Thursday, December 29, 2011

Zipit (An Etsy Shop Review)

I got my first order from zipit on Etsy.  As the name implies, zipit is all about zippers.  Here's how my order looked when I opened the package:

It looks awesome, right?  The zippers are neatly tied together in a bundle with ribbon.  But what's that dangling from the zipper in the middle?
It's a free zipper pull!  You can buy these at zipit too, and they threw one in as a little gift.  I love getting a freebie, so this store *rocks* in my book!  I was also very happy with the extremely fast shipping and follow-up e-mail to let me know my order was on it's way.

I use a lot of zippers and I've always gotten mine from Homesew; I tried zipit because they offer a lot of colors I can't get at Homesew.  The prices start out about the same at the two stores, but when you buy larger quantities, you get bulk pricing at zipit.  This order of 100 10" zippers was $30, plus $5 shipping, bringing the price to 35 cents per zipper, compared to 48 cents per zipper at Homesew (Homesew always throws in a free gift too).  I will continue to shop at Homesew for all my other sewing notions, but I think zipit is my new zipper store!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Stockings

Before the decorations all get packed away, I want to show you my family's Christmas stockings!

This is the one my mother made for me when I was very small, in the early 1960's.  She made it from a kit.  The top is felt, the body of the stocking is velvet, and the lining is something silky.  The decorations on the front were pre-cut felt.  The materials are all very good quality, and this stocking has stood the test of time!  I can remember putting my foot into it and walking around the house with it on when I was little!

 My mom spent several hours sewing on all Santa's sequins by hand.

I think the color of the little tree has faded over the years.  You can see that some of the details of the deer were pre-printed.

Flash forward to the 1980's.  When I got married, my husband needed a stocking, so I used mine as a pattern.  I used what I had on hand, and I was going for a "crazy quilt" look.  I don't really love the body of the stocking...

...but I think the counted cross-stitch is great!

After my son was born in 1990, my stocking-making improved!  The body of this stocking is quilted by hand.

I love this counted cross-stitch Santa and message!  I think I found the pattern in a magazine.

Last but not least, this is the stocking I made after my daughter was born in 1993.

This one is all cotton fabric, except for the felt gingerbread boy.  He's holding real cinnamon sticks, but they have lost most of their aroma!
 Every Christmas when the stockings are hung on the mantle, my daughter looks at hers for a while, and then declares, "I got the best one!!"

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!
Luke 2:14

(Thanks to Diane K. for making me this sweet ninni angel tree topper.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing...The Morsbag!

I'm excited to tell you about the next swap I will be organizing (with my friend Wendie) on Craftster soon after Christmas--we will be making and swapping morsbags!  They are re-usable fabric shopping bags.  Click on that name to go to the website.  You will see that it is run by a group of people who are very dedicated to ridding the environment of harmful plastic, one morsbag at a time. 

I'm just a person who likes to sew, but if I can sew something that makes the world a better place--wow!  I'm all for that!  I hope you will be able to join us in the swap on Craftster, but if not, go to morsbags and make a few bags--for yourself, your family, or your friends!

There are morsbag instructions on the website, but I thought it would be helpful to any new sewists in our swap if I showed you how I made my morsbag.  Here's what to do:

1.  Go to morsbags and download the instructions.

2.  Choose your fabric.  Since this is for the swap, I am using nice new fabric (morsbags encourages people to make them by upcycling a bedsheet or other old fabric).  The finished size is large (18" x 16 1/2"), so a large-scale print works great.  You will need a 20" x 44" piece of fabric (I always like to have slightly more than I expect to need, in case of shrinkage or a cutting mistake!)

3.  Cut:
--cut two pieces 18" x 20" (the shorter sides are the top and bottom--keep that in mind if your fabric has a directional pattern).
--cut two pieces 4" x 18" for the handles.

(my fabric is a little busy, but this picture shows the four cut pieces, and my printed-out instructions)

4.  Make the handles.  The instructions say "fold a narrow hem on one side, and a wider one on the other, then iron".  I made my narrow hem 1/4", and the wider one 1 3/8".  When you fold the side with the narrow hem over, it will reach the center of the fabric., and your handle will be 1 3/8" wide.

(These two pictures show the handle fabrics ironed and folded.)

5.  Sew the handles.  Start by sewing one seam right down the middle, along the edge of the folded-over fabric; then sew near the edges of the two sides.

6.  Next, fold down a 1/4" hem on the top edge of each piece of the bag fabric, and iron it.  To set the handles in place, I measured 6" from each side and put a pin in the fabric to mark it.  I put one side of each handle against the outside edge of each pin, then pinned the handles in place.

The morsbag instructions don't tell you to sew a seam along the center of the 1/4" hem, but I did, just to hold it all together before moving to the next step.

7.  Fold down a 1" hem along the top edge of each piece of the bag fabric. Pin in place and iron.  Sew a seam along the lower edge of the hem.

8.  Now, fold the handle UP, and "sew a strong box and cross at the area of the handle and hem".  This is an important step to make the handles secure.

(My sewn "box and cross"--I hope you can see it!)

9.  Okay!  Now let's sew this bag together!  This part is easy to do but it might be hard to comprehend, because you will be making a French seam:  pin the two halves of the bag together, WRONG sides together, and sew a SCANT 1/4" seam along the three raw edges.  (I know this looks wrong, but it is right!)  You need to make this seam narrower than the next seam, that's why I said to make it a scant 1/4".

10.  Turn the bag inside-out and iron the edges flat.

Sew a GENEROUS 1/4" seam along the two sides and bottom.  This will encase the raw edges of the fabric between the two seam lines.

11.  Turn the bag right-side-out and iron it flat.

Ta-da!  It's beautiful!  Let's go shopping!
If you want to print out the "morsbags" label and sew it on, go right ahead!  I didn't do it on mine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Scrappy Swap Package

Today I will show you the rest of the package I sent to my partner in the Scrap Happy Swap on Craftster.

I wanted to get her color palette just right.  I didn't have enough yardage of the right colors in my stash, so I carefully examined the picture I had of her living room colors, and pulled a few fabrics from my stash that seemed just right.  Then I went to Joann's and spent a long time pulling bolts of fabric from the shelves and comparing them to my swatches.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of fabrics that would work, and I bought them all!  I got half-yards of everything except the two main blue fabrics that I used on the pillows (I got a yard of each of those, and used them all up!).  But first, the mug rug.  This is the front:

...and this is the back.  I have to say that I like the back better than the front!  I think the front is too busy, and you lose the circles with all the other fabrics competing for attention.  That's how it is sometimes when you are making something for the first time using an idea from your imagination; this time it didn't come out quite as great as I had hoped it would!

These pillow covers, on the other hand, exceeded my expectations!  They are large (17.5" square), made to fit on the pillow forms she was already using on her sofa.  This first one, with circles, was inspired by some quilts and fabrics I saw on her Pinterest.

I wanted to make the second pillow different from the first, but with a design that related to the first one, so I made it with these leaf shapes.  I spent a lot of time constructing both pillows carefully, with finished seams and a velcro closure on the back.  The circles and leaves were affixed with Heat n Bond lite, then I sewed around the edges to secure them.

I also made her one of my Scrappy Fabric Bracelets, (click on that for the tutorial) using one of her favorite phrases.  I went a little overboard crafting for her--and she went overboard for me too--so we've decided to request each other as partners in a future swap, because there are lots more things we would like to make for each other!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My First Needlebook

    I can't believe I waited until now to make my first needlebook!  I've always thought needlebooks were cool, and I received an amazing one in a Craftster swap this year; so in the Scrap Happy swap that Susan and I recently organized, I finally jumped in and made one for my partner, since she listed a needlebook as something she would like to receive.

Here's the front.  These are my partner's favorite colors, and I used these fabrics in several other items I made for her as well (which I will show you next time!)

And here's the inside.  I used wool felt for the pages, but in the future I will use flannel, because the felt was a little too thick--I ended up giving the book just two pages; with flannel it could have had four.  One good thing about this felt, though, is that the color is perfect!

This shows the completed needlebook along with the drawing I used for the design; I drew the leaf in my sketchbook quite a few years ago, and I've always wanted to use it for something.

I used French knots on half of the front, and a simple straight stitch on the other half.  There are lots of tutorials online for French knots, like this one by Wendi Gratz of Shiny Happy WorldFrench knots can be tricky at first, but with a little practice, they are as easy as falling off a log--don't be afraid to give them a try--you can do it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My One-Year Challenge

I am so excited to tell you about the challenge I have set for myself in 2012!

My friend Susan pointed out to me that a lot of people have jumped onboard the  365 Photos train; they take a photograph every day for a year and change their life!  I don't expect to change my life, but I do expect to stretch my creativity with my personal challenge:  365 Sewn Hearts!  Yes, that's the name of my new blog, click on it and you will see that I have already started planning to sew a heart a day, starting on January 1, 2012.  I've always been a "heart" person (my user name on Craftster is Leslieshappyheart), so this is an obvious choice for a challenge for me.

Because Susan is such an awesome friend, she has also sent me some fabrics to jump-start my imagination as I plan my attack on the 365 hearts! 

These are the fabrics she sent from her stash.  All of these are small-ish prints, with more than enough fabric to make a big heart out of each one.  Yes, my imagination was indeed stimulated by these!  I have decided to start the year doing a series of hearts using an "A is for Apple" type theme (okay, she didn't send me any apple fabric, but she sure did send pigs, monsters, and handcuffs!)  Each heart will have the appropriate letter sewn on it.

The fabrics below came from a friend of hers in Hong Kong.  Because Susan is so awesome, she sent them straight to me, without even taking them out of their wrappers!  They are all so beautiful!  Thanks, Susan!
I hope you will visit the new blog (I'm already posting there daily); I would love it if you would offer me your ideas for new hearts.  I'm slightly worried that I will run out of ideas before the year ends!  Please "join" my blog so I will know that I'm not alone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O Christmas Trees

One of the things that really got me into the holiday spirit this year was working on my partner's package in the Christmas/Winter Ninni Swap on Craftster.  (What's a ninni?  Click HERE to find out!)

In her swap questionnaire, my partner Diane said one thing she would like is "...the beginning of a little forest land setting that relates to Christmastime--I like the idea of snowy woods with little creatures around a tree..."

I mulled that over for a while; I thought about making something small, then something bigger...trees...snow...Christmas...and this is what I came up with:  big snowy Christmas tree pillows!

The center tree is 14", the two side trees are 12".  I just drew a tree shape on paper and cut it out, and used that for the template for cutting the fabric.  I used iron-on interfacing to firm-up the fabric, then sewed on the buttons, and then sewed on the backing and stuffed them.

I was thrilled when I remembered that I had the stuffed-raccoon-making-kit I showed you yesterday; the raccoons were PERFECT to go with the trees because Diane's Christmas decorations are all red, lime, and turquoise!  I whipped up the two raccoons, and voila!  A wintery, Christmassy, forest scene for her sofa!

But this was supposed to be a Ninni swap, right?  I didn't forget the Ninnis; they don't go with this forest scene though.  I made them smaller, as ornaments for her white Christmas tree:

"Fa la la la la, la la, la la!!!"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Raccoons! (A Product Review)

The biggest and best thing I got in my "swag" bag of free goodies at the Blogger's Meet-up this past September (in Little Rock, Arkansas, hosted by Craft Gossip and sponsored by EK Success Brands), was this cute kit to make two plush raccoons.  The kit contains everything you need to complete the project, including a needle and stuffing.

This is an "American Girl Crafts" product, designed to go with the American Girl dolls, so a girl can make a large raccoon for herself and a smaller one for her doll.  It's a really cute idea!  The kit comes with an instruction booklet with lots of pictures.  The material is felt, which is perfect for this sort of project, since the edges won't unravel.  Each piece has little holes punched in it where the stitching will go, so you just sew through the holes, like those big sewing cards you might have done in kindergarten!

 As an introduction to hand-sewing, it's not bad.  There are a large number of pieces to assemble, which might be a bit confusing to a young sewist (it is recommended for ages 8 and up), but the details are exactly what make these raccoons so cute, so with a little guidance from an adult I think it would go together quite well.

The circles on the tummies are open on top to form a small pocket--that's a nice touch.  My favorite detail is the shiny sequins that are sewn onto the eyes, which makes them look alive.  I love the overall design of the raccoons; the simple outline combined with the surface details makes them very appealing.  I've noticed this kit in my local Hancock's fabric store; there is a small section of American Girl crafts, so the product seems to be widely available.

I made these raccoons for a special purpose--which I will tell you about in my next post!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wintery Blue Bags

Now that we are well into December, my crafting has shifted from Christmas-themed to a more general winter theme.  Coincidentally, I had some special orders this week for purses that are blue and winter-themed. 

Lee Ann, a regular customer of mine for many years, LOVES bears and teddy bears, so when she called to ask for something wintery that would go with blue jeans, this is the first fabric I thought of, since it has bears on it.  It has a wonderful back-woods, log-cabin feel to me.

But I wanted to give her more than one choice, so I made this bag too.  The fabric has different stripes of wintery scenes:  snow-covered houses, bare trees, and big silver and white snowflakes.

At the same time I was making these two bags, another regular customer, Debbie, called to ask for snowflake bags for herself and her daughter (Debbie ordered the Christmas bag and school-themed bag I showed you a couple of weeks ago).

I made these two bags for Debbie and her daughter, and then showed all three pictures to Lee Ann.

Much to my surprise, she chose the second bag with the bare winter trees!  It really is a great fabric, with touches of metallic silver sparkling all over it.

Just as I sat down to write this post, Debbie called to say her daughter had just picked up the two snowflake bags (I had left them for her at the local store that carries my crafts) and they both LOVE them!  She said they plan to get bags for every holiday and season!  That means I need to start looking for some great Valentine's Day fabric!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scrappy Braided Fabric Bracelet: A Tutorial

I love these braided fabric bracelets I made for my partner in the recent Fabric Jewelry Swap on Craftster; several people expressed interest in them, so here comes a tutorial!

Quick summary:  you simply braid together 3 fabric strips, adding a charm along the way, then secure the ends and add an elastic loop and button for a closure.  Here's how I did it:

1.  Cut 3 different fabric strips 1 3/4" wide by at least 15" long.  There will be waste fabric at the beginning and end of the braided section, so you need to cut the strips longer than the size of your wrist.  A 7" bracelet fits my wrist comfortably (my actual wrist measurement is 6 3/4"), so this tutorial is for a 7" bracelet.

 2.  All the fabric edges will be left raw.  Start by folding the ends of the 3 fabric strips as shown, and stack them on top of each other so you can sew them together on the sewing machine.

3.  Run a line of stitching through all 3 folded fabrics at one end.  This is just to keep them together so you can start to braid.  Since this will eventually be waste fabric that you cut off, this part doesn't have to look pretty.

4.  To keep the fabrics from moving around while I braided, I pinned the sewn end to my ironing board.  You could also tape the sewn end to a table top.  Now, BRAID!!  To keep the braid smooth and even, I twisted each fabric strip as I braided it, as shown in this picture.

5.  Braid for 7", then put a couple of pins in the ends of the fabric strips to keep them from unravelling while you add a charm. 

 I used a charm from this kit that I had on hand; but you can add any kind of a charm here.  Attach it to an 8mm split ring (they were included in this kit), and slide it onto one of the fabric strips, right up to the spot where you stopped braiding.  Then keep braiding for at least 2 more inches.

6.  Unpin the braid from the ironing board (holding the loose end so it doesn't unravel) and take it to your sewing machine.  Sew the loose end securely (this part will be cut off, so it doesn't have to be pretty, but you do want your braid to be nice and tight here.)  Go ahead and cut off the unused fabric that wasn't braided (about 1/2" beyond the stitiches you just sewed).  From this cut-off fabric, cut two strips 3/4" by at least 3".  You will use these strips in the next step. (If you don't have enough fabric left, you can use any scrap fabric you want.)

7.  Now it's time to finish the ends.  Measure 1 1/2" from the charm; this will be the end where you sew on a button later.  Place a pin to mark the spot, and machine-sew back and forth across the braid right there.

Take one of the 3/4" wide strips you just cut, and wrap it around the braid two times.  It should be centered over the line of machine stitching.

Leave the end long, like in the picture, and sew all around the edges of the fabric strip several times to secure the braid.

This is how it will look.

Using sharp scissors, cut off the tail of the fabric strip; then cut off the excess braid beyond the strip you just sewed on.

8.  Now you will finish the other end.  Start by taping a hair elastic in the middle, and cut it in half. You will use one half for the closure (save the other half for your next bracelet!)

Measure 6 3/4" from the finished end, and mark the spot with a pin.  Machine-sew back and forth across the braid there to secure it.  You will finish this end the same as the other one, with the addition of the elastic loop.  Before wrapping the 3/4" fabric strip, you need to secure the loop with a few stitches by hand (my experience was that if you don't do this, the sewing machine foot will push the loop to the edge and it will be very off-center).

Now wrap the 3/4" strip around the braid and loop twice, leaving the end loose.

Sew around the edges several times to secure the braid.  Cut off the loose end of the strip.

Before cutting off the excess braid, pull down the elastic loop and hold it firmly so you don't accidentally cut it off!

This is how the finished end will look.

 8.  Sew on a button and you are done!