It’s that time of year

December 5, 2011

Winter. Holidays.

I hate snow. I kind of hate winter generally. However, I do get sucked in to the holidays. Now, my parents stopped celebrating Christmas as a corporate abomination when I was pretty young. It was something like. There’s no Santa, p.s. there’s no Christmas either.

I grew up loathing all things Christmas and was righteously offended by anything Christmas. You’d think it was eating children or something. However, it eventually became the doorway through which I became part of Katie’s family, so it now holds a lot of meaning for me. I love their traditions. I love the visiting and the food. I love being a part of something bigger, and welcomed so thoroughly.

And of course, I love presents.

Last year we started what might become a new tradition for us – our friends introduced us to the idea of acquiring a permit to go cut our own tree down from the National Forest. Given our love of doing things on the cheap, $10 for a permit and an adventure sounds like a good deal.

It starts by meeting up for breakfast and ridiculously fancy coffee. We then drive in and tromple around up a mountainside looking for just the perfect tree.  It’s harder than you might think.

First off, there are several requirements about size, there is shape and density to consider, and then you cut it down. Mountainside forest trees are just not lot trees. They’re a little more Charlie Brown. Anyhoo, once you cut it down, you then have to drag it back out the half mile, hopefully without falling, and strap it up to the car.

This year, we decided to lop down a 19′ tree for our 6′ ceiling room. Since you can’t “top” trees and leave the stumps, we cut it in two and dragged both pieces out. It was heavy. And hard. And there were several inches of snow on the ground. All in all, a good time, if you like noodley appendages.

However, we got the tree out and it was graciously driven home by our friends’ parents. It was during this time that I realized the tree was about 6′ across at the bottom and still about 13′ tall.  More lopping. Then I had to get it through the door, downstairs, and manage to fit under our lower-than-average basement ceiling. I knew I shouldn’t have bought the 18″ tree topper.

Anyway, it’s all set up now and I find that lots of lights and dangley things help take up the CB space, but really, it’s about the best tree you could ask for.

***

November 29, 2011

This weekend we pulled out our quickly amassing tubs of Christmas ornaments to decorate the house. Is it early, sure. But it’s SHINY. Besides, I love my tinsel tree (yes I HAVE a tinsel tree. Are we surprised? No). Anyhoo, I thought I’d post a quick project for my lovelies to make this time of year.

Step 1: Find some doilies- you can check antique shops, Joann’s, Michael’s, or Grandma’s trunk.

Step 2: Get some fabric stiffener.

Step 3: Stiffen said fabric.

Step 4: Allow the doilies to dry on a flat surface or rack (for better air circulation).

The dried doilies will become hard and you will be able to string them up. Stringing several together makes a nice snowflake effect.

It Felt Good

November 28, 2011

So a few weeks ago I promised to post pictures of my little felt gifts that I’m making for people. (If you’re getting one from me, don’t look 😉 ). Today, I bring you those items.

I love working with felt. I discovered it earlier this year and figured out that you can just make so much cute stuff with it. It’s pliable and easy to work with. It holds embroidery well. You can just DO so much with it. So I started working embroidery together with felt to make little stocking-stuffer ornaments.

I largely tackled these the same. Cut out your background, your pieces, place them, sew, stuff, and finish. That’s it. Finito. They take less than an hour a piece.

Here are some examples of what I’ve done:

I love the vintage feel of this one:

You can also add buttons or other things to add a little texture and visual interest:

All in all I think they’re turning out pretty cute. I’m sure you can make little patterns, but I just free-handed these. Layering fabric also gives a pretty effect.

The other project I’ve been working on is similar, but I’ve used small embroidery hoops as my background. Again, adding felt, fabric, and embroidery gives me a simple project that takes about 30 minutes to complete. Tie a ribbon on the top and you’re done.

I love the effect of the metallic threads:

Finally, here’s a walk-through of a cute and quick project. Napkin rings!

First I cut out two lengths of blue fabric and glued them together. This gives the ring more durability. I use a tacky glue that is good on fabric. You could also sew them together if you want.

I then cut a slightly narrower strip of white and sewed on a large button.

I then embroidered some quick snowflake shapes and glued the white strip to the blue.

Bring the ends around and sew this puppy up and BOOM. Cute gift. Total time: <2 hours. Total investment: $2.00 for buttons, about $0.08 for felt and thread, and a little bit of time.

If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can probably sew a few quick napkins to go with your rings.

Okay okay so Katie and I have been really remiss. I mean, October 16? So unacceptable. The thing is, we’ve started a million things and not managed to finish any of them. I’m in full blown Christmas mode (since September) so I’ve been cranking out a lot of new projects that are small.

So.

Mostly I’ve been working on one of two things: embroidery, and felt. I’ll catch you up on both so that when I post pictures later, it will all make sense.

Embroidery:

Basically, embroidery is the process of making decorative stitches.

Embroidery can be machine done, which is very clean and crisp, or by hand, which is more genuine. Embroidery dates way back and was used to decorate clothing, tapestry, and other fabric goods.

I learned to embroider basically on my own, trial by fire. There are a lot of good websites out there that demonstrate the different types of stitching, as well as books. Here are the basic stitches:

 

All you need to get started is a hoop, needle, some thread, and a pencil or transfer.

1. Decide on your pattern – you can find free ones here.

2. Once you have your pattern, trace it using graphite paper, make an iron transfer, or free draw it with a soft pencil.

3. Consider your colors, stitches, and design aesthetic. For example, I almost always fill things in rather than doing an outline. As you can see in the above picture, it’s possible to do color blending for nice shading.

4. Begin!

Some of the things that I have picked up along the way include a few of the following:

  • Use a tight-weave fabric: Fabrics with a loose weave tend to pull through and not hold well. A tighter weave will give you a clean, sharp look.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix mediums: I frequently mix fabric, felt, stitching- it depends on the look you’re going for. For example, I have some projects with small hoops, a natural canvas background, and then different fabrics to represent snow and trees. Cutting out and applying these shapes gives me a background to embroider in decorations, words and anything else I want!
  • Don’t pull on your fabric too much: I like having a tight embroidery plane to work on,  but if you pull too much you can actually stretch out your fabric.
  • Keep it clean! Wrap your project in a bag or fabric to keep your work nice and clean.
Felt:
My new favorite project is applying these embroidering skills to make felt Christmas ornaments. They are a quick and easy gift.

As you can see, simple felt, a few stitches and you have a wonderful, vintage-style ornament. SO CUTE! Again it’s easy to mix and match different fabrics to create different looks.

I’ll post pictures of my projects a little later on.