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! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me a hoop that says “Vive le hockey!”

What do you give the guy who has, on different occasions, had this cake and this scarf?  A little hoop-framed Habs logo!  Honestly, I have let many Father’s Days/birthdays/Christmases pass without doing this – why didn’t I do it sooner?

And also, why didn’t I do it sooner?  Thursday and Friday found me stitching at work on my breaks.  This was not the first time, and will likely not be the last, but whyyyyy?!  (Also, for anyone keeping score, the lighting at this desk is not quite as good as it was at the last desk when I last tried this two years ago.  White thread on white fabric hates wonky lighting.  However, if this is the only downside to the job, I honestly can’t complain.)

I found the pattern on Etsy – the download included four different sizes, but I chose the smallest which I was able to fit into a four-inch hoop, painted by a kind soul who took pity on my last-minute frenzy and pitched in.

Habs-1

Just one more present to go now – the race is on!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a triumvirate of cats for the tree!

Back when I got my first cat – that is, my first cat I adopted on my own as an apparently responsible-looking adult, and not a carryover from my childhood – I celebrated her first Christmas by buying one of those commemorative yearly ornaments from Hallmark, and slipped her picture into it to give to my mom.  Aawww!  Grandkitten’s first Christmas!

By the next year, she had a younger sister, and this meant either a) Photoshopping the two into the same picture, or b) being lucky enough to get a shot where they were sitting side-by-side and not trying to beat the living crap out of one another.  And then a few years after that, my parents adopted their own furry bundle of joy.  It seemed weird to give them an ornament with a picture of my cats but not one with theirs, so yay, Photoshop!  Also, some of Hallmark’s offerings had been not-so-cute over the years, so there had been a year or two with no ornament from the furkids.

This year, I decided to do something completely custom and stitch an ornament for each cat.  I found these patterns on Etsy and knew I could make them work:

Cat Ornaments 1-2

Of course, the markings aren’t quite right, so I had to change the patterns up a little bit.  My muses (or mew-ses)?

Yes, apparently he’s offended by the pink sparkly ball on the Christmas tree.  I’ve given up trying to understand him.

For the most part, I altered the patterns as I went along without a point of reference, but the black-and-white has such asymmetrical markings that I used a picture to make sure she looked right immortalized in thread.

Cat Ornaments 2-2

I didn’t use a ton of backstitch, partly to expedite the process and partly to keep them more organic-looking and less cartoonish.  They’re framed in 3″ wooden embroidery hoops painted gold, and ready to be displayed.

Thanks for looking – 11 days to go! 🙂