Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Snowflake Story

I finished reading the novel The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey a few weeks ago, and I haven't stopped thinking about it. It's about Jack and Mabel, homesteaders in 1920s Alaska who can't have a child of their own. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that a young girl does come into their lives after they build a snow child during a storm.

I loved the story and the author's descriptions of the wilderness setting, but the element that sticks in my memory the most is the coat Mabel sews for the girl. It's described as being made from blue wool with white fur trim and snowflakes embroidered with white silk.

I finally got around to trying my hand at stitching snowflakes this week. I guess all the talk of snowstorms inspired me. I didn't have any white silk, so I used embroidery floss and blue felt. The effect isn't as enchanting as Mabel's coat, but I think I satisfied my urge to sew snowflakes--for now, anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Groundhog Finger Puppet

In just a week, famous Pennsylvania groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will come out of his hole and forecast the weather. According to tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day--February 2nd--we'll have six more weeks of winter. If not, we'll have an early spring. I made this groundhog finger puppet in honor of Phil's big day. This little guy is guaranteed to predict an early spring because he can't see his shadow--it's hiding on his back.

Groundhog Pattern
To make your own groundhog finger puppet, print the pattern and size it to about 3" tall. Use the pattern to cut one groundhog from brown felt (the front) and one from black felt (the shadow).

Since fabric markers don't work well on felt--especially dark felt--you can make a tissue paper pattern as a guide for the embroidered details. Place a piece of white tissue paper over the groundhog pattern and trace the body outline, facial features, and arms (or are they legs?) with a fine-tip black marker.

Next, pin the tissue pattern onto the brown felt groundhog and then make your embroidery stitches through both the tissue paper and the felt. I used satin stitch for the eyes, nose, and teeth, and light brown back stitch for the arms and to outline the mouth and eyes. When you finish stitching, peel the tissue paper away gently to reveal the embroidered details. If necessary, you can fill in any areas you missed.

To assemble the groundhog finger puppet, pin the front and back pieces together, wrong sides facing, and sew the edges together using dark brown floss and running stitch. Be sure to leave an opening at the bottom so you can slide him onto your finger. Now you're all ready for Groundhog Day. Let's see what the real Phil has to say about the weather.

Embroider details on the front of the puppet.
Hide the shadow in back.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Spring Forecast

I'm enjoying the calm of January, but I can't help looking forward to spring. I've been stocking up on supplies for 2015 projects, and it looks like pink may be my favorite color for the season. The print fabrics above are from Jimmy Beans Wool (of course they carry lots of beautiful yarn too). I fell in love with the colors and patterns, but I haven't decided what I'm going to make with them yet.

These new additions to my craft room are Christmas presents from my daughters: A Purl Soho gift card--which I used for embroidery hoops, mini pompoms, and other fun things--and a copy of The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin, which has given me lots of ideas and inspiration. You'll be seeing more of the hoops and pompoms soon!

More pink (and blue and yellow) in this collection of supplies, but these aren't new. They're fabrics, flosses and little things that have been hanging around in my button box for awhile. One of my new year's resolutions is to use them all--finally--in a sewing or craft project. I think the little deer button especially deserves a home. Let's see what I come up with--and how long my pink phase lasts.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recycled Greeting Card

If you're like me, you can't bear to throw away pretty gift wrap and greeting cards. I always have a stash on hand, waiting to be put to good use. I think this project vindicates my hoarding habit. It's an any-occasion card made from--you guessed it--recycled cards and wrapping paper.

I started by choosing papers and cards that share a similar green-blue-brown palette and then cut circle shapes from them. (My circles are 1¼" and ¾" in diameter.) 

I arranged the circles on a 4¾"-by-6¾" piece of shimmery card stock, which is actually the envelope from a wedding invitation. The arrangement is simple, just small circles on large circles, but it took me the better part of an hour to get the mix of patterns and colors just right. When I was finally happy with the design, I used double-stick tape to attach the circles to the background. 

As a finishing touch, I added small brass fasteners to some of the circles as accents. For the final step, I taped the design to a blank 5"-by-7" card. 

I think I'll make more of these. Someone is always having a birthday or anniversary in my family. And I haven't even begun to put a dent in my paper stash. I'm sure I can come up with all sorts of color combinations.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fluffy Yarn Snowballs

Christmas is over, but winter will be with us for many weeks to come. It's snowing here right now! I love snow--looking at it, not driving in it. I love how a fresh snowfall makes the world look clean and beautiful. Snow inspired this week's super-simple project--fluffy snowballs made from yarn and foam balls. They look like the real thing, don't they?

The yarn is what makes these snowballs so convincing. I used Pipsqueak™ by Bernat® in Whitey White (naturally). It's a bulky polyester yarn that has a fuzzy, super-soft texture. If you can't find it, try another novelty yarn. Making these snowballs requires absolutely no craft skills. Just tape the end of the yarn to a foam ball and wrap until the ball is completely covered. When you're finished, cut the yarn and weave the tail end under previous layers to secure it.

Make a bunch of yarn snowballs and pile them in a basket or bowl for a wintry centerpiece. You can use your yarn snowballs as decorations around the house or to stage an indoor snowball fight (just kidding--sort of).

Monday, January 5, 2015

British Tea Tote


After leaving us hanging for many months, Downton Abbey returned last night! I've been watching since the first episode, and I'm absolutely hooked. I think this week's project demonstrates my dedication to the Crawleys and their Englishness--it's a felt tea bag tote decorated with a cross-stitched British flag. I doubt the Dowager Countess would approve of tea bags, but that's what I use to make my tea at Downton time.

British Tea Tote Chart     ©2015 Kathleen Berlew
The first part of the project is the cross-stitching. Follow the chart at right or click here to download and print a copy of the chart. Stitch the flag design on 14-count white Aida. I used two strands of DMC embroidery floss-- #792 (dark cornflower blue) and #321 (Christmas red)--but you can use other shades of blue and red. When the embroidery is finished, trim the fabric, leaving three rows of Aida around the design.

To make the felt tote, print out the pattern and size it as necessary so it measures 3 1/2" by 7". Use the pattern to cut one tote piece from a sheet of blue felt. Position the cross-stitched flag on the felt below the flap (see the pattern) and pin it in place. Use the Aida grid as a guide and stitch one row beyond the embroidery. Be sure to sew through the Aida threads and not just the holes so the fabric doesn't unravel when you make the fringe. When the flag is securely in place, gently pull away the outer row of Aida threads on all four sides to create a fringed border around the design.

Now it's time to assemble the tea tote. Fold the bottom third of the felt piece up over the back of the tote so the top edge sits just below where the flap begins. (This sounds way more confusing than it is. If you look at the picture of the finished tote, you'll see what I mean.) Sew the sides of the tote closed with blue embroidery floss. If you like, stitch along the flap edges, too, to create a decorative edge. I used blanket stitch, but running stitch will also work. To finish my tea tote, I added a snap and used a strip of red felt to conceal my stitching. You could also use a button or pieces of ribbon for fasteners. 

As the Crawleys would say, "Splendid!" Now you're ready to tote your tea wherever you'll be watching the next episode of Downton Abbey.