Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What about you?

I am lucky. I spend my days at work with a group of ladies that like to make things. The job isn't creative, but in our little circle more than half of us are "crafters". We sew. We knit. We crochet, embroider and quilt. We can each do all of these things and enjoy them; however, we differ in what we create, why we create, and how much we create. One of us is a very prolific quilter. We are all jealous of her energy. She quilts to unwind and untangle herself from a very stressful job. One of us creates to fill a need. If someone is having a baby she turns out little hats and booties faster than anyone I have ever seen. She likes giving things that are a piece of herself to others but she rarely keeps anything for herself. Another of us creates things because she likes them. She makes beautiful things, bags, quilts, shawls, according to her taste and need.

This got me thinking about why I like to make things. Being creative usually does relieve stress for me, but I also enjoy it when it creates stress. I love to give handmade gifts, but I usually try to find a person for the project I want to do not a project to fit the person. I have absolutely zero ability to decorate my home or myself for that matter. (Jeans go with any kind of top.... right?) There are things I like, of course, but nothing that really goes together. My home and wardrobe are a hodgepodge of random things that caught my fancy. (Frogs are a common theme around my home but range significantly from silly to elegant as well.)

I think one of the reasons I like to create is I want to see if I can. I love the feeling of "Hey look at that! I did that!" I don't have any particular loyalty to any one type of craft. I do tend to lean towards textile crafts of some sort but have also done some paper crafts and some photography and someday hope to learn everything from basket weaving to blacksmithing. (I blame Ivy for that one.) I love to use my hands and fingers to touch. It is so much more satisfying for me to go to the fabric store or yarn store and run my fingers over the merchandise than it is to go find the perfect shoes. I love color and how they all blend together. I love how many different shades there are of the same color. And I love the mental game of planning a project, particularly a quilt. (How many variations of an ABC quilt can one person do? or use? Super heros? Food? Book Covers? Authors? Pirates? Wild West?) Sorry, got distracted..... There are hundreds of imaginary projects in my head that are worth planning that will never be reality.

What about you? Why do you want to create?

Monday, June 28, 2010

She can be taught.... eventually......


See these.... cute aren't they.... deceiving little buggers.....

These taught me some things about embroidery in that "tough love" fashion. You know the one... where you can almost hear your project cackling at you as you are taking out your stitches AGAIN.

These didn't get banished to the permanent WIP drawer for only a very few reasons. A) I'm stubborn. B) They aren't for me but for a very dear friend who loves pirates and really, truly appreciates handmade things. I couldn't think of a better gift. C) I didn't leave myself enough time to think of something else let alone MAKE something else. D) I'm really quite stubborn.

So on to the lessons:

1) Trace the pattern after you iron the stabilizer on. Then iron again.

2) Even though I whined not two weeks ago that I was much slower on a project where I had to use stabilizer, apparently if something looks physically small I think I can just burn through it. This is not true.


This one, the first one I did, took an ENTIRE day of couch time. Which leads me to Lesson #3.

3) If you are saying very bad words because you needle does not pierce the fabric cleanly or is "squeaky" or hard to pull through the fabric, before you frighten the innocent or wake the devil, for The Love of Pete get a new needle. I mean really, Carrie, a package of them is what? $1.75? If you have used the same needle for the last 5 projects, it has had a good, long, fulfilling life and it may be time to let it go.

I can't even claim that I figured this out. I left the needle I had been using stuck in the arm of the couch at home and when I started the 2nd one on my lunch break I HAD to get a new one. If I had "figured it out" I would have gotten more accomplished on day 1.


4) No matter how carefully you iron on the stabilizer, if you pull on the fabric separately when putting it in the hoop, it will come apart. You must, then, take it all the way out of the hoop and reapply the stabilizer. There is no cheating.


5) Recognize the fact that even though you are still capable of movement you may be too tired to continue. Staying up an extra 30-45 minutes to get to a "good stopping place" or finish "this last little bit" only costs you time in the long run. Chances are, when you wake up the next morning, you will realize that the last hour of work from the night before is rubbish and has to be taken out. (Also note: When you are awake, what took you an hour the night before, will probably only take about 10 minutes when your eyes are open.)


6) Metallic Floss was dreamed up to torment people. It gives you a wonderful vision of what is possible that makes everything else seem somehow less, and then you try to use it...


7) When someone really, really appreciates the blood, sweat and tears of a hand made gift it doesn't matter how many bad words I said, I want to go home and make more.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ta Da!


It’s finished! And I think it is my favorite thing I have ever stitched.


These might be my favorite part. They turned out exactly how I wanted.


Just in case anyone else wants to make a smug little prince you can download the pattern here. Let me know if there are any problems with it and I would love to see anything you make.... I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with mine.... Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I have a confession to make.....while I love my circus quilt project and I know I still have puppy blocks to finish... I... brace yourselves... have been working on something else as well. You see, Ivy mentioned (and I agreed) that it was kind of... boring looking around here and I should do something to spruce it up. So in the interest of making things nice for my guests (see how I justify) I've started working on a new banner design....


I really love how it is turning out but working with the dress linen is taking some getting used too. When I tried hooping it just by itself it was too stretchy(?). I'm not sure that's the right word but I was having tension issues. I bought some tear away stabilizer and that helps but I'm having to adjust how I stitch. Normally, especially with stem stitch, I'm more of a sewer. The stabilizer doesn't have any give at all so I'm having to use more of a stab approach. I think it still looks ok but I feel slower than normal.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Monkey Business

I started the monkey for my circus quilt.


With all the colors of brown available, you would think it would be easier to find the one you want. I think I have it figured out though. (DMC 300, 632, 3773 held together in various combinations.)


He is coming along. I think he is pretty cute. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey! I've got an idea!

I learned to crochet as a kid and made more afghans than I can remember. Once I ran out of patterns that seemed interesting I started making doilies and coasters and booties out of thread. I loved these delicate little things and there was more to learn, more of a challenge. I've sewn randomly through all my crafting phases, making clothes, stuffed animals, and quilts. Then I moved to a much cooler climate and warm woolens sounded appealing but crocheting didn't sound fun (I knew how to do it already.) and the fabric it created wasn't really something I wanted to wear. So, of course, I needed to learn to knit. I knit socks, lace shawls, hats and scarves. I taught a couple of ladies at work to knit. Then I needed to learn to spin because if you knit, you should be able to spin. (Right? OK, I know that's just me.) I learned to scrapbook, but it seemed I spent more time pulling it all out and cleaning it up than actually working on my projects, and so far I haven't felt the need to get more pictures printed.

I am still interested in all of the things I have learned, but, while I wouldn't say I have mastered them, I know them well enough that most of the challenge is gone. I feel like I could pick up a pattern, complete it and modify it to suit my needs if it isn't exactly what I want or make my own pattern from scratch if need be.

Last Christmas I was looking for gifts for my coworkers and came up with embroidered tea towels. They seemed perfect. I could afford them, personalize them for each person that I knew well and find some fun general patterns for those I didn't. I had done some counted cross stitch in the past, and basic embroidery to decorate little edges of dresses or socks, but not anything that I would consider embroidery for the sake of it. I ordered towels and iron on patterns from Colonial Patterns and didn't get bored once. It seemed very much like coloring. Choosing a picture for each person, picking out colors as I go, blending some and using different shades of the same color to create depth even when all I did was stem stitch all combined to keep me interested and feeling like I was learning something new. I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it.

Then I found the patterns for my niece's puppy quilt and discovered the wealth of patterns on Flickr and Etsy. Enough to keep me busy for a life time right? Of course! Any subject you can think of is already covered....

Ivy: Hey! I've got an idea!

Me: What's that?

Ivy: Grady!

Me: Jonathan and Kelly have cornered the market on that idea already.

Ivy: No, I mean Grady's quilt!

Me: We haven't finished London's quilt yet.

Ivy: So? Grady needs one.

Me: But we haven't finished.... oh never mind... what's your idea?

Ivy: Grady's Circus!

Me: Hey.... I like that. Did we see a pattern or something somewhere?

Ivy: Nope.

Me: What do you mean nope? There are lots of great circus patterns out there! SewLovely has a great one.... so does Annie Oakleaves.

Ivy: Grady isn't even a year old yet. I'm pretty sure the bearded lady is going to be over his head. Besides that's not what I want.....

Me: Ok... I'll bite. What do you have in mind?

Ivy: I want it to look like a Circus poster!


Me: hmmm ok.... I can see that.... The quilt part would be easy enough but we'll need to find some pictures for the embroidery or are you thinking applique? We don't draw. Remember?

Ivy: Embroidery. We draw stick figures.

Me: Not well and do you really want a stick figure circus?

Ivy: No.

Fast Forward a full weekend of circus picture Surfing later.

Ivy: Ok, I don't like any of these. Well, this one is lovely, but not quite right and we can’t copy. We'll just have to make our own.

Me: We don't draw. We have ummmm.... proportion issues....

Ivy: So we'll learn and there's that program.... Look the icon is right there... We'll use that.

Me: That program makes me say bad words and you cry and then I say more bad words.

Ivy: That's because we don't know how to use it. We'll get a book.

Me: You always say we'll get a book.

Ivy: That's because it works.

And you know what........



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pretty Little Thing

When I saw this on Keen Olive’s photo stream I just had to stitch her. I LOVE the way her dress turned out. It looks like crushed velvet. (I used split-stitch working from the outside in and DMC 115). I think I want to add a quote to it and turn her into a pillow or lingerie bag but I haven’t found quite the right one yet. Any ideas?


I have another project in the works I’m so happy with how it is turning out. I’ll tell you more tomorrow. When I have time to take a picture or two.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

That Inner Voice

I think most of us have one .... that inner voice that talks us into things that usually fall somewhere between just short of genius


and just this side of world ending,


but are almost always at least a little out of our regular comfort zone. My inner voice isn’t really all that wild and crazy. I mean, she has never suggested jumping out of an airplane or running a marathon or riding a motorcycle, or water skiing around the world. ( I have siblings to come up with those ideas. :) ) My inner voice (I’m going to call her Ivy) is usually more of an inner crafter, muse, and in some cases dreamer. She has great ideas and absolutely zero common sense. Given that I usually have too much common sense on my own, we are usually a good team. I should also mention that she

a) gets bored easily

b) has no sense of how long a project is likely to take or cost

d) is very tenacious about one of her “you know what would be fun” ideas, until it is actually underway and

c) really really knows how to get an emotional response.

One of my current projects started percolating last November while I was embroidering dish towels for Christmas presents. My mom was here visiting and helping me recover from surgery I hadn’t planned on. She admired my work (after all she is my mom) and filled me in on how much my far away niece and nephews had grown and what their current interests are.

This is when it started again. (Ivy and I have had a long standing “discussion” about this topic):

Ivy: You know you are just getting more and more behind on this..... you are currently neglecting 3 of them.

Me: Behind on what just to clarify? (There are quite a few things to choose from.)

Ivy: Quilts, of course, you haven’t made a single one for the last three.

Me: Ivy, I have made exactly one quilt for one nephew. This does not a tradition make...and it was nearly 9 years ago.


Ivy: NINE YEARS! Really?!?!?! Then you are FOUR quilts behind. He needs a new one!

Me: Sigh. You are totally missing the point. All four of them live in the Devil’s State. None of them need a quilt. In my opinion, they probably don’t need clothes for anything other than modesty.

Ivy: But you love them.

Me: Yes.

Ivy: Then you should make them quilts.

Me: Have you noticed that this is November, that is the month before Christmas in case you’ve forgotten, and I have plenty of things to do between now and then.

Ivy: Perfect! They could be Christmas Presents!

Me: Ivy, even you aren’t crazy enough to think I am going to finish 4 quilts in less than a month. Let alone finish 4 quilts and every thing else. I can barely get on and off the couch without help not to mention haul out the fabric stores.

Ivy: Ok, I see your point.

Me: Well there is a first time for everything.

Ivy: Next Christmas then.... It’s Perfect!

Me: If I say I’ll consider it can we talk about this later?

Ivy: OK.... but I’m going to start thinking of ideas and I’ll remind you later.

Me: You do that.

This is when my mom chose to point out that my niece’s love and adoration for puppies had not waned. She is two and has loved them since she was mobile enough to chase after them on her own. (We have this in common).

Ivy: Puppies!

Me: I know... I’m so proud.

Ivy: No, I mean a puppy quilt.

Me: We were going to talk about this later....

Ivy: It is later.... by 5 min... but it is later... I need to show you something.

Me: Can’t it wait? I’m talking to Mom.

Ivy: Show her too... you’ll want to show her anyway.

Me: Ok. Give me 20 min to get off the couch.

Since I had decided I was going to embroider tea towels for my coworkers I had placed a good size order from Colonial Patterns and seen these and these.They had stuck in my mind but I hadn’t purchased them. I didn’t know anyone who would need puppy tea towels. Ivy was right, however, they were perfect quilt blocks for London. Now 6 months later 9 out of 14 blocks are stitched washed and pressed. I haven’t figured out how to put them together or lay them out as 14 blocks don’t divide well, and my muse has abandoned me for her next great idea. After all, she got her way on the puppies.....