Saturday, December 31, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 7 - Loot for the Ladies

Just as there are people who are very easy to shop for, some are a dream to craft for. My problem with my sister was narrowing down the list of what I wanted to make so that I would actually have time to complete (most of) it. I still have a few things that I want to give her to complement the gifts she received, and of course so that I can play with fun new patterns for someone who won't mind if I replace what I gave them with a better version in a few months when I find a method I like even more. Here are a few very girly ideas to wrap up Handmade Holiday Week:

1. Travel Set

My sister is quite the traveller so I included some accessories to help with her packing: a zipper pouch, a drawstring bag and a little jewelry holder. I found the design of the jewelry pouch quite clever, though if I make another I'll make some changes to the pattern that I found - there are eight little pockets on the side and it's all just closed up with a drawstring ribbon, which means that nothing gets tangled but it's very easy to see what's in there.

2. Anthropologie Copycat Scarf

I think this scarf could stand some experimentation with other kinds of fabric but my little sister can make anything look good. Its a rough copy of a scarf I saw in Anthropologie, one of my favorite shops and one of my sister's first stops whenever she comes to visit me in Chicago. The sweet butterfly brooch is her own and sets off the ruffle flowers to perfection.

3. Rollers

Ironically, my sister had a few inches chopped off her hair on Christmas Eve so she won't be able to use these straight away. However, she always has problems coming up with new ways to wear her hair when it gets a little longer so I thought these would be a fun idea. I made a set of fabric rollers for whipping up some curls and printed out some hairstyles from this e-book which I thought she'd enjoy. I bound them up into a little book and she's already started experimenting.

Handmade Holiday Week
Day 1: Presents for Pooches
Day 2: Gifts for Guys
Day 3: New Projects for Newborns
Day 4: Home Goodies
Day 5: For the Children
Day 6: Ideas for Moms

Friday, December 30, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 6 - Ideas for Moms

Sewing for the moms on my list was only limited by time and I stashed away lots of ideas on my to-do list for another day. Here are a couple of the presents that made it into stockings this Christmas.

1. Hot/Cold Rice Pack

Although they were a very simple idea, I was definitely pleased by the way these turned out and will certainly make more in the future. Scented with lavender oil, they have a removable insert that can be popped into the freezer or microwaved to act as a heat/cold pack to soothe away aches and pains. The cover can be dropped in the washing machine whenever it needs a clean.

2. Gardener's Tool Apron

My mam is an amazing gardener. Not only does she have a vegetable patch and greenhouse in the back yard but she has a large allotment where she grows giant piles of organic vegetables and fruit. The potatoes and carrots I ate at dinner last night were still in the ground in her "plastic palace" (as she calls the large self-built hothouse on her plot) that morning and I just ate some delicious crumble with some home-grown plums plucked from the giant freezer in the garage. Naturally I had to make at least one gardening-themed present for her and this toolbelt fit the bill.

3. Flower of the Month Bookmarks

Given that she's such a whiz at cross-stitch herself, it was maybe a little ambitious to get started on an embroidery project for my mam but given her love of gardening, combined with being an avid reader, when I spotted these patterns at the end of the summer I couldn't resist the challenge. Embroidery is very portable so these have travelled on planes and trains, to laundromats and waiting rooms and sat in my lap while watching numerous movies. I plan on giving her the rest in installments for easter, birthdays, mothers day and just-because-days so that she ends up with the full twelve month series by the end of 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 5 - For the Children

Not only are there plenty of babies on my Christmas shopping list but some of those babies are now shooting up into little boys and girls! I had a few more ambitious projects in mind for the boys which I have yet to tackle but I still managed to get to something for everyone on the list. Here are a few of the gifts that went out to the kiddies this year.

1. Dinosaur Hat

My landlord's strange garden owl makes a rather
handy prop for taking hat photos
I'm utterly in love with these fun fleecy numbers and made three for the little monsters on my list. Although it can get tricky feeding multiple layers through my machine, I enjoy how forgiving fleece can be if you get a bit too speedy and end up with wonky seams (not that I would ever get impatient...)

2. Hair Clips

I probably need to get my hands on some prettier colored hair grips but otherwise, these make a super quick and easy gift. If you're feeling like trying out something crafty this is a great place to start, all you need are some scraps of fabric, a needle and thread, a cute button and a few spare minutes. I just whipped up some fabric yo-yos (you can find oodles of tutorials if you google) then stitched them to the clip with a cute button in the middle. Fair warning - once you get started with yo-yos they can be rather addictive and the possibilities for using them are endless. I quite fancy making a yo-yo pillow at some point in the new year, or maybe more of these thank you cards that I put together a couple of months back.

3. Lump of Coal

I couldn't resist borrowing this fun idea that even included free printable files for the label. A great gift for all those naughty boys!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 4 - Home Goodies

I couldn't resist whipping up some Christmas decorations for some of the people on my list.

1. Yarn Wreaths
I'm in love with the yarn wreath trend and was pleased with the one I improvised for fall so I tried two more versions, one in traditional Christmas colors:

And another with a more wintry feel:

I was thrilled to find a great Etsy seller for beautiful felt, Benzie Bazaar. If I'd put my mind to it, no doubt it wouldn't have been a great leap to realize that somewhere there was an easy source to buy something a little nicer than the cheap poly sheets sold at the local craft store. However, I didn't think to look until someone mentioned this store on their blog. I gave it a try on a whim and the lovely selection of colors, great customer service and beautiful product definitely sold me.

2. Christmas pillows

More of that lovely felt made it's way into this quilted pillow. I added some handstitching and yet more funky Michael Miller prints. I also used an envelope back for the first time and I'm wondering why I've been bothering to faff around with fiddly zippers when these work so well. I love pinks and teals in my Christmas decorations and I have some other yummy prints that were destined for a table runner for myself which I never quite got around to. If I still feel like facing Christmas fabrics in January I might knock it together for next year but I know I have a lot of yummy new fabrics coming my way (including from this fantastic giveaway, which I can't believe I won!) and a very long list of new projects both for myself and for gifts.

I'm pretty slow at the handstitching so this one took a loooong time to finish up. I love making pillows and can usually knock them up fairly quickly, but its such a fun design I'm glad I put in the extra effort.

The print on the back is from Lizzy House's Outfoxed collection. I have quite a few fat quarters still rolling around that I haven't decided what to do with yet so, aside from a few snippets here and there in my Christmas sewing they're still waiting for me. You might notice that I have a bit of a thing for contrasting natural linen with different prints and colors and I ran through about 3 yards last month just on little projects like this. Its probably time to find a good online source to bulk buy some more.

Bilbo couldn't quite conceive of any possible reason why I would be out in the yard with a camera and not taking pictures of him so he kept photobombing my shoot.

Here to stay lady. Deal with it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 3 - New Projects for Newborns

I'm at the age where my friends and family are constantly presenting me with new babies to coo over and cuddle. They're the easiest group to stitch for but alongside the squishy toys and soft rattles I tried a couple of new projects for Christmas.

1. My First Quilt!

It's amazing what you can learn on the internet. I was so clueless about quilting that I had to look up tutorials for pretty much every step - I even had to find pictures to work out how on earth to attach the walking foot to my machine. I was very relieved and proud that I managed to pull it all together well enough to be worthy of gifting to the intended recipient - my cousin's new baby Joseph.

The prints are all by Michael Miller and I have plenty left for some small projects so they'll definitely be appearing again. I love them all, particularly the bicycles on the back.

2. Quilting Second Round

My second quilt is destined for the new baby girl of a very dear friend of mine. I'm a little conflicted about the choice of colors as the orange feels very bold but it's so soft and snuggly and technically it came together well so I've still sent this off to her. The stripey pattern was inspired by a pillow I saw in a Crate & Barrel catalogue, and the colors all came from the print I used on the back.

How adorable are the little girl and the bunny hanging on to the balloons? You can see that I haven't attempted any quilting beyond stitching in the ditch. I'm going to experiment with some smaller projects first before getting adventurous on a quilt.

3. Baby Booties

Maybe these were a little more complicated than I'm used to but I found the instructions for this pattern to be an absolute pain to follow! I'm happy with the finished product - after all, who doesn't love mini baby booties? - so I'll still try a couple more of the projects from this book before I have to return it. My crafty partner in crime, B, lent me Amy Butler's "Little Stitches for Little Ones" and it does have some adorable ideas. However, I know I'm not the first to find her directions laborious. There are some odd mistakes in the dress pattern for which B actually had to find an explanation online. Given how popular Amy Butler products are, you'd think she could get hold of a decent editor.

Even so, I'm excited to gift these - they're destined for the new little daughter of my very oldest friend; I've known her for nearly 30 years now!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 2 - Gifts for the Guys

I don't know about you but I find that it tends to be much trickier to think up good craft gifts for the guys. Luckily I came up with a few good ideas for some of the guys on the list - and found a great easy fudge recipe for some others!

1. Eight-Bottle Wine Tote

This was sent out to my best friend in Boston. When he lived in Chicago, we used to book an I-Go every few weeks to run errands, often including a trip to Binny's where we'd pick out a random selection of wine and craft beers. It was always a challenge to pack the many bottles into the car without jostling them about so when I saw this pattern I immediately thought of him. It's from the new Fabric-by-Fabric: 101 One Yard Wonders book which finally arrived just in time to get this made. This was the project that tipped me over into buying it but I have to say it's a fantastic resource and I can't wait to make pretty much everything in there. (Handy hint: if you buy it from Barnes & Noble it has some exclusive bonus projects in the back!)

Alas I only had one full, one half-empty and one empty wine bottle to model the tote for my photos. But then, I do live alone, so it maybe wouldn't be the best sign if I had a whole load wine bottles just knocking around.

2. Ear-bud pouches

I could definitely fancy making another of these for myself when I get started on my New Year projects. They're ever so handy for preventing that irritating wire tangle in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag.

3. Car CD holder

This handy CD holder has elastic straps across the back so it can slip easily onto sun visor in the car. Being many thousands of miles away, I didn't get a chance to measure this up against the visors in my dad's car so I'm just crossing my fingers that the elastic fits.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Handmade Holiday Week: Day 1 - Presents for Pooches

Merry Christmas everyone!

Having fallen in love with all things crafty, this year I decided to aim for a completely handmade Christmas. So as not to spoil any surprises I've been waiting to share some of those with you until today, which means I'll be keeping the Christmas spirit going a little longer and posting a different handmade holiday gift each day this week.

Naturally, I didn't forget the pooches and experimented with some more homemade cookie recipes. The best thing about cooking for them is making it up as you go along, which doesn't work as well for human baking. I used pumpkin, peanut butter, oats, soy milk and a mix of different flours, plus the new bone-shaped cookie cutter I picked up at Joann a couple of weeks ago.

Pose with the box? Like this?

The cute dog-themed take out boxes came from Container Store.

Heeeey, wait a minute, what's in here?!
Of course, Bilbo didn't think that I should be handing any of his treats out to other dogs and tried to make me forget that I'd stashed a bundle for him in his cookie jar.

You're just plain old mean
The best present of the year goes to little Flowerpot. Not only did she get her sore leg fixed and find a lovely little pair of ruffians willing to share their home with her for Christmas, she'll be going into a wonderful foster-to-adopt in a few days! Cross your fingers that all goes well for the little nugget as she's definitely earned her forever home.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

As I'm spending some holiday time with the family this year I'll be falling behind on my blog reading and commenting but I do want to say thanks to Identity: V&E and A&A Friese for sending me some love in the form of a Liebster Award.

Thanks guys!!!!!!! It comes with instructions (see below) so I've followed the first two steps but as I'm short on time I'll have to owe you the links to some newbie blogs. The blogosphere is full of super duper writers but I'm not sure which have fewer than 200 followers so I'll have to go through my favorites list and check later. Believe it or not I still have a few bits and pieces of wrapping to finish up before tomorrow morning so I can get my final presents under the tree.

Since the secrets will all be out, starting tomorrow I've got a week of handmade holiday posts so check back to see what's been keeping me so busy recently.

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog. 
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award. 
3. Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they've received the award.4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more newbie blogs.

One more drool photo for all you slobber fans out there! While it doesn't quite freeze solid, when the temperature drops the boyo gets congealed slobber laces which pick up bits of snow and leaves as he snuffles along. Kinda hilarious...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wintry Pics

Although I don't have a portrait session scheduled for Bilbo and I until the New Year, I was determined to make sure that I got some shots of us together before the end of the year as planned. Luckily I have a lovely friend with a great camera who came round for tea and took some super shots of me and the pooches playing in the backyard.

What's up mom? Smoochfest time?

Why yes, you are the cutest little chihuahua

Check out the winter wear on those pooches. Our talented photographer also knitted up some cosy scarves to keep the duo warm in the snow.

Holiday high-fives all around

Don't forget about little me

Flowerpot has had her stitches out and has already forgotten that there was anything wrong with her leg. The biggest challenge I have at the moment is making sure that she doesn't leap around too much while she heals up.

You know what's good for catching snow?
Slobber shoelaces!

What's a dog got to do to get his paws on
some treats around here?

Lady, I'm begging you

Ok then, super power time
Flying dog!

One more smooch for luck

Thanks to Bruce & Alfred's mom for spending the afternoon with us!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Return of the Zoomies

They're back. The wintertime zoomies have returned to our house.

As the ground starts to freeze and the air begins to bite, Billy becomes rocket charged. He needs to run, run, run. But only when he's on the end of a leash. When he's in the backyard he pretty much just stands and stares at me wondering what I'm waiting for.

The zoomies also have a soundtrack - the barkies. These occur intermittently throughout the year, usually when walking into a pet store, meeting new people or when any one of Billy's "Hundred Exciting Things" appear. The winter barkies are a special breed that happen only at home and are intended to signify that despite the hour-long trek around the park that we just returned from, he's bored. Or hungry. He's always hungry in the wintertime. It's difficult to separate this from his "I need to go out" bark so I spend a lot of time letting him in and out of the yard. If the barkies are ignored, out comes the insistent pawing and usually attempting to clamber into my lap or ONTO my sewing table. At which point he may or may not just fall asleep, having received the attention he wants.

Weapons to combat the dreaded zoomy-barky combo are few. Long walks work for about half an hour, quick bursts on the treadmill help but my main friend right around now is the good old-fashioned time out. And earplugs.

Hopefully the winter super-weapon will arrive soon - there's nothing that tires out a Billydog like running through snowdrifts!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Since being delightfully adorable hasn't cut it yet for finding the perfect home, foster Flower has decided to pull the sympathy card to see if that will make Santa bring her a forever family for Christmas.

Flower's first owner was a bit of a charmer who kicked her across the room while wearing big work boots and broke her elbow. She was lucky that a local animal welfare advocate pulled her out of that situation and arranged an operation to fix her leg. However, she couldn't stay there forever and went off to another home, who eventually decided they couldn't keep her either and dumped her at a shelter. She was scheduled for euthanasia when a shelter volunteer fell in love and took her home for a few days to try and buy her enough time to find a spot in a rescue. Luckily One Tail at a Time stepped in and she ended up in foster with Billy and I where she settled in happily.

Unfortunately Flower wasn't quite done with the past and recently the pins in her mangled little elbow started causing her some trouble. Of course, the lovely crew at OTAT made sure she got the attention she needed and yesterday she went off to the vet to get the pesky things removed. Everything went well so she'll be as good as new in no time, but for now she's feeling very sorry for herself!

When she first came home last night she wanted to be held constantly so she made a bit of a fuss overnight when she had to go back in her crate. However, she's working out how to negotiate the giant bandage and get comfortable on her own again.

What do you think? Does the giant bandage garner enough sympathy to earn this little lady a forever home?

If I'm wringing your heartstrings but you're not able to take in a permanent pup consider becoming a temporary holiday foster. With so many foster families out of town and boarding facilities filling up fast you can be of great help to a rescue organization without having to make a long commitment - and what an easy intro to fostering if you've been considering giving it a go. I'm going to be in the UK so if a forever home doesn't turn up Flowerpot is one of the pups who would love to have a temporary family to snuggle up to on Christmas morning.

Not that it's all doom and gloom around here this week. Flower joined me on Saturday night at the One Tail at a Time calendar release party and had a great time. With a room full of dog lovers she received plenty of attention, even if she pretended to be a bit camera shy at times.

Photo: Leah Moyers
Being the spoilt little princess that she is, she managed to beg plenty of time up in arms so she could see everything that was going on, and try to sneak some snacks off my plate...

Photo: Leah Moyers
There was a silent auction, delicious food and drink, gorgeous art to look at, plenty of great company (both human and canine, including doggy celebs Fifty, Mr Big and Rude Dog) and even a photo booth. And of course, all the money raised goes towards helping many more dogs in 2012, which is definitely worth smiling about.

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