Sunday, February 06, 2011

Penguin Princess

My sister sends me care packages a lot. It was about time I returned the favor.  So I made her a penguin princess bag!

She has recently developed a fascination with penguins, and has always loved the color purple.  And she's always been a bit of a bag lady, which is okay because I am too. Also in the care package were a Valentine's Day Pez dispenser, a fat quarter of Christmas fabric, and a fat quarter of Rosie the Riveter fabric.  I forgot to take pictures of it all before I sent it off.  Sorry about that.

This piece was stitched directly on a pre-made black canvas bag using 14 count waste canvas.  Finished size is only like 2" square. Waste canvas is made with a very loose weave such that you can pull the strands out of the work after its complete. I also designed the pattern for this one from a clip art image pulled off the web.  Let's just say I learned a lot in this process.
  1. Stitching on a pre-made bag is hard! I had to work it upside down with my hands inside the bag. It made for very slow going. 
  2. Canvas is really hard on the fingers.  It's such a dense sturdy fabric, pushing the needle through the material was not very comfortable. 
  3. Waste canvas doesn't pull apart as easy as they say. Only a couple of the threads pulled out like it was supposed to.  I had to trim the rest with itty-bitty scissors around the edges of the piece.
  4. Use small sized graph paper when creating a design from a piece of clip art.  I used 1/4" graph paper, and even with the clip art blown up real large, the pattern did not transfer well to the graph paper. 
  5. Cross stitch design software is a pain in the butt.  Its designed to start from an image, then automatically translate it onto a graph and allow you to adjust the colors, lines, scale, etc.  The software I originally used was really picky and picked up every variation in color pixel by pixel.  It became so tedious, I scrapped it and went to the graph paper. 

So it was a pain in the butt to make, but she loves it.  That makes it all worth it.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nifty Needlecase

After getting myself into the last few projects, needles and embroidery scissors ended up in many places.  I lost a few and got poked by others.  It was a definite indication that I needed a needlecase.

A needlecase is just that - a case for needles.  It is in a book format with felt for pages.  Needles you're not using get put in the felt for safe keeping.  Some have pockets on the inside for bigger items like needle threaders or scissors.  The front cover is usually a stitched piece that is fairly small.

I picked a design from Quick to Stitch: Cross Stitch Cards by Sue Cook. It was supposed to be one that you could finish in a day, but it took me much longer than that.  It was seriously detailed for such a little piece. I used 18 count Fiddler's Aida from Charles Craft in Lite Oatmeal. Finished size is about 2 1/2" square.

I put the case together using instructions from Meari's Musings. The back and inner cover fabric is from a fat quarter purchased at Hancock Fabrics in addition to the 1/4" ribbon. Felt came from Hobby Lobby.  Quilt batting and thread were swiped from Mom. (Thanks Mom!)  Total finished size is about 5" square when shut.

Actually putting it together took longer than expected.  Mainly because I had to relearn how to use a sewing machine.  This one is a Singer Featherweight that Mom let me borrow, then later said I could buy off her. (Squeee!! Thanks Mom!!) This model stopped being produced after 1952.  It's an antique and it's beautiful.  When they say "featherweight" they really mean twelve pounds.  Considering it's all metal inside and out, that's not too shabby.

Once I got the hang of it, it went pretty fast.  I am quite proud of the little book. Now I just have to train the guy to put my scissors in the pocket if he finds them laying around when he decides to clean.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flaky Friends

I saw this free pattern from Michael's and immediately thought of one of my girlfriends.  The text says "Some of my best friends are flakes."  Yeah, that's us.If she sees this post, let's hope she forgets about it by the time Christmas comes around.  I will leave the final finished project a surprise just in case. 

It's stitched on 18 count Aida in Delft Blue Pale with regular DMC floss.  Finished stitched size is just under 4" x 6".   The backstitch for the words is done with two threads to make them stand out a little more. It took me about a week to complete it.   

In other news, I matted and framed the big Rose of Sharon piece!  I was too cheap to get it professionally framed, and it looks like a DIYODS-er (do-it-your-own-damn-self). I got all of the pieces individually: glass from Lowe's ($11), matte from Hobby Lobby ($5), frame from Hobby Lobby ($15).  My guy helped me cut out the matte.  (Note to self: Lowe's doesn't sand the edges of the glass pieces they cut. Put band aids on the grocery list.)

It's a cheap framing job, but maybe later on I can get it done right. Right now I still need mounting hardware to hang it. I don't think I'll try to do one this size again just because of the difficulty finishing it with a frame.  It would have been a lot easier to find something in 18" x 24" or 16" x 20" sizes.

I also received a care package from my sister.  I love it when she does that!  Included this time was a "rug mug" to put my coffee/drink/snack on at work.  Check out her post on how she made them! Totally in love with them and more in love with her.  The "life is good" coffee mug was a Christmas present and is my new favorite.  The other side of the mug says "Do what you like/Like what you do." The scones were the breakfast I provided for my team that day.  The upper left corner is the Keys to My Heart project I completed.  The upper right is a picture of me and my sister from her basic training graduation. Aren't we cute?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scones for Me, Scones for You!

My group of coworkers in the office has a routine of bringing in breakfast once a week.  Responsibility of providing the food rotates among team members.  Recently it fell to me.  My coworkers are not very adventurous eaters. Normal provisions are either breakfast tacos or bagels.  I must be the only person in San Antonio that gets tired of breakfast tacos.  Most of my culinary tastes are not shared with my coworkers, so I have to be careful of what I decide to bring in. 

Scones seemed a good midway point.  They are really close to biscuits, so it wasn't a big stretch for most people.  The recipe I used came from Professional Baking by Wayne Glissen, my pastry textbook. We made half a batch of plain scones, a quarter batch of raisin scones, and a quarter batch of cranberry scones.

The tricks to making great biscuits also are the ones to make great scones. In particular, there are two main tips.  First, don't overwork the dough.  Too much kneading will make biscuits hard like hockey pucks.  I could tell that our set of raisin scones were kneaded a little too much. They were much flatter than the other ones and not as flaky.

Next, BUTTER.  Butter is actually important in quick breads like biscuits and scones.  The steam generated from the butter melting is a major portion of the leavening activity.  When you mix the butter in to the flour, leave it in small pieces about pea size.  This will make sure you have little pockets of buttery goodness and aromatic steam when you break open a piece.  For these scones, we used both Crisco and butter. 

We used 2"-3" square cookie cutters to cut our dough. It made the scones small enough for people not to feel guilty for having one of each.  And then seconds.  The egg wash we used to create the shiny crust on top was made from eggs, milk, and a touch of granulated sugar.  On some of the plain ones we added some granulated sugar as well.

They definitely needed something to help wash them down, which could have been fixed by using all butter. They did not contain a lot of sugar, so people with a sweet tooth added honey or jam.  Everyone else just swigged their morning coffee.

Overall, the scones got rave reviews. I bet they will be talking about these for quite some time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keys to My Heart

Again, I have a weird urge to surround myself with hearts for Valentine's Day.  Specifically, I wanted to have a crafty thing to have on my desk at the office and make me smile.  This is a free pattern found on Rainbow Gallery's free pattern list.  It is an Erica Michaels design from 2002, but I really liked the design.

It calls for some specific thread, so I decided to check out a local cross stitch store to see if they had the alternative brands of floss.  When I showed the pattern with the materials list to the ladies there, they commented, "Wow! That's such an old pattern!"  Way to criticize your customer's choices. They did tell me that the listed threads are now out of production.  Either way, I think I will be buying thread online now, thankyouverymuch.

It's stitched on 18 count Linen in Light Oatmeal. I picked out similar colors from normal DMC floss.  This was the first time I put any embellishments on a piece.  The charm was actually the most difficult thing to find.  It took me about 9 hours to complete.  Stitched size is 2 1/2" x 4" and it is in a 5" x 7" frame with a gold 4"x6" oval matte.

Fun with Foam

I've been in and out of craft stores over the holidays and in the recent weeks.  I have seen a lot of little foam projects made by Creatology.  They're mostly holiday themed and geared to children ages 6 and older.  There are a lot of ornaments and picture frames as well as larger models. I've been really wanting to do stuff for Valentine's Day in the past couple weeks, so I picked up one of the larger kits to play with.  I got this particular kit at Michael's Craft Store, but I have seen foam kits even at places like Target.

I picked a Valentine's Day Bird's Tree House.  If a six year old was doing this project, I really don't think it would end up like the picture on the box at all.  Some of the pieces were made to be interlocking, but they didn't fit together well.  I did require assistance to keep some pieces in place while the glue dried.  The instructions call for Elmer's glue, but I ended up switching to Krazy Glue with the brush applicator about halfway through.  This kit came with stick-on glitter accents which added most of the character of the house.  Some of the stickers were really tiny and hard to wield, especially the little white dots on the front of the house.

Overall, I still think it's really cute. The model was a bit of a pain in the butt, so I probably won't be doing another one.  The smaller kits could be used to make little holiday gifts for classmates or coworkers.   At seven dollars for the kit, it was definitely cheap entertainment. Seeing my guy put sparkly hearts on the foam was well worth it.  My excuse was that it was training for when he has a daughter, but I think my bribe was what finally got him to help.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Youngster Ava

Next project in my current cross stitch craze comes from the Smirk Attitudes A to Z book.  I picked up the book because the designs reminded me of several of the women in my life.  They may end up as presents somewhere down the line if the obsession keeps up. Another bonus, the patterns are not very complicated, which is something I needed after the previous project. It made this one really quick to complete.  

I adapted the "Youngster" pattern for a birthday gift for my neice.  It was completed on 18 count white aida cloth. I replaced the font and text at the bottom for her name.  I also swapped specified thread colors for similar ones available in my stash.  I matted it in a 5x7 black frame.  The matte is printed paper from a packet of 5" x 7" scrapbooking papers in Valentine's prints found in the Target dollar bin.  Side note: I do love that dollar bin.

The next project will be lids for canned goodies to use as gifts upcoming holidays for friends & family.  I ran the idea by my man and he almost immediately started rifling through our cookbooks for canning recipes.  Reason #394 why he's a keeper.

Rose of Sharon

I come from a long line of crafty women.  Not only in wily ways, but in creative with many different kinds of sewing.  My mom currently quilts, but has tatted, knitted, crochets, embroidered, and sewn more Halloween costumes than I care to mention.  My twin currently quilts, but has knitted and crocheted.  She now has a blog about her current feats of creativity and dexterity.

My personal preference has been mostly cross stitch, a type of needle work. Recently I've gotten into clay painting and acrylic painting at the retail shops around town though I still feel at home with cross stitch.  In cleaning out my closets over New Year's, I found this stuck in the bottom of a box I haven't opened in years.  I figured it was about damn time to finish the damn thing.

This project comprised several firsts for me:  first of this size, first on linen, first of this complexity, first on 32 count fabric. It took me over ten years to finish it!  The pattern is called "Rose of Sharon" from Mirabilia. It is stitched on 32 ct natural linen (2 over 2). Stitched area size is 13"w x 24"h. I am working on getting the right matte and frame for it.  Full size will end up being 20"w x 30"h.  I know there are some errors in it, so right now I can only look at it from ten feet away.  At that distance, the colors really blend together and give it a lot of dimension.

Finishing it after so long has filled me with a sense of accomplishment that I have not felt for a long time.  The last I can remember was when I finished a half marathon with my sister in 2008.  It also has the bonus effect of having something physical to show for my effort.


With that surge of pride, I have turned almost obsessive about the next project and the next. There will definitely be more to come!