The Boy Scouts were RIGHT!

January 8, 2017

Is it just me, or does January seem interminable thus far?  It’s cold, it’s miserable, and there are no holidays from work until April…ugh!  While discussing the molasses-in-January (ha!) qualities of the calendar with my friend, I realized something: when it first became cold and snowy in December, I would think, “Well, December’s already [1/4, 1/2, 3/4] done.  It’ll be spring before we know it!”  January is not moving along nearly so quickly, and I joked that perhaps if I started trying desperately to get Christmas gifts finished now, the month would be gone before I knew it.  That has to be what made December so fast!

With thought rattling around my mind, I decided that since I had had such a positive reaction to my Craftmas series of posts this year and last, I should document:

The Witty Child’s Tips for a Successful Craftmas*

*(or festive occasion of your choosing; really, these can be applied to almost anything)

  1. Be prepared – that is to say, have a plan.  I don’t want to go all life-coach on you and chirp that “failing to plan is planning to fail”, but doing a little pre-Craftmas brainstorming will prevent a lot of stress later on.  Think about whom you wish to bestow crafty goodness upon, as well as what that crafty goodness might be, and make sure you’re going to have enough time/money/supplies to make it happen.  If you spend a third of your life asleep, and a third of your waking hours at work, time is a precious commodity.  You don’t want to start trying to hand-knit scarves for your list of 45 on December 2.  All the faux-sick days in the world won’t help you there.
  2. Reconsider your Christmas list.  I used to stitch up little pictures for my Avon lady, but after not…getting…much feedback (I didn’t expect gushing tears of thanks, but even a quick, “Oh, that was cute!” would have been nice), she now gets a thoughtful storebought gift, and my crafty time gets invested elsewhere.  Make sure your intended recipients are going to fully appreciate your mad skills.
  3. Reconsider your idea of crafty.  If someone on your list might not appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a Real Project (see #2), might a tin of homemade cookies or candy go over just as well?  Consumables are always nice because there’s no pressure to wear/display/utilize constantly, and as a bonus, they can come together fairly quickly – perfect for those of us who skip Tip #1.  A group of coworkers got gift boxes packed with monster cookies and Cuban Lunch candies, and were thrilled to find these care packages on their desks.
  4. Realize that things can change, and be prepared for plans to go awry.  If you’ve grossly underestimated how long it’s going to take you to finish a project, or you get slammed with a spate of last-minute invitations that you can’t pass up, things might not get done as you had planned.  Don’t sweat it.  Depending on the person/project, you can always try to postpone your gift swap, make an “I.O.U. one gift” coupon, or procure a backup gift and quietly tuck away your handmade project to be finished in time for next year.
  5. Learn from your mistakes.  This sort of hearkens back to Tip #1, in that you can do a post-mortem and make appropriate changes in next year’s plan.  Didn’t get the response you hoped for?  Found yourself super-stressed and pressed for time?  By knowing what worked and what didn’t, you’ll (hopefully) prevent undue stress going forward.
  6. Have fun with it!  After all, it’s the thought that counts, and you’re crafting/baking/creating because you like these people and want to do something nice for them.  No one should feel bad when this is over!

I hope that you guys find these tips at least vaguely useful – and I hope I take my own advice and start in on Tip #1!  😉

Thanks for looking!

…my true love gave to me: a shirt with a duck who’s daffy!

I am so!  Freaking!  Excited!  about this one.  This was a labour of love which, despite all odds, was finished around 10:00 on December 23…with a day and change left to go.  No early-Christmas-morning stitching for this honey badger!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a tendency to stitch up railway logos onto the pockets of shirts for my dad.  (Last year’s offering, for example.)  After scooping up an out-of-print book of Looney Tunes cross-stitch designs online, I thought I’d try something different.

“Daffy Drops the Ball” is done in three pieces, which makes it three times as annoying to stitch all centred-and-straight and whatnot.

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I love the colour of the shirt, and how the black pops on it!  I am less fond of the fact that unlike simply stitching on the pocket (which I take off and then reattach), working on the shirt itself meant I couldn’t access it from the left, which is a real problem for this southpaw.  To stitch Daffy and the bowling ball, I actually worked holding the shirt upside-down, and somehow it’s all reasonably lined up.

Close-up of the design:

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I can’t wait for him to unwrap it!

Merry Christmas, everybody! 😀

…my true love gave to me: a hedgehog to hang on the tree!

I’ve probably mentioned on here before that my mother collects all things hedgehog.  As such, I try to accommodate her on special occasions: there have been hedgehog birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, cakes, t-shirts…

Fast-forward to the Christmas crafting season, when I realized the project I had originally picked out was simply not going to be finished by December 25.  (That’s okay, folks, her birthday is coming up shortly, so I like to think of it as having a head start on that.)  While entering random keywords on Etsy at work one day, I stumbled across trellis & thyme, who, wonder of wonders, boasted a PDF hedgehog ornament pattern in their shop.

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It’s difficult to tell in the photo, but he has little prickles embroidered all around his front side.  The pattern instructions indicated these should be placed randomly, but…I can’t handle random.  So instead, they run in two staggered-but-kinda-concentric circles around his underside.

As always, thanks for looking – and may your holiday crafting be running on-schedule.  🙂

…my true love gave to me: a Minion from Despicable Me!

Oooh, this was a fun project!  I love those projects that give me a chance to create something I would normally never make otherwise.  (But which I still want to make, obviously.)  One of my nearest and dearest is a Minions fan despite having several decades on their target age group.  I used to roll my eyes at him, but have gradually come around and warmed up to them – when I found the Minions patterns by Let’s Make Crafts on Etsy, I knew I had found his Christmas present!

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I’m so happy with how this turned out!  It was a “larger” small project (if that makes sense), but uses only whole stitches, a handful of colours, and just the tiniest bit of backstitch to really bring out the details.

***A NOTE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BACKSTITCH***

I know a lot of stitchers moan about backstitch.  “It’s boring.”  “It takes too long.”  And while I know how it feels to put in that very…last…stitch, only to realize you now have to go over the entire piece again to add the backstitch, it really does make all the difference.  Stuart, up there, only has a bit of backstitch, for his hair and for the strings on his guitar.  No big deal, right?

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Without it, he looks like Telly freakin’ Savalas.  Who loves ya, baby, indeed!  Seriously, kids, take the time to add your backstitching.

***THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT***

Now that he’s got…hair…and guitar strings, I’m really excited for the big unveiling at Christmas.  Good thing I found Minions wrapping paper at Dollarama.  Only one more week to go…

Thanks for looking!   🙂

…my true love gave to me: a hoop that says, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Can you believe it’s that time of year again?  And that I was insane enough to attempt Craftmas yet again?  Okay, it’s not as bad as all that: I did do a bit of planning this year and started my stitching early, but there are still a few projects that are freaking me the heck out right about now.  Why aren’t they finished yet?  Stay tuned, kids; this is going to be a wild, crafty ride.

One thing I have going for me, however, is that I had the presence of mind to start early on the one project that has to cross international borders via a wholly reliable and never delayed or overpriced postal system.  What does one make for the writer who’s a Stephen King fan and who collects typewriter paraphernalia?  I did what I do best, and perused Etsy for inspiration.  Good thing, too, because that’s where I found these tiny typewriter charts.

I wasn’t crazy about the phrases on the typewriters’ paper, though.  They were cute, sure, but not quite what I was looking for.  Some divine inspiration struck, and I was reminded of The Shining, where no TV and no beer make Homer…something, something, uh, where Jack Nicholson goes stir-crazy.

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It looks big there, I know, but that’s actually a four-inch hoop it’s framed in.

Also, I didn’t much care for the fact that the carriage return and paper-guide-bar-thingie (note the pains I take to use the technical terms) were originally supposed to be stitched in plain cotton embroidery floss, and substituted in DMC E415.

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Et voila, a hip, pop-culture-y hoop, with minimal stress or fuss.  It was put in the mail Sunday; I hope she likes it!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

….my true love gave to me a hoop that says, “Speak properly!”

This is the final Craftmas post, and quite possibly my favourite of the lot: my gift for my friend, Bill.

Let me preface this by stating without reservation that I did not come up with this saying, nor the pattern.  Rather, I saw this post made by the wonderfully talented Homerof2 on Craftster, and knew I had to have one.  I used PCStitch to design a chart based on the photo, and think it turned out quite well – but all credit really belongs to the original artist.

Bill and I have many things in common, but one of our favourite shared pastimes is mocking other people’s bad grammar and/or spelling.  Don’t get me wrong; we’re not a couple of total jerks.  We would never make fun of someone whose first language isn’t English, for example, or mock people simply for being less well-read than we are.  Our favourite target is the media (both print and otherwise), because really, if you’ve chosen a career that entails communicating effectively and clearly, you ought to have a handle on the language.  (Wouldn’t you be terrified of a doctor who didn’t know the difference between your arms and your legs?  So why should the meteorologist who speaks glibly of “tempachure” get a free pass?)

Grammar Hoop

I used a dark blue floss (and hanging ribbon…and backing felt…) to keep it a little more neutral and masculine without using plain black everything, and didn’t paint or cover the hoop for the same reason.  I’m not sure if or where he’ll want to hang this, but I thought it might make a fun decoration for work.

As always, thank you for looking, and I look forward to blogging with you in 2016!

…my true love gave to me some cross-stitched ornaments for the tree!

We’re in the final stretch here, folks.  I don’t think it would really be Christmas without at least some sort of cross-stitched decoration, and this year was no exception.

Train Ornament

I found this Dimensions train kit on Amazon and started it longer ago than I care to admit, but managed to finish stitching it this summer.  I cut the backing (which you can’t see in this photo unless you have mad x-ray vision skillz) out of a scrap piece of shiny red wrapping paper, which catches the lights from the tree and lends interest.  For a hanger, I used Kreinik ribbon, and bless my local stitching-shop proprietress for suggesting it when I asked for “a really, really thick Kreinik braid or something”.  Darlings: support your local independent shops.

Penguin Ornament

The penguins were a free kit with an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy, and were supposed to be framed in a 3″ plastic hoop.  The putters-together of the kit neglected to include a sufficiently large piece of aida to actually be able to use the hoop without some sort of sorcery, so I turned them into a little pillow instead.  I spend a good chunk of my Christmas Eve morning finishing the cross-stitching at work (while this reeks of desperation, it’s not as bad as the time I set my alarm for 6:00 Christmas morning to finish stitching, so…), and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent lighting.  There’s always a bright side, eh?

Both are now tucked away until next year, when I’m sure they’ll be joined by others.  Thanks for looking! 🙂

…my true love gave to me: a shirt with an “N” and a “B”.

Hello, all, and happy Christmas-is-over.  Sorry if that sounds Grinchlike, but there’s something to be said for not panicking that I have to sew-and-bake-and-buy-and-wrap.  But now that (most) of the handmade gifts have been opened, it’s time for me to catch up and post the rest of them.

I’ve stitched railway-themed shirts for my dad in the past, but it’s been a few years and I thought it was time he had a new one to add to his collection.  I didn’t want to do just plain denim again, and when I saw coloured denim/canvas/something sturdy shirts at Mark’s, I knew I had found my blank slate.  I opted for a mossy green one and added the Burlington Northern logo to the pocket – you know, before it became part of BNSF.

This isn’t the best picture, but gives the best representation of the colour:

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And a close-up of the pocket:

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<whispering>I think the liked it!</whispering>  He unwrapped it Christmas morning, and wore it to a family gathering on Boxing Day without bothering to iron it or anything.

I hope everyone had a crafty, happy holiday! 🙂

…my true love gave to me a parliament of owls for the tree!

(You just know I’ve been waiting for a chance to use one of those esoteric collective nouns.)

My Rules for Mailing are pretty simple: any items being sent by post should be easily replaced i.e. not one-of-a-kind or otherwise difficult to produce or procure, fairly inexpensive, and as small and light as possible to keep postage costs down.  With these criteria in mind, it was decided that my friend Jeanette would be getting a coordinating set of felt owl ornaments for Christmas.

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I followed the tutorial found here, with a few tweaks: I replaced the button pupils with black fabric paint, and dispensed altogether with the rick-rack tummy feathers.  And although I’m normally loath to use colour palettes that are too trendy and risk dating themselves, I must admit that choosing these four complementary colours of felt made it easy to make a matched set but keep each individual owl just a little bit different.

They took a moment to pause for a picture in the cedar tree in my backyard before settling into a bubble envelope for their cross-border trip. 🙂

Hard to believe that November is almost over, isn’t it?  I had the brilliant idea that everyone on my Christmas list should get at least something handmade (No, this isn’t stressful in the least!  Yes, that was sarcasm!  – Ed.), and decided to post the results here.

First up, a handmade stocking for my newly single friend to decorate his bachelor pad.  We had been at Fabricland this summer when he saw the reindeer flanellette and decided he liked it, and this seemed like the perfect project for it.

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This is the same pattern I used to make my Star Trek stocking last year – which, I’m pleased to report, the recipient is super-excited about hanging up at his desk again this year.

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I used a sumptuous red satin – formerly a queen-sized sheet – for the lining, and I love the luxurious look and feel it lends to the whole operation.

So, that’s one down….