Sunday, December 20, 2015

Finished Gift Basket

 Due to the recent changes by the EU requiring notification about the use of cookies and advertising, I have decided to make this my last post.  I started this blog in 2009 at the request of friends and family so they could view my art work.  Thanks to my wonderful readers, the blog took off and became very popular. I had been thinking of giving up the blog in 2016 due to the lack of time to write these posts. When I saw the message from Google about compliance with the new EU standards, I decided it was time to end the blog. 

 I want to make it perfectly clear that as an artist, I have never accepted any advertising on my blog. I want to create whatever I want, whenever I want and feel free to post the finished work of art without any commercialism.  I want to feel free to use products that I like and try new ones that look interesting. I like having the freedom to tell you why I liked or didn't like a particular product. All products used in the creation of my art work are products that I have purchased for that particular project or to stock my home studio. All reviews of books used as a reference for projects were books that I purchased and added to my library.  The products listed for each project were to give you, the reader, a way to duplicate the my exact project should you desire to do so.

I have enjoyed creating the posted projects and sharing them with you over the years. Thank you all so much for helping to make this blog successful.  -Adieu,  Suzanne

The first gift basket is finished and sitting under the tree awaiting exchange on Christmas Day.

Gift baskets are easy to make and are suitable for different occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, showers and of course Christmas.  I have found my budget to be the only limitation when putting a basket together.  Buying items to fill a basket can quickly get out of hand.  To reign in costs, I look for sales throughout the year.  Holiday ribbons, gift tags and baskets on clearance sales. Then about a month before Christmas I look for sales on coffee, cookies and chocolate. Fortunately my recipients are well trained, they always give last year's empty basket back to me to refill the following year.  This saves me the expense of purchasing a new basket and they don't have to find a place to store it.

Here's a step by step tutorial for assembling a gift basket.

Arrange the items in the basket.

 Don't worry if the items don't stand up, they will once the basket it wrapped.  I usually line the bottom of the basket with a few pieces of white crumpled tissue paper.  Next place the basket filling.  This large basket used 2 bags of shredded paper basket filler.  You can use shredded cellophane (Easter Grass) but it flies everywhere and makes a mess, exposing the white tissue in the bottom of the basket.

Wrapped Basket
Unroll cellophane gift wrap.  Center the basket on the wrap.  You want to have approximately 5 inches or more at the top of the basket after the wrap is gathered.  Re-position the basket on the wrap until you have at least 5 inches at the top.  Twist the cellophane around the top of the basket to form a "top knot" and tie it with a pieces of ribbon, a twist tie of a piece of craft wire.   I used craft wire.  I prefer twist ties or wire because the ribbon tends to slip.

Folded side
 These next two steps make the difference between a homemade basket and a professional one.

Once the top is secure, fold the sides of the wrap.  Lap one end over the other and twist them together until you have a triangular shape. Slide the basket to the edge of the table with the wrap hanging over the end of the table.  Pull the wrap over the edge of the table, lift the basket and tuck the wrap under the bottom of the basket and tape securely.

Twist the wrap.

Pull the wrap over the edge of the table and secure it under the basket.

Add a bow and a gift tag and the basket is finished.. It's the attention to little details that will make a basket look professional rather than home made.  I chose to use a hand made gift tag and bow.  For directions on how to make this bow, refer to my post on Making a Professional Bow.  I like to trim the top of the wrap so it is sort of even ( it looks better if it is not perfectly even) for a nice finished, appearance.

Supplies used:  Red cellophane wrap (Michaels), Holiday Ribbon ( from my ribbon stash), Gold colored floral craft wire, white gift tissue (4 pieces, crumpled), green paper shreds (2 bags from Michaels), Silhouette Cutting file-Doe Re Mi Scarf by ScrapNfonts (for tag) and card stock (brown, tan, white, black, light blue, red and light pink for Doe.

Finished basket.

Still Crafting

With only three days left, I am still busy crafting.  The Cameo is working over time and I must admit I have the cutting down to a science. At night when my husband is asleep, I work on my files-re-grouping and layering them  on a separate mat for each element to be cut.  The next day, I plug in the Cameo and start cutting, leaving the room to work on other things.  The Silhouette makes a lot of noise so I can usually hear when it's done cutting so I can replace the mat.  I repeat this process until everything is cut out and ready to assemble.  I have found that a small rectangular plastic container with a lid to be very helpful.  The lid holds the small cut outs while the container holds the pieces that I am gluing together.

 Reindeer and Polar Bear Card.

Labels for Chocolate Espresso Beans

Currently I am making gift baskets.  My coffee baskets are the most requested Christmas gift. It's really easy to put together a basket that rivals the commercially available ones. The best part is that it can be tailored to the recipients tastes.  One of the recipients doesn't like Hazelnut. Personally I don't understand it but I make sure that nothing with Hazelnuts goes into her basket.  This is not limited to coffee but also cookies, and chocolates. No Ferrero Roche? C'est dommage!  I always like to include chocolate covered espresso beans but couldn't find any in my area so I made some. I did a little play on words and called them Expresso Beans because the Snow Family image that I used was so joyful.

The Reindeer is going to be used for gift tags, and the polar bear holding the candy cane is a decorative element for the basket.

Gift Basket in Progress

I will post pictures and directions for the finished basket on a later post.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Gift Card Holders

There are certain people on my Christmas list that get gift cards. While it does simplify shopping, tucking a gift card inside a card just looks like an afterthought.  There are so many nice gift card holders on the market, but they can also be a little pricey.  I came across J.M. Rush's adorable gift card holders on the Silhouette Store site. They were all so cute that I couldn't decide and decided to buy all of my favorite designs. 

These were quick to make.  I was able to make several of each style in a couple of hours.  These a cute enough to present on their own but I tucked them inside a gift bag containing a box of homemade cookies.

Abominable Snowman, Yorkie, Polar Bear and Santa

The assembly instructions for each of these designs can be found on J.M. Rush's Blog.  I had fun adding my own personal touches.  I embossed Santa's fur trim on his coat and hat, the Polar Bear's hat and mittens and Abominable Snowman's fur (light blue) with the Cuttlebug Swiss Dots embossing folder.  I added diamond Stickles to the bear's pom pom and the Snowman's fur and teeth.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekend Project

I have been busy working on finishing the Mona Lisa.  The goal is to have the picture completely finished before 2016 and it looks like I'm going to make the deadline.  I am stitching morning and night but the end is in sight.  Only two and half more pages to stitch and most of that is black (Mona Lisa's dress) so that will go very quickly.  Mona Lisa is not yet finished and I am already planning and setting up my next project.  That's what it's like to be me!  My next project is every bit as challenging as the Mona Lisa.  I have really enjoyed watching a famous work of art slowly come to life as I stitched so I just had to stitch my favorite painting-Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone. The colors are beautiful shades of blue, green and violet.  Starry Night is a Scarlett Quince pattern and uses a lot of blended colors.

Only two and half pages left!

This weekend I took a break from the Mona Lisa to knit a pair of mitts (finger-less gloves).  Last year I decided that these would be very useful to wear indoors or to layer under mittens. While I have several patterns for mitts with beading and fancy stitches, I just wanted a plain pair.  Webs ( had a suitable pdf pattern on their website.  I chose to knit Valley Yarns Essential Mitts.  The pattern is easy and suitable for a beginner.  The M1L and M1R stitches (make one left, make one right) might be confusing but You Tube has an excellent tutorial.  My mitts were knit in Madeline Tosh DK merino wool in the Fathom color.  I was able to knit both mitts in a weekend which would make them suitable for a gift or stocking stuffer.

Finished Mitts
Now that the mitts are finished I am already planning my next knitting projects.  I can't wait for my Malabrigo Rastita yarn to arrive from Jimmy Beans Wool so I can start knitting the Odonata hat that was featured on Malabrigo's blog.  The pattern is available from Owl and Cat Designs on Ravelry.

In a few days I will also start working on a ballet wrap sweater.  Now that it's getting colder outside, the Yoga studio is so cold.  After pricing sweaters for Yoga and running jackets at a local sporting good store, I decided to knit my own sweater.  I stopped by Michaels to buy some yarn.  I chose Patons Classic Wool in deep purple.  The total cost of the wool was about $25, much better than the $90 price tag at the sporting goods store.  I am in the process of re-writing the hand knit instructions to instructions for the knitting machine.  The sweater has seed stitch ribbing which I will knit by hand.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Woman Walking With A Stick

I wish that I had unlimited time to just draw and paint like Van Gogh did.  I have resigned myself to the reality that is just not going to happen because no matter how hard I try something else always takes precedence.  Every once in a while I put my foot down and say Enough, I'm spending the day in the studio! While I enjoy working on craft projects that is not enough for me, I need to draw or paint.

Vincent Van Gogh was not only a prolific artist, he was also an eloquent writer.  He included sketches or drawings in his many letters to his brother Theo.  I have several books of Van Gogh's letters complete with sketches.  Recently when I felt the need to draw, I chose a drawing from one of the books of letters.

Woman Walking With A Stick after Van Gogh.

There was something about Van Gogh's drawing of the old woman with a walking stick that touched my heart.  According to Van Gogh, it was a cold morning and the woman was walking, slightly bent, to work at the mines with a shawl wrapped around her head to protect her from the cold winds.

Van Gogh thought that the only way to improve as an artist to copy paintings by the masters.  He often copied the great Delacroix's work and drew and painted several versions of Millet's The Sower. I don't think that Van Gogh would mind that I copied the Woman Walking With A Stick and hopefully he might find my rendition of his work an acceptable tribute to him as an artist.  I did use the drawing in an art project to illustrate Robert Browning's poem because the woman seemed to illustrate the line "grow old with me, the best is yet to be."

A Silhouette Halloween

The Cameo is really getting a lot of use lately.  I'm really enjoying the flexibility of buying exactly the cutting files that I want and then modifying them to suit my needs.

This year I wanted to pull out all the stops and make Halloween special for the Trick-or-Treaters that come to our door.  We have always had the reputation among the neighborhood kids as the house with the cute decorations that gives out good candy but why rest on our laurels?  Some of the decorations from previous years were just too ratty to make it through another Halloween.  C'est dommage!  I fired up the Cameo and made yard signs, but why stop there?  There are so many cute designs available.  Who can resist Lori Whitlock's Bat candy bar wrapper or Jamie Lane's Spider Web tea light holder?  Not only were these cute but they went together quickly.

Candy bar wrapper and tea light holder.

Close-up of Spider Web tea light holder.

I made the candy bar wrappers in Halloween colors-purple, green and purple.  Only one wrapper (to fit a full size candy bar) would fit on a 12x12 inch piece of card stock so I cut the wrappers out of 8 1/2x11 inch card stock resulting in less wasted paper.  The wrapper can be resized to fit smaller candy bars.

The Spider Web tea light holder was just one of those must do projects because it's so different and so cute.  I made several and placed them along the stairs in the foyer and forgot about them.  Everyone who sees them wants to know where I bought them?  When I say that I made them, the next question is what are they made from?  They really don't look like they are made from card stock.  My husband thought they were made from craft foam and my daughter thought they were plastic.  Nope, just a battery operated tea light in a card stock holder!

Assembling the tea light holder is a little tricky and Jamie Lane no longer has the tutorial on her blog.  When removing the pieces from the cutting mat there will be a long piece perforated on both edges with tabs.  Fold the edges along the perforations and glue the tabbed end to the end with no tab. This should fit around the tea light.  Next glue the large solid circle to the outside (over the tabs) of the piece that wraps around the tea light. This is the base.Now glue the other large circle to the inside bottom.  It should cover the tabs and fit on top of the piece that formed the base of the tea light holder.  Press the top tabs down and glue the large circle with the opening in it to the inside of the top.  Then glue the other large piece over the tabs and on top of the previous circle.  Finally glue the smaller circles with the openings to the top of the tea light.  Insert the battery operated tea light in the holder.  Jamie Lane does have a tutorial on a snowman tea light holder that uses a similar construction process.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Another Halloween Yard Sign

With just about two weeks left until Halloween I have been taking every opportunity to work on projects.  The candy wrappers and tea light holders are finished and will be posted tomorrow (hopefully).  The Boo sign is almost finished and ready to put out and the something wicked sign is in progress.

Boo sign just needs the stake and it's finished!

I thought this little skeleton was so cute and envisioned her as a sign.  All of my svg files are from the Silhouette Design Store but may be available directly from the designers to the owners' of other cutting machines:  Ghoulie Girl (Boo) is a Michele Renee Cloud 9 Design, Spider Web Flourish is a Silhouette Design and the bat came from Happy Halloween by Jennifer Wambach.  All pieces of the this design were cut from Orcal vinyl (available from My Direct Vinyl).

Directions for Boo:

Silhouette SVG cutting files: Happy Halloween by Jennifer Wambach, Ghoulie Girl by Michele Rene and Spider Web Flourish by Silhouette.

Orcal Vinyl for electronic cutting machines- black, orange, dark purple, grey and white.  Available at My Vinyl Direct, limited colors are available at Michaels

Americana Craft paint- Dolphin Grey- available at Michaels

DecoArt DuraCoat Varnish

Small purple button

Small yellow crystals for the bat's eyes

Wood available at Home Depot and cut to 24 inches long by 10 inches wide

Wooden stake available at Home Depot

Small Nails


1.  Cut the wood to 24 x 10 inches and seal with water based craft varnish and let it dry.  Varnish again and let it dry. Paint the sign with the grey paint, let it dry and repeat.  Varnish with the DuraCoat and let it dry.

2.  Size the entire Ghoulie Girl to 9.75 inches on the Silhouette mat on the computer screen. Some pieces of the file won't be on the mat but that's fine.  Ungroup the file.  Move the body, the eyes, nose and hands on Mat 1 and open a new mat.  Group the bones and skull together on Mat 2.  Open Mat 3 and move the bottom of the skull (jaw) to this mat.  Open Mat 4 and place the bow, the center circle for the bow and the smaller BOO on it.  Finally place the BOO outline on Mat 5.

3.  Place the black vinyl on the cutting mat, select vinyl on the machine, adjust the blade and cut the images from Mat 1.  Cut the images on Mat 2 in white vinyl, images from Mat 3 in grey vinyl, images from Mat 4 in orange vinyl and the image from Mat 5 in purple vinyl.

4.  Center the body on the sign, approximately 2 inches from the lower edge of the sign.  Add the Skull, jaw and the bones to the body, center the purple Boo outline on the body and overlay the orange Boo before adding the hands.  Add the eyes, nose and bow.  Smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles with your finger tips.

5.   Open the Spider Web Flourish onto the Silhouette mat on screen and resize to approximately 5.5 inches.  Click Copy and then paste to make three more webs.  Next open the Halloween title and ungroup the title and the bat. Move Halloween from the mat and delete it.  Group the pieces of the bat together and resize to 1.75 inches. Ungroup the bat and move the eyes from the image and delete them.  Click on the bat, copy and paste 7 more bats on the screen (8 total).  Arrange the Spider Web Flourishes on the mat so that on flourish is in each corner.  Place two bats is each of the open areas of the flourish.  Select cut, load the black vinyl on the cutting mat and send to Silhouette.

6.  Carefully weed the pieces of vinyl from around the spider web flourish, remove from the mat and place one flourish in the upper right corner of the sign, smoothing out any air bubbles. Place another flourish in the lower right corner of the sign.  The ends of the upper and lower flourishes will overlap at the middle of the sign.  Repeat this procedure on the left side of the sign.

7.  Arrange the Bats around the open area in the middle of the sign.  I used a grouping of three because odd numbers are more visually pleasing.  Glue the small crystals to the bat's face for eyes.

8.  Center the wooden stake on the sign so that the top of the stake is even with the top of the sign.  Nail the stake to the back of the sign at the top and the bottom of the sign.