretty much perfectly. I cut each towel in half (width-wise, not lengthwise), folded each half in approximate thirds (lengthwise, not width-wise) to fit into the topper. Once they were fit in, I sewed the topper shut, et voilà.

The first time I tried making towels like this, I attached some Velcro unbranded hook-and-loop tape to make it easy to hang the towel from an oven handle or whatnot. Unfortunately, after repeated washings, the Velcro-like product lost its “stick” and the towel would fall to the floor at the slightest provocation, like some sort of kitchen-linen fainting goat.

Sooo…I worked through my dislike of sewing buttons and sewed on buttons. It honestly wasn’t as painful as I remember, and now these towels aren’t going anywhere until you decide they are.

My mom has laid claim to two of them; the rest will be tucked into various Christmas gifts as a fun little bonus. In fact, one has found its way to its new home already:

I want a dishwasher handle like that!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, General Sewing, Uncategorized

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: ein Schal für Schnuckiputzi!

Last year, I cross-stitched Berlin as a Christmas gift for my friend of German descent, which felt like it took more or less forever. This year, I opted for something less ambitious but far more pragmatic: a double-layer fleece scarf, in the colours of the German flag, perfect for warding off the frigid Prairie air.

I used this tutorial, which I also used a few years back to make a scarf for my dad, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. (That never happens!) I found the fleece at a good price back in the summer when, ahem, the eventual recipient happened to be with me.

HIM: What are you going to do with the fleece?

ME: Oh, remember those Star Trek stockings I made? I want to make more. I’ve already got Spock blue at home.

Good excuse, right? Fast-forward to the cutting table.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: Looks like you’re making a German flag.

ME: Um, no. Star Trek stockings.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: So where’s the blue?

Much measuring, cutting, and sewing later, I had this:

My model is in the Witness Protection Program. 😉

Actually, I’m lucky I was able to take it off long enough to have her model it for me – it’s soooo warm and snuggly!

It’s nice and long, so he’ll be able to wrap it around and make sure he’s covered. Perfect for those early-morning waits for the bus!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a Christmas fit for Elvis Presley!

Having once participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap on Craftster, I knew immediately I was going to do it again. This year, I was a little more prepared, and had been lazily working on my ornaments throughout the year so that all I had to do once signups began was finish them off and name them.

Name them – sounds weird, doesn’t it? Last year I called my set Festive Foxes (a bit lame, but it was my first time out). This year, I wrestled with the name a bit. Fairisle Festivities? Scandinavian Season’s Greetings? Three-inch hoops that look vaguely like a knitted sweater? Suddenly, inspiration struck: Blue Christmas.

The patterns came from an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy I bought last year. I really liked the designs, but couldn’t imagine making them for myself or anyone I know – nobody I know really has that particular theme running through their holiday décor. The swap turned out to be the perfect outlet!

To stitch them, I cut one long strip of 14-count white aida fabric, eyeballed thirds, and kept moving my Q-Snap down as I went – then cut them apart when it was time to frame them. I took plain 3″ wooden hoops from Michaels (I stock up every time they have them in stock) and painted them with white acrylic paint, then sprayed them with an iridescent white glittery spray paint. I had some iridescent white cording on hand for the hanging loops, and I’m hoping that they catch the light on my recipients’ trees.

In a more “natural” habitat (no tree up yet, so I trekked to the furthest reaches of the back yard to the cedar tree I normally forget is there):

The one with the deer has made it to its new home, and the other two are currently in transit. Fingers crossed they arrive soon! I’ve already received two of the three I’m getting:

It says “Craftster Christmas 2019”, with some rows of lights stamped between the lettering. The flash photography doesn’t do it justice, but I was having short days/snowy weather lighting issues when they first arrived.

Seriously, how is this little guy so relaxed about Christmas prep? And where did the crafter find little star-shaped baking tins like that? I love the aesthetic of it!

I finally got my last one! It’s a simple wooden disk with an intricate series of dots and gemstones that don’t show as well in this picture.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…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! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the third day of Craftmas…

…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!

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! 🙂

baking, cooking, craftmas

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a really easy recipe!

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.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

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! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me a chalkboard ode to coffee!

I finished this at around 2:00 PM on Christmas Eve, but between washing it, framing it, and wrapping the collection of gifts that sat there mocking me, there was no way this was getting posted.

Back in the summer, I was wandering through Michaels with a friend – I can’t remember what he was looking for – when I darted down the needlework aisle to see if they had anything interesting.  Oh, and Michaels?  Your needlework “aisle” is a joke.

Due to the craptacular nature of their selection, I really didn’t find much of note, but he zeroed in on a clearance kit.  “Ooh!  If I buy this, will you stitch it for me?”  Gaah.  I hate that question, but like him enough to shrug my shoulders and nod.  It wasn’t a terribly sophisticated or complicated design, and although it was on black aida, I figured I could handle it, and then somewhere along the line decided it would make an excellent Christmas present for him despite the fact that I had four other pieces to finish.

Coffee 1

I just realized that because of the angle at which the picture was taken, you can’t see the solid white border along the right side, but it’s there.

Now, while I discovered when I stitched this that black aida isn’t as terrible as I remembered, it’s quite something else when the cheap kit gives you a piece of fabric with barely 2″ of clearance around the edges of the pattern, making it difficult if not impossible to grip the fabric with your Q-Snap when you get to the outside edges.  Had this been a generous cut with better Q-Snap tension, I suspect it would have been finished ages ago.  Also, the white floss ran completely out well before I was anywhere near finished – and I had triple-checked the instructions so I know that even the backstitch was to be done in two strands and not one.  Luckily, I had some white floss left over from a different kit which filled the need nicely.  Had it not been December 21-ish when I ran out, the company would have been getting a nasty letter from me.

Now that it’s done, and I can breathe again, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  He was thrilled when he opened it yesterday, so mission accomplished.

I hope Santa was good to everybody.  Thanks for another great year! 🙂