…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! 🙂

(with apologies to Paul Simon)

“Your problem is trying to be too nice,” she said to me.

“You’ll find it easier if you’ll only be snarky.

It’s just the simplest way to get yourself set free –

Just use snarky ways to leave your lover.”

She said, “Some people think that ‘snarky’ equals ‘rude’.

In fact, some puritans would have it labelled ‘lewd’.

But nuts to them!  I say, who needs their attitude?

Embrace those snarky ways to leave your lover.”

CHORUS

Just tell him, “Nope, dope.”

“Can you not, Scott?”

“Would you go away, hey,

And let me be.”

I said, “No way, Jay!”

“OMG, ewww, Lou.”

What else can I say, hey,

Except for, “Bite me.”

She said, “Don’t let your conscience tell you that it’s wrong.

I hope you’ll see the light before I end this song.”

I said, “That’s great and all, but won’t it take too long

To learn these snarky ways…?”

She said, “Just try to find your inner snark tonight,

And I believe that your man-child will be gone without a fight.”

And then she left me, and I realized she probably was right

‘Bout using snarky ways to leave your lover.

(repeat CHORUS)

Soooo, I signed up for the Be My Snarky Valentine swap on Craftster, after having to sit out the Christmas edition due to having about a dozen other things to try to get done.  But all I really have to do on Valentine’s Day is show up to work (because it’s a weekday, not because I work in a Valentine-specific industry), so I figured I could swing this one.  We each had to craft one small, snarky item plus one snarky card for our partner.

While I typically find Valentine’s Day a bit annoying (and hence the appeal of a snarky swap), I’ve always liked the aesthetic of conversation hearts.  Heck, I don’t even mind eating them, although they tend toward chalky.  I’ve even been known to paint my nails in the same colours and stage ridiculous manicure shoots at my desk:

20160208_095417

(Seriously, what did we do before smartphones?  How did we document the inanity?)

So it seemed like a no-brainer for me to incorporate them into my snarky swap package, somehow.  Fortunately, my partner said she likes pastels, so I thought a mini felt garland might be in order.

Garland 2-2

Each heart is about 3 inches across at the widest points – I didn’t think to measure them – and are spaced 4 inches apart, with 6 inches to the hanging loop on each side.  I cut out two hearts of each colour and then applied fusible interfacing to one before sketching on my snarky sentiments to embroider.  Once they all said something, I sandwiched the ribbon between the two hearts, and blanket-stitched around each heart to secure the ribbon in place.

IMG_1065-2

IMG_1066-2

IMG_1067-2

I’m also a little particular about the colours being in the proper spectrum order, or at least as close as you can get.

Because I’m a cross-stitcher at heart, that’s the approach I used for my card.

Garland 1-2

I had some sparkly white Aida left over from my mom’s cat ornaments which was just perfect for my background.

Whatever your Valentine’s Day brings, I hope it’s better than Ralph’s. 🙂

Fun fact: the eggman was actually Eric Burdon.  Shudder.

Ever since SiriusXM introduced its Beatles channel last May, it’s been my mom’s channel of choice.  I like them as much as the next person, but not on a 24-7 (excuse me, 24-8, as the station itself says) loop.  In any case, it seemed like a great theme to go with for her birthday.  Remember when themed birthdays were only for kids?  Me, too, but there’s no denying that having a theme makes everything fall into place nicely.

I dusted off my rudimentary and extremely rusty card-making skills for the occasion.  As soon as I found the main image in the course of a random Google search, I knew it had to be used somehow:

Beatles Birthday 2-1

I’m almost chagrined to include a picture of it in all its amateurish glory, but it served as a nice introduction to…

Pressies!  Back in October I discovered some wicked Sgt. Pepper-print fabric on Spoonflower, so hello pajama pants!

(A word about Spoonflower: while I love the fact that I found this fabric, it was $20 USD/yd, and because it’s printed to order there were wide empty white strips all around my 3 yards, which feels like a bit of a rip-off.  Also, they use yards instead of the vastly superior-and-slightly-larger metre, which also feels like a bit of a rip-off.  Those extra 10 cm make a difference!)

Beatles Birthday 1-1

And look, their little Scouse heads just about line up perfectly.

I used McCalls 4244, which at this point I can assemble without the instructions.  The piqué knit I chose is slippery – and surprisingly heavy – and required a ton of pins plus a steady hand on the sewing machine.  But ah, the drape!  As I spent, oh, minutes and minutes (ha!) guiding it through the machine, I started musing how many Beatles song titles could be greatly improved by the substitution of “pants”.  “I Want to Hold Your Pants”, “Maxwell’s Silver Pants”…and don’t forget, “You know I need someone’s paaannnntssss…”

At this point, I’m sure someone across the pond is reading this, sniggering at my obvious misuse of the word.  “Everyone knows pants are what go under your trousers!”  Sit tight, because I’ve got you covered, too.

Behold, Beatles knickers.  (To go with the pants, of course.)

Beatles Birthday 5-1

These are the midrise briefs from this pattern, and have very generous sizing.  I used fold-over elastic for the waistband, but went rogue and finished the legs but turning the edges under and running a zigzag stitch.  My reasoning was twofold: a) the FOE was a little fiddly to work with given the slippery fabric, and b) Fabricland only sells prepackaged cards of FOE at $6.49 for a yard – again with yards!  Since this particular view and size called for a total of 66.25 inches between the waistband and leg openings, that would have brought my total cost for elastic alone to $19.47 (unless I feel like sewing short ends together to make the proper length).  No, thank you.

I didn’t photograph the cake – I drew the themed-party line well before erecting some fondant-covered monstrosity in the shape of a yellow submarine, or whatever else it is one might do – but suffice it to say that a dark-chocolate cake with a cream cheese-whipped cream icing is lovely.

You say it’s your birthday?  We’re gonna have a good time!

Tin roof, rusted

June 14, 2016

Back in February, I was sick.  Not seriously, but my cold/flu-like symptoms showed up around Valentine’s Day and eventually caused me to miss five days of work – and that never happens.  I spent a lot of time spaced out on the couch, or heading down for a 12:30 nap (I miss the naps), and I discovered that fuzziness from sleeping poorly, when combined with fuzziness from a cocktail of over-the-counter and prescription medications, makes me prone to buying stuff online with little regard for whether I need it.  I bought this, for example.  And when I got an e-mail from Etsy touting last-minute instant-download Valentine’s gifts, well, that was just asking for trouble.

I bought a Love Elephant.

Whyyyy?  I certainly didn’t need another stuffed animal, or another sewing project.  But hey, there I was, with my freshly printed PDF pattern.  I promptly “filed” it and forgot about it (hooray for NeoCitran!), until my friend was over one evening some time later and saw it.  He had recently been through a bad breakup – that is to say, they’re definitely over, but she keeps popping up like a bad penny – and I thought he could use something to cuddle, so it was off to the fabric store for us to find a suitable colour of fleece.

The end result:

20160614_060944

20160614_060932

20160614_060859

The recipient has named him “Cupcake”.  But before he went to his new home, he spent some time exploring the jungles of the back yard.

IMG_0696

IMG_0698

I’m really quite pleased with the finished product.  I made a few changes: for example, I was too lazy to add the extra centimetre recommended for a seam allowance, so he is oh-so-slightly smaller than he ought to be, but with no adverse effects.  And because I was using a slightly more “masculine” colour and left the hearts off the ears, “Love Elephant” didn’t seem appropriate, so I came to think of him as the “Love Pach” (as in, pachyderm), which might have been a mistake as it led to a B52s earworm like you wouldn’t believe.

Cupcake’s owner thinks he’s the berries, and is fitting in well in his new home by all accounts.

Thanks for looking!

I’ve always been drawn to those nifty kitchen towels with the crocheted tops that allow one to hang them from a handy hook on a kitchen cabinet or drawer pull – I think it’s because my grandmother used to make them, and we always had one around the house.  The only problem was that up until recently, I didn’t know how to crochet (this has since been remedied); discovering that you can sew a fabric topper pretty much opened up a whole new crafty avenue to me.

I had the perfect fabric in my stash: a cool, sparkly American flag-patterned cotton that’s a bit bold in large doses but adds just the right dose of flair to an otherwise utilitarian object.

Hanging in the backyard:

IMG_0673

I’ve put these for sale in my Etsy shop – I think they’d make a lovely hostess gift with the summer party/barbeque season heating up.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

…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 shirt with an “N” and a “B”.

Hello, all, and happy Christmas-is-over.  Sorry if that sounds Grinchlike, but there’s something to be said for not panicking that I have to sew-and-bake-and-buy-and-wrap.  But now that (most) of the handmade gifts have been opened, it’s time for me to catch up and post the rest of them.

I’ve stitched railway-themed shirts for my dad in the past, but it’s been a few years and I thought it was time he had a new one to add to his collection.  I didn’t want to do just plain denim again, and when I saw coloured denim/canvas/something sturdy shirts at Mark’s, I knew I had found my blank slate.  I opted for a mossy green one and added the Burlington Northern logo to the pocket – you know, before it became part of BNSF.

This isn’t the best picture, but gives the best representation of the colour:

BN1

And a close-up of the pocket:

BN3

<whispering>I think the liked it!</whispering>  He unwrapped it Christmas morning, and wore it to a family gathering on Boxing Day without bothering to iron it or anything.

I hope everyone had a crafty, happy holiday! 🙂

…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.

IMG_0618

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. 🙂

Hard to believe that November is almost over, isn’t it?  I had the brilliant idea that everyone on my Christmas list should get at least something handmade (No, this isn’t stressful in the least!  Yes, that was sarcasm!  – Ed.), and decided to post the results here.

First up, a handmade stocking for my newly single friend to decorate his bachelor pad.  We had been at Fabricland this summer when he saw the reindeer flanellette and decided he liked it, and this seemed like the perfect project for it.

IMG_0614

This is the same pattern I used to make my Star Trek stocking last year – which, I’m pleased to report, the recipient is super-excited about hanging up at his desk again this year.

IMG_0617

I used a sumptuous red satin – formerly a queen-sized sheet – for the lining, and I love the luxurious look and feel it lends to the whole operation.

So, that’s one down….

Waaayyyy back in March, I finished sewing a pair of emerald-green pajamas for my mom in time for St. Patrick’s Day.  Even further back, in January, I had bought the necessary green cuddle satin along with enough purple to make another pair – and promptly dragged my heels until there were ruts in every room of the house

The pattern I used was McCall’s M4244, as always, and I don’t even want to look at the envelope right now.  I can more or less construct a pair of pajamas from that pattern without the instructions, at this point.

There’s no denying, however, that the purple set is delightfully regal-looking, and make the perfect nightwear as we transition from steamy summer nights into the crisp air of almost-autumn.

purplepjs1

They aren’t nearly as bulky and lumpy as they appear in the photo: when I presented the finished product to her, she couldn’t be bothered with actually getting changed and instead pulled them on over her tank top and cargo shorts.  I choose to interpret that eagerness as a compliment.

purplepjs2

A close-up of the buttons I used, along with a better idea of the fabric’s real colour.

I’d like to think my pajama-sewing days are behind me for a while, but I’d best not speak too soon.  One of my friends saw these and thought a pair of satiny pajama pants “would be all right”.  Maybe for Christmas…

Thanks for looking!