…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!
The second round of swaps on Lettucecraft recently took place, and I signed up for the Adult Merit Badge swap as fast as my little fingers could complete the questionnaire. I was never a Girl Guide, but I love me a merit badge! My partner listed ten different possible themes to choose from, and I was thisclose to working with “Coffee” when I started Googling bad science puns (she’s a biology teacher, and had listed “Science” as one of her themes). Before I knew what was happening, “Coffee” was all but forgotten, and darn it, I was going to dad-joke the heck out of “Science”.
It was a bit of a masochistic choice on my part, because I am not a science-type person. In Grades 11 and 12, we were made to choose at least one science class of the “big three” to take: Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics. This was exactly one more science class than I wanted to take. Why not an extra period of French instead, so I could hinky dinky parlez-vous with the best of them? Or English? Never mind that I probably already gave Mr. Klymko a Level-5 Motrin headache on a daily basis anyway: this was my education we were talking about.
I eventually opted for Physics for two solid reasons. Primo, it seemed the “cleanest” and the least likely to feature funny smells, oozing, or explosion; secundo, my aunt taught Chemistry, and I thought it might be weird. (This was really terrible logic on my part, because she taught me math in Grades 10 and 11 and I actually understood it for the first time for reasons that had nothing to do with our shared name. And if I had known that I’d take up recreational baking, I would have volunteered to learn about chemical reactions in a heartbeat.) Because Physics was also the hardest of the three and didn’t garner a lot of wiling victims, the school combined the Grade 11 and 12 students into one class, and we covered both levels in one academic year. Every single day of Grade 11, I had double Physics, and it was brutal. (But! Having gotten both years out of the way at once, my Grade 12 schedule was such that I had the entire afternoon free every other day, so I can’t say no good came of it.)
Biology, however, was a bit of newish territory for me. Through the magic of the internet, I found a picture I liked, to use as inspiration for my badge. My partner told me she has a purse where she affixes any badges she accumulates, and my hope was that her students would get a kick out of this one, too.
Oh, how I love working with felt! The badge is about 3″ high from top white border to bottom white border. When I first found my “inspiration image”, I honestly had no idea whether all the little bits contained in the cell were accurate, but through research I discovered that yes, they were – this is a rough representation of an animal cell!
I made my nucleus and cell phone out of felt, but embroidered the facial features and, in the end, the mitochondria and the vacuoles. I had initially cut small bits of felt for the latter two, but the bright red and green felt made it look like a Christmas ornament and not, you know, an actual science thingie. The satin stitch I went with instead wasn’t a tremendous effort, and helped the overall appearance, I think. Once I had all my features stitched on, and my layers of felt where they ought to be, I added a white backing to hide the stitches.
A close-up, for good measure:
My partner really liked it, which is a huge relief! Her comment: She even got the detail of the endoplasmic reticulum being attached to the nucleus. I just smiled and nodded – although I do know which one the nucleus is!
Wondering what I got in the mail? My partner absolutely nailed it, and did a mash-up of my “Cats” and “Cupcakes” themes.
Her daughter helped pick out the colours, which are honestly so perfect purrfect for something cupcake-themed. She even attached a safety pin to the back of it for easy wearing and removal, which is the ultimate thoughtful detail.
It’s so nice to have the swapping up and running – I love being able to craft outside of my usual comfort zone.
…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. 😉
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!”
That was followed a split-second later by, “Bunsen!”
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…
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…
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.
They made it to my partner with all their embellishments intact, and had me envisioning an entire installation of felt Muppet portraits…
I started my Halloween crafting early this year (as in, August). While browsing Craftster one day, I saw sign-ups for a Vintage Halloween Swap and promptly submitted my information. (It’s so much easier to rush the season if you’ve got a whole gang of Halloween-crazed crafters with you. In fact, I’d argue this was hardly rushing it at all, considering some grocery stores are selling eggnog. Yes, the Christmas beverage.)
My partner indicated she didn’t have a specific era of vintage in mind – which made my job simultaneously easier and more difficult – but mentioned that she was setting up a Halloween tree in her house this year and would like something to hang on it.
I found the patterns for these guys on Etsy. The set also included a cat and a piece of candy corn (neither of which were included in my partner’s preferred motifs). Their original size was approximately 2 1/2 – 3″ at the widest point; I scanned each pattern piece at 150% to get a slightly more substantial finished product. It’s really hard to see all the details in the photo, but trust me when I say:
the jack o’lantern’s features and the bat’s eyes are sparkly
the bat’s wing veins and blanket stitching are metallic purple (the better to glint off the Halloween tree lights, if there are any)
the ghost’s blanket stitching plus the bat’s fangs might look benign, but in fact glow in the dark. I did not get a shot of them glowing, sorry.
The pompom garland was a happy eleventh-hour addition. I was cruising the store for some little extras to tuck into her package when I happened upon bags of Halloween-themed pompoms, and couldn’t resist them.
They made a cute Halloween tree starter-set, but I was concerned that nothing had a truly vintage feel, which is why I started browsing Pinterest for vintage embroidery patterns.
Because doesn’t everyone need a hand-embroidered tea towel? I kept this pretty simple, with backstitch for pretty much everything except a little satin stitch to give the carving a warm, glow-y feeling.
It was a spook-tacular (sorry!) start to the Halloween season; stay tuned for more.
In my crafty exploits, although cross-stitch is my first love, I really enjoy working with felt. It’s forgiving and easy to work with, comes in a bunch of fun colours and patterns, and works up quickly into something recognizable.
I’m not quite sure how I missed the first round, but back in May, I happened upon Round 2 of a Twinchie Swap on Craftster.org. What’s a twinchie, you ask? I’m no expert, but it’s a 2″ square felt patch with some sort of picture or pattern appliquéd onto the front. Some of the ladies on there take this stuff seriously, and plan to amass enough different twinchies to combine into a wall hanging or something similar. That part felt like a lot of commitment (how many swaps does that take, Mr. Owl?), but piecing together four patches for a partner? No sweat.
My partner provided me with a list of five areas of interest, and since I didn’t feel quite capable of translating Harry Potter characters into felt, I chose her “things from the sea” theme.
The jellyfish turned out to be my partner’s favourite, though it was the least-embellished. The floaty tentacles are stem-stitched, using Petite Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery.
This was the first one I completed. I was so excited to have a use for all those beads I kept after my jewelry-making phase in high school!
“Especially seahorses” showed up on my partner’s swap questionnaire as an addendum to “things from the sea”, so I delivered. The colours remind me a bit of Pinkie Pie (My Little Sea Pony?).
I think this one was my favourite. I appliquéd the black stripes onto the yellow fish shape, and then backstitched the fin detail.
All together. Because the squares were 2″ x 2″, each creature is about 1.5″ – 1.75″ at its widest spot.