Posts Tagged ‘Crafts’

Last year I shared with you how my mother-in-law taught me how to make an evergreen wreath.  This year we gathered with the whole family (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, too!) to make them again.  We started our outing at our land to gather the evergreen boughs, and after a long (and somewhat wet!) hike we finally found the perfect branches.  After lunch we had a wonderful time creating our wreaths, and then going through the bags of flowers and pinecones that my mother-in-law has kept for just this purpose in order to decorate them. 

Creating an evergreen wreath is super easy and fun!  Here’s how:

1.  Gather a bucket of fresh evergreen boughs.  We found fir trees to work best for this because their needles lie flat and aren’t prickly.  I think other branches would work, but you might want to wear gloves to keep from getting poked by the needles. 


2.  Find or make a wire wreath frame.  You could make one out of a wire coat hanger, and the bonus is you will already have a hook for hanging!  You will also need some florist wire.

3.  Cut your boughs into lengths about as long as your hand.

4.  Gather these “hands” into a group of three or four (depending on how full your boughs are).

5.  Secure your wire to the wreath frame.  Wire the greens onto the front of your wreath frame by wrapping the wire around the wreath and greenery several times.

6.  Gather another group of “hands” and wire them to the back of your wreath frame, a small distance away from the group you just wired to the front.

7.  Continue to wire groups of branches alternately to the front and back until your whole wreath is covered.

8.  Twist the end of the wire to secure, and cut it off.  If you need a hanger, twist the wire into a hanging loop before cutting.

9.  You now have a beautiful evergreen wreath!  If the shape is a little wild, trim the boughs until you are happy with it. 

10.  Decorate as you wish!  When I purchased wreaths in years past I only ever decorated them with a long velvet bow that I reused year after year.  I can’t resist my mother-in-law’s collection of decorations though, and love the way the flowers and pinecones look on the greenery.  These are attached with a glue gun, and they pull easily off the wreath at the end of the season to reuse next year.

Happy wreath making!

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In this moment I have herbs that need harvesting, a project in half-completion in the sewing room, a book half-read whose story dances around my head even when I have decided I MUST leave it and get back to doing something more productive.  My to-do list extends well beyond what time and space will ever allow, as my creative mind dreams up 20 new projects to start before I have even finished the first on the list.

And yet, I can’t help seeking out new inspiration, dreaming new dreams, solving new problems.

Truth be told, I don’t think I’d want to live any other way.

Here are just a few things that have grabbed my attention lately:

Sew, Mama, Sew is posting daily holiday inspiration.  I want to make a neighbourhood of these and isn’t this one of the coolest scrap-busters ever?

I somehow stumbled across a new blog today and am in love with some of the cute crafts!   I am definitely inspired to do something creative with all of the buttons I own.

I was also reminded this morning that what I have is enough, I learned to use picnik and created my own banner for my new Etsy shop (more on that in a few days),  and I discovered this fun Halloween treat  and am busy trying to think of a way to make it without the chocolate.  (I’ll let you know if I come up with something!)

Isn’t it wonderful to be a part of a world-wide community of idea-sharers?   What is inspiring you today?

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This weekend I had the opportunity to stretch my sewing muscles, while at the same time doing some very necessary planning for my business.

The past seven weeks I have been involved in the Right Brain Business Plan Course and have loved this unconventional, visual, and creative way of diving into business planning.  (Check out the website if you’d  like to know more.)

After spending weeks in working through the steps of business planning, the final step is to bring everything together in a format that resonates with you.  (and artistic entrepreneurs have done everything from accordion books to mobiles to altered books.)  And just in case you  are wondering….no, this is not the type of plan you take with you to the bank! (although that is covered in the course as well.)

I had completely planned to put everything into a scrapbook-type format, and even bought a blank book to house it all, but at the last minute I changed my mind.

I am a sewer, after all.

So I started planning a book made out of fabric, instead of paper, that would incorporate all the elements in a way true to my business.   I discovered this page for inspiration and then I just let the rest develop out of my own imagination! 

Using felt for a base, I put to use my rusty embroidery and hand-sewing skills, and incorporated recycled fabric pieces, quilt cast-offs, and buttons and ribbon from my stash.

I love that feeling of trying something for the first time, that stretching and growing that happens when your brain has to solve new problems and think about materials in different ways.

All of the business elements are tied in or placed in pockets, so that they can be changed and updated as my business grows.

I think this is the perfect housing for my business plan, as well as a fun new way to experiment with sewing and fabrics.  I can definitely see myself making  fabric books or journals again!

How do you like to challenge yourself?  What new skill are you learning, or wishing you could learn?

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Do you ever happen upon a blog and something about the writer makes you decide you just have to add it to your daily blog reading? 

That’s what happened with me and Keri who writes Quaint and Quirky.   Three things in her bio caught my attention  – she lives in New England (so she’s not too far from here), she’s an Irish dancer (and I would love to be an Irish dancer!) and she used the words “kindred spirit.”    I have been reading her blog ever since.

She had a great idea she posted on her blog yesterday to start her year with giving, by paying it forward.   I decided it would be a great way to start my year too, and I am excited to pass my giving on to you.

Here is how it works. 

“Pay it forward” is the idea that random acts of kindness are given without expecting anything in return. It’s passing on a kindness hoping that your recipients will do the same, and forming a never-ending chain of goodwill , that’s what this is about. But it isn’t only kindness, it is also a means to connect with our fellow crafters, to network, if you will, and to share our enjoyment of crafting/sewing instead of just keeping it to ourselves or where only friends and family get to see it.
 This is how it works: You’ll have to comment on this post and the first three people who comment will receive a handmade gift from me within the next few months. But those three people will also have to post the idea on their blog (or Facebook for those of you I know who might like to participate but who don’t blog!) and commit to making a gift for the first three people who comment and so on and so forth.
SO, the first three people to comment here will get something handmade by me,  but you have to do this on your blog as well.  I’ll be reading your blog (or checking out your Facebook!) to figure out what to make you and to make sure that you have posted about your Pay it Forward!   

Have fun giving to others!

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Just about anyone with a crafty hobby knows what UFOs are (and no, I am not referring to an extraterrestrial invasion!).  They are the unfinished objects that were started and then abandoned in favour of newer, more exciting, more pressing, or easier (!) projects.  They lurk in hidden corners of the sewing or craft room, sometimes forgotten for years, but in their dark corners they multiply with their secret mission to take over the sewing room! 

During the Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway Day I came across Staci, at The Confused Quilter and have joined in her mission to stop the invasion!

More of a support group than sewing challenge, each of us have set a goal for the UFOs we will finish this year.  There is even a flickr group to post pictures and to keep us motivated. 

This year I have committed to finishing one UFO a month.   This seemed like a reachable goal and will clear up a lot of space in the sewing room (for all those new projects I am going to start this year!) 

When I cleaned the sewing room last year I confined all of the UFOs to a single bucket, promising myself that should the bucket become full I would finish what was in it before starting anything new.  You can imagine how well that worked…..  Here is the bucket now:

At least 3 of the quilts in this bucket I inherited as UFOs for my grandmother.  (You see what happens when you don’t get them under control?  They go on and invade other sewing rooms!)

I also have a pile almost as big piled outside this bucket of clothing and bags, and then there is this poor quilt, which has been sitting cut out on the floor so long that I no longer remember which colours I cut for which part of the pattern. 

And so, in 2011, the invasion will be stopped!   We will sweep the UFOs from all the dark corners and take back our sewing rooms! 

Do you have UFOs lurking in your craft space?  Come and join in the fun!

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I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas holiday!  Hubby and I packed up the car on Christmas Eve (and boy was it packed!) and headed over the river and through the woods (literally) to his parent’s house where we spent the holidays with all of his family.  It was a wonderful Christmas full of love, laughter and lots of good food, we certainly could not have asked for anything better.

One of my favourite parts of the week-end was finally being able to watch everyone open their hand-made gifts, and now that they have all been received by their recipients I am equally as excited to share all of my “secret sewing” with you! 

For Hubby I made him a lunch bag using this tutorial.  I toyed with the idea of making a number of more complicated insulated bags, but none of them seemed big enough for the containers we often use for lunches, and because he stores his lunch in the fridge the insulation seemed unnecessary.  Plain and simple won the day!

It’s lined with NASCAR fabric to jazz it up a little. 

For my sister-in-law I made a sewing set. 

The big piece of fabric is a sewing machine cover based on this tutorial.  I had lots of fabric left over so decided to sew up a few accessories. 

A little pin cushion

A needle book.  I have seen several of these on blogs over the years but couldn’t find a tutorial to make one so just made it up!   I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

And finally I made a gathered clutch to hold it all.   This tutorial was a lot of fun, I now understand why everyone seems to be making them.   This was my first zippered bag and I have to say I am no longer afraid of zipper installation. Yay! 

My sister-in-law had also asked for some produce bags (I use them in my fridge instead of plastic) so I made a set of those, too.

For my mother-in-law I rediscovered the joy of paper piecing.  I had forgotten how much fun it is (and also how time-consuming – I was still sewing on the evening of the 23rd – yikes!)  This is my first paper-pieced quilt with such tiny pieces and I am really happy with the way it turned out – and I think my mother-in-law liked it too!

For Hubby and my father-in-law I made personalized mouse pads.  The pads were bought blank and then I used an iron-on-transfer to decorate them with a photo that reflects their interests.   (The canoe is for Hubby)

And finally, I made some handmade ornaments for a good friend of mine.  She has a nativity-themed Christmas tree but happened to mention that she didn’t have any shepherd ornaments.  I can understand why when I tried to find some and come up empty-handed!  Not finding any tutorials on how to make your own shepherd (!) I had to improvise.  Based loosely on penny rugs I rediscovered hand-stiitching and made a felt shepherd and sheep. 

It was a busy week before Christmas (I know, I know, every year I say I am going to start earlier but there I was on December 20th just getting started!), but definitely worth it! 

Did you make or receive any handmade gifts this year?

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I am truly blessed with wonderful family.  With my own family members living a few provinces away I feel lucky to have been welcomed into hubby’s family with open arms.  His parents, brother and sister-in-law are all wonderful people who I am happy to be related to.  When we get together we always have a great time.

This week-end my mother-in-law showed me how to make an evergreen wreath.  Growing up as a city girl I find I am still surprised to discover that people actually do these things I used to think only happened in the movies (like walk into a forest and cut down a Christmas tree with an axe, or visit the same forest to gather evergreen boughs for wreaths and garlands.) 

With snow softly falling outside we gathered at the dining room table with a big bucket of evergreen boughs. 

It smelled like Christmas already and we hadn’t even started yet!

We then cut the boughs into smaller “hands” which we piled in groups of 3 or 4. 

We then used green florists wire to attach the “hands” to the wire frame, alternating attaching them to the front and back.  (Maybe next year I will write a tutorial on this.  It was super fun and easy, if you have access to fresh greenery you really should give it a try!)

Ta da!

I have to admit I did have a few “oh dear” moments when my wreath seemed more like a wild square then a wreath, but with a little trimming I was quite happy with the result.

I tucked a little cedar in for variety. 

I usually just trim my wreaths with a simple bow and hang it on the door, but my mother-in-law had bags and bags of ribbons and flowers and pinecones that she had saved over the years.  It was too much fun to pass up! 

With the wreath now gracing our front door I feel like the holiday season has truly begun.   And with snow on the ground and more softly falling, it certainly does feel like Christmas is coming.

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I would be lost without a menu plan.  I have become so used to making one that the few times I have gone to the grocery store without one I wandered around having no idea what to buy!    So every week I plan out the meals we will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make a list of the baking I will do, and then create the grocery list based on what we need.  I take advantage of sale items whenever I can by planning the menu around those items, as well as what is in the freezer or what is local and in season. 

To make this easier I have always kept a list of the different meals I have cooked and what cookbook they can be found in.  When I try new recipes they only get recorded if both of us enjoy them and would eat them again.   Then when it comes time to make the menu, I just scan the list and slot in the meals.  After I have planned the main meals I try to plan lunches around leftovers or similar ingredients to make the most of what we buy at the store. 

This has worked well for me for several years, but my loose-leaf list of menu items has become too long to easily scan, the holes have ripped away so it keeps falling out of the binder, and as I have moved to cooking with local and seasonal produce, many of the meals listed have become obsolete in my cooking repertoire.

Enter…..the menu planning book!  In its humble beginnings it looked like this:

Just a simple book from the dollar store with sticky-note tabs separating the different sections.  But things are more fun to use when they are dressed up a bit, so I decided to give my book a little makeover:

It has three main sections.  Spring/Summer is for meals based around frozen produce from last year’s garden that may be in the freezer, as well as items that pop up in the garden or markets early in the year (like fiddleheads – yum!).  The Fall/Winter section makes the most of garden produce, as well as good winter keepers such as potatoes, carrots, apples, squash, etc.  Anything that can be made all year round fits in the all-season section.  I did consider creating one section for each season, but this seemed too limiting to me.  I also included baking sections for each seasonal section, as many quick-bread, muffin and dessert recipes I make are based around seasonal produce as well. 

Filling each page is easy – I just list the name of the meal and then follow it with the title of the cookbook where it can be found (or the colour of binder for printed recipes) and the page number.  

For very little money this has made my menu planning easy, peasy! 

Here’s a quick tutorial on how I prettied-up my menu planner.

You need: a notebook, a piece of scrapbook  paper, Mod Podge and a foam brush. 

If you want to divide your book into sections you will also need some self-stick tabs.  Write the titles on each of the tabs and stick them onto the appropriate pages.

Then measure the length and width (minus the spiral binding) of your front cover.

Turn your paper over so the back is facing up.  Using a ruler, measure out the length of your notebook and then make a mark a few millimeters smaller (you want your paper slightly smaller than the cover so that the edges will not get ruffled with use.)

You do not need paper with guidelines, this piece just happened to have them. 

Do the same with the width measurement, again making it slightly smaller.

Use these marks as guidelines to cut your paper using a paper-cutter.  If you don’t have a paper-cutter (I don’t!) and your paper is not gridded like mine, use your ruler to draw out the shape of the rectangle before you cut to keep your lines straight. 

Lay your cut out paper on top of your notebook and trim if necessary.  I clipped my corners a bit too. 

Cover the back of your rectangle with Mod Podge, being sure to spread the glue right across the edges. 

Stick your paper firmly on top of your book, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.

For extra durability you can also spread another layer of Mod Podge on top.  Be sure to place  a piece of paper under the cover when you do this so you don’t accidently get glue on your book pages!

Place a label on the front of your book and you’re done!

Now you can plan your menus in style! 🙂

Ok, so literally a day after I post this my beautiful paper cover fell off of my book!  I think perhaps it was because the paper I used was thick, like card stock?  I’ve done this technique a bunch of times with other books and regular paper and never had a problem.   Anyway, I needed another way to attach my paper, so here is option number two:

You need clear contact paper, your notebook, and your pretty paper.  Cut the contact paper larger than your notebook and carefully lay it over the paper and notebook.

Smooth it out with your fingers then flip open the cover.

Cut a rectangle out at each corner.

Fold over your edges and press firmly.


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As neat and organized as many people think I am, I often live in chaos.  Call it right-brained organization, creative clutter, or extreme multi-tasking, I always have several projects happening and bits and pieces of each one seem to find their way all over the house, from a book left in the living room, a recipe on the kitchen counter, an open journal and CD left next to the computer, you get the picture.  I like the idea of a simple, well-organized space, but have realized after many failed organizational attempts that I need organizational systems that provide parameters for my stuff, space to store current projects within sight, and storage solutions that accommodate my need to be surrounded by the materials of whatever projects I am currently working on.  So it is a goal of mine, as the renos are being completed and our house is looking more like a real house and less like a construction zone, to create spaces that are calm, simple and inviting.     

But in all the house, there was one space where I didn’t think this ideal was possible – my sewing room.  I am lucky to have that room, a space to think, plan, ponder and create.  A space where I can enjoy my hobby, where I can leave things out without worrying about anyone having to step over them.  But it is also a space that invites the most mess and chaos.  A dumping ground for all creative projects when I clear them out from the rest of the house.  A room with half-finished projects everywhere, plus drawers and organizers overflowing with materials – and this was before I inherited all of my grandmother’s sewing supplies.  I needed a kick in the pants to get this room organized, and that is exactly what came my way at the beginning of February in the form of orgjunkie’s Organizing Challenge.  A little healthy competition always kicks my Type A personality into high gear and keeps me motivated and moving even when getting halfway through, overwhelmed by the task and seemingly out of time (failure has never been an option).     

And so, this month my creative space has become the calm, inspiring place I always wanted it to be.  Here are the before and after shots:    

This is what you used to see immediately upon entering the room before:    

Here is what you see now:    

(Please ignore the unfinished trim – it is one of the last few things we are working on in the upstairs of the house)    

The view from the hallway was a really important consideration for me when putting this room back together.  In our small house that view can be seen from the kitchen and stairway and I wanted it to feel warm and inviting.      

Here is the closet before:    

And after:  I had to make some big decisions when cleaning the closet.  I decided that the sewing room was going to be the sewing room and not a storage room, so out of season clothes were not as important as fabric storage.  I purged half of my clothes in the bedroom closet in order to make room for all seasons of clothes in the bedroom.  In the end, my closet is full of the clothes that I really love, and what else would I want to wear anyway?  

The top tote is for works-in-progress.  No more half-finished projects on the floor.  And when it is full, projects must be completed before anything new can be started.    

The back wall before:    

The back wall after:    

I moved the furniture around to make the space feel more open.  Once again this provides a much nicer view from the doorway.  And that big empty wall is just crying out to be a design wall – or the home to a quilt I am currently making out of my grandmother’s unfinished quilt blocks.    

The window-wall before:    

And after:    You can’t see it in the photo (it’s a dark and rainy day so I’m afraid these photos aren’t the best) but the magazine files are all labelled by content.  And that’s my camera cover on the table – not a stray sewing project!

I did not buy any new organizers for this cleaning project, just used what I had in different ways.  

And finally, the last wall before:    


And after:    

And because a job is really not done unless it is done completely, I made sure to organize every last button, thread and piece of fabric, including all that I inherited from my grandmother.    

Buttons before:  (These were endless.  Just when I though I had sorted the last one I would find another bag.   There were two more bags found after I photographed this lot.)    

Buttons after:    

A few more organizing after shots:    

Fabrics organized by type and size

Quilting cottons organized by colour

Embroidery floss organized by colour

 I am proud of my new space and excited about keeping it a clean, organized and creative space to be!     

Because this is a challenge, there are specific questions that need to be answered.  Here are my responses:    

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?    

The hardest part was definitely purging.  As a creative person I can always imagine a use for any random thing and have a habit of saving things because I might need them someday.  I also really had a hard time parting with anything that was my grandmothers, both because it was hers, and because of the effort put in by my Mom and Aunt and Uncle in packing it all up and sending it to me in the first place.  But I was really determined to fit everything neatly back into the space and to keep the space uncluttered and useable and it was this vision that kept me going and helped me make the tough decisions about what to keep and what I could part with.    

 2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?    

Throughout the space I used containers to set parameters.  For instance, the bin in the closet which holds unfinished projects.  It gives me a place to store these (other than on the floor or draped over the table or hope chest) and establishes a limit to the number of projects I can have going at once.  I purged some of my patterns because I only have one drawer for them.  I could only keep as many buttons as would fit in the containers I had.  The fabrics I kept had to fit in the drawers or in the cubes.  These limits are sustainable.  I also am enforcing a “no dumping” rule in the room – the sewing room is now for sewing and craft projects only and everything else was either purged or had to find a new home elsewhere.    

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?    

The bulk of it is on its way to a local thrift store.  Some has been sold on eBay or given away to sewing enthusiasts.  The rest has been posted on freecycle.    

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?    

One of my goals with this room was to not purchase any more storage solutions but to make use of what I already owned.  The wire cubes were definitely one of the best storage options I had and by putting them all together I was able to maximize the storage space they offered.   The button organizer was a re-purposed item from my grandfather’s wood shop, which my grandmother at some point had taken over for storing threads.  I also had a number of baskets, boxes and tins which I put to good use in separating certain items – one plastic bin for non-sewing related craft supplies, one set of drawers for scrapbooking and paper crafts, one basket for sock-doll materials, another basket for completed projects awaiting homes.    It was tempting to add more storage units into the room in order to hold more things (I had another chest of drawers that would easily fit into the room), but this is a dual–purpose room that needs to accomodate a Queen-size camp bed from time to time so I had to keep this in mind at all times and utilize the storage that the room already offered in new ways.  Clearing off the top of the long chest of drawers allowed me to use the top for my sewing books (which used to be stored in the living room), allows me to have tunes while I’m working away without disturbing the rest of the house, and provided a safe, flat, place for ruler storage.    

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?    

 Whether I win a prize or not, I feel I have already “won” in that I have a neat, organized and useable creative space in which to engage in the activities that I love the most.  I also persevered in a difficult challenge in the most challenging room in my house, and survived the emotional upheaval of going through my grandmother’s things and deciding that no matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t keep it all.   I organized right down to the last button, the last scrap of fabric and piece of lace.  My purge pile could fill another room all on it’s own, and the basement area where I was storing all of my grandmother’s things went from this:    

To this:    


With this project under my belt, I feel like I can take what I’ve learned from this and tackle the rest of the house with ease.  Clean, organized, simplicity, here I come!

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Thank You Cards

My mother taught me how to write thank you notes when I was very young, in response to far-away relatives who sent me gifts at Christmas.   It has become such a habit that  the Christmas season is just not complete until the notes are done. 

In keeping with my decision to make all of my own cards, I created my thank you notes from scraps of Christmas paper left over from holiday card making and a few pieces from cards that I received and saved over the course of the year. 

Most of these will go to my students who gave me a wide variety of beautiful gifts this Christmas (I truly am a spoiled teacher!).

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