Category Archives: Handmade

Show-and-Tell: Hand-Embroidered Pillow

 

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One of the things I love most about having a handmade business is the creativity that comes with it. It’s so great to talk to people and take on a challenge. And I just have to tell you about a project I got to do recently.

A little bit ago, a client wanted something special for her goddaughter’s first birthday. Something that would show the little girl how much her godmother loves her, even though they’re far apart. A shirt? Nah – she’ll grow out of that…A blanket?  I’m sure a baby girl has about a million and three baby blankets. Nothing seemed special enough.

I’ve gotten to know this S (my client) fairly well – she’s not only a client, she’s an awesome neighbor and friend. One thing that is clear the instant you meet her is that she has a huge, loving heart. This gift needed to be personal, and illustrative of how much love she has, especially for someone as dear to her as her goddaughter.

Then it hit me: a pillow! Something that the little girl can cuddle with when S isn’t around to cuddle with her. We settled on a pillow in the shape of the state with two hearts connecting the locations with a saying  on the back.

And to give it an extra personal touch, I had S write the message on the fabric with a water-soluble pen. Thankfully, S was a kindergarten teacher, and has impeccable handwriting. I then hand-embroidered over the letters, hearts and dotted line between hearts.

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I love how this turned out. It was a lot of work. A LOT of work, but I loved it. I loved the entire process of creating the template, figuring out fabric (you can’t go wrong with baby pink chevron for a baby girl, can you?), picking out the right shades of medium charcoal grey and hot rosy pink for the thread (because the standard black lettering with red hearts simply wasn’t going to work), stitching out each letter and making ‘forever in your heart’ stand out, the millions of times I had to go and spray the fabric to get all of the ink out, and finally sewing, stuffing and stitching it closed. It was all so satisfying.

As I worked on it, I kept picturing the little girl and wondering if she’d love the pillow as much as I’ve loved working on it.  Will she cuddle with it when she’s afraid of a storm? When she’s in the midst of her teenage angst, will she hold it and think of her godmother and know/feel that she’ll always have someone on her side? Will it be on her bed in her dorm room someday?

Thanks, S, for letting me be part of this beautiful gift!

A bit about buying local and handmade…

Here it is. My latest acquisition. I love it.

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I always have a problem keeping track of what I need to get at the store. It seems that even though I am psycho about my grocery list (perhaps a totally different blog post), I seem to forget some items I need because I never write them down when I see I need them.

I also want a place to jot down quick notes, like what time it was when I put something in the oven or when the baby fell asleep for her nap.

So it seemed like I needed a big dry erase board for my kitchen, but I didn’t want one of those that looked like it belongs in a dorm somewhere. I’m unfortunately way past my college days. And I’ve seen some ceramic ones, but they aren’t as pretty as I’d like them to be and not nearly as large. I wanted something pretty and shiny and unlike anything else I’d ever seen. And then it came to me: GLASS!!!

My mind immediately went to my pal Sandra at Artistic Impressions by Sandra A. Wills. She is a local glass artist from my tiny town that I’ve gotten to know over the years. We actually met at a childbirth class years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I ran into her again at our town’s farmer’s market where she had a booth with her beautiful art and I’ve been a fan ever since. Can I just say I am in love with her pendants? And if you look closely, my daughter’s room rocks one of her night lights (over by the lamb rug). Fused glass night lights!  Amazing, huh?

So I talked to her to see if she had anything like what I was thinking. She wasn’t in the dry-erase board business, but she was excited to tackle that project. She sent me some pics of different types of glass, we talked about where I wanted it to go and how I wanted to hang it, etc. The result is a gorgeous big message board that is custom fit to my space in colors that I love (they just happen to be University of Florida colors – Go Gators!)

And that is what I love about local and handmade. You get to know the people behind the pieces. It’s not just buying a thing – it’s buying a story and strengthening roots in your little slice of the world. You know the people, the stories behind the products, and you always end up with something unique, and in this case, tailor-made for you. Each item has depth and charm that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Here’s another look of my message center from further away:

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It’s made life much easier, and in a much cuter way. Thanks Sandra!

My first quilt!

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For a bit of time now, all my creative efforts have been steered in two directions: 1. planning two parties that were happening within a week of each other, and three states away from my home; and 2. making my first quilt as a baby shower gift (this baby shower being one of the parties I planned).  Hence the reason why all has been quiet on the blogging front.

Now that the parties are over, the quilt has been given and I’m caught up with laundry (ha!), I can blab all about it!  If you follow me on twitter and instagram, you might have gotten a sneak peek or two, but now I am showing it off in all its glory!

I can’t say I’m a quilt enthusiast, but I have a few quilts on my sewing bucket list: sorority t-shirt, son’s baby clothes, and now daughter’s baby clothes. Really just ways to be able to see and use all these things I’m hanging on to. But I’m not a ‘tradaditional’ quilt kind of girl. So I started looking into more modern quilts where the designs are simple and clean and the fabric is shown off and I don’t have to slice and dice it into tiny squares. Who has time for that anyway?

And when I got the news that my brother and sister-in-law are having a baby, I thought it would be great to make them a quilt, because every baby needs something handmade, no?  When I found the Lucy’s Crab Shack collection by Sweetwater (for Moda fabrics), I knew I had to do it.  They love the whole beachy/kite thing.

This ‘pattern’ is about as easy as a quilt pattern gets.  I had this idea in my head, but found this tutorial that was exactly what I wanted, only I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Using precuts made it so easy.  It keeps me from doing too much cutting and too much math.  My quilt was six rows of five charm squares, instead of six rows of six squares like the tutorial because there were a bunch of pink squares in the pack, and that wasn’t going to fly.

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One cute thing I did was put the baby’s last name initial in one of the squares.  I used my Slice to do it.  I got it months ago and still hadn’t used it, so I was excited to give it a try.  I like it!  I’m thinking some initials on coffee cuffs might be coming up soon.  What do you think?

Also, by personalizing it, it made me unable to keep it.  If only I had kept my maiden name…

After I cut out the letter, I stitched it onto one of the charm pack squares, just inside the cut line.  As the quilt gets washed, it will fray and fluff a little and give it even more texture.  I’m excited to see how it ‘ages’ with time and a baby using it.

After my quilt top was sewn, it was time to contemplate the actual quilting of the thing.

Since it’s my first quilt, I thought quilting it with straight lines on the diagonal would be a safe bet, but I wanted that crinkly feeling that free-motion quilts have.  So I started looking at the fancy stitches on my machine to give it more ‘movement’ and lo and behold, my machine has a stitch that looks like a kite tail!  How perfect is that for this quilt?

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To keep track of my lines, I laid out my quilt and made diagonal lines on it with a water-soluble fabric marking pen.  It’s a bit unnerving to take a blue marker to white fabric, but I promise it comes out!

Then I took the whole thing to the machine and started stitching.  After a little bit, I thought I needed more rows, so I went back and sewed in between my original lines as well as on my lines.  I think I ended up with stitch lines about every inch or so.  It was tricky getting that much fabric around, but rolling it up on the sides helped.  I think a walking foot is in order, but I’ll chalk up any imperfections as ‘charm’.  This is definitely not factory-made.

Here it is half-quilted.  If you look very closely, you can see the blue lines on the left side.

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It looked so awesome when I was done, but now I had to bind it, which was the part that scared me the most.  Luckily, one of my son’s classmate’s mom is an amazing quilter and agreed to teach me this final step.  I was really excited to learn until she told me I had to hand-stitch this thing.  What?!?!  But I’m always up for learning something new, especially if it’s sewing-related, so I figured I’d hand-bind it this time and see if I liked it.  I can’t say that I did.  It’s really simple to do, but it just takes too long. Seriously.  I had a 12-hour car trip and still didn’t get it done (I didn’t stitch away the entire time, though).  I barely got it done in time for the baby shower.  A big part of me wanted to just glue it shut and be done with it, but the crafter in me wouldn’t go for it. However, I will admit that it is a nice, clean way to finish the quilt if you take your time.

stitching the bindingWhen I was finally done, I rolled it up so that the “R” showed, and tied it with a torn strip of the backing fabric so it would be all frayed and cool-looking.

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I am so glad I took the plunge and made this quilt, and I’m glad that my first quilt will be for my soon-to-be nephew.   It was fun to make, I got up close and personal with my machine, made a new friend and made my sister-in-law cry.  I think that’s a win on all fronts!

Plum Perfect

A few days ago, a friend of mine (and fellow blogger) asked me if I could make her a coffee cuff and a camera strap.  Awesome!  But then I read the next line:

“I’m not a big fan of prints…”

eeks!  Isn’t half the fun of getting handmade goods all the prints and color combos?  But, I’m a simple girl and can appreciate solid colors and I do like to use solids (in combination with a print).  So I sent her a list of what I have on hand and asked her if any of those appeal to her.

Soon enough, she had chosen a color scheme.  A plum camera strap and a teal coffee cuff with a black reverse.

I have to say, I love it. Of course, my photography leaves a lot to be desired (hence the photography class starting next month). Just simple, rich color, understated, but still adding a little more umph to your usual day.  It’s plum perfect!  ha ha! Sometimes simple is better, don’t you think?

p.s. – I have to confess I did send her her an extra choice of a print of black letters scattered on a white background, since she is a blogger, and she liked it!  I’m kind of proud that I found something she liked!

Handmade, local, home-based, etc.: Shop Thoughtfully This Season

As we all get ready start another crazy shopping season, I’m starting to think a lot about how much I’ll spend on gifts this year as well as how I’ll spend my budget. While I realize that we all need to pinch our pennies, I think we also need to spend in order to get our country back to where it needs to be.  The answer is to spend thoughtfully.

I see a lot of pleding to shop handmade going on, and I love the idea, but I think it can be a little limiting.  I think we should remember local shops, home-based businesses and local services as well.  I mean, if you’re going to buy your mom some earrings, why not get some beautiful handmade ones or stop at a local boutique that will have unique styles?  And how many people do you know that sell Mary Kay, Lia Sophia or Pampered Chef?  Those would be awesome gifts!  And local services (massage, salon, theater/concert/comedy clubs, house cleaning, photography sessions, etc.) are a great way to let your pennies stay in the community and give really thoughtful, meaningful gifts that the recipient will love.

All of these – handmade shops, local shops, home-based businesses and local services are going to be more personal, more eager to build a relationship with you as a client, and be more unique than big-box gifts.  There’ll be a story behind that gift, and a face behind the product.  It will add heart and soul to what you’re gifting, even without the person knowing where it came from.

It’s kind of like cookies.  Even though ingredients are pretty much the same, you can always tell a homemade, local cookie from a factory/big box cookie.  It tastes better and seems like it has more to give than one pulled from a carton.

So I say pledge to shop thoughtfully.  You won’t be able to dash out at 10 p.m. on Dec. 24th and throw stuff in a cart (which I have to confess I did one year, but it was three weeks after my son was born), but you will probably end up with much more thoughtful gifts that your recipients will truly enjoy, because you put time and thought behind them.  And isn’t that the whole point of gift-giving?

Paper Flowers, Inspiration and Fake French Accents

Last week, I was getting ready for my first craft fair and kind of stressing about it.  Surprisingly, what was frustrating me the most was that for the life of me, I could not make a “Thanks a Latte” tag to go along with my gift display.  I couldn’t get a hold of my super-scrapbooker neighbor to get help, so I just gathered some random and very basic art supplies that I scavenged from my around the house and threw together.  What I got was….ugh:

Now, I’m no paper crafter, but this is bad, even for me.  But it would have to do.  I mean, I still had actual sewing to do for the craft fair, I really couldn’t spend more time on a tag for a display/giveaway.

More than a little annoyed, I headed off to my Junior League meeting.  I had glanced at an e-mail and vaguely comprehended that the paper guy from Real Simple magazine would be speaking.  I got to the meeting and the president seemed a little too excited about the evening.  Seriously.  It’s a Junior League meeting, it’s not like you’re going to get a pedicure and cupcakes. But wait…did I just hear her say ‘breakout groups’?!?!  What the heck is going on?  Then Matthew Sporzynski (the guy that makes the amazing Real Simple paper photos and the Sherwin Williams print ads) got up and showed us some of the things he’s done and then said told us he brought plenty of paper for us to make a gardenia with him during the breakouts.

WHAT?!?!  Hold the presses, here.  Are you saying that I:
a) get to craft at a Junior League meeting?!?!
b) with the paper guy from Real Simple?!?!

Yes, and yes!  My little crafting heart was pounding in joy and delight!

I had actually wondered who ‘the paper guy’ was when I first subscribed to Real Simple.  I imagined him to be a middle-aged, slightly stocky man, balding with a ponytail and who always wore a black turtleneck and that said things like “Yoo theenk dees is ‘just’ paper?  Dees is ART!!!  Go away! Doo not talk to mee!”  In my imagination, he really did have a really bad fake French accent and a major stick up his butt.  I’m not making this up.  I wish I were.  And I wish I knew better than to put this in a blog, but I apparently don’t.

But my crazy imagination couldn’t have been further from the reality of who he is. Matthew is a down-to-earth guy, who really has no clue how talented he is.  And I can’t get over how nice he is.  He would sit down right next to us, answer all our questions and encouraged us to take home the die cut leftovers so we could use them as patterns to make more gardenias (and even let us take extras!). Most people who are successful in creative endeavors are very proprietary of their art – it’s their livelihood, after all.  But not him.  He told us what kind of paper he likes and where he gets it, and other little tips to his art.  And you know what?  Every gardenia I saw is different, even though we all had the same materials and the same instructions.  That just shows what I always thought…if everyone in the world made were given the same materials and instructions to do anything, you still wouldn’t have two idential copies.

I asked him how he began creating paper images, he said that he grew up in the country, but didn’t like to be outside.  So he just went for whatever he could find.  But this is what got me: his original passion was actually sewing but his dad wouldn’t allow it, so he began fiddling with paper, and here he is today.

Hearing that he found inspiration from sewing to channel into paper crafting on the day that I was having trouble going from sewing to paper crafting gave me a new outlook, lifted my spirits and re-energized my creativity.  I’m amazed that on the same day I struggled to come up with something as lame as the ‘Thanks a Latte’ tag above, I was able to create this:

I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity come up so unexpectedly. It came at exactly the perfect time.

What about you?  Has inspiration ever found you when you least expected it?

Coffee Cuffs!!!

I love these.  Coffee cuffs are what started off the teal magnolia.  I made one for a friend as a birthday present, and she asked me to make some as teacher gifts.  Someone else in our office like them as well, and also wanted teacher gifts…and the rest is…the teal magnolia!

Coffee cuffs take the place of the cardboard bands that you get at the coffeehouses that keep you from burning your hands.  But these are way cuter.  After an impromptu survey on Facebook, I decided to make cuffs that are a little larger than the coffeehouse ones – about four inches wide – but I can still make the regular size upon request. 🙂  They are fully padded so they’ll protect your hand from hot coffee.  I think they work better than the cardboard ones, but you will still feel the warmth from the coffee, which is part of the experience of drinking coffee.  They are reversible (usually a cool print on one side and a solid or more toned-down print on the other) and machine washable.

But wait! There’s more!  Hee hee! I’ve always wanted to do that.  I’ve found out that the cuffs are good for more than just hot coffee.  They fit most tapered cups that I’ve tried – soft drinks, plastic party cups, frappuccinos and…umm…yeah…pint glasses.  Now you can look even prettier when drinking beer with the guys!  The cool thing about using the cuffs on cold drinks is that they stop all that watery, drippy mess.

Plus, they just look good. The cuffs add a little bit of individuality and personality to your drink.  They make me smile.  😀

Pair a cuff with a coffee gift card, and you have an awesome gift.  Add a cute “Thanks A Latte” tag, and it’s a perfect way to show thanks to a teacher, sitter, hair stylist or anyone who makes your life a little better.