Saturday, December 1, 2012

Celebrate ALL That is Handmade

It's December first and time to bring out the holiday decorations.  Isn't there something wonderful about opening that first box of ornaments, or pulling out the holiday linens?   There is nothing that compares to something that is made by hand...made with love.  Here is a photo of some of the amazing Christmas needlepoints my mother-in-law has made for me over the years.
Aren't they incredible?  

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukah or santa I hope you celebrate the joy this season brings. I hope you celebrate with something handmade, because when it comes from you it truly is one of a kind.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Candy Corn Zombie

We all know that Halloween is October 31st, but do any of you know what anticipated scare day comes before that?  That’s right…October 14th; the season premiere of AMC’s the Walking Dead.  This week’s DIY combines those two days into one completely silly confection of undead delight.  Read on if you dare to make the Candy Corn Zombie (insert scary organ music here)…

What you’ll need:
Three felt squares in coordinating colors (I chose what all the undead are wearing this season: black, cream and putrid green)
DMC pearl cotton 5 in black (it’s the thicker thread, but you could also use 6 strands of their regular embroidery thread)
Craft paint
Small paintbrush
Sewing machine
Needle and thread

Cut two pieces of each of the three felt colors and using a ¼” seam allowance sew them together (I cut the black and cream each 3” and the green 4” and ended up with a pillow about 8” tall).

Using a piece of paper draw a candy corn shape making sure to add a bite mark somewhere on the pattern and after cutting it out place it over the wrong side of your sewn felt.  Trace the shape onto your felt.

Following the trace marks sew your candy corn together; leave the bottom open.  Carefully trim and clip around your bite mark.  At this point you can sew a straight seam across the bottom or add a bottom piece to give your pillow extra dimension.  To get the correct bottom size just adjust your pillow to the dimension you want, set it on a piece of paper and trace around it.  Cut a piece of felt to that size, pin it on the bottom and sew.  Don’t forget to leave an opening to turn your pillow right side out.

Using a stuffing tool, or your handy chopstick, carefully push out the points of the bite so that you can see the detail.  Stuff your zombie as loosely or firmly as you like. Mine is somewhat squishy, all the better to grip and cover my face during particularly disturbing Walking Dead scenes (like every time Rick’s wife Lori speaks).  Using a ladder stitch sew up the bottom of your zombie.

Now comes the fun part.  It’s time to gore up your zombie!  I decided to make some eyes for mine to bring even more dimension and silliness to my poor little candy corn.  All it took was two 2” circles of felt.  Sew a gathering stitch around the edge and add a little stuffing and pull the gather tight.  I sewed one eye in place and loosely attached the other with some red embroidery thread.  The hooded eyelids were made by cutting two half moon pieces out of the green and hand stitching them over the eyeballs.  Making one long horizontal stitch and then short vertical stitches over that formed the mouth.  It wasn’t until I finished that I realized that I had sewn my poor zombie’s mouth shut.  How sad that he will have to eat his brains through a straw, although to be fair I’m not sure he had teeth to begin with.  I painted some dark red and green to highlight those teeth marks and thinned the red and let some drip on to make my zombie even more gruesome.  Using a toothpick I drew thin little lines to create the bloodshot eyes.

Your zombie candy corn is now ready for a brain feast.


                                             Look out, Max!

Monday, October 1, 2012

LBB (little black bat)

It's October!  How do you not like the time of year when cobwebs are cool instead of a sign that you didn't dust?  Time to embrace the scares, the pumpkins, the candy and your inner witch.

We all know how the LBD (little black dress) belongs in every wardrobe, well the LBB (little black bat) is every bit as important during the halloween season.

What you need:
Bat pattern
2 scraps of black fabric 8 1/2"x11" (I used some vinyl, you can also use cotton)
Stuffing tool
Sewing machine
Eyes (optional)

Start by printing the bat pattern and cutting it out.  Place your two pieces of fabric right sides together and on the wrong side of one of the pieces of fabric trace out the pattern.  Using a small stitch sew the two sides together leaving a spot for turning out.

Being very careful clip your corners and curves on the bat and turn right side out.  Be patient – you don’t want to lose the detail in his ears or wings.   

Using your stuffing tool to gently ease out the points will help.  Don’t have a stuffing tool?  Go enjoy some Chinese food and grab an extra set of chopsticks; they make great stuffing tools!

Very loosely stuff the wings of your bat.  Go back to the sewing machine and add the wing detail; now you can stuff the rest of your bat as loose or firm as you like.  Once you are happy with how he looks you can sew his bottom shut.  I left a little opening so I could place him on a stick.  If you like you can add eyes.  I sewed on two small buttons, but you could glue on eyes if you choose, or leave him truly blind with no eyes.

He’s done and ready for business!  Here he is hanging out as the weathervane on a house and just nestled as a sweet surprise in the bathroom.  How fun would it be to make a few in different sizes strung up on a piece of wood?  Your very own “batmobile”!!

Happy haunting!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paint Your Own Needlepoint Canvas

Needlepoint is a beautiful art form that I think is due for a comeback; after all why should knitting have all the fun?  I really wanted to create my own design for an ottoman I am reupholstering, unfortunately my painting skills are limited to baseboards and living room walls.  But I wasn’t about to let that stop me!  If you too find that the creativity that flows from your brain stops short of your hands read on…. 

Here’s what you will need to start:
Needlepoint canvas (find at your local needlepoint shop or
Acrylic paint that matches your needlepoint fibers you will use for stitching
Variety of artist paint brushes
Basic design printed on paper

Needlepoint canvas is sold by the “count” which just means how many stitches are in an inch.  Think about what your finished project will be when choosing your “count”.  In this tutorial I am making an ottoman with a top that is 15x18” using a thicker wool fiber; so I chose a 13 count.   Need additional guidance on what size or fibers to choose?  Click here.

 Because I have less than zero talent when it comes to drawing I went out on the internet to find my design:  check it out.  Make sure you read the usage laws before selecting your design…we don’t want the copyright police knocking on your door!  Enlarge/shrink your design to the size you need and print it.

Tape the printed paper to the back of your canvas and pencil in the design on the canvas.  Don’t go too heavy on the pencil, it does smudge and you wouldn’t want that coming off on your fiber (My design is marked heavier so you can see it in the photos).

Thin your paint with water a little before painting on the canvas.  Your goal is to cover the canvas, but not cover the holes.  Using a fine tip brush start painting along your pencil lines and move to a larger brush to fill in the larger areas.  Make sure you are using a fairly light touch with the brush.  Every few minutes hold your canvas up to the light to see if your holes are filling in.  

This photo shows where some paint has covered a few of the holes.  If this happens you can blow on it through a straw, go back over the spot with a dry brush or poke through with a toothpick.  You will find that the paint won’t make it into every nook and cranny on your first time through with the paintbrush.  While it doesn’t have to be perfect, you do want the design area to be covered, so allow the paint to dry and then do a second coat in the spots you missed. 

Now get stitching!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cozy Toes Tutorial

One of my first Pinterest pins was for these adorable slippers; I thought they were great and loved that there was a free pattern.  Much to my chagrin (and apparently that of many others) the pattern did not include instructions.  Rats!  Unable to locate the issue the instructions were published, or find a tutorial online, I decided to try replicating them myself.  Fair warning: this is a total experiment.

 Print the pattern Cozy Toes Slippers Adjust the pattern to your size.  I saw comments that the pattern was too small, so decided to cut larger (I’m a size 10, but size 11 is what worked for me).  Not knowing if the pattern included a seam allowance or not I added 1/2” for the sole and bottom portion of the sides.  I also added some length to the top piece based on comments from others who had tried making the slippers.
  1. Choose your fabric.  The photo looks like they used faux fur for both the exterior and lining, so that’s what I went with.  From the photo posted you can’t see the bottom of the slipper, but I decided to use a non slip fabric for mine.  1/3 yard of each will give you enough length.  This amount of fabric will give you enough to make at least two pair of slippers.
  2. Lay out your pattern.  Here's a trick for working with super thick fabric.  Pinning the fabric will result in a warped pattern piece - instead turn the fabric so the wrong side faces up and trace around the pattern piece (using a fabric pen).  Cut out our pieces.  you will need:
    1. 8 sides (4 of the exterior fur and 4 of the lining)
    2. 4 soles (2 of the no slip fabric and 2 of the lining)
    3. 4 tops (2 of the exterior fur and 2 of the lining)
Make sure you reverse the pieces for right and left sides!!

  1. With right sides together pin the sides together (exterior to exterior, lining to lining) and sew.  Place the sole lining and no slip sole WRONG sides together with the no slip facing you.  Next, place the exterior side and lining side WRONG sides together with the exterior FACING IN.  Pin the side to the sole and sew together.  At this point try the slipper for size and make adjustments if needed.  Trim the seam and turn so that the seam faces in.
  2. Place your top exterior to your top lining WRONG sides together and pin it to the slipper side (make sure you match the center of the slipper top to the front seam of the side).  Whip stitch the top to the side as well as around the rest of the slipper (the raw edges).

Not too bad!  I think next time I will short the top again so it looks more feminine.

Comparing my photos to theirs it appears their slippers are more robust.  I don’t know if this is because they used stabilizer, added batting, or just had better staging in the photo.  It also looks like they whip stitched the sole to the sides as well.  I chose to hide the sole/side seam.  I would LOVE to hear from someone who made these slippers using the actual instructions to find out if my instructions are remotely close, or if I am missing some supplies. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Refinishing a Table and Chairs

When my husband and I bought our first home many years ago it took just about every penny we had to our names.  And when I say every penny I mean that first year we couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree, let alone gifts to put under it.  We slept on hubby’s college water bed, kept our clothes in my parent’s old dresser and my fantastic mother-in-law gave us her dining room set so we didn’t have to eat off of TV trays.  It was a beautiful set, and I was so grateful to have it.

Fast forward 26 years and that fabulous set was showing its age (much like me).  The legs have been chewed on by three different dogs, someone left a leaky iron on the table, and who knew southwest mauve could ever go out of style?

I wasn’t ready to give up on this set, and hey, the new one I picked out was over $7,000 (ouch).  But what to do?  The idea of sanding six chairs with so many curves did not appeal to me.  Taking some inspiration from Pinterest I decided to try my hand at painting the set.  Best case scenario I’d be happy with the outcome, worst case I needed a new set anyway. 

Step one: I used wood filler and filled in all the puppy chew marks on the legs.
Step two: I lightly sanded all the chairs and table base just enough to rough up the surface. 
Step three: Using flat paint I painted the chairs.  I just color matched the baseboard paint to ensure it would coordinate; it took three coats.  My guess is that if my sanding had been a little more thorough it would have only taken two coats, but with all those nooks and curves I think I would still be sanding today!  Make sure you let the paint dry completely between coats. 

Step four: The thought was to get some faux age into the nooks by rubbing some stain over the furniture and wiping most of it off.  The happy accident is that not only did I get that dark tone in the nooks, it gave a nice patina to the overall finish.  Yeah!

Step five: Because the stain is soaking into paint instead of wood it took much longer to dry – I let it sit two whole days. 
Step six: The tabletop had water damage to the veneer, so I knew I really had to sand that out.  Another happy surprise…the damage sanded out without ruining the veneer!  This excited me so much I decided to re-stain the top; this took two coats of stain.

Step seven: Sealing the table and chairs to protect the new finish.  
I use Old Masters gel polyurethane.  This is the greatest product ever invented.  If you aren’t using it run, don’t walk, to their website and find your local retailer.  I can’t say enough about this product; it leaves your wood with a finish smooth as a baby’s butt.  It looks like petroleum jelly; you apply it with a brush and wipe the excess off with a soft cloth.  Zero bubbles, zero brush marks.  Did I mention I LOVE this product?

Step eight: Re-upholstering the chairs.  This post is more about the wood, so I didn’t take photos of the upholstering.  Sorry.  Here are the quick cliff notes:
1.     Unscrew the back and bottoms of the chairs.
2.     Remove the 500,001 staples that hold the fabric in place.
3.     keep the fabric from one seat and one back to use as a pattern for the new fabric.
4.     Determine the yardage you will need by first measuring your “pattern”.  Most upholstery fabric is 54” so using that as a guide to determine if you will be able to “stack” any of your pieces (I could fit two seats in the 54” but not two backs).  MAKE SURE YOU BUY ENOUGH FABRIC – ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE USING A PATTERN THAT NEEDS TO BE CENTERED. 
5.     Cut out new cushions if you need to.  I lucked out there and could re-use mine. 
6.     Place your new fabric over the cushions and use 500,001 staples to fix everything in place.  You want to pull snugly on the fabric, but not so tight that you are warping it.  Start by putting a couple staples on top, then bottom, then left side and lastly right side.  That gets everything in place, and then you can staple like there is no tomorrow.

Step nine: screw the back and seat to the chairs and voila!  New dining table and chairs. 

  I think it looks great; that old set has a new life.  Of course I put it immediately back to work as my craft table.  Oh well, at least it looked good for a day or two. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chevron Skirt

I saw this picture of Dianna Agron wearing the cutest chevron skirt and thought gotta have it!  Then I got to looking at the style and realized that a high gathered waist was not the most flattering style for me so I changed my thought to: gotta make it!

One solid color skirt (I used one of my Six Seam Skirts)
3/8” grosgrain ribbon in the color of your choice
Small ric rac in the same color as your other ribbon

Starting at the very bottom I pinned the grosgrain ribbon around the hem of the skirt.  Using my widest zig zag stitch I sewed the ribbon to the skirt.  One down and a seemingly endless amount left to go!  

Next I placed the ric rac about ¼” from the first ribbon.  I did not pin this in place (well, I tried and after about three pins realized it was like trying to pin running water in place…the ribbon just kept moving!).  Instead, I held it in place as I slowly worked it through the machine.   Repeat this pattern until you have the desired number of rows. 

I considered stopping right here; this looks great with just the embellishment at the bottom.  But darn it – I wanted those chevrons! 

And how exactly was I going to get those chevrons?  Looking at the inspiration photo it looked like Dianna’s skirt had two “peaks” per side and three “valleys” which means I needed five “points” per side.  What’s the easiest way to determine where those points should be without calculators, NASA scientists and prayer? Fold the skirt in half and then half again.  Iron the folds and when you open the skirt back up you have three lines indicating where your “peak” or “valley” should be placed.  For symmetry the center should be a “valley” (or where the chevron point is down).  The side seams indicate the other markings where your “valleys” should be.  
Play around to determine how much of an angle you want for each chevron; I decided that I wanted to be 6”. 

Next, decide where you want your chevrons to start.  Place a pin to mark each high and low point.  Starting with the grosgrain ribbon pin and sew your first chevron in place.  You want a nice point for each chevron.  I got mine by fiddling and pinching until I was happy with it.  Want to learn the proper way?   Here is a link on how to miter a corner

The pattern on Dianna’s skirt has several rows of grosgrain in the middle.  Varying from that I chose to rotate between grosgrain and ric rac just like the bottom pattern.  Repeat until you are pleased with the number of chevrons you have, or if the thought of pinning another row of angled ribbon starts to cause murderous thoughts to enter your head – whichever comes first.

Voila!  This skirt is so cute I quickly got over the disappointment that it didn’t turn me into a tall leggy beautiful blonde with a beautiful singing voice.  Hope you enjoy your skirt as well!    

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Easiest Recipe in the History of Mankind

Hawaii is the greatest place in the world.  Now, to be fair I haven’t traveled the entire world (yet), but of the places I have been Hawaii tops it all.  If you disagree please feel free to send me two round trip tickets to your favorite destination and I will be happy to make a comparison.  Until then I am sticking by Hawaii.

Nestled in a small building, in a small town on the Big Island was a fabulous restaurant – Huli Sue’s.  This recipe is a tribute to one of their sauces and a great place that (sadly) is no more. 


I feel a little guilty even calling this a recipe because it only contains two ingredients, but together they create condiment magic.

Chili paste

In a small bowl combine 1T of chili paste for every 3 T of ketchup.  Mix well. 

This tastes amazing on burgers, french fries, meatloaf…anywhere you used to use ketchup.  My husband says it tastes better with shrimp than cocktail sauce.  Now – fair warning – this is spicy.  I don’t recommend this for anyone who can’t handle heat (small children or anyone from the Midwest).  The nice thing about this recipe is you can combine it in the ratio that works best for you.  If you feel something can’t be categorized as spicy until there is a sheen of sweat on your brow than by all means switch it up to a 50/50 ratio or higher.  Like a little spice?  Drop it down to 25/75.  Store any leftovers in the fridge.