Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Paper Snowflakes Tutorial

When I was a kid, a snow day meant no school. But beyond that, it meant every kid was sent outside to play. We were bundled up, sent out, and were expected to play until called in for hot chocolate in the late afternoon.

We'd build forts and have snowball fights, make snowmen, and go sledding. After a warming bath and some dinner, we could barely move for the lovely sleepies that would overtake us. It was a winter wonderland.

Nowadays I don't see snow that often, what with living on the California coast for 6 years, then the desert of Arizona for 10, and now sub-tropical Australia. I was super fortunate to land in wake up in Katoomba a few months ago to the quiet of a snow covered world that lasted almost the whole day. 

I was so happy, I cried. 

I still have a page from the 1984 December Family Circle magazine with a paper snowflake pattern. I've made them year after year. A couple of years ago, I collected up all the patterns I'd tried over the years and drew them up as an illustrated guide to making 20 paper snowflakes.

Here they are all together in this downloadable PDF.

Even if you live in a sunny summer location, you can enjoy a white Christmas with these snowflakes. Or maybe a colorful one, depending on the paper you use.

Merry Christmas! Let it snow! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: 30+ Christmas Movies (and some links to watch)

In my house, the Christmas music starts playing in July and doesn't stop until the day after the 12th day of Christmas (January 7). Christmas movies go on my list of holiday to-dos a little later, but not by much.

Here's my list of heart-warming Christmas movies. I think they are all nice, even if some of them are also a bit naughty.

(Some are linked to You Tube where you can watch the movie.)

Babes in Toyland 1934

Holiday Inn 1942

Meet Me in St. Louis 1944

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek 1944 
A Christmas in Connecticut 1945

It's a Wonderful Life 1946

The Bishop's Wife 1947

Miracle on 34th Street 1947

It Happened on Fifth Avenue 1947 
A Christmas Carol 1951

White Christmas 1954 

Santa Claus 1954

We're No Angels 1955

The Apartment 1960 
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 1964

A Charlie Brown Christmas 1965

How the Grinch Stole Christmas 1968 

Scrooge 1970

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town 1970 

The Waltons: The Homecoming 1971

A Christmas Story 1983

A Christmas Carol 1984 

Scrooged 1988

Ernest Saves Christmas 1988 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 1989

The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993

The Santa Clause 1994Elf 2003

Love Actually 2003
The Polar Express 2004

Christmas with the Kranks 2004
The Holiday 2006

So get your popcorn ready and have a merry movie night!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Swedish Hearts Tutorial

In Sweden, the celebration of Santa Lucia on December 13th is a big part of the Christmas advent tradition. Here's a little advent-ure in woven paper for you and your kids to try.

Use them as ornaments or as little baskets for small goodies. Make them large or small. Either way, the result is delightful.

If you have a hard time getting the hang of the weaving, watch this You Tube video made by Maggie Woodley of Red Ted Art.

And for a stunning 2 minute Christmas event, watch the celebration of Santa Lucia.

In the home, one daughter will be St. Lucia and wake the family with buns and coffee as she visits each member wearing a long white robe and crown of lights.

Download this PDF tutorial to make your own woven paper Swedish hearts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Slip Stitch Crochet Cork Pine Trees Tutorial

 Some time ago I came across pjoning and my interest was instantly piqued.

Slip stitch crochet looks remarkably like knitting and creates a fabric that is very similar. It avoids the feel of having a bunch of knots which is essentially what crochet is. Slip stitch crochet fabric ends up being thicker because you are laying the slip stitches (basically chain after chain after chain) on top of each other rather than next to each other as in knitting.

Think of laying bricks. Small chain stitch bricks.

So when I saw these little knitted cork pine trees, I decided to try my hand at making them using slip stitch crochet. Because I am not a knitter. I am a "Grrrr-The-yarn-keeps-sliding-off-the-needle" kind of girl.

Download the pdf pattern here. All of the trees follow the pattern although the dark green tree had some rounds skipped because I was running out of the yarn which is why it is shorter.

The taller trees were made with a variegated thick and thin yarn so they create a nice wave within the stitching.The little pink one is the same pattern but different yarn so it came out smaller. The lime green tree had some color changes which are noted in the pattern.

The first project I used slip stitch crochet for was this wool rag rug made from strips of wool suiting fabric. It's about one yard square. Makes a great zabuton, which is the mat under the meditation cushion, because it's thick and springy and warm. Slip stitch is so easy, it's ridonkulous!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Felt Penny Doll Tutorial

Reminiscent of the yo-yo clown, this little floppy doll is made from wool felt disks instead. Often used in Americana penny rugs, felt circles can create a lovely rustic or retro style to any craft.

I made this one from blue and white felted wool blankets and a prepainted wooden bead. Once the circles are cut, the doll is quick and easy to assemble. Make them with your children. Invite your friends over for a crafternoon tea and make dolls of all sizes as ornaments and gifts.

Download the tutorial with instructions here.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Send a Dollygram!

Wouldn't you like to answer the door to a smiling man in uniform whose greeting is: "Good morning, Ma'am. Dollygram!" Oh, I surely would.

Make and send your own stitched notepaper Dollygrams and send a message that will be treasured forever.

I'm so excited to have this project included in the December 2015 issue of Homespun Magazine. You can find it at Australian newsagents or order your own digital copy.

The patterns are for the gingerbread-shaped dolly and fabric envelopes and the article provides step-by-step instructions for creating the notepaper surface and embroidering your own message (or just write a message with a marker). There's also a smaller size pattern for a dolly ornament.

And just for fun, there are a couple of favorite Christmas quotes to get you started. Merry Messaging!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Stuffed Yo-Yo Trees Tutorial

 Who can resist the retro charm of yo-yo crafts?

Yo-yos are so easy to make and are great for using up scraps of all sizes. I used scraps in rainbow colors and scraps of soft linen to make these two stuffed yo-yo trees.

The pattern for these trees makes a 4" (10cm) tall tree - great for ornaments, dollhouse play, pincushions, or small trinkets to brighten up an office desk or windowsill.

Enlarge the pattern to make larger trees suitable for a mantle or tabletop display.

Download the templates and instructions to make your own sweet little trees.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent-ure 2015: Cross-Stitch Gift Tags Tutorial

I love a tree skirt piled up with kraft paper presents.

"Brown paper packages tied up with string" (oh, Maria Von Trapp, will you be my mother?) become a neutral canvas against which you can choose a stunning palette of decorative colors each year.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Maybe gold to honor the gifts of the Three Wise Men. Perhaps you'll just go traditional with candy can striped ribbons and garland. I hope you're not having a blue Christmas without them.

One of the ways I like to dress up those packages is with unique gift tags in my chosen colors of the year. This year, I'm going with bright reds, greens and blues. And the theme is "Ugly Christmas Sweater".

With this in mind, I created some cross-stitched gift tags and would love to share them with you. Not so ugly after all!

Download this PDF of instructions and pattern to make your own cross-stitched gift tags this year.

And to give you a little extra creative inspiration, I thought I'd share these gift tags I bought at the thrift store. I got two sheets and have added some embroidered elements to two so far.


Happy Stitching and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie - American Style

The recipe for Libby's pumpkin pie has been on their canned pumpkin labels since 1950. It's the only one I've ever used that has consistently proven itself year after year. I make only a small change in spices since cinnamon is not my favorite.

If you have no canned pumpkin, make the pie using 2 cups of cooked mashed pumpkin. In the US, use sugar pie pumpkins. The look just like jack-o-lantern pumpkins but are smaller. In Australia, I successfully used Jarradale pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie that tasted as American as.....well, pumpkin pie.

This is a great tutorial for making your own pumpkin puree.

Here's the classic recipe with my tiny change. Oh, and if you don't have one deep dish pie crust, this recipe makes two regular pies. Please note that evaporated milk is not the same as condensed milk and it should never be pre-sweetened.

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree or 2 cups cooked mashed pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell OR 2 regular pie crusts
MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tutorial: Embroidered Luggage Tags

Whether you're headed over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house or down to Margaritaville to a hammock with your name on it, what do you do to keep the little one occupied on the long trip? 

Make a stuffed airplane plush. It's soft and cuddly and the pattern is available in my Etsy shop. Just in time to whip up before the holiday journeys begin.

Get it here in my Etsy shop. 

But it's a double whammy of travel goodness for you today.

Travel in handmade style with these hand-embroidered luggage tags on your bags. 

These tags use a small piece of linen, cotton, or lightweight wool and a bit of embroidery floss. Once you make the little pocket of a tag, slip a cardboard identity tag inside, wrap it around your bag handle and you're ready to go.

Download the pdf for instructions and pattern!

See you on the other side!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Giving Thanks for Natural Stuffing


Nope. I'm not talking about turkey (or tofurkey) stuffing, although we all have our favorite recipes. I'm thinking more along the lines of a recipe for natural crafting goodness.

This year, I am grateful for the increasing accessibility to natural fiberfill toy stuffing. Want to know why? Because I'm tired of people who want to sell us something telling us it's completely safe when it isn't. 

Why do people sell something? They want you to buy it. But WHY do they want you to buy it?

Natural stuffing choices, like cotton, kapok, and wool, were the norm until the 1960s when polyester fiberfill, a revolutionary, washable, lightweight fiber was made popular as a toy stuffing in mass-produced stuffed animals. Polyester fibers are made from oil-waste and by the 1960s, what to do with oil-waste was becoming a big problem. "Pollution" became a topic of motivation to reinvent this hazardous waste.

So makers of plastics want you to buy their products, because they don't want you to complain about that hazardous waste going into in your landfills, waterways, and air instead.

But polyester fiberfill is listed in the US Toxic Substances Control Act due to its toxicity when 1) it makes contact with soft tissue (eyes, lungs, stomach) and 2) when it produces highly toxic fumes when it burns.

Polyester fiberfill manufacture requires the use of half a dozen known highly toxic, carcinogenic, and polluting chemicals including dichloroethane. The making of these fibers, even the recycling of them, can never be considered eco-friendly given the amount of toxic pollution it causes to air and groundwater. According to this toxicology report by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), dichloroethane has been found in peanut butter due to manufacturing run-off into local groundwater near peanut farms.

If you aren't quite familiar with what polyester fiber really is, read this fascinating article describing the formation of polymers and specifically polyester and why it is more toxic than we have been led to believe.

Thank goodness nature is still providing plant and animal fibers for use in crafting, sewing, quilting, and toy-making. If you haven't played with warming wool fleece, bouncy non-GMO corn stuffing, or luxurious kapok, you're missing out on a world of sensory delights. 

Ready to buy a natural fiberfill? Here's my latest list of sources for natural fiberfill and also fabrics. 

And if you want to know more about the toy stuffing performance of various types of natural fill, read this.

To-do: If you have any favorite natural fiber or fabric sources where you live, please share them in them in the comments or email me so I can include them in the list. 

PS: Click on the turkey photo for a link to the pattern by Angel Lea Designs.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Darned Embroidery

I was stoked to have a pattern darning sampler embroidery tutorial published on the Sew Mama Sew blog a couple of weeks ago. Pattern darning is a simple running stitch that creates a design over counted threads.

Since the post came out, people have been asking me for easy to read patterns. I thought, no problem, I'll just google pattern darning and refer stitchers to the many designs online. Unfortunately I found the patterns a bit hard to read.

Online pattern darning patterns are usually on a graph or grid. But when the patterns are presented in the same way as cross-stitch patterns, with blocks filled in, I find that the maker sometimes means take my running stitch over one thread (represented by the block) or over two threads (represented by the lines of the grid on each side of the block). It's not consistent and the cross-stitch pattern illustration method does not fit pattern darning designs.

The best ones I've found show stitching between threads and over and under threads, where it actually occurs.

Since these are far and few between, I decided to start drawing up these designs on graph paper in the same style as this image which is from the American Needlepoint Guild.

I'm so excited by my fresh new pad of graph paper, I can hardly contain myself. I have managed to list one pattern of eight designs in my Etsy shop.

You don't need much to create beautiful stitching: fabric, embroidery floss or darning wool, blunt darning or tapestry needle, scissors, and a pattern.

Imagine your clothes magically transformed by small borders of pattern darning. Turn linens into vintage era keepsakes with simple running stitches. Pattern darning has a long and rich history of transforming ordinary textiles into works of art and imagination.  

Visit the Sew Mama Sew sewing blog for tons of sewing and stitching tutorials, challenges, and to meet fascinating fiber artists and designers from all over the world. There's a project for every type of sewing, from clothing to softies to quilts to mobiles. And try out a bit of pattern darning while you're there.