Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Inspiration Jar

I like the hopeful feeling I get when I start something new. Although I haven't been to school in years, I still get an anything-is-possible, back-to-school feeling each September. I even like Mondays because they give me a chance to make a new start each week. When it comes to fresh starts, New Year's is the biggest day of the year. I try not to ruin it by making a bunch of resolutions that I know I won't keep. Instead, I like to think of ways I can be a better person (ok, and maybe exercise more).

I am a collector of quotes, prayers, and poems that I find inspiring, and I think I've finally found a way to make them part of my daily life. I printed 52 of these sentiments from my computer, cut them out, folded them, and put them in a jar. My plan is to pull one out each Monday and use it for guidance that week. There are some scripture verses in the mix, but also Irish proverbs, Beatles lyrics, and quotes from Confucius and Francis of Assisi. I originally planned to make this a quote-a-day project, but I quickly realized that 365 is a lot of quotes. If your own quote collection is shy of 52, you can visit these websites for inspiration: Brainy QuoteQuote GardenGoodreads.

As craft projects go, my New Year Inspiration Jar is pretty basic, but I did dress it up a bit so it doesn't get lost on my shelves by February. I made a label by cutting leaf shapes from three different neutral papers and layering them. I attached a metal eyelet to each end and tied the label to the jar with twine. I was going to write "Quote of the Week" on the label, but I decided to use a line from the Rule of St. Benedict instead: "Always we begin again." A good way to start off the New Year, don't you think?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Stamped Christmas Gift Tags

My favorite rubber stamps represent images from nature--like the gorgeous snowflake stamp from PSX that inspired these holiday gift tags. And since heat-embossing is pretty much my favorite rubber-stamping technique, I used metallic embossing powder to show off the stamp's details and give the project a rich look.

Like so many of my projects, this one uses craft materials I have on hand--card stock, snowflake-print decorative paper, ribbon, tulle, beads, and other trims. Each design starts with a tag cut from white card stock. I glued a piece of decorative paper to the front; on the back I stamped small snowflakes (with another stamp from PSX) and "To" and "From" with stamps from Serendipity Stamps. 

Now comes the fun part. I stamped a large snowflake over the decorative paper with an embossing pad, sprinkled it with embossing powder, and then shook away the excess. To make the embossing powder work its magic, I applied a heat tool to the powder until it melted and turned shiny. If you're new to heat-embossing, follow the manufacturer's directions carefully and remember that the heat tool gets really hot. When the embossing powder is cool, which only takes a minute, it's time to put the finishing touches on the tag.

I added an eyelet to the top of each tag and then chose embellishments that complemented the decorative paper I had used. For the pretty tags shown here I used purple and pink satin ribbon, pastel blue tulle, faux crystal beads, and paillettes. If you prefer a more traditional palette, trim your tag with red and green ribbon and tiny jingle bells.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Poinsettia Cross-Stitch in Craft Ideas Magazine

My Poinsettia Cross-Stitch Picture was featured in the Holiday issue of Craft Ideas. It's a great magazine that features all kinds of crafts--jewelry, painting, paper crafts, crochet, knitting, crafts for kids, and, of course, cross-stitch. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Crocheted Icicle Garland

Aside from early adventures with crayons and construction paper, crochet was the first craft I learned. I think I was seven when my grandmother patiently guided me through a pot holder made from gray Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn. This sparkly crocheted garland is even easier to make than a pot holder--and, I think, a lot prettier. If you can chain stitch and count, you have all the skills you need.

You can find plastic "crystal" teardrop beads like the ones shown here at a craft store. I used purple embroidery floss and a size 10 steel crochet hook, but you can use crochet thread and a hook of your choice. Just make sure the point of the hook fits through the hole in the beads. 

To make the garland, chain 50 stitches and add a bead: push the point of the hook through the bead's hole, wrap the crochet thread around the hook, and then pull it back through the hole and through the stitch on the hook. Chain 30 and add another bead. That's all there is to it. Keep chain-stitching and adding beads until the garland is the length you want (or, like me, you run out of beads). End the garland with 50 chain stitches. Hang your finished "icicle" garland on your Christmas tree or drape it around a mirror or window.

Tip: To keep the garland from tangling, wrap it around a cardboard tube for storage. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Embroidered Pine Balsam Sachet

Embroidered Pine Sachet

I don't know much about aromatherapy, but I do know that the scent of pine makes me feel cozy and calm. I've been making pine balsam sachets for Christmas gifts and decided to make this little one for myself. It's really small--just 3" by 3¾"--but it smells like a big pine forest.

The first step in making the sachet is the embroidery. You can follow the chart below as a guide and choose the shades of green floss you like. I used 18-count antique white Aida and two strands of DMC embroidery floss in Dark Fern Green (520), Fern Green (522), and Light Blue Green (3813). The design is worked in straight stitches, and I think the trees look best if you work the trunks first and then add the branches. To layer the trees as they are in the picture, work the tall trees first, the small trees second, and the medium trees last. When the embroidery is finished, trim the fabric, leaving five rows of Aida around the design.

Pine Forest Sachet Chart     ©2014 Kathleen Berlew
Now it's time to make the pillow. Cut two rectangles of felt and use sewing thread or a single strand of floss to sew the embroidery piece to the center of one of them. Use the Aida grid as a guide and stitch two rows in from the outer edge. Be sure to sew through the Aida threads and not just the holes so the fabric doesn't unravel when you create the fringe.

And that's the next step. When the embroidery is stitched securely to the felt, gently pull away the outer row of Aida threads on all four sides. This creates a pretty fringed border around the design.

Assembling the sachet is the easiest part of the project. Pin the two felt pieces together, wrong sides facing, and sew them together. I used blanket stitch, but running stitch will work too. Leave an opening at the bottom, fill the sachet with pine balsam, and stitch the opening closed.

That's it! Your little pine balsam sachet is finished. I think I'm going to keep mine on my nightstand to inspire sweet wintertime dreams.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tiny Tree Pins

I made a forest of these tiny felt tree pins last Christmas. They're simple, fast, and cute--my favorite kind of craft. And, at just about two inches tall, they're a great project for using up scraps of felt.

To make each tree, cut two triangles from the felt color of your choice. I made the pins shown here in a mod palette of bright pink and neon green, but I've also made them in traditional green and red. Decorate one triangle with buttons, beads, sequins, and simple embroidery. Be sure to leave a narrow border around the embellishments so you'll have enough room to stitch the tree pieces together.

Cut a triangle slightly smaller than the felt triangles from polyester batting. For the trunk, cut a small scrap in a color that contrasts with the tree. Stitch a pin backing onto the back piece of the tree before sewing the pieces together. Sandwich the batting triangle between the felt triangles and tuck the trunk between the felt pieces at the base of the tree. Use matching or coordinating embroidery floss and a running stitch to sew the front and back of the tree together, stitching through the trunk piece so it stays in place.

Be warned: these little trees are addictive. If you're like me, you'll want to try all kinds of color and embellishment combinations.