…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! 🙂

…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.

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

Thanks for looking! 🙂

…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! 🙂

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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

…my true love gave to me: a hedgehog to hang on the tree!

I’ve probably mentioned on here before that my mother collects all things hedgehog.  As such, I try to accommodate her on special occasions: there have been hedgehog birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, cakes, t-shirts…

Fast-forward to the Christmas crafting season, when I realized the project I had originally picked out was simply not going to be finished by December 25.  (That’s okay, folks, her birthday is coming up shortly, so I like to think of it as having a head start on that.)  While entering random keywords on Etsy at work one day, I stumbled across trellis & thyme, who, wonder of wonders, boasted a PDF hedgehog ornament pattern in their shop.

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It’s difficult to tell in the photo, but he has little prickles embroidered all around his front side.  The pattern instructions indicated these should be placed randomly, but…I can’t handle random.  So instead, they run in two staggered-but-kinda-concentric circles around his underside.

As always, thanks for looking – and may your holiday crafting be running on-schedule.  🙂

…my true love gave to me some cross-stitched ornaments for the tree!

We’re in the final stretch here, folks.  I don’t think it would really be Christmas without at least some sort of cross-stitched decoration, and this year was no exception.

Train Ornament

I found this Dimensions train kit on Amazon and started it longer ago than I care to admit, but managed to finish stitching it this summer.  I cut the backing (which you can’t see in this photo unless you have mad x-ray vision skillz) out of a scrap piece of shiny red wrapping paper, which catches the lights from the tree and lends interest.  For a hanger, I used Kreinik ribbon, and bless my local stitching-shop proprietress for suggesting it when I asked for “a really, really thick Kreinik braid or something”.  Darlings: support your local independent shops.

Penguin Ornament

The penguins were a free kit with an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy, and were supposed to be framed in a 3″ plastic hoop.  The putters-together of the kit neglected to include a sufficiently large piece of aida to actually be able to use the hoop without some sort of sorcery, so I turned them into a little pillow instead.  I spend a good chunk of my Christmas Eve morning finishing the cross-stitching at work (while this reeks of desperation, it’s not as bad as the time I set my alarm for 6:00 Christmas morning to finish stitching, so…), and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent lighting.  There’s always a bright side, eh?

Both are now tucked away until next year, when I’m sure they’ll be joined by others.  Thanks for looking! 🙂

…my true love gave to me a parliament of owls for the tree!

(You just know I’ve been waiting for a chance to use one of those esoteric collective nouns.)

My Rules for Mailing are pretty simple: any items being sent by post should be easily replaced i.e. not one-of-a-kind or otherwise difficult to produce or procure, fairly inexpensive, and as small and light as possible to keep postage costs down.  With these criteria in mind, it was decided that my friend Jeanette would be getting a coordinating set of felt owl ornaments for Christmas.

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I followed the tutorial found here, with a few tweaks: I replaced the button pupils with black fabric paint, and dispensed altogether with the rick-rack tummy feathers.  And although I’m normally loath to use colour palettes that are too trendy and risk dating themselves, I must admit that choosing these four complementary colours of felt made it easy to make a matched set but keep each individual owl just a little bit different.

They took a moment to pause for a picture in the cedar tree in my backyard before settling into a bubble envelope for their cross-border trip. 🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone!  One last seasonal make to show everyone…

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I spied this in the 2014 Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament special.  The magazine’s version was stitched on this crazy Shrek-green evenweave that immediately reminded me of my next door neighbours’ living room walls, and I knew I had to stitch this up for them.  I didn’t have a colour like that in my stash, but I did find some 28-count pewter evenweave, which I thought nicely evocative of a grey winter sky.  (Even though it doesn’t co-ordinate with their walls nearly as well, the cardinals sure pop.)  My local stitchery shop had a small oval hoop which framed it perfectly.

A better shot of the piece itself:

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Wishing everyone happy holidays.  I hope Santa/the Hanukkah Armadillo brings you everything you want!

Last-Minute Make

December 24, 2013

I had seen these owls on Craftster, and had been putting off making one for some time.  But when I did get around to it, was it ever quick!

owl ornaments

I had made the green guy with the intention of attaching him to my cousin’s Christmas gift, but when I showed my mom she immediately decided where he’d look best on our tree, so there you have it…and then I decided to make a purple she-owl so that my parents would have a matched set.

Merry Christmas!

The best-laid plans…

December 20, 2013

Sigh…so I thought with having some time off in December that I’d be a one-girl crafting machine.  Homemade gifts for all!  Hot and cold running cookies!

Funny how things don’t always work out the way you had them planned.

I can’t complain.  The time-management issues were my fault, really, but I wouldn’t trade lunches with old friends for all the hand-knit Chrimbo scarves in the world.  (And a good thing, too, because I’m not much of a knitter.)  Oh, I did get some holiday baking done – and once I’ve posted this, I’m running next door to distribute some of it – and managed a couple of new Christmas ornaments for the tree.

calico ornament

The kitty is from an out-of-production kit I scooped up on Ebay called “Merry Kittens”; she and five others make up the cutest little bunch of tree-hangers ever.  Since I knew I wouldn’t have time to finish all six, I used threads and perforated paper from my own stash to do just the one.

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Remember my fondness for Mill Hill beaded kits?  This one is called “Diamond Holiday”, and has been sitting in my collection for the past two Christmases, untouched.  I suspect some may disagree, but I find the beadwork oddly relaxing…and when it catches the twinkling lights…lovely!

I did get one homemade gift done: a vest for my dad which, although wrapped, is not officially finished.  Once he’s had a chance to try it on, I’ll add the buttons and buttonholes to ensure a custom fit!

Merry Christmas!