A little while ago, I was part of an ATC Address Card swap on Craftster. (An ATC, for the uninitiated – as I was – is an Artist Trading Card; you can read all about them here.) The idea was that you would create cards for four swap partners that featured your name and address on one side and a brief biography and/or likes and dislikes on the other, so that you would be able to exchange birthday cards, random crafted items, or even swap stash. I’m a sucker for anything that might mean more mail coming my way, and despite not being a papercrafter (or, um, able to draw) I was on it.
One of my partners went completely above and beyond, and I was shocked to receive an envelope too large and too fat to hold just a 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ card. She had filled this thing to the gills with assorted pieces of cardstock, embellishments…all sorts of different colours and textures to play with. As soon as I opened it, I knew I’d have to come up with something amazing to send her. I’m not a papercrafter, though, so I played to my strengths, and when I saw the pattern in my stitching stash, I knew I had found my something.
The pattern is by Emma Congdon, but I changed up the colours a bit and really prefer the rich green to the original shades of yellow. I love typography, and given that the recipient is a prolific and multi-talented crafter, this was just too perfect for her.
She wasn’t expecting anything and so this proved to be a complete surprise when she came home after work one day to find it in the mailbox. And really, isn’t that the best kind of mail?
Nostalgia makes everything better, doesn’t it? Food is tastier, music is better…all because of the memories associated with it.
When the “I Love the 80s” swap showed up on Craftster, I was so, so in. The cartoons! The neon colours! I think that was probably the first generation of kids that was marketed to hardcore by businesses, and it showed in the Pinterest rabbit hole I found myself falling down. I think I could have made a career (if a low-paying one) out of curating just the right Popples and Strawberry Shortcake pins.
Apparently not many people feel that way, because when sign-ups closed, there were only three of us signed up. We did a round-robin swap, which sounds more family-friendly than “three-way” – Person A sent to Person B, Person B sent to Person C, and Person C sent to Person A. It was a three-point swap, which meant that your swap package should take three or more hours to craft or cost $30 or more in supplies.
I found a truly outrageous pattern to stitch up:
I found neon craft acrylics to paint the hoop, too. Between the colours and the sparkly aida fabric, it popped. But it felt kind of underwhelming on its own (despite meeting the 3-hour mark), so I made a felt-appliqué My Little Pony to go with it.
Luckily, the same purple paint complemented Glory’s mane and tail perfectly.
I felt pretty good about my package, but hoo boy, did my partner ever spoil me!
A mug rug! The 80s-est (it’s a word now) notecards ever! Even a Caboodles! But the Lisa Frank shrine really shone, and needs a little love of its own.
I was seriously blown away by her generosity, and quite frankly by the utter perfection of her choices. It seemed like if it was on my swap questionnaire, it found its way into my package. I thanked her profusely, of course, but couldn’t let that be the end, so I felt-appliquéd a hoop for her, too.
What else do you send someone who brought such cheer to your day but Cheer Bear? All right, and some chocolate, too. (By the way: that purple door in the background isn’t long for this world. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing a different backdrop for hanging crafts.)
This all culminated in mutual goodwill, and I was a little sad to see it all over – this was probably the most fun I had ever had in a swap, playing with the colours and characters. As it turned out, one of the Craftster members hadn’t been able to take part in the official swap, and so with a brief private-message exchange, we were able to work out details of a private swap.
My new partner was a collector of My Little Pony as well, and in the course of our exchange, I quickly hit on exactly what I had to make for her.
And Medley! (I’ve also seen it spelled “Melody”, and if someone knows which is right, let me know.) Gaah, the detailing on her wings stressed me out. I kept worrying the definition wouldn’t come through.
I still wanted to include something else with them – I might be a lot of things, but I’m no one-trick pony (ha!). While Googling the Wuzzles at work one day, I discovered just what an amazing collection of vocal talent that show had. Bill Scott (you might know him as Bullwinkle J. Moose, Dudley Do-Right, Mr. Peabody…) was on it, but – and this is what did it for me – so were Henry Gibson and Joanne Worley. I had never heard of them, or of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, as a kid, but present-day Witty Child just about fell out of her chair.
But how to immortalize their characters? More felt appliqué? Nah. Embroidery would be nice, but I’d want to do a fill stitch of some sort to capture the colours better than an outline alone could do, and I didn’t have the time for that. And for the first time ever, Michaels provided me with something useful, in the form of fabric markers.
The markers gave me the colours I was looking for, and worked really well on the tea towels I used. They even held up after being washed, and I can’t imagine how many hours and needle-induced callouses they saved me.
It seems that my partner and I were kind of on the same wavelength, because I got home one day after work to find these waiting for me:
Felt-appliquéd My Little Ponies! Cotton Candy will always be #1 in my books. And Lisa Frank kittens! That neon yellow on both of them (fleece for the ponies, and embroidery floss for the kitten) positively draws the eye. Who am I kidding, I can’t stop looking at either one of them.
When I signed up for the 2019 edition of the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster, my mind danced with possibilities. I had done it a couple of years ago, when it was the Sunshine in a Box Swap, but everything was in sunny shades of orange and yellow. This time, I had limitless options. I chose pink as my colour, and couldn’t wait to see what bright hue my partner had picked. Ooh, or maybe that would be hues, plural! When I saw her colour was navy, I was temporarily flummoxed.
It’s so dark. Wasn’t that akin to sending a big box of gloom?
Still, if navy was what she wanted, navy was what she was going to get, and I scanned her Pinterest for ideas (gleaning a few Christmas ornament how-to’s along the way), until I hit a pocket of beachy Pins. Something sea-y would work well! A quick trip to Michaels later, I had two packages of iron-on embroidery transfers and a set of blank, navy-striped tea towels.
I’m pretty sure the lighthouse design is bigger, but it went more quickly than the beach chair one did. Weird.
I kept things super-simple, and used a basic backstitch to outline everything. Partway through the first one, I panicked – although I knew I was using navy thread, it looked almost black. (Though this clearly didn’t panic me enough to stop stitching and switch colours. Go figure.) It must have just been a trick of the light, because when my partner received her package and posted pictures, the lines were definitely navy. *whew*
I also made her the Poochie bag we all know and love from a couple of posts back:
I stuffed the bag with some navy goodies: blueberry-scented votive candles, a tin of blueberry mints, some washi tape, navy gel pens…
I couldn’t wait to see how she ran with my request for pink, and I wasn’t disappointed!
I can’t knit, and so I’m in utter awe of the cabling on the hat. The texture…oooh! (The unicorn lights, of course, went straight to work with me to brighten up my cube.)
Way back, when I was first dipping my toes into that great pool that is Etsy, I found some fabric from a purveyor of kawaii textiles that I just had to have. I don’t remember how closely I read the listing before adding it to my cart and waiting impatiently for my package to arrive from Japan.
When it did arrive, the package’s contents were just as lovely as they had looked online, only…much smaller than anticipated. I was not and am not a quilter, and had never heard of a fat quarter, and it was inconceivable (“I don’t think you know what ‘inconceivable’ means.” – Ed.) that someone should sell fabric in less than a metre cut. I had no idea what to make with an 18″ x 22″ piece of fabric – though admittedly, I don’t think I had a project in mind for a metre, either – and into my stash it went.
Fast-forward ten years (I know!), and suddenly every store is charging 5¢ for a plastic bag. I’m honestly not bothered by being charged a nickel, and as long as plastic bags are reused or disposed of properly, I don’t believe they’re the environmental bogeyman that everyone makes them out to be. (Edit: I found this, which confirms my theories at least partly.) But some stores’ (looking at you, Michaels) are made so cheaply that anything sharper than a cotton ball will cause them to tear so that they can’t be reused. And who wants to lug around one of those family-sized reusable bags from a grocery store when you’re just heading to the drugstore for dental floss and conditioner?
While browsing through files on my computer, I stumbled on a PDF that I had downloaded from the Happy Zombie probably around the time that I bought that abnormally tiny cut of fabric. This so-called “Poochie Bag” looked like the perfect way to use it. Honestly, if I hadn’t had to go out and buy coordinating fabric for the lining and handles, it would have been the perfect destashing project.
Except I didn’t make this a “true” Poochie Bag because…no pooch. Doing that would have relegated that lovely Cyrillic lettering to he bottom of the bag, and I didn’t buy this on whim and then sit on it for ten years just to do that. I still wanted to try the milk-carton corners, though, and decided to make one for my mom’s birthday.
Not only did it hold all of her other birthday swag admirably, she’s gotten a ton of use out of it since for all those small purchases. I picked three coordinating fat quarters (aha!) from Michaels, and was pretty pleased with the results.
So pleased, in fact, that I decided my partner in the Colour in a Box Swap on Craftster needed one in her chosen colour, too.
I love the lining fabric!
After three of these, I think I’m poochie-d out for a little bit. But they’re a great quick project, and I may have to revisit them for Christmas gift-giving.
…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. 😉
I’ll skip the whole “Ooh, Halloween!” preamble, because anyone who’s been reading this for a while knows how I feel about it (and if you don’t, check the Halloween tag). Spoiler alert: I love it! Obviously, joining the 2018 iteration of the Vintage Halloween Swap on Craftster was a no-brainer. My partner has received her package, so I figured it was safe to post this now.
My partner’s era of choice was the 1920s-1930s, and “witches” was among her favourite themes. This might have pushed me just a wee bit outside my comfort zone – my Halloween aesthetic runs toward “cute” and “cats”, and is just a bit more modern – but one of the fun aspects of swaps is trying something you might not ordinarily try. An Etsy search for “1930s Halloween” yielded, among other things, a high-quality jpeg version of this image:
(This, of course, is a low-quality image courtesy of a Google search.)
She was Art Deco-y and fun, and I decided to interpret her in embroidery. Using my lightbox, I traced the basic outline in pencil before going over those lines with a transfer pen. Once the design was transferred to my fabric, I colour-tinted the image before starting the actual embroidery.
Naturally, I didn’t think to take a picture after transferring and before tinting. This will be a recurring theme.
After setting the crayon, I used a simple backstitch to define most of the image – I had tried stem stitch, because I think it permits more gentle curvature, but it was proving to be too bulky and weird. I used a bit of satin stitch on the witch’s eyes and mouth, an some French knots to create the polka-dot pattern on her sleeve.
Her hands in the original image reminded me of a Barbie doll’s steel-fork fingers, so I attempted to humanize her a little bit. Her overall look reminded me of something, too, but I couldn’t figure out what for the longest time, until it hit me: she’s a tad Claudette Colbert-ish, I think. Same era, same shot-from-the-left, same well-defined lips…
That’s a regular wood/bamboo embroidery hoop she’s framed in (5″), painted black to really make the colours pop.
When I had gone to Michael’s to pick up the fabric, floss, and hoop for her, I saw a display of unfinished wooden light-up decorations, and lo, they had a witch one.
It did not occur to me to take a “before” picture until after I had started applying yellow paint – I told you that was a recurring issue.
Even after one coat of craft acrylic, she looked pretty good, but this picture definitely showed me the need for a second coat – and that I had to paint the edges black as well.
This picture doesn’t really do it justice – lit up in a dark room, it positively glows.
Consider Halloween crafting season to be officially underway – thanks for looking! 🙂
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…