Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Time's a Comin'

Well. How was your day yesterday? Did you put your waistband to work for you? Can you not eat until Tuesday for fear of popping? Today, we'll be hauling down the Christmas decor from the attic (my dad will say "How much *#&@ do we have? Did it grow?" and my mom will say "Careful! That's fragile!" and my sister will say "Whyyyy are we doing this today?" and I'll say "Let's get as much done as we can today!"). And then it will look like a Christmas tornado ripped through the house.

I haven't' a clue what your plans are for the day, but I wanted to remind you of a few Christmas printables I've got that might suit you. First up are these cute list-makers--

Click here for the file. Card stock works best, but regular paper is fine. You'll get three per page. I don't know about you, but fun little bits of stationery always make a list of tasks a little more fun to accomplish (and if you're thinking I'm weird, I'll have you know I've already been informed thusly).

Next up is one for the kids. We used to do these Christmas countdowns in elementary school (I'm pretty sure with four of us of school age my mother kept the cotton-ball companies in business around Christmas, because of course it was absolutely necessary for each of us to have our own).

You can click here for that file.

And now I must trot. See you soon!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stuffing Day

Right now, get up, go find the moon, and make a wish. It's a full moon tonight, and wishes must be made upon it.

Have you seen this year's John Lewis Christmas advertisement? Though a quarter of the world away from the UK, I am always eager to see their Christmas ads--I love them! And if you look close enough....maybe....? (you have to watch the ad :)

Anyway, tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States. At some point, I made an subconscious decision to not loathe the day this year. I won't say I'm looking forward to it, but I don't feel like the mistress of doom as I usually do (I have tried to figure out why I am the only one I know who doesn't care for the day, but to no avail. It is what it is). Apparently if you put a little spirit into the thing it sits better with the soul.

So tonight was the peeling and chopping and mixing and de-gibletting. Funny thing--I don't like turkey, but I don't mind sticking my hand in there and getting rid of the gross bits. I do believe we could replace turkey with chicken, and potatoes with pasta and all would be well, as long as the stuffing was present.

The table is all set. There will be twenty-two face stuffers here tomorrow, so a wee bit of furniture rearranging was in order. But it's all just so right now. It's not in the pic, but A-train went around the table putting coasters by everyone's plates (my mother has a million coasters from here and there, that have usually been used more as toys than coasters) and saying "Now people can put their drinks on these." Oh, my heart!--I remember being little and doing a little thing like that and having it feel like just the biggest deal in the world, that all would go to h-e-double sticks if it wasn't for that little touch.

I love the mixy-matchy dishes and cups and silverware. We ain't no fancy folk 'round here. Although I did make name cards. My mother used to task me with this every year, and I always complained that "people are adults, and they'll know how to sit down." One year I refused to make them, and wouldn't you know there are people who, no matter how many times they do something, are incapable of doing it without being told, so we're back to place cards, hahaha.

My dad cut the bottom off of a wine cork so it would sit flat, and my mom and I carved a slit for the cards. My dad always saves the wine corks, so he had a little stash he donated to my spur-of-the-moment need to craft on Sunday (he's a borderline hoarder, as every little bit could serve some creative purpose to the model railroad extravaganza that he's been working on for a while).

So that's that. I hope you have a happy thanksgiving tomorrow, and if you're like "Yeah, it's just Thursday," then have a wonderful Thursday.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I FINALLY Made a New Bag

Before I say another word, take a gander at tonight's sunset--

I know, people hate the early darkness. But I maintain there is no other time of year that God opens his paintbox and has his way with the sky on an almost daily basis. I look forward to it. I love it.

In the past month I think I've spent more time at the wheel of my sewing machine than in the entire year combined. My lack of sewing motivation was starting to concern me, but I feel that getting back into it through a few project requests from others got me back into the swing of things. Inspired by a bag repair I did for someone, I rolled out the gridded paper the other night and sketched myself a pattern. And now I've got myself a new bag!

That fabric is home dec weight and was a bit of a beast to work with. I was originally excited because I wouldn't need interfacing, but I think I'd rather have used that and had an easier time of it. Especially when it came to the straps. I've never had an issue with my sewing machine sewing through some mighty layers, but this time it balked and said "Come on, lady! Get your head checked!" I wanted a fabric similar in color to the bag I have now, and this is kind of right on.

Instead of boxing the corners, I cut some slight curves and made darts instead--I love the soft shaping that it gives and the little bit of depth.

Last week I was shopping with my mother and she asked if I was going to lug my handbag with me. I thought she was silly and told her of course I was. And dang do I have a heavy handbag! No way I can make it through Christmas shopping and outings and such in an uncomfortable manner (which I had never noticed before). I wanted something for my phone, a little zip purse for cards and cash, keys, and a few essentials like eye drops and lipstick, etc. This is just exactly what I wanted.

I was going to put such a zipper in the lining but I'm glad I didn't--the inside is a little small and might be tough to get to if the bag is full.

I have never used a twist lock in a bag before, and I think they might be my new favorite thing. Overall, it was very simple to insert. The only trouble I had was cutting the hole in the fabric just the right size--I started small and kept snipping until it was just right as I didn't want to hack away and have a hole the size of my fist.

I had two of these in my stash. One I received as part of a little extra goody bag from an online shop, and the other was this one that came from...somewhere. I went with this one as the other one is nicer and I didn't want to ruin the nicer one if I was all bear paws about inserting it. So of course now I wish I could change it but I'll survive.

I darted the pocket but did struggle a bit with placement. It's not perfect but it's just fine for a first crack--it's not easy to keep the bottom straight, the pocket puffy, and the sides the right width for the flap when the pins want to have their say and my preferred clips are benched for the task at hand. See that bit of white from the lining pocket peeking out? Would that drive you nuts? I can't decide if it should. Part of me wants to find a marker and color it in. Another part wants to grab my rust-colored thread and hand-stitch in such a way that it covers it. Another part says leave it alone; it's still better than store-bought.

I made some adjustable straps and by jingo were they a chore! I actually made them three times before I not only got the size right, but also the overall thickness right for sewing them to the rings to be feasible. I could have just left a plain long strap, but I really like some twinkly hardware, so I had to add some. Little pleasures...

I used a bit of an old text print I had for the lining. It was just the right amount with some careful cutting (and crossed fingers for no mistakes). There are no zippers or pockets or anything, just a plain lining. I did take some time pondering the zipper. I normally make a casing and would have done so if I'd had enough of the lining (as I tried with the home dec stuff and it just wasn't happening). Since I didn't want a huge amount of depth at the top anyway, I simply stitched the zipper tape to the lining (you can just see it in the pic above). I wouldn't do it again this way (I'd make a casing), but this was a make-do moment.

So that's that. Finished just in time for Christmas shopping. It's hanging off of a knob on the china cabinet right now, and it really is adorbs. So glad I didn't muck it up as I needed a successful sewing project that wasn't something I've made a gazillion of before.

Oh, and if some of you live in a place that is getting snow, give that old storm cloud my address, will ya?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not-Santa-Claus Clutches

My brother is getting married in December, and my almost-sister-in-law, Ashley, asked if I would make purses for her bridesmaids. I told her what I thought would be good options, and she immediately chose frame purses with chains. Then I asked her what she envisioned as far as fabric goes (thinking it would be satin or something). When she said "kind of like a vintagey Christmas" I immediately thought of old-fashioned Santa Claus prints and things like that, and thought "Oh, wow," because even I wouldn't go for that (and that's as someone who sometimes plays Christmas music in the summer (shhhhh----that's a secret) and who often makes questionable fabric decisions that seem cute in my head. But she showed me a photo to give me an idea, and I thought "OH, yes, that's what normal people would think of...."

I used the same pattern I had sketched up for these bags, without bothering to check that the frames were the same size. I only made one, as I also had a new interfacing I wanted to test (am I gutsy or what? Playing fast and loose with the pattern and just throwing in random, untested interfacing on a custom order?). And of course, it didn't fit (no matter how persuasive I tried to be). So a quick trip to the drawing board and I was back in action, again making just one. A smarter person would have made a sample, but I am not always that person. Once I knew that the pattern was right, I went ahead and assembly-lined the rest of them. I had eight to make--three in one fabric, two each in two other fabrics, and then the bride's bag in another (hers is my favorite).

The bride's bag is the front one. I didn't know if I'd love that one, but it's so pretty and elegant looking!

The bags are actually quite simple to make, and I've glued frames eleventy-million times, so these went together relatively quick, considering that I really took my time with these.

Side note: my grandma made that doily. She went on a doily-making kick and made a bunch of them for herself and her kids. I don't know how she didn't go insane, but she hand-pieces and hand-quilts gigantic quilts, too, so she must be used to such involved projects.

These purses are convertible. They can be used as a clutch, or a chain can be attached to the little floppy loops inside to make them more hands-free.

I wrapped each chain in a little organza bag and tucked it inside the bag.

The chains were actually really sturdy. I thought they might be too thick, but they're just right for this size purse (the frame is 8 by 3 inches).

I like meant-to-be moments, and this was one--I had the perfect amount of glue for eight frames. I ordered more, but the stuff I use comes from Europe so it's a long wait to get it. I coaxed every last drop out of the tubes that I had on hand, and I juuuuuuuust made it. My replacement glue finally arrived today, so I'm glad I wasn't counting on it getting here sooner (I finished the bags a few weeks ago).

Anyway...normally for these kinds of purses I will use a fusible woven interfacing, some fleece (sew-in or fusible), and some medium-weight sew-in interfacing to get them to stand tall and be proud of themselves. This time I invested in some stuff I've heard mentioned repeatedly called Bosal. It reminds of headliner fabric (the stuff that lines the ceiling of your car) but is a bit nicer. I tried fusible, but I didn't like the result. So I tried sew-in and that really worked a treat. I used a few more pins than normal, and did some extra trimming, but the stuff is a delight. I used a layer of woven, and the Bosal, and that's it. There's not a bit of flop to these bags, and they feel lovely and structured, but are still soft and moldable. I coaxed them into shape with my iron, and they stayed perfectly put. Definitely adding this to my list of excellent products to use.

Well, I must trot to the land of nod. I have the afternoon off tomorrow, and I can't wait to finish sewing my new bag. I sketched the pattern last night, and cut and started sewing tonight. It's got such an adorable front pocket! Even my sister loves it, and she and I are generally at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to our tastes (some would say she has some, and I have none, hahahahaha). Happy Friday!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Fairy Tale Girl: A Review

Hello, my dears. Are you looking for a lovely distraction from the horrors that have been consuming the evening news of late? Then I have a recommendation for you!

Are you familiar with the work of Susan Branch? She's got a nice variety of happy home sort of books (ideas about entertaining and food without the hoity-toitiness of Martha Stewart). Every year she puts out a variety of calendars and such, and an assortment of other print items. She's a watercolor artist (and makes me wish I could draw more than stick figures) and an author. Her blog is one of my favorites--you just know deep down to your toes you're going to find something good there. Plus, she's my spirit animal (in human form, of course).

A couple years ago, I read her book 'A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside' and became even more smitten. She's just so stinkin' delightful!! So real, so lovely, so whimsical. I might have a crush.... Anyhoodle, she decided to pull out the diaries she kept from her twenties onward and turn them into an autobiographical-scrapbook sort of book. Except that, like yours truly here, she couldn't shut up (and I say that lovingly) and stop at one book, so there will be two books to tell the tale. Eeeeeeee!!!!!

I don't know how, but I was asked if I'd like to review her newest book 'The Fairy Tale Girl' (not by her, just to be clear), and after I picked myself up off of the floor and breathed into a paper bag I shouted through my email "Yes!!!!!! Give it to me now!!!!!" but nicer.

Ahem. So. The book. First of all, the actual physical book--it's so nice! Even the quality of the paper is yummy (I know, a weird thing to notice). Second--I love details. That is where most of my delight comes from in certain things--it's the little things that make the difference to me. And this book is a visual delight literally from beginning to end. Look at the inside cover (the back is similar):

Another tiny detail that thrilled me was this:

Not enough books have ribbons. Now that we've covered the part of the book that isn't the traditional part of the review, let's move to the inside.

This isn't written as a 'normal' adult book. Oh, no. It's classic Susan Branch, with her words, sprinkled with photos, quotes, and her signature watercolor paintings, all in one page making the story cohesive, fun, and never boring.

I don't want to say that I could have written this book because no. But I sat there and nodded along and felt all the feels and was hit with pangs of nostalgia all the way through, thinking "Has this woman somehow been inside my brain?". She writes of universal experiences--childhood, family, heartache, happiness, discovering yourself, and so on. But the thing is that it's never boring. I've read many an autobiography (or tried to) and often found them boring. This is not that way. It's like having tea with a new friend and just knowing you're kindred spirits (because when people ask how old I am I always tell them that I'm twelve, but have been around thirty-something years so I know things. Please note I don't tell this to everyone. Just people who already know me and my brand of quirky). Click the photo below and you'll see the part that almost made me shout "Oh my goodness, me toooo!!!" at too late of an hour to still be up reading.

To put this book in a nutshell (don't you say that before all the words, haha?) the story covers her youth in California, where she was born, raised, and seemed to have jealousy-inducing amounts of fun. There she met her first husband Cliff, and received a crash course of sorts on love and life. She discovered she was an artist. And learned the hard way that life isn't a fairy tale unless you make it one. Reading this book I kept waiting for her to make it across the country to the place where I know her to be from, but alas, we must wait until the spring when we learn the distinction between a fairy tale and a dream--

I once told my mother that I was born in a year that still belonged to the past, and not the future as my sisters were (I sometimes feel like we belong to different generations, even though there are only five years between me and Rachel, and eight for me and Alicia). For example, if you look at pictures of my brother and me as tots you could compare them to photos of our parents as kids and not see much difference beyond the black-and-white vs. color film used. The clothing was similar, houses looked similar, that sort of thing. Same goes for toys, or things "we used to do when we were young." But somewhere in the eighties something changed, and everything all at once took a giant step to a futuristic place where children have existed ever since. Nowadays the difference is even more stark, the change being most notable in young girls. When I see what ten year old girls are wearing, and overhear their conversations, and learn of what they watch on TV, I think I might be appalled. Where are their sticker-books and their pink plastic water pistols and their peel-off nail polish that they can only wear at home? Where are the Care Bears pajamas and hair ribbons? To this point, this, of all of the lovely pages in this book, is my favorite sentence in the whole thing--

Yes, we did, Susan, though decades separate us.

So, wow, that got away from me. I meant to stick with a more objective format, but I guess this way you know I reeeeaaallllly loved this book. If you haven't got your hands on this already, I super recommend this one as a holiday gift (or a hooray-it's-Tuesday-I-deserve-a-treat kind of gift). And if I haven't convinced you, head over to Susan's blog and take a gander. But pour some tea and tell someone else to make dinner, because I'd be willing to bet you'll be there a while. Happy reading!

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Ack! Is it full speed ahead or what with the calendar lately? My goodness! I've just been hit with that "Oh dear, it's coming!" feeling that I get every year at this time when I consider my lists of have-tos and want-tos. I try to get them to sort out their differences in a mental cage match, but it ends in a draw and the end of the year is a mad rush instead of a peaceful stroll towards the finish. 

Let's take a deep breath and look at this lovely sky--

I had an amazing photo of clouds against the evening sky, but I very stupidly deleted it and couldn't recover it even after a frantic search entitled "how do I recover the photo I accidentally deleted even though I said yes, I was sure?" (the thought of getting a virus via a recovery utility I'd never heard of made me too nervous to even try, plus I'm not paying for that, so here we are).

Anyway...why are we here? Oh, yes. I have another shawly-scarfy thing to share with you. While conducting my birthday yarn store splurge, I had a pattern for the 'Pendulum' scarf in hand, but no ideas on color. The store didn't have the recommended yarn, so I had to be a diligent searcher. In a random cubby, I found a few hanks of Manos del Uruguay yarn that made me think of a happy little stream, skipping along stones, under shady trees and by sunny banks. There were a few color choices that would have worked, but I wanted a certain look. I must have sat there for twenty minutes just staring, trying to decide. Someone finally asked if they could help with a choice, and I blurted out "Which colorway makes you think most of a babbling brook?" and without missing a beat they responded "That one!" That's what I love about the crafting community--you can say insane things and people know just what you mean.

Ignore the faded blue carpet--the yarn colors are true to life.

This shawlette utilized short rows to get the fatter-at-opposite-ends effect. I used German short rows because I don't like picking up wraps, but this pattern didn't require you to pick them up, so you can see a little bit where that little hiccup shows up. I just pretend that it's a pebble in the stream and a design feature, not an unforeseen occurrence.

Even this close you can barely see it, but it's just about center. No biggie, just something learned.

The one thing I didn't love but I'm not sure what was going on was the very edge--it looks very pulled and stretched. But it doesn't feel that way.

While I do really love the finished project, after about the midway point I felt numb, like I just could not wait for it to end. I didn't love paying constant attention and counting for short rows, which made an all garter stitch project a wee bit less mindless. I definitely had more yarn to up the size, but I was just very tired of this one at that point. I blocked it well, but the starting point wants to curl a little bit. I think it's just a thing that might happen with certain triangular knits.

The yarn itself I don't know if I'd use again. It loved catching on itself, and wasn't a perfectly smooth twist as I normally like. It worked great for my melodious waterway idea, but I don't know if I'd love that dash of homespun-ness in something like a sweater. 

I do have two more to share with you (I know, I made a lot of scarfy shawly things over the summer), but I'll give you a break for now and show you some purses next.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fall for Savings (or Something More Clever)

Hey gang! I know that with blog reader services (I still miss Google Reader, by the way) and so much being done on mobile devices that folks might not visit actual blogs like they used to (and I don't think people write as frequently, either). But anyway--I've added a discount code to my sidebar for my wee shop. I've got a large variety of things in there--hardware, some fabric, my amazing pot scrubbies (seriously--they're awesome), and a few other bits and pieces. From now through the end of the month I've got a 15% off of everything deal going on. So stop buy, grab the code, and click on over to grab a treat for you or someone else.


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