Botanical Embroidery Pillow

botanical embroidery on pillow

I’ll admit that I am often caught up in the excitement of new projects at the expense of finished or nearly finished work. So while not actually making any type of new year’s resolution (not my type of thing) I have been making a conscious effort to finish off projects which are nearly complete but stored on a shelf, waiting to be made into something or otherwise employed.

side view embroidered pillow

My first successfully finished item of this year is this pillow made from a piece of botanical embroidery I posted last November.

piece a pillow

Quite honestly, I did not love sewing this piece. I was in over my head with trying to set the embroidered linen into the surrounding fabric. Not a quilter, I had to work hard to make the angles and corners work out. (If I had included myself in this photo, you would see the crazed look that was in my eye at that point.)

side view of embroidered pillow

I can thank this extremely thorough tutorial on making welting for the relative ease with which I accomplished that part of the project. (I always knew to make welting on the bias, but now I know why!)

Overall, the experience confirmed the troubled relationship I have with my sewing machine, but I am thilled to have it finished, off the shelf and sitting primly on a chair.

embroidered galium on pillow

Bold geometric iphone case

 

plastic canvas iphone case

If you know me in real life, you’ve probably seen me carrying around my phone case clipped to my keys with a carabiner. Its a strategy to keep from losing either phone or keys. Yet, this strategy failed one day in December when my needlepoint iPhone case fell off the clip (thankfully without my phone inside).

When I discovered my loss, I re-traced my steps, searching, but came home empty-handed, and quite sad to lose something so personal and that I had made myself. So, I decided to make a replacement right away, hoping that a quick replacement would help me move on.

In the interest of speed, and inspired by Diane at Crafty pod, I used plastic canvas, cotton yarn and a geometric pattern from one of my favorite vintage needlepoint books.

plastic canvas iphone case open and closed

I’m mostly happy with the way it turned out and I do like how the striped sides have a kind of 70’s or 80’s vibe.

I love working with plastic canvas because its so geometric and speedy. Plus, no hand sewing with thread – I used a glue gun to secure the flanel lining.  One of the benefits of using inexpensive materials is feeling no compunction whatsoever for using a glue gun.

Yet, with the finished product hanging from my key clip, I didn’t love it. It was either too plastic, or too brightly colored, too boldly geometric, or just not an adequate replacement for my lost needlepoint case.

So, I was ecstatic when I received a voicemail from a stranger, a local real estate agent, who had found my lost case and tracked down my home phone from a scrap of personalized stationery inside. Never mind that he referred to it as “macrame” (Macrame?! that’s for old ladies!) I am so grateful he took the time to find me and return it, because as it turns out, a soft ombré suits my personal style better than the bold geometric, however much I admire it.

keys and phone case

Hello, New Year… and a December projects round up

IMG_5528

Hello. Happy new year!

Another December has passed, and I spent the month making things, but not posting here about anything at all, let alone creative projects.

I blame introversion: the hustle and bustle and social activity of the holiday season are too much. I’m all tapped out at the end of every December day, and I’ve got nothing, not even a single word or photo, left for the virtual world.

But I’ve missed you, my internet friends! I’m happy to be back and I’d like to share a few of the projects I made during the month of December.

I’ll start with a wreath. I made this and many more wreaths for my church’s annual Christmas Market. Every year, I plan to post about the creative frenzy of this greens workshop, but every year, I end up too tired to put the words together, so here it is, a month late. (And there, on my front door, this wreath remains and will remain, possibly until Ash Wednesday.)

less traditional wreath 2014

Next, I made an embroidered felt pouch for one of my neices, inspired by a slightly different project in Aimee Ray‘s book Doodle-Stitching. It was a chance to use pink and be girly, and I loved free stitching on the soft wool felt. In fact, loved it so much, I’ve already started some new projects… to be posted soon.

 

And finally, I painted one more silk scarf, which ended up under the tree and in the hands of one of my sisters-in-law. I’m holding back one more December project, because it comes with a story. That project and the story of my own tiny Christmas miracle will be the subject of my next post.

painted silk scarf blue green

 

Paper circle garlands

Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree - click for link
Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree – click for link

I’d been eying these paper circle garlands on pinterest for a while. So, this weekend, when we welcomed one of our sons home from sleep away camp, I decided to use some to decorate.

They were super simple to make: cut circles from paper, then stitch. (Look here for a really great tutorial.) Or, if you’d rather just buy some handmade paper circle garlands on etsy, look here or here.

jumbled garland

Since I spaced the circles a bit too far apart, I did struggle a bit with keeping the garlands from getting tangled up in themselves. So, when I discovered that my husband had taken the garlands down without my supervision, I gasped in horror, imagining a heap of tangled thread and paper circles. What I discovered instead, was his very simple solution to the problem: a clip. Bravo, dear husband!

stacked garland

I know I could do better if I did it again (less thread, more circles) but it was altogether a fun and easy project.

P.S. If you’re a pinterest user, I’d love to connect with you there! Here’s where you can find me. 

Amos and Boris and an Embroidery Project

happy whale and book

For me, one of the biggest pleasures of being a mother is reading bedtime stories. As I snuggle in each night with my youngest child, I often find myself re-reading old favorites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Gruffalo, Frog and Toad. And I often find myself inspired, transported, bewitched, not just by good stories, but by captivating illustrations.

amos and boris book

One such inspiring book is Amos and Boris by William Steig. It tells the story of a friendship between a whale and a mouse and the illustrations are loose and alive, emotive and humorous, absorbing and appealing. I know this story so well now, that I read the words aloud without comprehension, while my mind dwells on the images, roaming over the rooftops of a castle on the horizon, basking in light shining from a boat’s cabin, floating in the swells of the ocean.

waves

Inspired by the quirky and cheerful seascapes in this book,  I recently sketched a whale in the ocean, a design I decided to use in an embroidery project. I chose three shades of murky blue-green for the sea, an earthy whale grey, and a white cotton drawstring bag.  I stitched the lines of ocean swells, darkest blues toward the bottom, lightest towards the top for an ombré effect. (DMC #s 924, 926, 927, if you care for specifics.)

happy.whale.front

My whale, outlined in a split stitch, seems a bit washed out compared to William Steig’s beautiful illustrations. When I am a more experienced and more confident embroiderer, I’ll have to revisit this project and try filling and shading the whale with stitches.

At the edges, I extended the ocean waves (stem stitch) around the side seams of the bag and across the back too. This reverse side might just be my favorite part of the project. The open blue ocean, embroidered version.

happy.whale.back

Small moment: Sorting embroidery floss

sorting floss

I’m tidying up this morning, sorting embroidery floss before I finish up my second embroidery project. Handling the threads, enjoying the textures and colors can be intensely satisfying-  a small moment but a pleasureable one.

Since I’m new to embroidery, I’m trying out a system of wrapping the threads on little cards and keeping the cards on a ring. If any of you more experienced stitchers have any tips on how to store floss, I’m all ears!

I’m also participating in “A Picture… a Moment” a link up over at Weekend Doings. Martha takes beautiful photos on her blog and on instagram. I’m thrilled to be part of this party. If you’re a blogger, you should link up too!

Weekend Doings

DIY pirate shirts tutorial

DIY pirate shirt tutorial

We’re really into costumes at my house. I have two sons who love dressing up, with pirate costumes being among the most popular. For Christmas, they received a beautiful set of sea captain coat, knee breeches, boots, from H and M Unicef/All for Children.

While these clothes were a hit, the problem of what to wear beneath the coat became a nagging question in the mind of my seven year old. White button down? Wrong. Plain T shirt? Wrong. Striped shirt? Wrong. Like I said, we’re really into costumes. So, we sewed pirate-ish muslin shirts to go with these jaunty sea captain clothes.

I’ve already described my mixed feelings about this project, and since it was a little out of my comfort zone, I’ve just added it to the New to Me Linky at Celtic Thistle Stitches. Click over there to see all kinds of geat projects. If you want to hear more of  the details of how I sewed these shirts, please, read on! I’ll tell you what I did and what I learned.

Before starting I did a little google searching, and found this pirate shirt “unpattern” tutorial on Wee Folk Art to be helpful for thinking the project through, though I did some things differently, notably the cuffs and neckline.

Now, the details in slide show format. Please note that by clicking on the bottom center of a slide you can pause, go forward, or go backwards in the instructions.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The tale of two pirate shirts, or, I sometimes hate my sewing machine

sewing maachine

I kind of hate my sewing machine, and yet, there are times when I just can’t stay away. For example, I might find myself spending a long Sunday sewing two small-sized pirate shirts instead of skiing like everyone else I know. I might find myself puzzling over how to fit the sleeve into the shoulder with just the right amount of puffiness, or how to cinch the cuff so my 5 year old can easily get it on and off. I might find myself looking at a kitchen table covered in scraps of unbleached muslin, newspaper patterns, bits of thread and straight pins, and wonder what was I thinking?? Why did I take this project on??

sewing debris

My mother once said that knowing how to sew can feel like a curse. When you know how to sew you see how simple and easy it can be to make something. You can imagine customizing and creating exactly what you want – color, fit, feel, functionality. You can imagine and execute any number of stunning and special projects.

Sounds like a blessing (and it is) but sewing projects take time. Lots of time. I could never possibly do all I dream up so I have to pick and choose which projects are worth it. Yes, there are probably mothers out there who manage to hand sew all their children’s clothing while also homeschooling, eschewing refined sugars, and building a home composter. But I’m over any form of competitive mothering.  I’ve settled for polyester superhero suits with stitched in muscles and dubious plastic party favors. But simply knowing the hand-made possibilities makes this settling hard to do. 

ruffle.cuff.pirate.shirt

In my household, costume collaborations always start strong, but  by the end of the project, my children have run off to play legos while I finish up. I’m fine with that – we’re not raising them to be tailors. But I sometimes wonder – wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy a flimsy scrap of polyester?

I remind myself: its the process, not the product. I know there are benefits of doing these types of projects with my children. We work together,  they exercise a few skills (pinning, cutting, sewing) and they learn something about sequencing a project (draw pattern, cut newspaper, pin it to fabric, cut fabric, etc.). Its a creative collaboration that allows my children to see and experience something more authentic and less made-in-china.

As I clean up and muse about the value of sewing projects,  a wee pirate bounds into the room, smiling and proud, brandishing his pirate sword and smoothing his fresh pirate shirt over knee breeches. Yes, our afternoon of sewing has been a success, though, next time, I might consider a less time consuming cooking project

aargh.pirate

P.S. I sat down to write a post about how to make a pirate shirt and wrote this instead. Clearly, I needed to work through my feelings about the value of sewing children’s costumes. In my next post, I’ll share some DIY instructions and what I learned about how to actually make one of these.  

EDITED 2/27/14: I’ve now posted some directions here. If I haven’t scared you off and you want to make one of these, hope my tutorial can help! 

Needlepoint and the creative process.

np.iphone.case

One of the more challenging of my late 2013 projects was a second ombre needlepoint iphone case. I posted about my first ombré phone case last August, and that post still receives traffic. I took this as a sign of interest, and so, in making a second one, I planned to take photos of the process and try a proper tutorial. (Insert a foreboding snicker here.) As it turns out, I was filled with hubris.

yarn.for.needlepoint

I started with this photo of beautiful new yarns, and planned to follow the same pattern as in my first phone case. I took notes on how to prepare the canvas and how I counted out the stitches for the bands of color.

taking.notes

Quickly, my plan and the project fell apart. These colors looked too cold and hard in the wide bands of color I’d used on my last ombré case. So I ripped them out and tried again. My next attempt was not much better. So I ripped it out again. In fact, I lost track of how many times I started over and thankfully I stopped trying to take photos of the progress too. I probably threw up my hands once or twice, but in the end I found a way to finish it.

np.iphone.case.2

I’m happy with the way it turned out, but also chastened and reminded of the tenacity, flexibility, and, of course, creativity, required to make something satisfying. There’s are reason its called the creative process.