Another 90’s hit

In the 90’s I had a crafts company and I’d do craft shows with table displays (I later decided I preferred making a bit more money working in biz and would keep my crafting for myself, family and friends).  One of the items I’d stumbled across for display is something I continue to use and make as gifts, an earring holder.  You may have seen this elsewhere as friends and crafters have been making them for more than fifteen years that I know of.  But, just in case you haven’t, here’s another so-simple-anyone-can-do-it project that is actually quite useful.  I have one niece who doesn’t have one yet (it’s one of those items that’s so perfect as a gift you run out of friends and family who don’t yet have one) when I craft that I’ll add more pictures.

  1. Frame – you can put your earring holder on a wall or stand it up with a one, hinged two frame or triptych frame setup.
  2. Plain black plastic window screen (or grey or colored pet screen which is a tad pricier) available at any hardware store.
  3. Staple gun
  4. Glue (I’ve used a hot glue gun, might venture into other glues as I move forward)
  5. Ribbon or solid hem tape

I tend to use wood frames that I can paint to my liking – I’m showing you black with gold sprayed over it. Simple but works where it is. The cat is a Faster Plaster mold that I don’t think is made anymore. Such a pity as I still like it – made many Christmas ornaments from it one year. I have mold making compound – might have to make additional molds myself.  But I digress, back to the earring holder.

 

Cut the screen a bit larger all around than your frame – you can trim it once it’s stapled on. Screen is inexpensive enough that you shouldn’t scrimp and end up with a too short end. Staple the screen to the back of the frame as close to the edge of where your glass would sit as you can  (above I’m pointing to that edge with a knitting needle). I staple by following a cross pattern, noted below. You’re stapling around to always pull from the center, keep it taught. More stapling around results in a more durable earring holder. Since you place earrings on and off pretty much daily, don’t just rely on glue. Trim the screen. Hot glue (or other) your choice or ribbon or solid hem tape over the stapled screen edge so the back of your holder looks nice. Ribbon should not be as wide as your frame as you don’t want it to show. Use something like a plastic knife to really press your topping ribbon flat to the stapled screen (remember, hot glue burns fingers). 

If you like, add ornamentation to the frame or pin ornamentation to the screen. Remember that you’ll also have the earrings themselves.  Mine’s on the wall, in easy reach where I hook earrings up and off no problem. For those dressy post earrings I might wear only a few times a year, I take the screen off the wall and place the earring on. You can also use one for pins that you rarely wear.  I’m all about ease – so anything I regularly use I want to hook on and off leaving the frame on the wall. I wouldn’t place pins I regularly wear on it as the reaching the frame and hooking and unhooking the pin is a tad too much effort.

You can create wall groupings by color if you have a huge earring stash, or by pins and earrings on smaller clustered frames.  You can also use double hinged frames to create a display on a dresser or close to wherever you dress. I have one of those “master baths” newer U.S. homes are built with and my jewelry is kept close to my mirror.  Would never have worked in the teeney bath of my previous house – there the earring frame adorned a portion of the bedroom wall.

Since I don’t post every day, remember you can just click on subscribe over at the right column if you want to know when I post more crafts and recipes (no opinionated posts, no dissertations on family or me, occasionally posts about Murphys, CA, but that’s it – just advertising free ideas coming your way).

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.

Now you see it, now you don’t

For those of you who’ve been following the blog, you’ll have noticed my style hasn’t been short, one topic posts at regular intervals.  Like a lava flow steadily consuming and obliterating everything in its path, I often allow my work to consume my time and attention. Periodically, I disentangle myself and compose a few posts; often finding ways to consign multiple, separate projects to a theme.  When I have time, I like to read books. In blogs, I want pictures and ideas. No lengthy expositions on opinions, families or vacations – thank you very much. So, without further ado, today’s surprise quick hit one topic post.

My Cutting Table (and assorted projects table)

I have not invested in a nice folding cutting table from the fabric stores.  In one of my better moments of inspiration, I realized I could easily create my own temporary work station. A fold up card table is my base. I set it on bed extenders (Bed, Bath and Beyond is one source for these) to reach a comfortable working height. It’s topped with a 24 inch by 48 inch by ½ inch piece of Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) (Home Depot and the like carry it) that I’d picked up for a different project.  I place my cutting mats on top of this for a nice solid, even surface. I LOVE having the cutting mats on this. You’ll notice it does extend about 8 inches on either end, but the board is heavy enough that this has never caused a problem (even hefty kitty doesn’t topple it if he lands there, and I’ve been known to lean into cutting with the rotary blade with much more force than needed – this puppy stays as solid as a rock).

There’s even some room on the table for my rulers and a bin that carries pins, cutting implements and assorted trims for what I’m working on (the card table top is that solid green by the rulers and plastic bin).

These were shot while I was working my Halloween apron with another project in the wings.  The entire thing folds up and can be out of sight in a moment’s notice. I have it set up in my kitchen in case I need to expand my layouts and choices to the counters and island.

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.

Pure Temptation in an 8 x 8 pan

 Well, I’d said I was participating in 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies, but after making my absolute favorite cookie, the hermit, I needed to take a few weeks off baking so I don’t blow up like a startled pufferfish J.

Seeing the first few week entries in the blog hop I was getting concerned. I only have so many favored cookie recipes and they were starting to show up before I baked and blogged about them.  I thought about publishing my list – a sort of blogosphere dibs – neener, neener, neener, I dibbed shortbread on week 5.  But, I decided that was more childish than the person I like to be.  Besides, blogging is about my experience with a recipe and if there are 15 others of the same, so be it.  Once I got past my hissy hurdle I considered a list for me would be useful. I’ll have some plan of which cookies/candies to write about when. For instance, since I’m pawning them off, generously sharing the delicious treats with neighbors, I won’t do Christmas decorated cookies until December.

I dragged out favored cookbooks, bunches of Americas Test Kitchen (they’re by year), Martha, Julia, Jacques and a few specifically for tea time that would be heavy on cookies and browsed through them.  The notes also give me shopping lists, a smart move on my part as might otherwise hit a “rainy great baking day” and not have all the ingredients on hand.

Decided this week’s cookie will be from Boston Tea Parties, recipes from the Fine Arts Museum (side note I started collecting cookbooks when I was in Junior High).  It’s a fun little cookbook – instead of pictures of food you get pictures of museum tea sets, paintings about tea and so forth. It’s copyright ’87. Some of you may have read my food nazi post where I discussed that I was a vegetarian and healthy whole grains only kinda gal for 15 years, during which time my extended family was not enamored of my cooking (understatement).  Some recipes in this cookbook reminded me of those days –I may have a taste for such concoctions as carrot drops (only cooks for 10 minutes so the grated carrot probably still tastes like, well, grated carrot), whole wheat drops (what chocolate loving kid won’t jump for joy when presented with these?) and my favorite, hard boiled egg cookies (yep, cut up some hard boiled yolks and toss them in).  I chortled out loud thinking of the strongly negative reaction I’d get showing up at my brother’s for the holiday with a box of only these. It would be like showing up with stockings of coal and nothing else.

 

But, I LOVE cranberries. Tart homemade cranberry chutney from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, cranberry tea bread from the OceanSpray wrapper, cranberries in stuffing, in pies, in scones, dried cranberries – it’s all good.  And, this book had a recipe for Cranberry Spice Squares. Love spice cookies, love cranberries, however I remained cautious in thinking anyone but me may like these cookies given the book’s other inclusions.

 

I’m an Irish soda bread kinda gal – you know, flour, soda – toss it in the oven and if you don’t eat it in the next few hours it makes a great doorstop. My sister referred to it in our Ireland trip as akin to eating sawdust. So, I know baking soda has a rather distinct taste.  These cookies call for soda – I considered substituting it but the references I found said 3 times as much baking powder for baking soda and I knew that would throw the flavor off – I decided to bake them as instructed.

 

The long and short of it?  These things are GOOD! They’re better than good; they’re one of my new favorite spice cake recipes. Took every ounce of my willpower to not devour at least half of it warm from the oven.  Even now, the day after at room temp, I have to carefully allot myself a certain amount and wrap it up out of sight. I could just finish the darn thing for dinner. It calls to me – the marvelous heady spice (I added ¾ tsp allspice to the recipe), the perfectly tender and moist crumb, the delectable cranberries. It’s my ideal tea cake and it’s one I can share with my family – sans disdain and disappointment.

You will notice I’m calling it a tea cake. The book called it squares and listed it as a cookie.  I’d been imaging something much denser and, well, cookie like. This is a scrumptious tea cake cooked in an 8 X 8 pan that can be cut into squares. The book offers a recipe for cream cheese frosting (see recipes above) to go with it; I opted out of that one. For a dinner dessert try it, for a brunch/breakfast cake – skip it.  If you too don’t want to blow up like a pufferfish, be sure to have a few folks on hand to help you devour it. With or without assistance, it won’t be around long.

This post is participating in the following linky parties noted below.

Dash, Dazzle and Flair

I like scarves.  Take your plain dumpy outfit, toss on an attractive, long scarf and, la Voila, interesting in one fell swoop. You’ve seen one of my dyed rayon scarves - great for spring, summer and early fall – in my previous posting.  But now, with the chill of late fall in the air, we can focus on the warmer scarves of winter.

I have a friend with a beautiful crazy quilt style scarf that I love and have been meaning to make myself a version of.  When I get to it, you’ll be the first to know.  For today, we’re going to talk about the tres simple, ANYONE CAN DO IT, handmade scarf.  Oh, but knitting and crocheting take time to learn to do it well you say?  T’is true, but anyone can master a Knifty Knitter loom. It’s so simple – it seems like cheating.  And, you can do beautiful items with it.

The above scarf is Kidlin Mystic, a linen and mohair blend.  The easiest loom stitch gives you a stockinette stitch – knit one side, perl the other. Simply loop around the pegs, I go back and forth on the round blue loom, as opposed to around and around, for a scarf.  I’ve held up the bottom of the scarf in the picture above so you can see the “backside” of perl.  This really requires little concentration, so it’s great to do while with others or watching tv.  When choosing yarns remember that the beautiful wool and mohairs are hand wash – NO dryer – no Mr Bill, NO! – unless you want a potholder instead of a beautiful scarf ….).  I have some I give gifts to that simply don’t want hand wash items and would rather have scarves from acrylic yarns.  Also, forget those “one skein” yarn patterns – the ones I’m sharing take 2 or 3. You can do a short “around the neck only” style with one skein.

 This is my favorite made from Zitron Prisma yarn (82% mohair). We had a lovely yam shop in Murphys that closed down, so I started ordering my fancier selections online – mostly from ebay (as I write this I see there’s some Zitron Prisma there now) or All About Yarn in Oregon. We now have a new yarn shop with very knowledgeable help so, if you come to town, be sure to stop by Maisie Blue.

For those that insist on the washer and dryer, use a heavier weight of yarn like the Deborah Norville chunky above and 3 skeins.  With sport weight or thinner yarns, double or triple the strand you use to work with to get a nice looking scarf that won’t stretch all out of shape. You can do big loops or lace patterns on a mohair, but on a sport weight yarn, even blocked, it will just stretch and get really loooong.  Be careful with fringe and bulky weight yarns – if I added more strands to the fringe below, the knots would have been bigger and it would have resulted in those bottom rows being much wider than the rest of the scarf. I’ve seen them out there with that stretched out of shape look, not a fan.

So, no sniffing and turning up the noses on the little plastic contraptions you can get at the hobby store. You can make beautiful items with them.  It’s very easy to make horizontal stripes by just knotting in a new yarn every so many rows or using a variegated yarn as I have. You can mix yarn and the ribbon yarns, you can tie in yarn with longer ends on the knots to make fringe along the vertical sides where you change yarns, you can bring in beads and you can weave or tie in other fibers or yarn, decorate with fiber roses and so forth to further customize your creation. 

I’m coming back in to edit this post as I think I need a few picture of the loom to illustrate how absolutely simple this is. You simply wrap yarn around the pegs, make a second row and use the little hook to pull the first row up and over thesecond. Wrap, hook, wrap hook – repeat. Mindless, fast and simple. I flipped the end of the scarf in the bottom picture so you can see the perl side as well as the opening where I don’t go round and round (you can make tubes and with the large size round loom really fast cowl/hoods).

Special thanks to Andrea over at Train to Crazy’s Make It Wear It for highlighting this post.

 

   Resurrecting this post to appear in the Gallery of Favorites hosted by April of The 21st Century Housewife and Alea of Premeditated Leftovers.

Bond, James Bond

Thought I’d post about a few miscellaneous machine embroidery projects. For those without an embroidery machine but with a basic understanding of sewing and an imagination for adding your own embroidery, appliqués or image transfer designs – this post will still have some ideas for you.  I’d mentioned early on in this blog that I’d been searching out non-vendor blogs related to machine embroidery and coming up empty. So, I’m on a mission to highlight a few more projects.  The starring role today goes to Milo.  Sis takes care of mom (monumental task) and likes dressing her pooch, so sis gets the goods she likes from lil ol’ seamstress me.

This first design is an “in the hoop” project from Moose Be Stitchin.  It’s a casing for the collar with a simple triangular bib, embroidered “buttons” and a bow tie you hand stitch on.  Very easy, fast, oh so cute on and pretty much easy for the pooch to wear.  We call it “Bond, James Bond”.

This shot is a sewn and not embroidered at all (in case some of you stitchers are still with me) dog bandana with Happy Birthday embroidered kitchen towel (it does match the apron sis also received). The Happy Birthday design is Embroidery Library (you’ll see their name popping up a lot as they have good pricing and consistent sales with fantastic pricing  – if you’re an embroiderer, sign up for their Christmas Club plus Happy Hour Fridays to get truly tempting prices coming to your inbox).

As long as I’m discussing Embroidery Library, here are cupcake napkins that go with the whole birthday/cupcake theme for sis. I prefer cotton or linen hemstitch (I get mine on eBay from Napkins Online) but sis has her hands full and requires no-iron polyester.  The cotton and linen, though lovely, must be ironed when damp to look good. I’d sewn some solid ones to decorate, but at $1.50 each decided I’d rather start with the eBay hemstitched ones then toil with my iron and machine carefully making mitered corner napkins.

Another, “probably easy to replicate with a tad of thought” project is the Zippy Designz duster made from your fleece scraps (fits 99cent store duster or Swifter handles).  Don’t want to step on Carolyn at Zippy’s toes so won’t give pics or details, but you just need 3 rows of stitching to hold this together and you have a green, washable, re-usable duster that gets in crooks, crannies and all around those books. I’ve whipped up a bunch. They also make pretty good cat toys if your kitties chase your dusting activities the way mine do (not the vase, no … L).

With fall holiday season opening up to full swing, it’s time to bake those warm goodies to share at gatherings with friends and family. I was always finding myself rushing off with casseroles or baked goods fresh from the oven, wrapped in towels to not burn me or the car seat. Time for the age old classic – a casserole cover.  Now some lovely patterns call for such a nice handle – Beware.  I know someone who actually carried the casserole by the handle, which, of course tipped, swayed and dumped said casserole on the pavement (they were lucky it didn’t happen inside the car, eeewwww). Save yourself and appointed casserole carrying helpers the temptation of using that handle. A simple slide-in case that you carry is the best all around bet and simpler to sew.

 

Embroidery Library showcased a project (here) where the stitcher simply took two quilted placements, sewed them together leaving one end open and placed a nice big button and buttonhole on the open end. I like the look of the scalloped placemat edges. You don’t have to add a design with some of the lovely patterned placemats available. I made an extra large case for my extra large casserole by simply starting with some cotton pre-quilted solid fabric. The design is lettering is from my Husqvarna Viking Topaz with an edited combo of Embroidery Library’s border from their chocolate pack and Embroidery Design.com’s Machine Embroidery Designs cupcake.  (Embroidery Designs.com carries multiple vendors).  I made the bias trim from fabric in my stash.  Always make an easily washable casserole cover as some drips/spills and food smudges should be expected. I’ve picked up a bunch of placemats with these on my Christmas to do list.  No worries – I haven’t yet hooked gift exchanging friends and family to this blog just so I can write about the crafting here without ruining any surprises. Those of you who do stitch can imagine how fast the placemat version of these carriers goes together.  Besides, how better to showcase those fancy buttons you pick up at quilt shows or create from Fimo?

I’ll close with another doggie project.  This for close friends who acquired a Rottweiler while living in South Africa. They are now crazy about her. Their gift was pillow covers in their guest room colors. My friend helped me pick the right Rottweiler design (this is Embroidery Library but Embroidery Designs.com has a bunch, a lot of their obviously males) and match the thread colors to her dog so this would be personalized and correct.

With Christmas wish lists begun, if any of you have questions about machine embroidery –I’ll be happy to answer what I can.                   

Respite from the Vortex of Halloween

I’ve been sucked into the vortex of Halloween in the blogosphere lately. Time to wrench myself from its gravitational pull and highlight a few other things. Looks like I’ve been light on postings on machine embroidery, so time to address that.  In sharing machine embroidery projects, I want to be careful not to tread on the rights of the digitizers whose patterns I use.  If you purchase a pattern, detailed instructions with pictures accompany them (or at least they do for the ones I’ll highlight).  If you don’t do machine embroidery – you may still garner ideas from the post as long as you keep in mind you can hand embroider, appliqué or photo transfer an image in any of the places I use the machine to make a design. 

My little Queen of Hearts Tarot Bag was made for a friend.  The Queen of Hearts design is from Urban Threads. I used the drawstring bag pattern from MooseBeStitchin. It gives you 2 perfectly stitched buttonholes plus drawstring casing stitched lines – definitely worth the price of the pattern (drawstring bags are very easy to construct sans pattern, here’s a free ehow pattern).  Plus, you can add machine stitched windows to the bags if you like. However, I wanted it lined, this pattern was not, and I did not follow the cardinal rule of doing a pattern once as instructed before messing with it. So, I did muck it up a tad, requiring more effort than would have been needed had I thought it through (you can see the little squares of black I used to cover exposed stitching inside the bag below). However, I’m pleased with the end results and will be stitching up a few more. The Fabric is JoAnn quilting cotton and the lining is charmeuse (polyester).

I’m partially through a wine bag that will also have a drawstring top.  My favored restaurant in Murphys, Grounds, allows you to bring in a local wine for your dinner with no corkage fee.  A few others do the same.  So, friends and I are often lugging in a bottle in a brown paper bag as though we were some wino walking down the street. Crafting abilities to the rescue J. The fabric is upholstery weight microsuede I have left over from another project.  It’s heavy enough that I won’t line it but will utilize a nice size upper hem to give it a polished look. For stabilizer I turned to a black tear away from Allstitch.com. I thought the fabric was heavy enough that it should be fine, but you’ll notice it puckered, I should have gone heavier weight. The design is a combination of Embroidery Library grape bunch sheer plus their word wine.  In the hoop below you can see I rolled the fabric that will be the back and used an inexpensive plastic hair clip to hold it out of the sewing area.  These things are a must.  If you’re doing t-shirts or other completed garments you want to be sure you keep the fabric that shouldn’t be stitched on outside of the stitching area and you don’t want that fabric to create a lot of drag on your hoop (the machine does the design by moving the hoop with the needle always going straight up and down). The plastic hair clips are a useful tool.

It came out a bit more muted than I expected, but I was going for subtle, so it’s ok. Given that I’m using a drawstring, I think the design puckers won’t be noticeable as such (it will look like what happens with the top scrunched together).

Another finished project is my reading chair. I actually have a lovely little standing light that peers over my shoulder perfecting this corner spot of my bedroom. I can sink onto this puppy and not move for hours engrossed in a great book. It’s really not at that barren in this corner – I simply dragged everything out of the shot except the chair. Think piles of books, two full knitting bags, cat carriers …

 

The chair is IKEA. Fabric is microsuede to match a whole gold, deep red, muted green scheme I have running throughout most of my home. Designs are Embroidery Library Fairy Fantasy Border and Corner.  The seat cushion is squared by the sewing technique explained as “mitered corner” for cushions on ehow.

 Finally, I’ll share the towels that go in the private bath.  The dragons make me smile. They are Embroidery Library’s Lightening Dragon and Cernunnos from Cactus Punch’s Dragons, Fins and Faerie Things.

Machine embroidery adds the easy ownership of cloth, design, design size and every thread color to a crafter’s arsenal of tools and I love it.

Classics never go out of style

Egads, in searching out a favorite site I recall from eons back on making Halloween tombstones (and I found it, these were top-notch, meant to be built once and last Wolfstone Halloween Host Tombstone how to),  I found a copy of a post I made on the Gardenweb junk forum regarding Halloween decorations in October 2005, fifteen years ago!  “Forget the Backyard …” was its title, we were offering solutions for “Dragoness MS” who wanted Halloween decorations on the cheap as her neighborhood, although standing, was recovering from Katrina.

 Nifty little bit on the Mac I have, I can save any webpage as a .pdf.  Used to just save links, but then a favorite gardening magazine with truly top notch instructions online for various wood crafted items went out of biz and took down their web.  Now if I love it, I try to save more than a link.  I’d saved this particular post as someone had put free vintage images within the posting and it was a collection of fun Halloween stuff. 

 Wow, I do say in a post a few down, everything old is new again. The painted Halloween jars aka lanterns are all over the linkys and Pinterest this year.  I don’t have pictures for the crafted items as I moved and these older things didn’t make the cut for packing space (too easy to replace).  From Oct 7, 2005: 

http://www.mccallpattern.com/item/M3313.htm

“Basically, for the ghosts, you invert tomato cages and string white Christmas lights around them. Then, cover with the Ghost (EASY – a front and a back – if you don’t sew you can use glue) and the faces are painted on.  You don’t really need the pattern. They use white craft felt but any heftier white/ tea stained fabric (Osnaburg for a nice look) would do. Use stick tepees instead of tomato cages.

 Lanterns – use clean jars (I’m personally fond of Classico spaghetti sauce as it has nice flat sides and for other crafts clean new mason jar lids fit). Use contact paper or WIDE painters tape and cut out four Halloween shapes (bats, cats, ghoulish face, wide toothy grin, nose, eyes like jack o lantern) and 99 cent paint from WM.  Place a shape on each side or just one – invert jars on a stick in the ground (empty wine bottle, whatever) and spray away (I do cover the area with old newspapers as I tend to be messy). You can also spray the shape area first (orange, light purple) and then do the black coat (looks much better, use painters tape not contact paper if doing this – you can also stencil a face on at the end). I’ve traced around Halloween cookie cutters, used the shape from rubber stamps and see this year MarthaStewart.com has some good, downloadable images along with a beautifully executed version of the jars. Place in a bit of sand (optional) and a tea light (battery ok if not raining or you put the lid back on, candle ok but know kiddies may wander over up close  to stare in and some costumes are flammable) – la voila. String wire around the tops to hang them. I may do all ghoulish faces this year and have the outer coat purple or icky green.”

Do visit Wolfstone’s site and note that he navigates to more detailed pages and updates (they made them a few times so many years apart and included their learnings and improvements). His gravestones are incredible and, if you follow his method, they will last.

Resurrecting this post for 21st Century Housewife’s Gallery of favorites and Half Past Kissin Time’s Saturday Sampling.