Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Sweet Surprise

Today I was the recipient of an amazing random act of kindness - it was a complete surprise....and it couldn't have come at a better time - it was the most perfect pick-me-up! I returned home today to find a beautifully wrapped package on my front porch - it's not my birthday or a special occasion - just an ordinary day...well, this sweet surprise made it an extraordinary day. Inside the lovely tissue wrapping (which was tied with an ivory ribbon and small framed square sampler charm) was a handmade fabric covered box...and as if that wasn't enough, it was filled with goodies...a vintage button, a pair of embroidery scissors, a sampler notepad, thread rings, a set of magnets, a pumpkin spice candle, and some delicious cookies! I know the sampler charm and the fabric box were made especially for me - yes, I am blessed to have the most talented friends - they make incredible handmade treasures!

I was so extremely touched by this thoughtful gift - I am still speechless. A very special thank you to my dear friend Lorrie - your kindness, creativity, talent, giving spirit, and friendship continue to inspire and amaze me - thank you from the bottom of my heart...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Sewing

It's been too long since I had a Sunday afternoon of sewing...and today, I finally made time to work on some gifts. I started out working on a couple personalized journals (shown below)...these are one of my favorite gifts to make. I enjoy choosing fabrics for the recipients...and using my 5D Professional Software to machine embroider names for the covers (the Express Monogram Wizard in the software makes it SO easy!). The two shown below have the names blurred as I have obviously not given them to the recipients yet.

I have been cherishing this fabric (Willimasburg R Presents The Sampler Collection by Windham Fabrics - this is an older, retired fabric). I have shown quite a few of these journal covers to you before - they are so much fun to work on...and easy to personalize! The cover actually fits over a composition notebook that can easily be found at any office supply store - it measures 9 3/4" h x 7 1/2"w. The supply list is minimal - this is a great project for using up scraps of fabric...and they can easily be embellished with all sorts of trims, buttons, and/or embroidery. Best of all, there are two FREE patterns available online! The pattern used for the journals in my photo below is from an older Quilts and More Quarterly Challenge and can be found in PDF form on the website. For a slightly smaller version (made to fit a spiral bound A5 art diary 8 1/4" h x 6 1/4" w) visit the Moda Bake Shop Blog for an excellent tutorial called "Journal Covers". These journals are the perfect size for making a list, taking notes, or writing down your personal thoughts....and to top it off, make a lovely gift! I have made quite a few of these and each one is unique and special - I like to embroider the recipients name on a piece of wool felt or fabric and applique it to the front...and there are so many other ways you could make these covers recipient specific. I hope you will try making one of these fun quilted journals...for yourself...and/or a friend!

After completing the two journals, I had several leftover sections of quilted scrap fabric...and some tiny scrap I decided to put them to good use and make three tuffet pincushions. I love making these pincushions and I just couldn't let any of this special fabric go to waste. This was my first attempt at making a couple "longer" versions of this tuffet; and I have to say, I do like how they turned out...I even tried adding some cotton lace trim around the perimeter of one. I usually back these pincushions with wool fabric and add a few unique pins for a special touch. So, if you decide to make yourself a quilted journal, be sure to take advantage of your leftover scraps and make a coordinating pincushion or two!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Halloween Feather Tree Ornaments

How fun are these little Halloween ornaments?!

Quite some time ago, I was shopping in Galena, IL with my dear friend Terri and I found this fun Halloween fabric (Spooky Hollow by Kim Schaefer for Andover Fabrics) and I immediately thought it would be perfect to fussy cut for feather tree ornaments...well, it took me a couple years, but I finally made time to put together a couple dozen. I decided to use wool felt for backing and black baby rick rack for hangers; I thought they turned out extra cute! They are an excellent size at approximately 2 1/4" square...and I was able to put together 24 of them in just a couple hours. I have a fun wrought iron tree I plan to decorate with these spooky little beauties...they will be a great addition to my Halloween decorations...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Canvas, Cushions, and a Fabric Cutter

Wouldn't you know it...I am in a rush to complete a huge work project and I run out of a particular color of DMC six-strand embroidery floss. Right now, I am unbelievably swamped, I can't even see straight - I feel like I am being swallowed up by the piles of work that surround me - so, of course, I run out of floss...why wouldn't I??! Thinking fast, I make a quick mad dash to JoAnn Fabrics - it is only a couple minutes from my home...and thank goodness they had the color I needed.

If you are like me, you can't run into a craft store and just grab one thing and have to look around a bit...and look, I did...

Now that we have a brand new deck, we finally purchased a set of patio furniture and a couple benches and they were delivered last Friday. The benches were the last floor models and were at a great price - I had asked my husband to built me several benches for the deck...but we were able to purchase these cheaper than he could make them - only problem - the fabric on the bench seat covers is striped and does not match our patio set (not even close) and it really is not our style. So I figured while I was at JoAnn Fabrics, I might as well look out the outdoor canvas and try to find some that would match the rest of our deck furniture. I like outdoor canvas for a project like this - it is sturdy, water resistant, mold resistant, and retains it's color in the sun...but it sure is pricey. I managed to find a light green I knew would match and a coordinating paisley green and brown for pillows. Finding time to get them all sewn up will be a challenge - but after laying it out with the cushion from one of the patio chairs, I think it is going to work perfectly! I will have to post a photo once I have them complete...

And on a completely unrelated note...while I was writing this post, the local UPS driver paid me a visit...he was delivering my prize from the Feed Dog Designs Quilt Block Design Contest...a brand new AccuQuilt GO! Baby Fabric Cutter and three dies!!! Oh my goodness...I am so excited...a new toy to play with...I can't wait to make time to unpack it and play! I was thrilled to see not only did AccuQuilt include the GO! Baby and the three dies, but they also included the two cutting mats needed...this is the most AMAZING prize. Again, I have to thank all of YOU that voted for my quilt block, Feed Dog Designs Bl0g for hosting the contest, and AccuQuilt for the GREATEST PRIZE EVER! I already know what my first project will be...and I will be sharing it here as soon as I can make a little time to sew...and yes, it will have a Halloween theme...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Home Transformation...

Again, it has been too long since my last post...many of you know our home has been being renovated for the past month. Normally, I keep my posts to creative endeavors; however, many of you were curious to see how our home remodel was taking shape - so today I thought I would do a quick post and show you why I have been a little scarce lately...but don't worry, I will keep it short and be back with my usual artistic posts soon...

I never knew how disruptive all the construction would be...sheesh, did it ever cause a commotion. We had decided to do a lot of work at one time, so it was a month of complete chaos, to say the least. I thought I had a bunch of "before" pictures, but I searched and searched and only found a the before photo shown below was actually taken before we moved into the house (if you know me, then you know I am WAY too conservative to have a large wooden snowman in my front yard or what looks to be a cutesy reindeer on the door). We actually replaced the roof and skylights last fall, so those old bubble looking skylights are now beautiful new glass and much more modern and efficient...and the roof is now a rich Onyx Black - we also pulled out the (awful) hedges that were enclosed in a wooden bed and replaced them with a stone retaining wall bed, plus we added a new retaining wall in the backyard. From these pictures our house looks quite small, but in all actuality, we have three full levels (including a finished walkout basement). In the last month, we replaced all the windows and doors - and there are a lot - we have three sets of sliding doors on the back of our house...we totally rebuilt the deck (which is huge at 36' x 12')...we replaced all the siding with HardiePlank siding and all the trim with HardieTrim...we also replaced the outdoor lighting and all the gutters. I am very happy with our new front windows and door, along with the HardieShingle Siding (staggered edge) on the front of the garage - to me it looks like a completely different home....almost like a cottage. I am also thrilled with the colors I chose - I was worried the Iron Grey may be a bit dark...but with the Arctic White trim, I think it looks amazing (and luckily, so do our neighbors!). I can already tell a noticeable difference in temperature regulation - the house is now MUCH MORE energy efficient, which is wonderful! Everything is finally winding down and I am hoping to have a quiet house this week to catch up on the HUGE piles of work on my desk...and maybe, just maybe, I can find some time to do a little sewing (I can dream)...

"BEFORE" (remember, this was taken before we moved in!):

"AFTER" - my FABULOUS new home (much more "me"):

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Dance Day!

Thanks to my FABULOUS friends and family, I am THRILLED to tell you I won the Feed Dog Designs "Quilt Block Design Contest"!! I have to share my excitement and extreme gratitude with everyone who placed a vote for me - you all just made my, scratch that, my, scratch that, you made my year! I can't believe I am going to be the proud new owner of a GO! Baby Fabric Cutter and three dies of my choice...I am over-the-moon with excitement. Choosing only three GO! Baby compatible dies proved to be very difficult, as there are an abundance to choose from...but after very careful consideration, I chose: GO! Cat & Bat, GO! Ribbon Twist, and GO! Rick Rack...and I can't wait for them to arrive - you all know I am going to have to make time to play with them immediately. I truly appreciate everyone who made this possible - thank you for voting for my quilt block design - I am definitely doing a happy dance today!! Thank you to Feed Dog Designs for hosting a creative/fun contest and to AccuQuilt for providing such a fantastic/generous prize! I will definitely be sharing my future GO! Baby projects with all of you...

Proud New GO! Baby Owner

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cute Creative Embellishments

Back in July, my dear friend Kimber did a review/tutorial on her blog (Heirlooms by Ashton House) of the Imaginisce "i-top tool"...and I just had to get my hands on one and play with it for myself! This slick tool easily creates buttons, brads, magnets, pins, and badges...even bobby pins, rings, and is WAY COOL!! The i-top tool is pink handled with rubber and metal heads...and although it may look confusing, it works easily and makes much more sense when you have one in your hand - it even comes with a Demo DVD to help you get started. You decide what type of item you want to make and the size, then purchase the hardware separately (these pieces are called "daddies" - button daddies, brad daddies, magnet daddies, etc.). The daddies come in three sizes: small (16mm), medium (22mm), and large (28mm) - the large size requires a large head set (purchased separately) to accommodate the size of the hardware. I played with making buttons, brads, magnets, and pins - all with fabric (you know I like to find fun ways to use my scraps)! If you use paper, Imaginisce has punches for all three sizes to easily cut the shape needed...there are also templates you can purchase to help you easily cut fabric and other materials to the correct size. In the top photo, you can see an array of the fabric covered daddies I made - then below, a photo of the backs. If you are into crafting gadgets, I found this to be quite a useful tool and easy to operate - but beware, it is addicting - I couldn't make just one button!...and how cute is my little owl pin??! For those of you on the lookout for this creative gadget, I found the i-top tool and several styles of daddies at my local Archiver's store....I also saw them the other day at my local Michaels affiliation, no incentives - just sharing what I feel is a fun product/gadget with you! I have already looked through my scrap box of fabrics and picked out a bunch of pieces I want to fussy cut for buttons and will definitely see me using more of these creative embellishments in the future!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Road Trip With Friends

Hello friends! I can't sleep, so while I have a quiet house (before construction resumes in the morning), I thought I would take a moment a share a bit about my trip to the Amana Colonies on Tuesday. My dear friends (Kimber and Merry) both share a birthday at the end of August, so we had planned a little celebratory road trip. Kimber chose the destination and I was the chauffeur...we headed out at 8 AM...we definitely wanted to get an early start, as it was approximately 2 hours to our destination - and even the drive was fun, as we had a chance to catch-up on life and do our usual laughing!

Our first stop was at The Woolen Needle in Williamsburg, Iowa - we all just love this shop - beautiful hand-dyed wool fabrics, gorgeous quilting cottons and kits, yarns, lots of models - a heavenly shop! I picked up some unique plaid wools (I just love the color combination of pink and black, so that was a "must buy"...I also picked up a jar of vintage buttons (upper right photo) and a hand embroidery pattern.

We then traveled into the Amana Colonies...and needing a little boost, we stopped at the Java Junction Coffee shop for beverages - then enjoyed the sunshine as we sipped our drinks outside. We then made our way to Heritage Designs Quilting and Needlework...this is a lovely shop - and although over the years, the selection of cross stitch/needlework has become less and less substantial, they still carry many specialty threads, fabric, charts, and books. I found a nice little selection of quilting fabrics - including the some from the line "My Favorite Things" (seen right in the photo below) by Anni Downs of Hatched and Patched for Henry Glass & Co. (I am a big fan of Anni's, so this was a fun find!)...

Our next stop - Grapevine Antiques - it was the first time any of us has visited this antique shop and we all agreed it was well worth the visit! We all three found a selection of fact, we worked up an appetite with all the shopping, so we made our way to the Ox Yoke Inn (my favorite) for lunch - yummy! We enjoyed delicious sandwiches and sweet potato fries (refueled for the afternoon)...and then Merry and Kimber opened their birthday gifts (Kimber even brought me a little goodie bag for driving!)...and then we were off to our next destination: Smokehouse Square Antiques. This large antique shop seemed endless as we perused each room for special buys...and we all three found a few things...Kimber even found a gorgeous antique quilt! I saw a couple antique needlework samplers, but they were definitely out of my price range (I tried to get a couple good photos, but the glare from the glass cases and framing made them unusable). Between the two antique shops I managed to find some great vintage cards of buttons, two perfect condition vintage feedsacks, three vintage handkerchiefs, and a unique vintage trim - not bad - and I didn't spend very much money!

We made one last stop before heading back to Des Moines - a quick visit to Fern Hill Gifts and Quilts. We arrived just before closing, so didn't stay too long...but I did pick up a couple great fabrics (seen in the top photo above - left side). When shopping for fabrics, as a true quilter I always have several themes I am collecting - I just adore fabric with trees, owls, birds, or fruits - so I was ecstatic to find a unique autumn tree fabric and a nice cheerful yellow fabric featuring various fruits.

All in all, it was a fabulous day - I am very blessed to have such wonderful, creative, and patient friends - getting together with them is truly a blessing and lifts my spirits beyond measure!