Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

It's officially New Year's Eve and I have one question: Where did the year go? You can read more of my thoughts at my other blog, Holding Faith.

Some of my crafting hopes include:

~ doing something with my bag of finished cross stitches (frames, pillows, etc.);

~ sewing together Sarah's smocked nightgown ASAP;

~ reducing the number of UFOs in my sewing basket (these are projects I truly want to do!)

~ completing some of the other projects that have been relegated to a drawer in the sewing room;

~ finishing the crocheted shawl I started this fall;

~ doing a lot more cross stitch;

~ wallpapering the powder room and painting the master bath and bedroom.

I'm not going to obsess about any of these as I know from experience that it doesn't help! We'll just see how the days unfold and what I can accomplish.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cross Stitch Start

Sarah and I went shopping this afternoon, and I got the three colors of DMC floss that I needed, so I started Woodland Sampling tonight. I've chosen 18 count Fiddler's Cloth to stitch it on. I had hoped to stitch it on 16 count fabric, but I had only one piece which wasn't quite big enough. I think the design will look quite nice nonetheless.

Sarah gave me these scissors for Christmas, as I had asked for a pair of decorative embroidery scissors. I used them for the first time tonight and they are wonderful!

If anyone is interested in buying cross stitch charts with no shipping charges (through December 31), visit Mary Kathryn at eHandcrafts. She also has a fabulous blog, The Happy Stitcher, and turns out completed projects so quickly that I'm certain she cross stitches in her sleep! Would that I could do the same.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Last of the Christmas Gifts! (Hooray!!!)

The gifts for my husband's family are ready for wrapping! Since the get together at my in-laws' isn't until Tuesday, I have "plenty" of time, right?

Here is the tote bag for my mother-in-law. I especially like the "I Love Knitting" embroidery; you probably can't see the detail in the picture, but the heart has varying texture, which adds to the interest.
And the skirt for our niece - it's actually two layers of fabric, with the outer one being sheer and the inner a light pink lining. It was rather a pain to work with, but I (think) I am pleased with the results. Because I don't have Mary Kate's waist size, I stitched a piece of buttonhole elastic to a piece of regular elastic (about 10" and 13" respectively), sewed a button to the back waistband, and left the end with the buttonhole elastic protruding from the opening in the back so she can adjust the elastic as needed.

And finally, here is the ornament I finished right before Christmas. The picture is very light - if you go here you can see a better picture of the fabric I chose. I stitched this with DMC floss on 28 count evenweave.

Christmas Gifts & New Projects

Finally I can post pictures of several other Christmas gifts I made.

This is the tote bag I embroidered for my mom. (I got the bag for a great price from Nancy's Notions earlier in the fall.) Mom was thrilled to finally have a dedicated music bag.

I purchased a second bag for my mother-in-law; hers has pink handles. The embroidery on that one was just completed on Thursday afternoon, so I'll try to get a picture of it on Friday.

These towels I embroidered for a friend. (The top one is actually upside down.) The designs on the top one (gold) and the blue bow were from Martha Pullen's Internet Embroidery Club. The
"sewing bird" I think I got for free somewhere. It's one of my favorite designs.


I've decided that this will be my next cross stitch design. It is "Woodland Sampling" by Little House Needleworks.

Also on the agenda -

~ Make skirt for niece (Friday & Saturday)

~ Sew together the mystery smocking item

~ Finish the shawl I started in early November

I don't want to make my list too long; I find I get discouraged and don't accomplish anything if I do.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

"So, The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold! The virgin will conceive and will bring forth a son; and she shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)

"For a Child is born; to us a Son is given; and the government is on His shoulder; and His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

"And it happened in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for all the habitable world to be registered. This registration first occurred under the governing of Syria by Cyrenius. And all went to be registered, each to his own city. And Joseph also went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because of his being of the house and family of David, to be registered with Mary, the one having been betrothed to him as wife, she being pregnant. And it happened as they were there, the days were fulfilled for her to bear. And she bore her son, the First-born. And she wrapped Him and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 1 - 7)

Jesus Christ, is what Christmas is all about. Do you know Him? If you do not, or you are not sure, please click here to find out how this can be your best Christmas ever!

"Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!" (II Corinthians 9:15)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More on Freestanding Lace

Deby at Apples of Gold wants to know more about the Freestanding Lace ornaments from my previous post. These are done with my embroidery machine and are stitched on a stabilizer that dissolves when placed in water. You use the same thread in both the needle and the bobbin (as opposed to using a lightweight bobbin thread when one is stitching an embroidery design on a garment or towel) so that there isn't any difference between the front and back. Once stitched, you trim as much of the stabilizer away from the outside edges of the design, then immerse it in water and voila! A beautiful piece of machine embroidered lace.

You can see some other designs here.

Today's tip: When dissolving water-soluble stabilizer, make sure to use warm water so the stabilizer will dissolve much more quickly and completely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Free-Standing Lace Ornaments

These are some of the free-standing lace ornaments that I've stitched for gifts this year. The top one is part of the December 2007 designs from the Martha Pullen Internet Embroidery Club, while the other two were purchased from Embroidery Library. They are part of the "Christmas Lace Ornaments" pack, from which I purchased several individual designs. These are amazing - they are digitized in such a way as to create the exact same design on the underside and topside. Absolutely gorgeous.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sewing Done!

Here's a closeup of the smocking on JR's pinafore. It's crooked because of how I laid ot out to take the picture. The pattern was challenging for me, but I am pleased with the results. In the pink and green section, I stitched all of the green first, then did the pink, which crossed over the green, yielding an interesting effect.

Here is the completed ensemble. That hat was going well until it came time to gather and attach the ruffle; because there were four layers, I wasn't able to use any of the traditional gathering methods (longest stitch length on my machine or using the gathering foot for the serger), so I ended up zigzagging over a piece of dental floss. Even so, it was difficult to pull up to the proper length. Then I was concerned about all that bulk and the lumpiness of the gathers, but I was pleasantly surprised when I completed the sewing.

I still have one item to sew together, but I'm doubting that will be done by Christmas Day. The pieces will probably be put in a box and wrapped with an IOU attached. I also have the skirt to make for my husband's brother's daughter, but it doesn't have to be completed until Jan. 1, so I'll tackle the projects that must be done by Christmas Day next. There's a bunch of machine embroidery to be done - four towels; two identical items, one for my mom and the other for my mother-in-law; another item I can't name. I think that's it!

Another Gift (Almost) Done & Cross Stitch Progress

I was chained to my sewing machine for over six hours today, and despite having to rip too many times (or is the proper term "backstitch"?), I have completed JR's pinafore except for opening the buttonholes and sewing on two buttons. Hmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Tip of the day: I like to run a bead of Fray Check along the inside of the buttonhole before opening it to prevent fraying.

I'm still learning how to take close ups, and today's attempts failed, so I will try again tomorrow to get a picture of the actual smocking.

Here is the progress I've made on my ornament. Once I finished the holly and ivy, the stitching has gone much faster. All that's left to do is the bottom - the words "Christmas 2007" and some baskets. I may actually finish it by the end of the year!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sewing In the Snow

(To the tune of "Singing in the Rain") -

I'm sewing in the snow
Just stitching in the snow
What a glorious feelin'
Like nothing I know
I'm laughing at snow
Still swirlin' around
Sew-ing's in my heart
Snow won't get me down
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the snow
It's going to blow
With needle and thread
There's nothing to dread
I'm stitchin'
and sewin' in the snow

Ok, I'm no poet (thanks to Rhyme Zone for the help!) but you get the idea. 15" - 25" of snow, blizzard conditions [Snow with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of 1/4 mile or less, for an extended period of time (eg. > 3 hours)] starting late Saturday night and continuing through 7:00 am Monday. Sew, what's better to do during a blizzard than sew and stitch? I started sewing together Jamie Rae's pinafore on Thursday, made a lot of mistakes and had to rip, rip, rip, so that's on the agenda for Saturday and Sunday. I'd also like to work on my latest cross stitch ornament. Of course, if the storm isn't as severe as they say, I'll be at church Sunday night; we're supposed to have a wonderful concert by a talented pianist who is studying at the Eastman School of Music. We will see!

Walking in a winter wonderland . . .

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I purchased an E-Z Stitch Lap Stand (made of Solid Oak) over the summer. I own a floor stand, but it is too awkward to carry with me when Sarah and I go to stitch with our friend on Tuesday evenings. I love this frame, and figured out how to use it without the E-Z Stitch scroll frame (shown in the picture to the right. Note: the cross stitch piece in the picture is not mine.)

I had been using a round hoop, which was a bit difficult given its small size and small working area when placed in the stand. I'm not sure where I got the idea, but I found out there is a mini scroll frame, which I searched for on the Internet, and ultimately purchased from a seller on eBay. I cut two small pieces of wood 4" long x 1/2" x 1/4", taped them together with duct tape to make a piece 4" x 1/2" x 1/2", and put it underneath the top bar of the scroll frame so I could clamp it into the sit-on-frame. It works beautifully, although the weight of the mini clip on magnifier pushes the frame down, so I simply hold it up a bit with my left hand as I stitch.

I have actually completed all of the holly and berries on this project; next comes the alphabet and, whatever is at the bottom! I find stitching over one to be tedious, even with the magnifier, and I am making a lot of mistakes, which I don't fully understand. I enlarged the chart as much as I could to make it easier to stitch . . . to say I'm frustrated is an understatement!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Take a Moment to Thank Our Troops

Please take a moment to go to Let's Say Thanks, sponsored by our local business, Xerox. At the website, you choose a postcard to send to a U. S. serviceman or woman; the art work on them has been done by young people throughout the country. After making your choice, you can select a pre-written message of thanks, or write your own. Just click "submit" and Xerox will take it from there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Progress on Christmas Gifts #2

This is Julia's nightgown. I still haven't opened the buttonholes and sewn on the buttons (on my list for tomorrow), but I wanted to take the pictures while I had access to the camera.

These are the cloth shoes I made for Julia's brother, Luke, using the tutorial at Stardust Shoes. While they're not as cute as the ones here, they will be practical. Since I'm not completely sure about the size, I didn't want to put to much energy into them just in case they don't fit.

The next project on my list is stitching together Jamie Rae's smocked pinafore. (Jamie is my other brother's daughter; they live in North Carolina.) Once that is done, I can work on gifts for the local family members.

Christmas Decorating

I thought you might enjoy seeing pictures of a few of our Christmas decorations. The first picture is of our house, taken at twilight. As usual, the camera doesn't capture everything; there are electric candles in each window. You can also see the snow we got Monday and Tuesday. I think the official storm total will be around a foot.

This picture is my makeshift "mantle" in the great room. Since we don't have a fireplace, the shelf above one of our love seats suffices. The first large stocking, on the left, was made by Grace for her dog, Kelly. The other three large stockings I made; the two in the middle are my husband's and mine, while the one on the right end is Sarah's.

I love having a nice stairway to decorate! One of the upgrades we made to the house when we built it was to forego the carpeting on the stairs in favor of oak treads with painted risers.

This final picture has nothing to do with Christmas. I've had this bench, which I picked up at a garage sale, since before I got married. The seat is hinged, and we store some our our board games inside. I recently purchased this new piece of fabric to cover the cushion (it's merely pinned on.) I need to repaint the bench so it fits in with the Early American decor in the entry way. Any suggestions as to color and/or paint treatment?

Here is a close up of the wallpaper border. Maybe I should go with a light mustard yellow?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Progress on Christmas Gifts

It's been snowing and blowing all day. Despite being warmly dressed, I felt like the wind was blowing right through the house . . . some leftover Tomato Chicken Soup paired with tortilla chips helped. As I write, there has been a very temporary lull in the wind, but most of the time it blows and blows and blows. We are still under not only a high wind warning (winds up to 50 mph), but a continued winter storm warning which will last until midnight Tuesday night. With all the blowing and drifting, it's hard to say how much snow we've received so far, but overnight, we're expecting another 3 - 7 inches, and yet another 4 - 8 inches on Tuesday. On top of that, it's cold - it didn't get out of the mid-20's today, nor will it for the next few days.

What else is there to do on a day like today but work on Christmas projects? I've nearly finished the nightgown for Julia, having done some handwork today; all that is left is to open the buttonholes and sew on the buttons. I may add some bows to the front, but will get Sarah's opinion before make a final decision.

I also worked at enlarging the pattern for the cloth baby shoes I want to make for Julia's brother, Luke. At first I thought to use the scanner to enlarge the entire pattern by 20% or so, but then I realized that it was mostly the length that needed adjusting, so I cut the pattern in two, added the additional amount, and taped it back together. I also added the same amount to the "top" piece. I made a sample shoe, which is absolutely adorable, but unfortunately, it is too small, so I added more length to the pattern. My dear sister-in-law, Veronica, measured Luke's foot (not an easy task!), so I have some idea what measurements I'm after, plus I traced a shoe while at WalMart last week. I think it will work just fine now, so the next ones I make I will plan to send off. Despite my initial impression that these would be difficult to make, once I had all the pieces cut out, they went together relatively quickly and easily, thanks, in part, to the wonderful pictures in the tutorial.

If you are interested in making cloth slippers for yourself, try out this tutorial. I just downloaded it tonight, so I can't vouch for the instructions. The Sew, Mama, Sew! Blog has been featuring gift ideas since the beginning of November - check it out!

I managed to put half a dozen stitches into my cross stitch project before I felt too sleepy to continue. Oh, well.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sew Excited!

We have finally entered, at least somewhat, into the digital television age! When our VCR started eating tapes, we realized it was time to evaluate our television recording options. We have a DVD/VCR combo unit in the master bedroom, but anything we record on video tape must be watched in the bedroom, which might not be convenient or comfortable. We couldn't see investing in another VCR to use with our primary television, so we began researching DVD recorders. With the impending switch or all television stations to digital format in February, 2008, we realized we needed to purchase a unit with a digital tuner, since we do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV. After consulting with the ever helpful Consumer Reports, we compiled a very short list of recommended DVD recorders with digital tuners. We waited and we watched the sale ads. We waited some more. Finally, last week Best Buy had one of the units on our list on sale, and at a much better price than we dared hope to pay!! Phil spent Friday and Saturday setting it up, and reprogramming our universal remote (which mysteriously lost all its programming.) We still don't know how to record, but hopefully Phil can figure that out very soon.

So what am I sew excited about? When we began surfing channels, we discovered that we now have more channels because of the ability to receive digital signals. No fewer than four PBS stations are available to us now, one of which - Create - is already my new favorite. I am thrilled that I can watch two different episodes of Martha's Sewing Room, The Donna Dewberry Show, America Quilts Creatively, and more! Wow!!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cross Stitch Ornament

I finished my cross stitch ornament tonight and hung it on our tree, which still has very few ornaments on it, as we're waiting to hang them until all four of us are available . . . Although the background color looks white, it is really a "natural" or "raw" 28 count linen, and I used the alternate DMC colors instead of the Weeks Dye Works Floss. Even with a magnifying glass, the stitching was tedious, but not as much as the ornament I'm working on now, Christmas Holly by Hands to Work (also from JCS Christmas Ornaments 2007.) Oh, the joys of getting older!