Saturday, December 24, 2011

Journey in her Christmas Dress

{Journey modeling the Christmas dress that Grandma made for her}

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Stockings Were Hung . . .

My Grandma Gray made a felt stocking for me when I was litle. I still have it, but it has a few moth holes, which tells me she made it with wool felt. She also made tree skirts, door knob hangers, and tablecloths, all from felt. She made a table cloth which was essentially red net with appliques out of felt. I think Dana has that. One of these days I would like to copy it. Grandma Gray also made my mother's tree skirt (I'm not sure who has it now) and one for me when Elizabeth was a baby. She appliqued a baby on it and embroidered Elizabeth or Liz, I can't remember now - I gave the tree skirt to Liz.

My mom made Elizabeth's stocking when she was little too. And Liz made one for Rylan. Rylan didn't need another one, but I had some stocking stuffers for her and it's just not the same without a stocking. So before I mailed her Christmas gifts, I made this one with the embroidery machine. I used a water soluble pen and traced the stocking shape on red felt, but didn't cut it out. I had to hoop the felt twice to get all of the snowflakes on this full size stocking. After embroidering, I cut out the stocking shape, front and back. I embroidered the name on white felt, then made the scalloped edge on the sewing machine freehand. I then stitched it all together. It was very fast and easy.

While my mother made Elizabeth's stocking, I bought a knitted stocking for Caroline when she was little and made one for Stephanie using a pre-printed, pre-quilted stocking panel (26 years ago...). Caroline contends that because it's store-bought, she never had a proper stocking. So, about 10 or more years ago, I bought a felt stocking kit to make for her. Looking back, I realize that I must have bought THE most complicated design they had. Every year I think I will get it done and Caroline gives me a hard time when it's not . . . but this year - I finished it!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homemade Christmas, the Mud Room and Food Storage

{Bay Leaf Wreath}

Last year we had a Homemade Christmas. I had wanted to do it for a long time. Turns out it was a LOT of pressure. In my usual form, I procrastinated till the last minute and then didn't get everything done that I wanted to do. Also, I didn't get pictures of most of the things I made.

Some of the gifts were surprising. Those who thought they couldn't make anything came up with some great gifts. Frank made me a fleece blanket and a Texans cap/coat rack for Marc. Stephanie made Marc monogrammed socks (he goes through socks like crazy) and me a gift basket with home made bath products. Caroline made me a turquoise necklace and Marc a Texans fleece blanket. These are just some of the great gifts that were exchanged.

{View of Mudroom from Kitchen}

When we built the mud room we originally thought we would build cabinets on one wall. We decided against that and so Marc made me a large cabinet to be used as a pantry. It was my Christmas gift from him last year. It's quite large (about 3 feet wide and 7 feet tall and 2 feet deep). I use it for overflow pantry storage (since I don't have a proper pantry) and some small appliances that I don't use very often. I also store home canned items in it. I quickly filled it up, so he made another one for me this Christmas. I knew he was building it but one day I walked thru the mud room to do some laundry and when I came out I was shocked to see that he had moved the extra refrigerator out to the shed and moved the cabinet in. I had totally missed it as I walked past it several times.


{2010 Cabinet}

I've got wheat and my Excalibur wheat grinder in this cabinet, as well as some small appliances like the bread machine and crock pots, sugar, home canned foods, etc.

{2011 Cabinet}
In the new cabinet, Marc built the shelves a little closer together so I can get more smaller items stored. The very top shelf is lower on the front and higher in the back and has a lip on the front, so that I can put cans on it and they will roll forward. I have 4 cases of canned goods on this shelf already and there's room for more. I have rice, oats, beans, and more stored in this cabinet. I organized everything and took an inventory of what I had in there. I was surprised to see just how much I had stored, but there's still room for more. I've been shopping sales and stockpiling sale items and it adds up pretty quickly. After Christmas I'll do a post about home food storage or "stockpiling".

Marc even went in my craft room and found some Christmas stamps and even hand made gift cards:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Quilt As You Go Table Runner

I'm officially in love with making Quilt As You Go table runners. They are SO fast and easy. I bought a Charm Pack from Nancy's Notions sometime this year when it was on clearance, for like $2.50. It's by Deb Strain for Moda, but that's all I can remember. Anyway, the colors and designs are so modern. I originally thought I would use this to make a patchwork dress/jumper for Journey for Christmas, but after tearing up the attic looking for that pattern (I'd saved it from a Woman's Day magazine from the early 80's), I abandoned that idea. Maybe next year for that project.

I arranged the squares the way I wanted them and then sewed three together to make a strip. I then cut the red broadcloth into strips two inches wide for the sashing. I layered quilt batting over the backing fabric and used temporary spray adhesive (which I use in machine embroidery quite often) to hold them in place. Since this is a short runner (36") I started at one end with a red sashing strip. I stitched as described in my previous post about QAYG table runners. Pressed for time (surprised?) I serged the edges then stitched jumbo red ric rac to the edges. We use this ric rac all the time in making dresses for little girls for sale. We buy it at Hobby Lobby when it's half price. Each roll holds about 9 yards or maybe it's 9 feet, anyway, it's about $2 per roll and comes in a lot of fun colors. The first time I used it I washed and dried it to ensure that it was colorfast - it is.

The charm pack made TWO table runners this size. Plus there were a few charms that were left over that I didn't want to incorporate into this project. I used those on Rylan's scarf and Journey's Christmas dress.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Naughty or Nice

Here are some pics of the Christmas outfit I made for Journey. I started with McCall's 6062 pattern. It's a peasant style dress. It was very fast and easy to make. I made a few changes from the pattern's instructions. The pattern called for an underskirt and an overskirt. It was a huge waste of fabric and didn't add anything to the overall look, so I omitted the overskirt and added an apron. I wanted it to look like the PortobelloPixie Claire peasant dress. I had used that pattern last year to make Christmas dresses for sale. We made the apron tie style, but found (after making MANY dresses) that the pattern didn't fit as expected, so I didn't want any surprises this year, which is why I used the McCalls pattern. The PP pattern is so cute and features a full color instruction booklet which I liked, but the end result was disappointing. Also it was very expensive!! I used the PP apron pattern piece for this one. I ended up cutting it down just a little. I embroidered the apron first, then added a lining and bound the edges. The tie around the waist is part of the McCalls pattern. I cut the ruffle using the pattern but I cut an extra piece and used the ruffler to make the ruffle. Gone are the days when I will sit and gather fabric. It's amazing what a $20-$30 attachment can do to automatic your sewing.

Since this is a winter dress, I wanted long sleeves, which the pattern didn't include so I converted the sleeve to 3/4 length. Another change I made was adding ribbon instead of elastic at the neck and sleeves. This way, we can customize the fit for Journey this year, and will allow her to wear it again next year.

Here's the back view:

I used some of the motifs from the skirt fabric to embroider the jacket and apron. This is the same owl I used to make Rylan's scarf, shown in a previous post, just different fabrics. It's featured in this month's Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine I noticed. It's from Planet Applique and SO cute. They have really cute kid's applique designs.

This fabric at first glance doesn't look "Christmasy" at all. But if you look close there's a stocking, present, snowflakes, etc.

We have professional labels that we add to garments that we sell, but I like to add a "Grandma" label and a size label to gifts too.

The jacket is a project that I've been wanting to try for over a year. The concept is basically taking a sweatshirt and refashioning it into a cardigan. I have searched high and low for a sweatshirt in a toddler size that didn't already have designs on it and couldn't find one. I finally found a fleece shirt that I could use. To make this you start by cutting off the collar and cuff ribbing, cut up the center of the front, and stabilize all edges with iron on interfacing. From there it's all design fun. I embroidered motifs that matched the skirt fabric and apron on the front and back, then made about ten miles of bias binding which took longer than anything else.

My friend Beth loaned me a book by Mary Mulari and Nancy Zieman called "Sweatshirt Makeovers for Kids" which contains some techniques and ideas. The closure idea came from her book, although I altered it just a little. It's a little flap that uses hook and loop tape (which I have in pink of course).

When I got my sewing machine I bought every accessory they made for it, some of which I still haven't used yet. I have a bias binding foot but it says it's for commercial binding, so I didn't try it out on this project. Commercial binding has one side that slightly wider than the other. Obviously my home made binding is not perfectly straight much less wider on one side... I also bought a "Ditch Quilting Foot" which I'd never used before, so I thought I would try it out. I am wondering how I ever lived without it. It made 'stitching in the ditch' incredibly easy and SO precise. Here's a closeup of the foot in action:

It has a blade that skims along in the "ditch" keeping the stitching lined up perfectly.

Nancy's Notions had a sale on sweatshirts so I bought about 6 of them to make cardigans for myself. These are nothing like Wal-Mart shirts - the fit is perfect and they are preshrunk. Stay tuned for more sweatshirt transformations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Table Runner for Stephanie

My Quilt As You Go Table Runner

Stephanie's kitchen is green and pink so I made a table runner that would match her colors. Her Christmas tree is white, covered with pink and silver balls and other decorations.

After my Fall Table Runner, which turned into a long drawn out project, I wanted something fast and easy. If I'd had a "jellyroll" it would have been even faster, but I used scraps of fabrics left over from dresses that we sold. I cut the strips about 16 inches by 2-1/2 inches with a rotary cutter. I wanted the finished runner about 15 by 60, so I cut a piece of batting a little bigger than that, as well as the backing fabric (I used plain white, cause I had a lot of it already). I should have used temporary spray adhesive to hold the batting to the backing fabric, but I forgot till I was about half way through the whole project. I just used pins and it worked fine.

I started by placing one strip approximately in the center of the runner, right side up, and sewed it down to the batting and backing, using a 1/4" seam. Then I laid the next strip on top of that first strip, right sides together, and stitched over the first seam. I then turned the 2nd strip over and pressed the seam flat (being careful not to melt the batting!). I kept adding strips in this manner until I got to one end. Then I started doing the other end by placing a strip over that very first strip, and working toward the opposite end. You basically work from the center of the runner to the ends. It was so fast and easy. Then I had to "true up" the edges using the rotary cutter. I serged the edges just to make it easier to deal with in the binding process.

Next I embroidered snowflakes on each end. I had bought some iridescent and metallic threads during JoAnn Fabric's after Thanksgiving Doorbuster Sale and tried them out. I slowed the machine speed down, used a metallic needle and still had the thread break a few times. [Sidebar: I had lots of problems with the next couple of projects I did after the snowflakes - thread shredding, "nests" and so on. After researching the problems, I realized it was operator error (always is). I have a habit of impatiently pulling the thread cone off when I'm changing threads, and pulling the thread tail back through the needle and tension mechanism when I should snip the thread and pull the extra piece of thread thru the needle. I happened to see a glimmer of that iridescent thread in the "works" and once I got it out I didn't have any more problems. I guess it does really pay to read and follow the directions.]

After the thread issues, I was anxious to get done with the table runner quickly. I had already made bias binding out of the green stripe fabric, but at the last minute decided to use lime green jumbo ric rac to finish off the edges. It was super fast and looked really cute.

I have a couple more runners cut and ready to sew. I'll post pics of those when (if?) I finish them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fun With Fleece

Since there are only twelve days till Christmas I thought I would title this post "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and do a post every day until Christmas, but then I realized that was too much pressure . . .

I've had a booklet from Hancock Fabrics that I picked up at a yard sale years ago caled "Fun With Fleece". It has all kinds of projects made out of fleece, with all the instructions, patterns, and tips needed.

I decided to make a hat and scarf for my granddaughter Rylan who lives in a colder climate for Christmas. She plays in the snow and needs to stay warm. She won't wear clothes that Grandma makes, but I figured I might be safe with a hat and scarf.

I first used a pattern for a hat which turned out terrible! It wasn't lined so it wouldn't be very warm, and the brim/band was floppy. It called for lapped seams, which made it look way too home made. I then tried serging, which worked better. But the band was just too limp, even thought I tried doubling the band by using a lining. Trash that one.

That's when I remembered the Fun With Fleece booklet in which I found instructions for making a hat without a pattern. You basically make a tube (aprx. 11" by 17"), sew the short sides and gather the top. I made two tubes - one for the lining and one for the outer fabric. I made the lining a few inches longer (aprx. 14" by 17") than the outside so that it could become the "brim" or hatband or whatever you call it. I decided I wanted about 4 inches of fringe on the top, so I used a rotary cutter and cut the fringe. I then used a piece of the selvedge to tie the top instead of sewing gathers. It turned cute and it was super fast and easy.

The booklet said to cut a scarf 9" wide. Again I used two fabrics, white for the outer fabric and pink with dots for the lining. I cut the scarf the width of the fabric. First I embroidered a winter owl motif on one end and two snowflakes on the other of the white fabric. I then cut off some of the excess fabric on the selvedge ends and made that into fringe, then top stitched the whole thing.

Both projects were fun and easy!

Scenes from the Baby Shower for Cody & Marie

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Boutique Handbags

"Boutique" handbags are very popular right now, and they're quite pricey. I wanted to try making one so I searched the internet for some ideas using "boutique tapestry handbag purses" as search terms but didn't come up with anything. I stumbled upon one on Pinterest that described it as "boho" and "gypsy" .... who knew??

This style handbag uses various tapestries, chenille, trims, satin, etc. all in the same bag. Pictured below are three "Gypsy Boho Handbags" I made recently.

The bottom two are made with a 1970's era pattern. The black/brown one on the right is full size and the sage green/brown one on the left was made a little smaller. I looked at the pattern and thought it was way too large so I made it smaller, only to find that I need all the room I can get.

The green one is made with a green/brown/gold tapestry, brown chenille (front panel and strap lining) and faux suede (gusset and strap). I trimmed the flap with brown and gold. The flower on the front is made with the same fabric I lined the purse with. I used an antique silver and amber pin that I seldom wear to finish it off.

The second purse was made with black, brown, green and mauve tapestry and brown chenille for the front and gussett. The straps and lining are a cheetah print. The straps are extra long and can be tied or slipped through a D-ring (haven't decided which I like best). This picture shows the gusset, which allows for LOTS of stuff in the purse.

Here's a close-up of the flower on the black/brown purse. I used the cheetah print and black chiffon for the flower and finished it with a vintage faceted glass button. I used a black chiffon ruffle and "eyelash" trim on the flap of the purse also.

The third purse is made from a black/gold tapestry. I made the straps from a cheetah print "velboa" fabric which is soft and has a nap to it. I inserted ruffled chiffon all around the side, added a gathered strip of the cheetah to the front flap and finished the flap with a tassel trim. I lined this purse with brown satin. All three purses have one or two pockets sewn into the lining.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Home Canning is Fun

"Home Canning is Fun" - That was the caption on a box of used canning jars that I bought at a yard sale. I'd say the box was at least 50 years old. Not much has changed in the exciting world of home canning in the last 50 years I would imagine.

I've canned just about everything you can can (may can?) in a water bath canner over the years - jams, jellies, syrups, relishes, pickles, bbq sauce, ketchup, tomatoes of all kinds, fruits, etc., but I have always been just a liiiiitle bit scared of a pressure canner. Pressure canning is the only safe way to can low acid foods such as vegetables, meats, etc.

The local stores have had some really good sales on meat lately, such as sirloin for $2.99/lb. and chuck roast for $1.97/lb. and turkeys for $0.59/lb. Now that the freezer is FULL I decided to bite the bullet and buy a pressure canner.

Tractor Supply had one for about $80 during the summer and I bought it. It sat there for a few days and I took it back. Still scared.

So during the recent meat-a-thon I went to Tractor Supply and saw that it was on "clearance" - $10 off. I found the manager and told him if he'd take another $10 off I'd buy it. He did so I got it for $59.99.

After cutting up meat for what seemed like hours, I was ready to can. I think I have the instructions memorized, I've read the book through so many times. Even so, I stopped and started the process three times. I was afraid I had missed something in the directions. Still Scared.

I literally sat and stared at that pressure dial for 75 minutes (the amount of time it takes to can meat in a pint jar). It was exhausting (mentally).

After that first round, it was a cinch. Really easy, much easier than water bath canning.

I've done three batches so far: 7 pints of chuck (stew meat essentially), 7 pints of chili (no beans, another 5 in the freezer with beans), and 5 quarts of sirloin strips. I really like the idea of home-made convenience foods. Who wants to thaw a brick of whatever at 5:30 (like we normally do)??

Assuming we don't die of botulism ; ) then this should be a real convenience to have all this precooked stuff in the pantry.

As I sat and baby-sat the pressure dial, I surfed the net. I found all manner of bizarre things on YouTube. People who are living subsistence type lifestyles (with internet and video no less) showing you how to can and live off the land, people who stockpile food for religious reasons, and then there are the Preppers.

I watched a National Geographic show a while back called Doomsday Preppers which showcased several families who are preparing for their own versions of doomsay - or as some call it "when the shit hits the fan".

So these people are stockpiling not only food but gas masks, guns, ammo, silver, gold, you name it. One family who lives in a suburban home raises tilapia in their swimming pool and fish them out every night. They eat tilapia every night. Bizarre! And they all seem to be on YouTube. Thousands of videos. Between YouTube and Pinterest I no longer need my TV.

OK, so I got a little sidetracked off my canning post. While I don't think zombies are coming anytime soon, I think it makes good sense to buy something on sale, and store it as a hedge against inflation. I mean you will have to eat and I'd be willing to bet grocery prices won't be going DOWN.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Table Runner

I wanted to make a Fall themed table runner this year (before Fall was actually over . . . ) and I actually got it done!! As some of you may know I have a Phd. in sewing (lots of Projects Half Done). So when something gets completed timely it's exciting.

I have a few fallish embroidery/applique designs that I wanted to use. The Acorn is from and it was Free!! It really was fast and stitched up nicely. The pumpkin was from For some of the blocks I used two pumpkins, mirror imaged one and stretched them to make them look a little different. The turkey also came from Digi Stitches. We've sold many a t-shirt and dress with this applique on it. For the pumpkin and turkey you can choose to use a satin or zig zag stitch to finish. I used both in the table runner.

I started with muslin squares, about 8" each and appliqued pumpkins, acorns and turkeys on 7 squares. Each block has a slightly different design and fabric and color choices. I used my embroidery machine (of course!) to applique each block.

Once each block was done I thought they were a little boring. I did a little research and decided to make each block into a "snowball" block. This way there's less muslin showing.

To make the snowball blocks, you basically start with small squares (mine were 4"), draw a line through each diagonally, stitch one in each corner, cut off excess and press. Here's a picture that shows each step, double click to make the picture larger so you can see details.

I laid out the blocks on the table and arranged them the way I thought they looked best. Three face one way and three face the other way with one in the center. Then I alternated the color of the corners on each block (pumpkin/orange).

After each block was done I used a dark print for the sashing strips that join the blocks together.

Then to make it more complicated I finished it off with Prairie Points which I think add a lot to the look. They're actually not hard to do. Again I started with 4" blocks. I used the pumpkin/orange broadcloth and alternated colors around the edge. It took just a little adjustment to make sure they lined up correctly.

I think the overall effect would have been better if I'd used batik fabrics, but with the exception of the dark print used for the sashing I used scraps I had on hand left from other projects.

A table runner is basically a table sized quilt and has to be "quilted". I had grand ideas of quilting the whole thing with the embroidery machine, but I ran out of stabilizer and decided to finish up on the sewing machine. If you look closely you can see the quilting design of acorns and oak leaves in the sashing in the picture below.

Talk about easy! There's NO way I would ever attempt to do this by hand. It would take a lifetime. I finished up the straight stitch quilting on the sewing machine, boring but effective.

I also made a kitchen towel using some leftover fabrics. I used Monogram Wizard for the "Harvest Blessings".

I am making potholders now and will post some pics when (if...) I get done with that project.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Country Kitchen

Here are some pics of our kitchen. I realize I've never posted any before now.

I love the design of the vent hood. There's a ledge like a fireplace mantel so I can display platters or whatnot. I have a large platter that Liz made for me which I display in the fall - it's a turkey. I keep meaning to buy a neat rooster platter at Hobby Lobby, but I'm too cheap to spend the money, even at half price.

The bar is great for eating dinner, preparing foods or cutting out patterns. It's about 48" wide. The wood below is tongue and groove aspen.

In this pic you can see the wicker baskets which slide out. They have a plastic liner which keeps everything clean. They're perfect for onions and potatoes. The cabinet above houses (some of my) cookbooks. Initially I was going to have a plate rack in this cabinet, but I realized I needed the space for cookbooks. I LOVE the trim on this cabinet. It's the same as the front of the vent hood. I searched online to find it. It matches my china cabinet. Yours truly installed all the trim and painted the cabinets.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fun at the Beach

Look who's having fun at the beach on the 4th of July!

Cute outfits courtesy of Stephanie!

Friday, June 17, 2011


Machine embroidered "cross stitch" kitchen towels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Get Real People

I guess this is a "Rant" type post. My blog probably isn't particularly interesting to most people. I started it as an easy way to upload pics so that family members could see what we were up to, without having to email them several times.

What you see is what you get here. The pictures, unless otherwise indicated, are all mine, taken by me. The pics are of whatever's going on in our lives right now, as are the comments. Again, not real interesting to most people. And I'm not trying to sell anything to anyone on this blog.

I love reading other people's blogs - they're like free online magazines (and I am a magazine-a-holic). I like the pictures, the "feel", and so on of my faves. I have a few that I regularly visit, some of which are linked to this blog.

(here's where I get my Rant on . . . )

One blog in particular that I visit has charming pictures and topics that I find interesting. I was in Tractor Supply (what? you don't shop at TSC??) perusing their books when I saw a picture on the cover of a book on keeping chickens that this blogger has on her blog. Some of her pics give credit to the source of the photo and some do not. This one in particular did not - I checked it again just now. Now, unless she wrote that book or provided photography for that book, then she basically "borrowed" someone else's picture and put it on her blog.

OK, so maybe I'm naive or slow, or both, but I finally realized that this particular blogger isn't blogging about her real life, but is merely using other people's images to lure unsuspecting people like me in, and then hope to make money on the links on her blog.

I guess there aren't any rules when it comes to blogging. Who says you have to be blogging about your actual life? I've come to realize that some people create an online persona that is not really close to their actual life at all. Maybe that is the life they really want or maybe that's just the life they want you to believe they lead. I guess that's fine if that's what you're all about, but using someone else's pictures to make it look like that is your life is just wrong.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Onion Harvest

Wow, check out the great onion crop! Marc planted about 400 onions and most of them made it. We've been using them and have sold some and we still have about 350 or so. We have white, yellow and red.

Marc has really big hands so they make these onions look average-sized.

But just look at the weight - 1-1/4 pounds!!! I think onion rings will be on the menu this weekend.