Saturday, June 30, 2012

Featured Organizer

If you have read this blog at all, you already know that I spend a LOT of time at the website called Craftster.  It is overflowing with creative people from all over the world who inspire and motivate me in my daily sewing and other crafting. 

One of my favorite parts of Craftster is participating in craft swaps, and over the past year my friend Susan and I have coorganized quite a few of those swaps.  We were both wildly surprised a couple of weeks ago when we were told that we would be the next "Featured Organizers" on the swaps board!

Normally there is just one organizer who is featured, but we always work together, so Susan and I each got a questionnaire to fill out.  I was afraid we would duplicate each other's answers, so I asked Susan to send her answers to me, and I edited them together so it would sound like we had been interviewed together.  I will include the entire interview at the end of this post; but first I want to show you a fabulous badges I just got from the equally fabulous sewphie.  She and I recently did a personal swap of felt badges (I've shown you the fishes and heart badges I sent her) and she sent me not two, but three beautiful badges!

Clockwise from top:  a spool of thread with measuring-tape boarder (because I love to sew); a Siamese cat (because I love Siamese cats!); and a Swap Organizer badge.

This Swap Organizer badge really touched me, because sewpie said she made it in honor of my being a featured organizer!  I love it when swap partners do something so special and personal.

And now, here is the interview as it appears on the Craftster website:

Many of you have seen (and contributed!) to the "Great Organizers I have Known" thread. We love hearing about what makes a swap run smoothly for you and we love all the positive energy that the thread has created.

In that spirit, we've created this feature to highlight some of our special and outstanding organizers from the swap boards. We'll meet some of our amazing organizers and pick their brains about how they keep on top of everything organizing requires. This time we have chosen to feature a dynamic duo who have co-organized 15 swaps together in the past year!

Without further delay, let's give a warm, hearty Craftster congrats to Leslieshappyheart and susanab, our newest featured organizers!

What made you two first decide to start organizing together?

(Susan) It's a crazy crazy story. Leslie and I were randomly teamed up on Words With Friends and I think I had a scissors logo at the time and she asked me if I sewed. I said, "Yes", not realizing that this wordsmith was also a REAL sewist and after a couple of moves then I was pitching Craftster to her. How crazy is that? I mean what are the odds?

(Leslie) That’s the story of how we ended up knowing each other on Craftster. After I had been on Craftster for a while, Susan had the impulse to try hosting a swap of the Ninni monster stuffies, and since we chatted daily about Craftster-related things anyway, she asked me to co-organize. From then on, organizing swaps has been something of an addiction for us both!

What is your favourite thing about organizing together?

(Susan) Co-organizing with Leslie has always has a feel of "Thelma and Louise" to it. We love the adventure of thinking up swaps, seeing what happens on the idea thread, then posting it, partner day, send outs--when you organize with someone who you work great with, every part of the swap has its thrills, really.

(Leslie) I love the "Thelma and Louise" comparison! I have to say that the best thing about working with Susan is the security of knowing that my friend is there in case I need something, or if something goes wrong (which it sometimes does!) Having her to discuss the swap with is really what makes organizing fun for me.

How do you split up organizing responsibilities, do you switch it up for each swap?

(Susan) We started out thinking that's how it was going to go--Leslie would organize, then I would. But it really made more sense for Leslie to be the official organizer for us. I travel for business throughout the year but, even if not, Leslie is the more organized of the two of us and she really plans the timelines and is really on the lookout that everything is running smoothly. And she's just amazing on the boards. She's naturally encouraging and helpful and if there's a snag--and they do happen when you organize as many swaps as we have--she takes all the right steps.

(Leslie) Thank you, Susan! So yes, since I have more free time, now I do most of the set-up of the swaps, such as starting the idea thread, opening the swap, matching partners, and sending questionnaires. Susan is in charge of setting up the gallery, and if it is a small swap (less than 20 swappers) Susan will also give all the feedback.

How do you match up partners in a swap?

(Susan) That one’s yours, Leslie.

(Leslie) Matching up partners is the hardest part of any swap, and this question is always the one I read the most closely in every one of the organizer features! I’m such a hands-on person that I need to have the information in front of me, so I print out all the questionnaires, then highlight the information I use to match the swappers: location and willingness to send internationally; allergies and allergens; then likes, dislikes, preferences, style—I try to match people who are most similar to each other if possible, so they will be comfortable crafting for each other. So if I have two roller derby players who both like Harry Potter, that’s a perfect match in my book! I paperclip the questionnaires together if I feel that they are a match, and once it’s a sure thing, I staple them together.

Any particular tricks or tips you'd be willing to share with other organizers?
(Susan) That’s you again, Leslie!

(Leslie) I would say, one of the key things is to have all the important information about the swap right at your fingertips—so I keep a swap notebook next to my computer. For each swap I list the name, start date, and send-out date of the swap; then I list each swapper, including the Craftster username, real first name, location, and whether or not this is their first swap; and the list of partners. That’s all I need to know to address any issue that comes up. The other thing you have to do is make a label in your pm inbox for the swap, and move all the questionnaires there as soon as you add a person to the swap. When they are in a separate folder like that, you can access them quickly to send them to the partners, and if there is a question later about anything that was on a questionnaire, you can locate it easily.

What would you say is the most important element of making a swap fun for everyone?

(Susan) In making it fun? I think you have to be posting on your swap board, really. Organizing is like having guests in your place and you should want to be there welcoming first time swappers, welcoming back regulars. There's a lot of real fun and a lot of real caring going on in the swaps because you're together for a period of time and on a creative journey together. AND you're going to give that creation to somebody in the swap. There really is a lot going on in swaps.

(Leslie) Well said, Susan! I think the most fun thing in every swap is Susan’s famous “partner day dance”…the regulars know to expect it, and those who haven’t swapped with us before quickly realize that it’s okay to be silly with this group!

Who comes up with the swap ideas, where do you find your swapping AND organizing inspiration?

(Susan) I come up with a lot of them and most of those either come from or are inspired by crafts and tutes I see on the web. But it's Leslie who test drives everything to see if it will work AND to improve it for the swap.

(Leslie) Yes, Susan is the “idea” person, for sure. She is always emailing me links to things she finds online that might work for a swap. We both prefer sewing to other forms of crafting, so that’s the type of thing Susan looks for. When we both get really excited about an idea, I will make a sample of it to make sure it’s do-able for a swap (and that sample will usually end up being the picture for the swap thread). It’s so fun to share an idea that excites us with this crafting community, and when others get excited about it too—that’s what inspires us to keep organizing swaps.

What was your favourite swap you organized and what do your think made it a success?

(Susan) I just looked at the list of what we've done and it made it HARDER to decide. Swaps where Craftster's can really add their own touch and personalize for their partners--like Monster Ninni, Mystery Critter, Fabric Jewelry, Journal Cover, definitely others, -- were very successful.

(Leslie) Without question my favorite swap was the very first one we organized, the Monster Ninni Swap. It was HUGE and we were total newbies at organizing, and there was so much to think about and keep track of, that made it really exciting for me!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

(Susan) If anyone has that thought of organizing a swap dancing in their head, go for it. Remember that you can cap off how many people are in the swap so, if you want to start real slowly, stop at 10. And STILL get a co-organizer even if you don't have to. You can start an amazing friendship this way.

(Leslie) Organizing a swap with a co-organizer is a lot of fun! I would suggest that anyone who wants to give it a try should ask offer to co-organize a swap that’s just opened for sign-ups; you can learn the ropes that way, with the experienced organizer’s help.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two More Felt Badges

I really love working with wool felt!

I am currently in the second round of the Felt Badge Swap on Craftster.  This time we are making and sending two felt badges to our partner.  These are the badges I sent to farmerswife in England.

First, a hen, because she really IS a farmer's wife, and she is lucky enough to have chickens!  (I am so jealous of her!  It's a running joke here at my house that I wish I could have chickens...I just think they are super cute.)

 I made a paper template for the shape of the hen, then I cut all the smaller pieces of felt free-hand. I love the folk-art feel of this hen; I might have to make another one like it for myself!

Second, a "lurking" owl (that's what he's been called in the swap gallery--and I guess I can see why!)  Farmerswife has a few owl-themed things in her Pinterest, so when I saw a card with this design I knew it would be great as a felt badge.

This one was a fun challenge, with the "wood" overylay.  As with the hen, I started with a paper template for the opening in the tree and the owl, then cut the smaller pieces free-hand.

Each of these felt badges is approximately 2" x 3".  Farmerswife has received them and she loves them.  I can't wait to get mine from her!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lavender Sachets and Pincushions

I've been making lavender sachets; this is one of the projects I promised to show you that requires baker's twine.  Two readers have told me that after seeing my post about baker's twine, they placed orders from Talking Twine and Trim--the etsy store where I got mine.  That's awesome, fiddlegirl8 and Lime Riot--I hope you like yours as much as I like mine!

I made these lavender sachets for two reasons:  first, I was trying to come up with new heart-shaped things for my other blog, 365 Sewn Hearts (I need a heart for every day of this year!); and I need stock for my little booth in a local shop.  This project was so perfect for both!  I've made lavender sachets before, but in a different style, so it was nice to make something new.  I had lavender on hand, so I jumped right in!

Sixteen lavender sachets:

The picture below shows how I started.  I printed out words and phrases on the computer, then traced them onto white fabric using my light box and a micron marker. I have an assortment of the micron pens, each with a different sized writing tip, so for different projects I can use whatever size works best with the font size I've chosen for my letters.

I cut out a bunch of hearts from various fabrics, and ironed interfacing onto the back of each to give the finished heart a more "solid" feel.  Then I cut out the words and phrases, and machine sewed them to the front of each heart.  I took all the hearts to my sewing chair in the family room and watched TV while I hand-sewed a running stitch with embroidery thread around the edge of each phrase, using the machine stitching as my guide.  (I always try to have some kind of handwork ready near my sewing chair--I don't like to watch TV without it!)

Then I chose two buttons to accent the front of each heart, and sewed those on.

Back at the sewing machine, I sewed the heart fronts to matching backs, stopping at the top to add two 12" lengths of baker's twine.  Then I turned them right-side-out, stuffed them with lavender, and sewed the openings shut. 

I packaged each heart in a ziplock baggie with my business card, and put them in a basket to take to Country Treasures.

I thought I had an endless supply of lavender in my closet, so I was surprised when it ran out before I had finished filling all the hearts!  I decided to turn the remaining hearts into pincushions.  To keep pins from poking through the back, I cut plastic food-container lids into heart shapes and put them inside the hearts before filling them with polyester fiberfill. 

The front and back of un-stuffed pincushions:

Eleven pincushions, all finished!

This is my favorite one, because I love the the print and colors of this fabric.  I think I will keep this for myself!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spoonflower Pug Dog Bag

My sister-in-law, Nora, loves her pug dog, and wanted a bag with a pug on it.  I thought it would be easy to find fabric featuring pugs, because I've seen a lot of pug-themed items online in the past few years; but when I searched for it, all I could find in my regular online fabric stores (eQuilter and was fabric that had an assortment of dogs, including maybe one little pug lost in the crowd...and that just wouldn't do!  I looked all over the web, and I ended up getting this fabric from Spoonflower.  Spoonflower is a unique website, where you can upload your own design and have it printed on fabric.  In this case, I bought a design someone else had made.  The fabric is printed to order, so, in addition to the extra time it takes for the fabric to arrive, the cost is about double what you pay for fabric elsewhere--which is why it was my last resort! 

The fabric I bought is actually designed to be made into a wallhanging, but it worked well for this bag because it has one large image of a pug.



Nora also asked for a coin pouch, so I made this one with a keyring attached.  I used Heat n Bond to fuse a small dog image to both the front and the back of the pouch.

I will mail this out on Monday.  Nora has seen the pictures, and she is excited to see it in person!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baker's Twine Review

I've discovered that baker's twine is a crafting necessity!  It can be used as part of a project, scrapbooking, or in place of ribbon when wrapping a package.  Recently I've been working on some projects that require baker's twine (I'll blog about them in the next week or two), and I want to tell you about the wonderful twine I purchased from a shop on Etsy called Talking Twine and Trim

My first order was for an assortment of 10 yards each of 18 different colors.  The shop offers several different packages of various colors and quantities--you will probably find exactly the amount you need, or you can place a special order.  I just wanted a variety to have on hand.  It was very reasonably priced at $17 (plus postage).  Each color came wrapped on a cardboard tag, and there was a little "thank you" tag included.  Cute!  I love all the colors, and I love knowing that I will always have just the right color to match whatever I'm working on.  The first time I used this twine I noticed that it is significantly thicker than the twine I have used before (I had previously bought one huge spool of red and white twine at, and have used it for wrapping packages.  It's fine for that, but it pales in comparison to my new twine!). 

I just started my second project that includes baker's twine, and I realized that I need MORE!  So I went back to Talking Twine and Trim, and this time I ordered full spools of eight different colors (each spool has 240 yards of twine).  This should last me a while!

Jodi, the shop owner, generously included four freebies (in front of the spools in the picture below)--she sent three lengths of twine (carefully chosen so they don't duplicate any of the colors I purchased in this order) and a package of scrunched seam binding, which is a new concept for me!  It turns out that the seam binding is also used for crafting, scrapbooking, and packaging.

Both times that I ordered from Talking Twine and Trim, the packages arrived quickly.  I highly recommend this shop and this baker's twine!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hand-Carved Bird Stamp

Back in May I told you how excited I was to find a hand-carved stamp project by a favorite artist of mine, Geninne Zlatkis, in the book Craft Hope. The picture below shows the book with my uncarved stamp (with the images already transferred to it).

Since then, I have finished my bird stamp, and these are the materials I used (below):  a Speedball cutting tool, which has blades in five different sizes and shapes, and a block of Speedy-Carve, also from Speedball.

After a couple of hours of work (spread out over a couple of days)  I had these two awesome stamps!  I love them!  Carving stamps is a lot easier than I expected it to be, so I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try.

I visited Geninne's wonderful art blog and found a carved stamp tutorial which is a great place to start if you want to try carving your own stamps.  She recommends using Color Box inks, so I bought this cool rainbow of colors for myself!

Each color separates from the others, so you can apply the ink to the stamp.  See, I told you it was cool!

I used my new bird and flower stamps to make all these cards.  I played around with different colors for the birds and flowers.

My daughter was standing behind me at one point, and she said "Put the flower stamp in the middle of the colors!"  I tried that and ended up with some pretty multi-colored flowers for my bird to hold.

These cards are exactly what I have been wanting to have on hand--I can say I made them myself, and they are really cute, but each card only took a moment to create, so I don't have to ration them, or feel that they are too precious to use.  I can make and use as many as I want! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Here's wishing a happy day to all the wonderful fathers in all of our lives--especially to my husband, Bill!

I made a simple drawstring dice bag for my husband, based on my pattern for the drawstring backpack.

I used two outer pieces and two lining pieces, all cut 10" tall by 7" wide.  The assembly was exactly the same as the drawstring backpack, except that I omitted the grommets at the bottom.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Felt Fishes and a Heart

I have enjoyed making and swapping felt badges on Craftster, so I was thrilled when Sophie of Threadhead agreed to a personal swap with me.  She is such an amazing stitcher!  We each made two felt badges, based on the other person's Pinterest

Sophie has a lot of things on her Pinterest, so it was hard to choose just two themes for her badges, but I finally decided to go with interests that we have in common.  She has a category just for fish, so I made this one first:

I cut the fish from felt free-hand; then I used a chain stitch to embroider them.  I thought it would look like scales, and it does!  Three shades of embroidery floss give the fish gradations of color.

For the second badge, I found a heart on Sophie's Pinterest, and I made almost an exact copy of it.  I made a template to cut the heart shape, then cut the leaves and circles free-hand.

Both badges are made of wool felt and embroidery floss, and are just under 3" at their widest points.  The heart has glass beads accents.

I love hearts and I think this one is gorgeous, but it is the fish badge that got all the comments when I posted pictures on Craftster!

I mailed these (from the U.S.) to Sophie in England on Friday and she received them on Wednesday--that's fast!  I hope hers come to me just as quickly.  I think I'll go check the mailbox right now!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Drawstring Backpack

This is the last of the projects I made for the Bernina Master Craftsters series at Craftster, and it is my favorite one!  I love the size and shape of this backpack, and the zippered pocket on the front makes it really useful. 

There is talk that Bernina will be publishing some of the Master Craftster projects on their website--exciting!  Of course I will blog all about it if one of mine is chosen!

Not Your Average Drawstring Backpack using the BERNINA 380

Drawstring backpacks are popular right now; I've seen a lot of them for children, and others that are intended to carry your belongings to the gym. I decided to make one that is pretty and grown-up looking--something a woman like me would be proud to be seen wearing in public! Two things that make this backpack "above average": the combination of fabrics, and the long zippered pocket on the front. A large-scale print works great for the body of the bag, like the sewing-themed print I used. This drawstring backpack is both stylish and functional--the best of both worlds!

The finished size is 14" x 17".

You will need:
  • 1/2 yard each of two coordinating fabrics
  • Matching 10" nylon zipper
  • 4 yards of 1/4" cord
  • Grommets and grommet-setting tools
  • Matching thread

Start by cutting your washed and ironed fabrics into the following sizes:
From the white fabric (the main fabric in the picture, with the sewing print) cut:
  • 2 pieces 14" high x 14 1/2" wide (for the front and back)
  • 1 piece 4 1/2" x 14 1/2" (for the pocket lining front)
  • 1 piece 5" x 14 1/2" (for the pocket lining back)
From the red fabric, cut:
  • 2 pieces 18 1/2" high x 14 1/2" wide (for the lining)
  • 1 piece 4 1/2" x 14 1/2" (for the bottom front)
  • 1 piece 5 1/4" x 14 1/2" (for the bottom back)
  • 2 pieces 1" x 2 1/2" (to cover the ends of the zipper)

Start by making the back: using a 1/4" seam (this is the size of all the seams in this project unless otherwise noted), sew the 5 1/4" x 14 1/2" red fabric to the bottom edge of one of the 14" x 14 1/2" white fabrics. Press the seam toward the white fabric, and topstitch near the edge of the white fabric. Set the back aside.

For the pocket on the front, I wanted the zipper exposed, but I didn't want it going all the way across the front of the bag, so I added enough fabric to the ends of the 10" zipper to make it the same width as the bag.

On one of the short ends of each of the 1" x 2 1/2" red strips, fold under and iron a 1/4" hem. Sew one strip just in front of the metal "stopper" at the top of the zipper, as in the picture above. Sew the other strip to the other end of the zipper.

To sew the front of the pocket, layer the 4 1/2" x 14 1/2" red fabric, face up, then the prepared zipper, face down, then the 4 1/2" x 14 1/2" white fabric, face down (as in the picture above). Align these three along the top and left-hand edges, and sew them together at the top, using a zipper foot. The zipper foot that comes with the BERNINA 380 is 1/4' wide, so you just have to align the fabric with the edge of the foot to get a perfect seam (see picture below).

Fold open the fabrics you just sewed, so both fabrics are right-side out. Press, and top-stitch close to the edge of the fabric where it meets the zipper (picture below).

To finish the front of the bag, you will need the three pieces pictured below: the 14" x 14 1/2" white fabric, the 5" x 14 1/2" white fabric (which will be the back of the pocket lining), and the red zipper section that you just sewed.

Lay the zipper section on top of the white pocket lining, both face up. On top of these, lay the 14" x 14 1/2" white fabric, face down, with the bottom edge of the white fabric aligned with the top edge of the zipper. In the picture below, I have staggered the fabrics so you can see their orientation. Simply line them up along the top edge and sew them together using the zipper foot.

Fold open the white fabric, and topstitch close to the edge, as in the picture below.

Whew! I hope that wasn't too confusing! The front panel is now done and should look like the picture below.

To assemble to bag, sew one piece of the 18 1/2" x 14 1/2" red lining fabric to the top edge of the front outer section, and the other piece of the red lining to the top edge of the outer back section. Open the fabrics and press the seams flat. Leaving the fabrics open, layer the front and back sections, right sides together, so the red lining fabrics are touching each other and the white front and back fabrics are touching each other. In the next step, you will sew all around the four sides of the bag and lining, but first you need to measure (and mark with a pin) one inch on each side of the seam where the outside fabrics join the lining fabrics (see picture below), on each of the two ends of this seam. The area between the pins will be left unsewn for now (it will become the opening for the drawstring).

Go ahead and sew all around the four sides of the bag and lining, leaving the 2" opening between the pins, and an 8" opening at the bottom of the lining (for turning). I borrowed the picture below from another tutorial (I didn't get a picture of these fabrics at this stage!) but you can see how your bag at this stage will be one long piece.

Now, while the bag is still inside-out, press the seam allowance flat around the two 2" unsewn areas on the sides.

Turn the bag right-side out through the opening in the bottom. Turn under the raw edges of the opening in the bottom of the lining, press, and sew it closed with a seam very close to the edge of the fabrics. Push the lining inside the bag, and adjust it so it fits smoothly inside. Press the top edge, and you are almost done!

The two 2" areas that were left unsewn are now at the top edge of the bag. Topstitch them closed, as in the picture below, so they each form a "V".

Fold down a 1" flap from the top of the bag on both the front and back, so the red lining is exposed. Press.

Sew along the bottom edge of the fold, all around the circumference of the bag. This will be the casing for the drawstring.

This is the cord I used for my drawstring, below. Cut two 2-yard pieces, and thread them through the casing, but leave the ends loose for now.

Attach a grommet to each of the two bottom corners, following the directions on the package. These are the grommets, I used (below), and they worked great!

Now, thread one end of each cord through a grommet.

Tie a knot, trim the excess cord, and you are done! Good job!!

I love my new backpack! First, I'm going to use it when I travel in a couple of weeks. After that, I think it will make a great project bag near my sewing chair!