Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hoop La

Traditions are one of the best parts of Christmas (well unless we're talking about re-gifting fruit cake perhaps). One of my favorites is the now three year old ornament exchange among my friends. About a dozen of us gals gather together for holiday cheer (aka wine and yummies) and jibber jabber until we gather around the tree to share a little summary of our year and distribute one of our homemade ornaments to each friend. Similar to a cookie exchange you make a set of ornaments and leave with a mixed bag of ornaments. Not only do you get new items to 'spruce' up your Christmas tree, you have a happy reminder of the exchange and the friend who took the time to make your little decoration!

After hours of surfing the interwebs looking for the 'perfect' tutorial or idea I finally decided on an applique sewing project I fell in love with. With total due credit to Pilli Pilli for dreaming up these cuties I set out to make my own. I ordered the teeny tiny hoops online (hoping they'd arrive in plenty of time to finish!), had a scrap of linen on hand for the 'canvas' and bought 1/4 yard pieces of little prints in reds and greens. There's always plenty of ribbon, floss and needles here so all I had to do was figure out how to make them!

A bit of trial and error taught me that using a fusable backing for the little shapes would minimize fraying and keep them in place for sewing. I cut each piece free-hand so no two were alike (mostly because I had no pattern and besides, part of their charm is their 'rough' look). I cut 4 inch by 4 inch squares of linen and ironed on the bitty shapes then headed for my Curvy (aka sewing machine). Never having used a machine for free-form/curved sewing I wasn't sure what I'd end up with but it turned out to be easy enough (and the small size made pulling out wonky stitches and trying again easy too!). Next, I fitted the linen piece into the hoop all nice and snug and hand stitched the details. I added little snow flakes to the backgrounds (but they didn't show up too well).  I cut circles from scrapbook paper for a backing, tied a pretty bow around the tension screw and added a silver thread hanger. Then I did it all 11 more times!

I made 6 with happy little trees..

And 6 with happy little snowmen...

And packaged them up up to share!

 I'm already thinking about next year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monkey Business!

As I mentioned in my last post I made sock monkeys for Craft Hope's latest project.  A couple of friends came over with their socks and sewing equipment and we made monkeys!  My friend H was the go-to for instructions since she'd already started some (and is an expert sewess - is that a word?).   No pattern needed really and once you make one and find out how fun and easy they are you want to make a whole zoo.  Well, I only made two, but I had a tight deadline to meet!  Not surprisingly my 4 year old apprentice wanted the monkey to be a pirate, but brown monkey wasn't wearing the pirate gear too well.  So I picked up a pair of stripey socks and made Cap'n Monkey.

The extra fabric from the toe of the sock made a nice little kerchief.

He looks sea worthy, eh matey?

But what to do with brown monkey?  A girlie one perhaps?  When else am I going to use a piece of pink tulle after all?  A quick no-sew tutu and some felt flowers and brown monkey became ballerina monkey - and pirate monkey had a date!

They are now nestled snug in a box on a flight to Texas.  Bon voyage monkeys!  I hope whomever they go to live with has as much fun snuggling them as I had making them!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Stocking Up

Somewhere along the line in my cruising of the interwebs I found Craft Hope, a site where crafters can share handmade crafts with those who need them.  I started with Project 9 making pillow cases for ConKerr Cancer, an organization that provides cheerful pillowcases to sick children in hospitals across the country.  I jumped back in this year with Project 14: Christmas in Dixie.  It is for an organization in Alabama collecting Christmas stockings and decorations to those who lost everything in tornadoes last fall.  In both cases I donated directly rather than as part of Craft Hope since they have their own collection deadlines (that I missed).  But whether you craft along with the Craft Hope timelines or refer to their charities list for ideas that suit your crafty talents, it's a great way to connect and contribute. 

Since I had a lot of green felt left over from a previous project, I just found a simple stocking shape pattern and decorated as I went.  I originally intended to sew the stocking seams on my machine but I ended up doing all the edges by hand.  I used both glue and sewing to attach the embellishments even though gluing makes me feel like I'm cheating somehow.  :-)

The next project (#15) is Sock Monkeys for Texas - they will go to children who lost their homes in Texas wildfires.  The deadline is November 24th so I need to get moving!  If you are interested in joining in, all the details are here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall In The Bathroom

We've been caught up in Halloween around our house, but today I took a few minutes (seriously, like 5 mins) to bring back a favorite from last year.  It's quick and easy and cheap...even cheaper this year since I just rebuilt with the same materials from last season.

Here's all you need to make fall toilet paper cozies of your own...

  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Plastic bag
  • Fat quarter or similar sized piece of fabric
  • Piece of a stick (or brown paper)
  • Ribbon

Start by laying out your fabric wrong side up and set your TP roll in the center.

Loosely roll the plastic bag lengthwise and wrap it around the middle of your TP roll.  The bag will add some 'body' to your finished pumpkin shape.

Starting with the short sides (if your fabric is not a square) pull the edges up to the top of the TP roll and stuff into the center tube.  Next take a corner of the fabric and pull it up and stuff it into the tube.  Continue pulling the fabric up and tucking it in adjusting to create 'pleats' along the sides.

Once you've wrapped the paper roll you should have a pumpkiny shape.

Now all you need is a stem.  I used a  piece of a stick but a piece of paper rolled up would certainly be a fine substitute.  Add a coordinating ribbon and you have pretty fall TP storage for your powder room!

I made a set of three for a counter display.  Seasonal and sensible storage!
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Fleur de Felt

When I took on the mission of creating center pieces for a baby shower (yes the same baby I've blogged about before - we're all so excited!) all I knew was there would be felt involved.  Flowers, pretty and girlie colors and perhaps buckets of some sort crossed my mind and then my idea really blossomed (groan).   I rummaged through the garage and found a roll of rubber covered wire.  I bought it in the Target dollar section a year or two ago expecting to use it for its intended purpose as garden tie wire.  Better use: faux-felt-flowers! 

The buckets are from Hobby Lobby (on sale even!)  Again I raided my various stashes and found some floral foam.  I cut chunks with a serrated knife and stuffed them into the buckets.  

I used my die cutter to cut out several flower shapes, some circles for centers, and some leaves.  I also dug out some small styrofoam balls and cut them in half, then wet felted them to make a few "3-D" centers.  Next step was a lot of mixing and matching and gluing.  Yes, gluing.  GlueCatGlue for this project.

Once flowers were glued to wire stems and leaves were added I worked out my color combinations to balance as best I could among the buckets.  A bit of a bend here and there and then I stuck the stems into the floral foam.   Some shredded paper fake grass finished them off.

Though I feel like I cheated by gluing, boy howdy that sure makes things faster and easier!  G suggested a Halloween version in black felt with missing petals.   I'm sure Jack Skellington would appreciate them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Love This Thingie!

Yesterday I met the cutest little sewing thingie!  My Dad made it for his wife who is a quilter and while I'm not sure if there's an official name for such a thingie, it sure is a cute thingie!  A functional thingie and an organizational thingie to boot!

The vertical piece has two spaces for scissors, needles, tweezers, a needle threader - any longish-smallish sewing item - and the peg keeps a spool of thread handy.  The horizontal base has a little magnet built in for pins or needles on top and a lucky penny embedded below!

What a nifty sewing station?  Isn't it a cute little thingie!?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My New Favorite Thing I've Made

When the idea for creating the baby nursery was launched I grabbed "mobile" from the to-do list.  I wasn't sure what I'd end up with but knew I wanted to give it a whirl.  The wall decal for the room was a perfect 'pattern' for a set of cute little felt creatures so I started there.  I started with the little bird since I have a die cut that shape (is that cheating?)  I added a pointed oval shape to make a tummy so he would have a little more dimension.

After that I had to make up patterns myself.  Next up was the squirrel.  I enlarged a print out of the actual decal to get the body and tail shapes.  He didn't look right being a side view so I added paws on the right to balance him out.  Simple french knots for eyes and a tiny brown circle for a nose made his face.  I lengthened the tail to attach it to his back side and again added a little pointed oval to allow for some stuffing.

The hedgehog may be my favorite - he was created from a simple body shape and a lot of little die cut leaf shapes.  I sewed the 'leaves' by his face then glued rows along the rest of his body.  I sewed his sides together, added stuffing, eyes and a little nose and a hedgehog was born!

Hmmm, maybe the owl is my favorite?  This guy was made with the basic shape from the decal, a lighter colored tummy sewn on and then the face, feet and wing shapes glued on.  I've really never been a 'gluer' with my felt, but I tried stitching around the small pieces and it just looked messy.

I thought I needed an odd number for the mobile balance so had to decide on critter #5.  I tried a bunny but the scale was off with the ears on a like sized body.  I settled on a butterfly when I realized I should be thinking in terms of what color would mix well.  That lead to green as a nice balancer and of course...a froggie!  I found a basic shape online that I modified to better match the existing fellas.  Again I sewed on the belly, added the back and a little oval for stuffing room.  I always added the faces last since the change in dimension after stuff would have moved the positioning.

Now that the forest friends were complete it was time to figure out how the heck to make them into a mobile!  I purchased pink plastic embroidery hoops in 8 in and 6 in sizes but later decided a natural wood would look better and more like the tree in the decal.  I spent quite a while trying to determine the best balance of colors and critters until I settled on four hanging around the circle and one in the center.  Each of the animal had a flower for balance as well...

I measured the four cross points of each hoop and drilled 1/8 holes at each point.  I then painted the hoops brown (3 coats) and added a coat of Mod Podge for a more finished look.  The owl and bird were above their flowers (to put them in the 'sky') so I sewed the flower onto white jewelry string then using a large upholstery needle I threaded on the animal.  I looped the string through a hole in the larger hoop, then looped it through the smaller and left lots of extra in case I needed it!  Similarly, for the frog and squirrel I threaded the animals then sewed on the flower shape and threaded through the hoops.  Once everyone was in place I adjusted the heights so it all hung straight and balanced.  To finish it off, I added little leaves to cover the strings on the larger (bottom) hoop and tiny flowers to cover the strings on the smaller (top) hoop.  The hedgehog got center stage with just a long string gathered into the other four at the top.  I tied all the strings to a D-ring and covered it with one final felt flower.  A ribbon looped onto the D-ring for hanging and ta-da...custom baby mobile!

What fun it is to envision something and make it come to life!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Super Secret Stuff!

Our friend is having a baby girl (ETA August 12)  and now she has a super sweet room  to come home to!  About a dozen friends all bought or made something to add to this special space and while the mama was away on a weekend vacation we put it all together.

One of the starting points was this pretty crib set from Pottery Barn.  Girly, pinky, happy, flowery!

Inspiration also came from this happy, whimsical wall decal set.  Perfect colors to make the soft green room cheery and girly!  (I made the mobile...more on that in other post).

All the details were so fun...the lamp and nightlight made with flowers from a Pottery Barn sheet for a perfect match, a sweet framed 'family' picture, flowers added to the cabinet and some felt flower embellishments on the airy pink sheers for another lady-like touch.

The closet is now fru-fru-functional (a new decorating term) - hooks, bins, organizational labels and lots and lots of adorable little bitty girly dresses!

 The changing area is now all set with cuteness and organization...

Another view here showing how well all the pieces came together...

This room came out so special and lovely!  So many good friends adding their time, creativity, repurposed items and most especially LOVE to make a wonderful space for a great lady and her little miracle girl!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This year looks to be a Ratatouille themed birthday for #4.  Here's a look back at 3...

For our 'grog' I set up the buffet with a sea themed table cloth I got on super-sale at Target.  I made a menu on tan paper with a pirate-y font then ripped the edges and used brown chalks to get the aged effect.  The decorations on the wall are wooden pieces from JoAnn Fabric (50 cents each).  I scored the cups, plates and napkins at AC Moore for $1 a pack and the shells were $1 finds at The Christmas Tree Shop.  Colorful straws and a few pirate toys that we already had and viola!

I made the banner using scrapbook papers and my Cricut cutter.  A little pirate from the 'Paper Dolls' cartridge separates "Happy" and "Birthday".  For the table I used a $1 plastic blue 'sea' and a scrap of leathery looking fabric, a map, a toy pirate ship and some $1 packs of sea shells. The chest is full of Pirate Booty snacks - YUM!

I made the treasure chest out of a cheap styrofoam ice chest.  I painted it brown with regular latex paint I happened to have around then added the 'straps' using electrical tape and some upholstery tacks that looked like hammered brass.  I lined the inside with a scrap of black silky fabric to finish it off.  I made the chains by slicing a foam insulation tube (92 cents at Lowe's) and linking together. 

The cupcakes were a lot of fun - the liners and picks were a set from William Sonoma but could easily be printed and glued to tooth picks.  Some are all blue frosting for the sea and I did some with half blue "water' and half graham cracker crumbs for 'sand'.  The little treasure chest is a caramel - I cut the 'lid' off and shaped it a bit rounder then put some round sprinkles between the pieces to look like treasure.

My husband did this fine watermelon whale sculpture.  My friends still talk about his talent. :-)

And of course the highlight of any birthday party is the cake.  I made the base with a layer of cake and a layer of brownie for stability.  The 'lid' is half of an open book shaped cake pan for the curve.  Old school chocolate frosting (not much into fondant) and licorice straps with M&M 'nails'.  The treasure is a combination of gushers fruit gummy candies that are jewel shaped, the candy necklaces and 'diamonds' I made myself with a gem shaped candy mold and clear sugar candy recipe.  I used natural parchment paper for the tray and sprinkled some raw sugar for the sand.

Outside we had a huge pirate mast made from PVC pipes, an old sail cloth shower curtain and a bushel basket for a crow's nest.  It didn't stay up too well but it was pretty cool - more engineering time required for that though.  We had out a steamer trunk for gifts and gave pirate 'kits' for the favors.  I made red velvet goodie bags with twine ties that I filled with pirate booty snack bag, pirate hat, pirate earring, spy glass, compass, gold coins and a custom made CD of favorite pirate songs.

And there you have it (mostly).  We actually had a family party AND a friends party so I made that cake twice.  This year's party is fast approaching.  We'll be doing a Ratatouille Movie theme so stay tuned to see what we come up with!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Eggs!

When I placed my last felt order I threw in a charm pack of pieces from the Breakfast at Tiffany's fabrics at Prairie Point Junction cause they are just so dang purdy!  However, I had no idea what I would use them for.  I'm not really the patchwork type and the 5inX5in pieces can only be used in so many ways.  So what to do?  Well as usual, my friend CraftGossip gave me the inspiration (and link) I needed to solve this terrible dilemma!   This fun sewing blog tutorial from Retro Mama was perfect.  Seasonal, easy-ish, and pretty.  I was able to cut two egg pieces from each piece of the charm pack so technically I could have made 21 eggs.  I made a dozen but I have more pieces cut for the next time I'm on the machine.   I haven't found a really good way to use/display them, but here they are...

If you make some do post them on Retro Mama's flickr group, and show them off!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Charmed, I'm Sure

Once it was brought to my attention that there are PRINTABLE (like ink jet printer printable) Shrinky Dinks I knew my sewing projects had some competition for my attention.   I tested out a version of this project and it came out so-so but mostly because my printer was running out of ink and everything was kind of orange!  Then as I thought and thought and pondered the possibilities, an idea for a birthday present for a Shrinky-Dink and wine loving friend took shape.  Here's my tute followed by the rocky road I took to get to the finished that I know what to do (and what NOT to do) it's a neat and easy craft.

First off you of course need supplies:

- Printable Shrinky-Dink plastic (I got mine at Hobby Lobby)
- An ink jet printer (not laser ie heat printing)
- Image files
- Software to lighten the images
- A hole punch
- Jewelry wire
- Jump rings
- Pretty beads
- Magnetic closures (optional)
- Patience (not optional)

To start you'll need to prep your image files to be printer-Shrinky-Dink-ready.  You'll want to estimate the final piece(s) to be about 30% of your starting size.  I printed pictures sized so I could cut pieces that were 2.5 inches round and they shrunk to about the size of a dime. Your image files need to be lightened quite significantly as well because when they heat and shrink they darken.  This was a bit of trial and error for me especially since I had a range of pictures and colors/darknesses.  In the example below you can see the second image looks very washed out - I'd make it even lighter if I were to print and shrink it again.  Don't be afraid of the light(ness)!

The Shrinky-Dink package has directions for lightening - about 50% should work.  You can make transparent in Photoshop or I found to be a nifty option as well.

Once you have your files set, be sure to print a test sheet on regular paper in case you see something isn't how you're expecting it. I get a little impatient with the prep work myself but that just leads to rework.  I cut my printed image on my Cricut but you could of course do it by hand or use another type of cutting machine.  I'll put the settings details at the end of this post for anyone who is interested.  NOTE that I cut a 'charm' shape that included a little top 'loop'.  That allowed me to attach the finished piece.  If you cut by hand you'll need to punch a hole (regular paper punch is fine) BEFORE you bake or you'll end up with a disk and no hole for your wires!

Now for the FUN part!  The oven!  Shrinky Dinks are fairly forgiving within the 290-300 degree range but again, a test run is advisable.  I find 295F works well for me, but read the package instructions.  I use parchment paper under the shrinky plastic piece but brown paper bag paper works fine too.  It sure is fun to watch the magic as they curl up and recover so nicely!   I heated each of the six I made individually so when they came out of the oven I could press each under a tile to make sure it was completely flat (they cool super-fast so you don't have enough time to press a bunch)

And here's what I got:

Once your nifty little pieces are cooled they need to be sealed.  I tried both ModPodge and clear nail polish (spray acrylic is another option).  Here's another place you may want to do a test run to decide what you prefer.  I think the nail polish brought out the colors better and didn't leave brush marks so...I love ya Mod but I'll save you for a later step!

Next up - building the charms.  I attached a small jump ring to each of the charms.  Then I cut pieces of stiff wire (about 3 inches depending on how large you want your charm to be) and bent them into a ring.  I bent one end of the wire into a small loop, hooked on one end of the magnetic clasp and tightened the wire around the clasp end.  Next I strung on a small bead, two larger beads, the charm, two large beads and a small bead.  Of course you can design yours however you please.  To finish it off I bent the other end of the wire and hooked on the other end of the magnetic clasp.  Make sure everything is bent together nice and snug and you've made yourself (or a friend) a cool charm!

To finish my gift in style I made up some little cards to attach the charms to that also brought the 'theme' together.  Welcome back Mod Podge thanks for your help!

And here are some examples of the finished product...

Cute eh?  Despite my occasional FAIL as I worked through the details it was really fun to make these.  A set for Mother's Day with "All-Time Best Moms" might be cute - June Cleaver (of course), Mrs Cunningham, Shirley Partridge, Carol Brady and of course your own Mom!

So my lessons learned are as follows:
- Test and retest the images on regular paper before printing on the plastic.  It's too expensive to waste as much as I did!  ;-)
- Test your shape and size so you know how much shrinkage there will be, my first charms were too big.
- Decide on and practice your cutting method and shape.  The Cricut is a GREAT option but I had to work on blade placement to get the images properly positioned.  
- If you don't know anything about jewelry making ask someone who does what wire to use (and make sure your beads will fit on your selection).  I used memory wire which was a good stiffness and size but hard to shape.
- If you don't want to use the magnetic clasps just bend the wire ends into hook shapes that can link to each other.

Have fun, be creative - Shrinky Dinks ROCK!

Cricut Settings:
- Doodlecharms Cartidge
- Charm round
- 2.5 inches
- Low/Med speed
- High Pressure
- Center (be sure you determine the center WITH the charm top loop in mind)
- Multi cut (two times through worked fine)

Email me if you have any questions! Please send a picture if you try this or something similar yourself!