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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can't Catch Me . . .

This advent calendar pocket is a gingerbread man, an image I've been using a lot lately -- I made gingerbread men cookies, I put up a mini collection of felt and paper gingerbread men made by me, the beadboys, and others, and so on. For this pocket I was going to do a standard man with buttons and small rickrack, but then I saw this -- 609East's "Gingies in a row," felt gingerbread men with beautifully intricate embroidery. So I decided to do something similar:

I used the whipped rose stitch, feather stitch, double cross stitch, detached chain stitch, back stitch, blanket stitch, and french knots. Not as elegant as 609East's, but still pretty.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sometimes a Craft Just Isn't Worth it

To go with my red and white decor this year I thought I could whip up a bunch of simple ornaments from red and white ribbons, using Martha Stewart patterns. The first one, in the Dec. 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living, was simple enough:
I just tied six overhand knots in the ribbon, facing the same direction, and they naturally formed a six-sided shape. Because the knots are necessarily loose (to keep the ribbon flat) they had a tendency to slide around so I held the first one in place with a safety pin. Once the six knots were formed I tucked the ends of the ribbons in the the knots at each opposite end, and glued the ends in place. I may use a little more glue; the knots seem flimsy, though I suppose there is no way they can actually come undone. I made a bunch for Beadboy1's teachers and therapists and paras (oh my!).

The second pattern, the "medallion ribbon," was from an older magazine -- 2008's Martha Stewart Holiday. This was not so easy. For one, they don't tell you what size ribbon to use, just that the length was approximately one yard and to make accordion folds every inch, then sew a thread "through the layers near the ribbon's cut ends, about 1/4 inch from the edge." Not particularly clear -- I'm pretty sure by "edge" they mean the long edge, not the cut ends, but it could have been worded better. And why specify 1/4 inch there, but use the imprecise "near" for the other measurement? After trying this with 1 inch ribbon and getting a crumpled mess, and examining the picture more closely, I realized I needed to use ribbon that was at least 2 inches wide.

So back to the craft store I went. With a limited selection, I settled for a white crinkly ribbon and a red fine grosgrain ribbon, both with wired edges, but it would be easy enough to remove the wires.

I tried first with the white ribbon, removing the wire (really, fishing line). But the ribbon was very soft and stretchy, and trying to get 36 accordion folds was a disaster. I persevered and ran the thread "near" the ends and 1/4 inch from an edge, and ended up with this:
This is not at all what it is supposed to look like, the folds are completely dissipated. But it is pretty, in a floral, sea-anemone kind of way. I could have gotten the exact same effect by just using a running stitch along one edge and gathering it together.

So then I tried with the heartier red ribbon, and kept the wire to help hold its shape -- a good call on my part, because it helped maintain the folds. I tied the ribbon, and then stared at it. The directions said to fan and flatten the folds, but I couldn't really see how to do that and keep all the folds in the same direction. I began fiddling and squashing, and eventually got this:
(The color is off). This is in fact how the finished product is supposed to look (their center is a bit neater) but I could not for the life of me tell you how I actually achieved this.

The last ribbon ornament was made from three lengths of ribbon coiled into figure eights, and layered to create a six "pointed" star. But the curve of the ribbon meant the top of the ornament would show the back of the ribbon, and even though I used 5/8 inch ribbon like they suggested, I can't actually fit all three on top of each other without squishing the loops.
I think I will just use two figure eights, to make a cross, and flip them over so you can see the stripes. I'll add a red button to the center to hide the ends and glue.

What a disappointment.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Advent Squares

I finished another three squares for the Advent Calendar.

Dec. 1st:
Just pieces of wool felt to create an advent wreath. I'm quite pleased with the "greenery" -- to get the dimensional look, I layered leaf shapes, attaching them with one long stitch at the base.

Dec. 12:
The Three Kings. They don't show up until Epiphany, so I put them on the 12th to symbolize their arrival 12 days after Christ was born. Unfortunately, the bases of the crowns (different bits of fabric) seem to have shifted when I was ironing them on using fusible web. I embroidered them with different metallic threads and added purple faceted beads.

Dec. 14:
A Christmas tree, on my birthday because when I was growing up we usually put up our tree around then. More wool felt, with beads and tinsel thread I stole from a Christmas cross stitch kit I have not done yet.

This is fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Decorating

This year for Christmas I decided to use red and white to decorate in the house. Unfortunately, because of the beadboys, I can't really have too much up; the safest spot for anything nice is over the mantle. Usually I have a quilt I made there, but this time I wanted to put up something matching my "theme." I did not have time to make a Christmas quilt (though I intend to, someday), so instead I put up a big piece of burlap. Onto this I pinned all the red and white ornaments I had (killing two birds with one stone -- we are going to have a tree this year, but we are not sure we can keep the beadboys from pulling off all the ornaments; this way I can display some of them out of reach). I like the effect quite a bit:
There are some gaps I have to fill in, but that will just be an excuse to make more ornaments.

Despite my red and white theme, I also had to put up the green toy/junk/bead/button wreath (I don't know what to call it) I made. I did all the hard work last year, sewing every green doohickey I could find onto a piece of fabric reinforced with interfacing, and only had to attach it to its base this year.
I had a lot of fun rooting through the kids' toys for odds and ends and broken bits, and through my own stash of beads, charms, buttons, and trim. The idea came from one of the Quilting Arts holiday issues.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Long-Planned Advent Calendar -- Square 1

For a few years now I've wanted to make an Advent Calendar for the Beadboys, with little pockets to hold treats and trinkets. Two years ago I even cut out 24 little white wool felt squares to serve as the pockets. The plan was to embellish each one with a different design -- Santa Claus for the 6th (St. Nicholas's day), a Christmas tree on the 14th (my birthday, and around the time we used to set up the tree), etc -- then sew them onto a panel (originally a dark red, but I may change my mind). This year I vowed to finally start some of the squares. So behold, the first one:
This square is for the 24th, so it has the Star of Bethlehem. I used fusible web to attach a star cut from dupioni silk (an old pillow) and couched heavy gold braid around it. I then surrounded it with two lines of back stitch in gold blending filament. For the beaded center I sewed on a tiny beaded star I made years ago and edged it with two rows of seed beads. Sparkly! One down, 23 to go!

I really should have come up with this on my own

But instead I had to get the idea from Quilts and More magazine. Although I had bought wool felt beads quite a while ago, I needed to get more because certain members of this household thought they were cat toys. I had plenty of beads, though, to match the colors, and beading them did not take very long. For interest, I used more patterns than the three in the magazine article. Then I made the mistake of leaving them out while I went about my day, and that night I spent a fair amount of time hunting the beaded beads down because of the aforementioned household members (one bead was two floors down, in a blanket). I strung them immediately after that, having learned my lesson.

Mr. Beadgirl calls it the Muppet necklace, because he is convinced one of these days the center turquoise bead is going to start talking.