Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Welcoming the New Year

As we welcome the new year, I'm taking a look back at the last 365 days...it sure has been a year of ups and downs...2013 was full of triumphs, challenges, and new directions. Thank you for contributing to the success of Blue Ribbon Designs and for your support, encouragement, and loyalty - there are many talented designers and teachers out there...and a vast amount of needlework patterns to choose from - I sincerely thank you for welcoming my designs into your stitching rotation and allowing my dream to be a reality. I truly love the needlework industry and I hope you will continue to receive my designs with open arms and share in my passion for all things done with needle and thread. As we advance into 2014, I have many goals (too many to list) and a good amount of projects in the works...a pile of creative design ideas and exciting plans for the future. Thank you for allowing me to pursue my passion!

As 2013 comes to a close, I would like to thank you for supporting Blue Ribbon Designs and my blogging journey. You continue to inspire me with your creativity, kindness, and generous spirits - BRD would not be possible without you. In preparation for 2014, take a moment to reflect on the past year and the many blessings bestowed upon you...and be sure to take a look at all the beautiful stitching, sewing, and crafting projects you have accomplished. I wish you a happy, healthy 2014 filled with joy, laughter, and creativity!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bright & Cheerful

I carved out some time this weekend to work on a couple sewing/quilting projects...with my BRD work schedule full of stressful deadlines, sometimes a little creativity can get me in the right frame of mind. Saturday, I decided to sit down at my sewing machine and clear my head...I had a pile of scraps left from the "Home Sweet Home" pillow I showed you last week, so I took them to my AccuQuilt GO! fabric cutter. Over the years I have have purchased quite an assortment of dies, so it is always fun to play in my studio - I decided to work with the GO! Drunkard's Path 3.5" Finished die and make a small modern table runner, measuring 7" W x 24.5" H. I always enjoy curved piecing, as I like a bit of a challenge...and the bright, cheerful fabrics were a joy to sew! The top is pieced with Fresh Flowers by Deb Strain for Moda and the binding and backing are Ellie's Emporium by Sue Penn for Fine Lines (a favorite fabric I picked up some time ago and now I wish a had a few more yards!)....and I didn't used a pattern, just made it up as I went along. I did straight line quilting which really gave the finished piece a nice flow and added to the modern look...

I also have another fun tidbit to share today...if you are a long time reader, you may remember the adorable bumble bee mug I found last April...well, for Christmas, I received another one of these special mugs - this time, the frog! Just like the bumble bee, it makes me smile...and since he matches my table runner, I thought it was the perfect time to share it with you...

I hope you have had a weekend full of smiles and creativity too!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Heart Is Full

12 Blessings of Christmas Flip-It: Friends (Lizzie Kate)
After a very quiet and relaxing holiday, I am ready to get back to business...in fact, I have been at my desk most of the afternoon plotting and planning new projects. I did take the day off yesterday (which is really unheard of) and enjoyed some much needed time with my husband and our two dogs...I even slept in and watched a movie in the afternoon without any stitching or work in my hands. I also opened my Christmas package from my very dear friend Robin...and I am so glad I saved it for Christmas day! I just *had to* share some of the contents with you...because it included not one, but TWO cross stitched gifts! A beautiful ornament...and a gorgeous flat-finish with a beaded hanger - aren't they both treasures?! I feel so blessed to have these on display in my home...both exquisite reminders of  our friendship across the miles. Robin has a knack for making the perfect stitchy gifts...she always picks colors that match my style - and designs that match my personality...and her work is superb. Both of these gifts are so very special and I am touched beyond belief! I will be hanging the Be True In Heart finish in a place of prominence in my home - it is absolutely GORGEOUS in person - I am proud to place her heartfelt gifts among my personal stitching and BRD models. Robin knows how much I enjoy tiny wrapped packages, so she included a plethora of items for me to unwrap...including some delightful and inspiring bird/owl fabrics for my sewing/quilting addiction. I must say, I am so very blessed....my heart is full. Robin - thank you for sharing your beautiful talent with me and for giving me so much to be thankful for this holiday season!

Alphabet Ornament Collection: Letter B
(Designs by Nancy Turner - Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe)

L-R: Flights of Fancy by Lucy Sturgess for Studio E Fabircs
Mini Birds (Mini-C1382-Multi) by Timeless Treasures
Fall Fun by Stella Jean Licensed to Wilmington Prints

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas  to my family, friends, and followers! It is a quiet holiday in our home, as we celebrated yesterday with my husband's parents. I plan to spend most of my day in my warm stitching nest - with a fire in the fireplace - a movie or two - and a nice glass of wine. To those celebrating - wishing you a blessed and magical holiday! May you find joy in the celebration, beauty in your surroundings, and love in your heart...

Over the past ten years, I have truly enjoyed designing charts and patterns especially for this time of year...I thought you might like to see a collage that includes many these pieces...you can find additional information on each of these designs by exploring my website...enjoy!

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fabric Gift Tag Tutorial

One of my favorite holiday projects this year has been creating fun fabric gift tags. I have been wanting to make some of these tie-on tags for a couple years and I finally made time to play in my sewing studio. I managed to make a handful this past week...then today, I decided I would make one more, so I could write a quick tutorial for you. This project gives you a chance to be creative and play fabrics, threads, and embellishments...and use a sewing machine...plus do a little hand stitching. I am actually a little addicted to these package tie-ons, which would be perfect for any occasion...in fact, I think I will be making some for future birthday presents! I used quality quilting fabric for the front and back of the tags and wool felt scraps for the main embellishments...I also added some trims, sequins, and tokens I had in my sewing room...and of course ribbon and/or baker's twine is perfect for attaching the tags to packages. The back of the tag can be used for personalizing...and, of course, each one would make a fabulous tree ornament!

First, you will want to cut your tag shapes from fabric - you will need two (one for the front and one for the back). I used a die cutting machine, but another option would be to print a tag template (a Google search will give you loads of options) and trace it on your fabric to give you a cutting line. I also cut two from a fusible lightweight interfacing - if you are cutting by hand, you will want to fuse the interfacing to the fabric before cutting your tags.

If you did not fuse the interfacing to the fabric before cutting, fuse it to your fabric now. Fuse the shiny, pilled side to the wrong side of your fabric using the manufacturer's instructions.

Next, decide the motif/shape you would like to add to your tag - for the example, I used a snowman cut from white wool felt - you could use fabric or any assortment of embellishments. I used a glue stick on the back of my felt shape to help hold it in place.

After deciding on the wool shape, I took the tag to my sewing machine for a bit of embellishment. I used dark sewing thread to cover the hat...then stitched some stick arms...and used a specialty stitch on my machine for the buttons. I also stitched around the entire snowman with a straight stitch using white thread. For all of the machine stitching, I used an open toe foot for better vision.

Use sewing thread or embroidery floss and a sharp needle to add the smaller details - for the model, I hand stitched the snowman's face (French Knots for the eyes, and straight stitches for the carrot nose and mouth).

Next, add any additional embellishments, such as: buttons, trims, sequins, brads, or beads. For the model, I added three snowflake sequins, using a sharp needle with transparent thread. If you want, now would be the time to embellish or personalize the back of the tag.

You are now ready to sew the front and the back of the tag together. Place the two tags right sides together, and sew around the perimeter, leaving an opening for turning. I did this on my sewing machine and and used about an eighth of an inch for the seam allowance, so I could keep the curvature of the tag - if your tag is not as fancy, a quarter of an inch seam allowance will work quite well.
The next step is to turn your tag right sides out...making sure to get all the corners and curves pushed out nicely (try using a pencil eraser or chopstick to make this step easier). Press, then machine top stitch around the entire perimeter, which will close the opening used for turning.

I used a grommet to strengthen the hole in the tag.

Run a decorative ribbon or length of baker's twine through the grommet hole for attaching to a gift.

Tie on your package for a perfect, personal, handmade touch!

I hope you have enjoyed this holiday tutorial...maybe it will prompt you to make a few fabric gift tags of your own. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Home Sweet Home Pillow

I have been enjoying all sorts of time at my sewing/embroidery machine in the last couple weeks....and now that the holidays are upon us, I can start sharing some of my finishes. I made quite a few pillows for gifts this year...and for this particular gift, I wanted a bright and cheerful cushion. I decided to use a machine embroidered design for the center: Home Sweet Home from
embroideryLibrary.com. I changed up the embroidery thread colors to match my fabrics and stitched the design out on black wool felt. This larger design, with multiple color changes, took some time to embroider, but I was happy with the overall results. Next, I added a neutral colored sashing and a patchwork border...and backed the design with a fun, colorful, coordinating print. I used an envelope style pillow back and included a velcro closure to keep it nice and neat...I also serged the raw edges on the inside of the pillow for easy cleaning. This summery pillow uses a 14" x 14" pillow form, making it the perfect size for a sofa or chair accent. I was just tickled with the finished product and I am excited to give it to the recipient tomorrow...hopefully it will be loved and cherished for years to come...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Snippets...

I have been having TONS of fun and keeping quite busy in my studio...and I do have some really creative projects to share with you...however, most of my projects have been holiday gifts and many have not been opened by the recipients, so I am waiting to share them with you. I have been stitching, sewing, quilting, and doing machine embroidery...but you will have to wait a wee bit longer to see what I have been making. I have had a bit of a challenge with keeping Schatzi busy and entertained while I create...in fact, I had to move my sewing/embroidery machine to our dining room so I could keep an eye on her and still be productive - she is very inquisitive and into everything, so I rarely let her go up to my studio loft. I managed to finish up all my holiday projects and everything has been wrapped and mailed...and now I am back to Blue Ribbon Designs projects - which at the moment includes charting some new and exciting pieces. I am working hard to get ahead, as it looks like I might have some large commissioned quilting projects to work on in the next couple weeks. So, for now, since I can't share my creative projects with you just yet, here are Schatzi's three graduation photos...these were taken in Minnesota a couple weeks ago when she graduated from her formal training...and very, very soon, I will have some handmade items to share with you...I promise!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Better with Bacon...

When Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival tickets went on sale this month, I made sure to be online, as they sell out in minutes...and I was thrilled to get four tickets to the 2014 event (I blogged about the 2013 event here)! Tickets went on sale 12/12/13 at 12:12:13 and again sold out in minutes...and we are not-so-patiently anticipating this yearly festival, which is being held on February 1st. One of my very dear far-a-way friends is a bacon fanatic and she is quite knowledgeable in all things bacon...I sure wish she could be here to share the experience with me...that would definitely make it a perfect day! She did however send me a very fun and extremely unique Christmas package - it included bacon balm (yes, I said bacon flavored lip balm!), a book full of bacon recipes...and get this...she made me two of the cutest flannel pillowcases with bacon inspired fabric! I just could not stop smiling when I opened this packaged...it was a complete surprise and brightened my day immensely...

I know it is usually all about the squirrel on my blog, but today, it is all about bacon! In fact, I am getting hungry just writing this post. Time to go curl up with one of my bacon pillows and look through my new cookbook...and I may even try the bacon lip balm...an exciting Friday night...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Woolens

The holiday season is in full swing...and I (like so many of you) am rushing around, trying to get everything on the never-ending to-do list completed. The end of year always brings a pile of BRD deadlines and I have been busy getting the last design work of the year completed. My two new releases ("Woodland Tree Farm" and "Quilt Block Christmas") have arrived in needlework shops and at distributors, so be sure to add them to your holiday shopping cart. I just finished up a couple coordinating pieces for The World of Cross Stitching magazine, which will be in WOXS Issue 216 on sale in the UK on April 24, 2014...I am in the midst of a large video project for Annie's Publishing (more on this in the future)...and I am model stitching the next designs and working on charting for several very special projects. I have been so busy playing catch-up from my trip to California for the Komen 3-Day, that I almost forgot about Christmas...forgot is probably not the proper word...I have just been focused on other priorities...and all of a sudden I realized, I have a ton of things to do before the holiday. The last week has found me finishing up my handmade gifts and trying to write out some cards - yes, I am WAY behind. I managed to get a handful of small packages in the mail yesterday - a larger package in the mail today - and I have several packages left to finish up today...nothing like waiting until the last minute....and I still have a couple gifts to get done in the next week or so...

A couple weeks ago, I stopped at a local quilt shop for some machine embroidery thread...the shop was nicely decorated for Christmas and I noticed some hand stitched ornaments on their Christmas tree...and it reminded me, I had purchased a couple kits for the same adorable ornaments several years ago (yes, I said YEARS ago). The kit is called "Christmas Woolens" and is from Rachel's of Greenfield....and it includes everything you need to make six individual ornaments (wool felt, cotton floss, gold string for hangers, and complete instructions and templates). When I returned home, I dug through my stash, and sure enough, I found the kits...and resolved that I would stitch these woolen ornaments up for gifts this year. I was delightfully surprised to see I had already cut all the wool felt pieces when I purchased the kits, so that was a plus! So, last weekend when we drove up to Minnesota to pick-up Schatzi, I took these ornaments along and did lots of stitching in the car...in fact, over the last week, I managed to finish ten of these ornaments - the majority of which are already on their way to new homes. I did make a few changes - I changed up some of the colors when embellishing and added some additional stitches...plus I ironed on fusible interfacing to the back side of the felt with stitching before assembling (to keep the inside of the ornaments neat) - making it easier to place small items inside....and I added twisted cord for hangers. I was very happy with the results and even found a few little items that fit inside.

I have also made some time to sit at my sewing machine and get some other gifts completed - it felt good to have some creative time in my studio that was not work related - I have more quilting to do, but everything is cut and pressed and in individual piles ready for sewing...I just might be able to meet all my holiday deadlines...

For those of you who have asked about Schatzi - she is all settled in at home after her two months of formal training...and she is doing extremely well. She is following commands, playing much better with Simba, and is walking on a leash like an angel...don't get me wrong, she is still puppy 2.0, but she is much more controllable and affectionate - we are just THRILLED with her progress. She loves the cold and snow and even with the frigid temperatures, we are walking to the park and playing outside each day...and when it is just too darn cold, she runs on my treadmill. It is still a challenge trying to accomplish what I need to do in an average day with her "help", but she is maturing and learning each and every day and is a wonderful addition to our family.

For now, I am off to do a little house cleaning and finish up preparing lunch (I have been roasting a chicken while I write this post)...then once hubby leaves for work, I will be back to my deadlines and holiday rush...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Graduation Day

We are overjoyed our (not so) little girl Schatzi is coming home this weekend!...who knew I would miss her so much??! Our nine-month-old German Shepherd puppy has been up in Minnesota for two months at puppy boot camp...otherwise known as formal obedience training...and is graduating (hopefully with honors) this weekend. My husband and I have been counting down the days until her return...and the day is finally here...Saturday she will be back home, keeping my feet warm and racing around the house with Simba. We received several fun photos this week, where she is doing her best to be patient in a room full of companions...

....but what made our week, was her graduation video...we received the link tonight and I just couldn't wait to share it with you...here is our little girl in action, showing off some of her new skills! Here is the YouTube link: http://youtu.be/yoYfgEaR07s, for those of you who can't watch it play below...

I'm sure I will have more to share after we pick her up this weekend...

In Blue Ribbon Designs news, my latest designs "Woodland Tree Farm" and "Quilt Block Christmas" shipped earlier this week and are currently arriving in needlework shops....it has been a productive week and I will have more fun and creative things to share with you real soon!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Quilt Block Christmas

Like I mentioned in my last post, in the next few days, I will start shipping two new winter designs to needlework shops that participate in my automatic program...I am THRILLED to have two new seasonal pieces ready for you! Today I will tell you all about "Quilt Block Christmas" (BRD-117)...and you can read the previous post to find out all about "Woodland Tree Farm" (BRD-116).

Quilt Block Christmas combines my passion for needlework with my love of quilting. This design is perfect for framing...or select your favorite quilt blocks to make ornaments! The chartpack contains charting for the entire sampler/ornaments, stitching instructions, stitch diagrams, and complete finishing instructions for two styles of ornaments/fobs (backed with linen or backed with cotton/wool fabric). There are many other fun finishing ideas that can be taken from this design - you could easily make a needlebook or floss ring tag using one quilt block square....or make a pinkeep ...or create your own sampler by stitching a couple/few of your favorite blocks...one block, on it's own, makes a great small framed design...there are endless creative possibilities! I also have plans (in my spare time) to make an actual wall hanging quilt based on this design...

The models are stitched on 35-count Linen hand-dyed fabric from Weeks Dye Works...and a good hand-dyed substitute is Chantilly Creme from Lakeside Linens. I stitched the models with Weeks Dye Works cotton floss...and DMC conversions are provided.

Visit the following links for more information:

Look for this new design (along with "Woodland Tree Farm") in needlework shops very soon...I am hoping it will be ready for shipment in the next few days...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Woodland Tree Farm

For the last week, I have been furiously finishing up details for the two new winter designs and getting them ready for printing production. Today, the spotlight is on BRD-116 "Woodland Tree Farm" - this is the first design in my new "Seasonal Samplings Series" (a relatively cost effective series of quick to stitch seasonal style designs). I wanted to do a line of designs without needlework smalls or special finishing that would be perfect for gift giving...projects that are good in a frame or on a box top...or could be used in a quilt block or in a sewing project. "Woodland Tree Farm" has a stitch count of 110 H x 109 W...and is stitched on 40-count hand-dyed linen (Confederate Gray by Weeks Dye Works), but would be perfect on just about any count or color of fabric. The model uses The Gentle Art Sampler Threads, but DMC equivalents are also provided...and the entire design is Cross Stitch over two linen threads, with a just little bit of Back Stitch. This special series of designs is printed on 8 1/2" x 11" pages folded down to 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" and packaged in 6" x 9" bags, just like the Mystery Sampler was put together. The sign for the "tree farm" has a place for your initials and the year...and an alphabet and numbers are provided, along with an enlarged chart of the sign for easy personalization.

Visit the following links for more information:
Additional Photos
Design Specifics and Supply List

Look for this new design (along with "Quilt Block Christmas", which we will discuss tomorrow) in needlework shops very soon...I am hoping it will be ready for shipment in the next few days...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Simba!

It is hard to believe we rescued our little king Simba ten (yes, I said TEN) years ago...and to think I was furious when my husband called and told me he adopted a dog...now I can't live without him...

We adopted Simba from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, here in Des Moines. To be honest, at the time, I really didn't want a dog - I just felt they were a lot of work and responsibility and my plate is usually quite full...but my husband was very adamant about bringing a dog into our household. He actually wanted a larger hunting dog and had been (unsuccessfully) trying to talk me into one for several years. I'll never forget the phone call I received from him the day after Thanksgiving telling me he just rescued a dog - of course I was at work (typical "do it now, ask for forgiveness later"). He told me he was picking me up from work and he would have our new dog with him....and to my surprise it was a Shih Tzu - a much smaller dog than I expected. At that time, Simba wasn't in the best of shape - you could tell he had not been well cared for - but as soon as I sat down in the vehicle, he curled up in a little ball on my lap and just looked up at me with the most amazing eyes - I was done for! Poor baby was completely shaved, micro-chipped, fixed, and got an array of tests and shots within about 24 hours - plus a brand new home...but he never lost his sweet, calm, and loving demeanor. When we adopted him, the ARL thought he was about a year old, so we celebrate his birthday every (day after) Thanksgiving...so today (Friday) he turned 11 (wow, how time flies!)...and although he came to us in pretty bad shape, he now lives like a KING (yes, my friends and family will tell you how much I spoil him)...just look at that happy face in the photo above!

Simba is definitely a lap dog and is his happiest when he can be on mine...in fact, he gets quite frustrated when I am working or in my studio. He has two beds that he will sleep in when a lap is unavailable...and one is right at my feet at my work desk...he is always by my side. Here he is perturbed that I am working...I just love that face...

....and in other dog news...we pick up Schatzi (our German Shepherd puppy) in Minnesota next weekend...yep, her two months of formal obedience training are almost complete and we are picking her up on December 7th. She is now nine months old (can you believe it?)...we can't wait to see her and see how much she has learned! We worked with her extensively before she left for boot camp, so we hope she had a great foundation for the last two months of training (which included: confidence building, obedience training, proper etiquette, field trips, running on a treadmill, and socialization with other dogs). I'm sure I'll have a very good update for you when she is home. Here is a photo we received this week (she is with Josiah, one of the trainers at  Neuman K-9 Academy) - she went on a field trip to the local strip mall in White Bear Lake, MN, where she practiced obedience in the presence of distractions like people going in or out of stores, dogs walking with owners, traffic, delivery trucks, and overall obedience in a new place...she also practiced holding a down stay on the sidewalk next to traffic, auto sitting and focusing before the crosswalk, waiting to get out of a vehicle, and impulse control....she also worked on good etiquette when meeting and greeting people...

On the creative front, I have been focused on the two new winter designs I will be shipping in a few days..."Woodland Tree Farm" and "Quilt Block Christmas"...both are in the final stages of printing production and I am hoping to start shipping them to shops by mid-week - I will do a blog post that focuses on each design in the next day or two, so you will have all the juicy details. I have also been working on a pair of designs for The World of Cross Stitching magazine...and a special video project for Annie's Publishing...plus a pile of other Blue Ribbon Designs deadlines and ideas. Busy is a blessing and I am finally getting back in the swing of things after my trip to California and the Komen 3-Day walk. I'll be back soon to tell you all about "Woodland Tree Farm"....