Sunday, December 29, 2013

Work In Progress

The new year is quickly approaching and the stores are stocking products to help us get organized. Michaels is having a craft storage and organization sale, with up to 50% off, in January. This is good news for me because I need three more Jet Max storage cubes for my studio. During the Christmas crafting I had several projects going at one time and now my studio is in disarray. As I was cleaning up the aftermath of "hurricane Suzanne" I found a pastel painting that I was working on.

All major artists learned by copying from the masters-Van Gogh copied the great Delacroix. While Van Gogh is by far my favorite artist, it's important to learn from other artists. Picasso is a little too avante garde for me but I do really like some of his paintings. Picasso appeared to be one of the easier artists to copy because of the angular lines in his work. While it appeared at first glance to be easy, it was actually challenging because I am used to drawing with flowing, curved lines not short angular lines. Any way here is the work in progress. The picture is not close to being finished- it still needs more shading and the definition of facial features.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

French Manor Thank You Card

I hope that everyone had a happy holiday and a Merry Christmas. I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year.

Finally, the last of the packages has been shipped off to Brittany. Thank you to both the US Postal Service and UPS for getting all of the packages to Connecticut in time for Christmas. This was truly amazing given volume of packages that they handle and the fact that I was still shipping through both carriers the week before Christmas.

Now that Christmas is over it's time to make Thank You cards for all of the nice gifts that we received. I was inspired by a picture that I had seen recently. The picture featured a stone house with a window that had flowers in a window box. The picture was rustic, charming and definitely French (from Provence). When I saw the window image on the Cricut French Manor cartridge I immediately thought of this picture. This is not the usual Cricut cut and embellish card. This is a very labor intensive card because it employs a lot of different techniques.  The entire card is covered with ivory tulle, the wall behind the window is embossed, distressed and painted, the window is covered with modeling paste then distressed and painted with walnut ink and finally the rose leaves are quilled. This card takes about two hours to make.

French Manor Card

Close-up of window. Vellum backing for window.

Craft Tips: After using all of the foam dots on a sheet, save the left over sheet. The foam around the dots can be cut into squares or small pieces and used like the dots to adhere embellishments.  Ceramic tiles have many uses in a craft room. They are inexpensive and can be purchased in a variety of sizes at Home Depot or Loewes. Look for smooth glazed tiles. The tiles can be used to rest glue guns, or to mix acrylic or water color paints. Nothing sticks to the surface of the tile and they can be cleaned easily with soap and water.

Directions for French Manor Thank You Card:

Recollections Trader Jane Paper Pad- Tan mosaic patterned paper
DCWV Black Currant Stack- Pink and burgundy dotted paper
Goose Bumpz Lattice/Trellis embossing folder
White, ivory, aqua and black card stock
Caramel colored sheer ribbon
Pink dotted ribbon
Ranger Walnut Distress Ink
Distressing Tool
Pearl Modeling Paste
Recollections Small Crystal Heart
Recollections Small Antique Brads- two
Ivory Tulle ribbon-available in the wedding section at Michaels
Prima Small Roses- blue, purple, ivory, orange and pink
Quilling Tool
Dark green, light green and olive green 1/4 inch quilling strips
Foam Dots
Stickles-Platinum Stickles glitter glue
Sizzix or Cuttlebug embossing machine

1.  Using the Cricut French Manor cartridge cut the window out of ivory card stock at 4 1/2 inches. Cut the window wood work out of aqua card stock. Assemble the window. Cut a scrap of vellum to fit behind the window panes.

2.  Apply the pearl modeling paste to the window frame using a palette knife. Try to make the modeling paste look like stucco. Let it dry.

3.  Make four small quilled leaves using the quilling tool and a 6 inch strip of 1/4 wide dark green quilling paper. Remove the roll from the quilling tool and let it relax and unroll slightly, pinch the roll into a marquise shape and put a dot of glue of the loose end of the strip to secure it. Repeat the process making 5 olive leaves and 2 light green leaves.

4.  Once the window is dry to the touch, use a distressing tool with a sanding tip to distress the window frame and the blue wood work. Be careful not to take off too much modeling paste or card stock.

5.  Cut the tan mosaic paper approximately 5 1/8 inches high by 3 1/2 inches wide. Emboss the mosaic paper using the trellis embossing folder. Lightly distress the paper.

6.  Cut the pink dotted paper approximately 6 inches high by 4 inches wide. Glue the tan paper on top of the pink paper leaving about 1/4 inch borders. Cut the black card stock 1/4 inch larger on all sides than the pink paper. Apply foam dots to the back of the pink paper and attach to the black card stock.

7.  Spray a small amount of walnut distress ink onto a ceramic tile. Use a small flat paint brush to paint the distress ink over the embossed mosaic paper. Lightly apply the ink, you can always add more. Next, apply the distress ink to the window frame and the wood work. You want to have a weathered look. Add a small antiqued brad to the sides of the window frame. Apply foam dots to the back of the window (do not apply dots to the vellum or it will show through). Center the window on the mosaic paper and press in place.

8.  Glue the quilled leaves around the left edge and bottom of the window. Glue the roses over the leaves.

9.  Fold an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of white card stock in half to make a half-fold card. Cut a piece of ivory tulle ribbon 1/2 inch longer than the card. Cover the front of the card with the tulle and tuck the ends under the front edges of the card and glue in place. Cut the caramel colored ribbon 1/2 inch longer than the card, center the ribbon on the card lengthwise and glue in place. Tie a small bow and glue over the ribbon. Cut the pink dotted ribbon 1/2 inch longer than the length of the card and glue along the right edge of the card, tucking under the ends of the ribbon.

10.  Attach a small pink crystal heart to the window transom and apply Stickles around the edges of the transom window.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Father Christmas Card

Snow, snow and more snow on the way! I took advantage of the snowy weather and worked on my Christmas projects.While it's too labor intensive to make all of my Christmas cards, I do make a few cards to send to our friends. I really like the images on A Quilted Christmas, especially the Santa's. Cricut recommends cutting the Santa at 5 inches because of the intricate cuts on his robe. Since the image is so large and took up most of the front of the card I decided that it should be the focus of the card with a simple background.

Father Christmas Card

While I was waiting for the accents on the card to dry, I packaged my cookies to send to Brittany and her friends in Connecticut.  The honey roasted cashews that I sent earlier this week were at hit and they are eagerly awaiting the shortbread cookies and the chocolate covered Oreo cookies made to look like frogs.

Decorated Cookie Box
I put a lot of effort into my cookies and want the packaging for them to be decorative. I chose a snowman theme just to be different. The labels are Avery glossy round labels and printed with a design from The snowflakes are punched blue card stock using a Martha Stewart snowflake paper punch.

Directions for Father Christmas Card:

Cricut A Quilted Christmas Cartridge
Dark red, medium red, black, tan and white card stock
Red ribbon
Viva Modellier Creme modeling paste-Mother of Pearl
Palette knife
Martha Stewart black flocking powder
Black glitter glue
Red and green beaded trim
DCWV Holiday Stack-music background card stock
Zots 3D dots
Foam dots

1.  Using the Cricut cartridge cut Santa 1 at 5 inches out of tan card stock. Press Santa 1 and shift to cut the robe out of dark red card stock. Next press Santa q and Layer 1 to cut the robe out of medium red card stock. Press Santa 1, Layer 1 and shift to cut the beard, cuffs and robe trim out of white card stock. Press Santa 1 and Layer 2 to cut the eyes and mittens out of black card stock. Then press Santa 1, Layer 2 and shift to cut Santa's sack out of black card stock. Assemble Santa.

2.  Apply the modeling paste to Santa's cuffs, hat and robe front. Dab the modeling paste on the white card stock to resemble fur. Set aside to dry. When the modeling paste is completely dry, apply clear craft glue to Santa's sack and cover with black flocking powder. Set aside to dry. Then apply a thin layer of black glitter glue over the flocking and set aside to dry.

3.  Highlight Santa's face and beard with colored pencils. I used grey to highlight his beard and rose to highlight his cheeks.

4.  Cut a piece of music background card stock 6 inches high by 4 1/2 inches wide. Apply foam dots to the back of the Santa image and center Santa on the card stock.

5.  Fold a piece of white card stock to make a vertical fold card. Cut a piece of red ribbon 1/2 inch longer than the card. Center the ribbon on the card and fold 1/4 inch under the card on each end and glue in place. Tie a small bow and glue over the ribbon.

6.  Center the card stock with the Santa image on the card, apply 3D Zots to the back of the image and press in place.

7.  Cut a piece of red and green beaded trim the length of the card and glue to the right edge of the card.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Craft Tote Bag

I am always looking for unique Christmas gifts. Brittany loves to knit and she could use a small tote bag to carry her work in progress with her when she travels. This project is a gift in a gift. After the tote is appliqued, I plan to fill it with yarn, a small zip pouch filled with knitting markers, needles, etc.and a sock knitting book.

I had purchased the Dog pattern by WhistlePig Creek Productions some time ago. Brittany loves dogs so this design is the perfect choice for a tote bag. The pattern is still available from WhistlePig Creek Productions (#1125 Pound Hounds).  The hardest part of this project is deciding a color scheme for the dogs.

I used a felted wool tote bag (purchased at Hobby Lobby) but you can use any tote bag. Just make sure the design can be fused to the bag and that the dogs can be appliqued to the bag with a zig zag stitch. Also make sure that you use a fusible web that is recommended for sewing.

Design in progress. Dogs fused to tote bag.

Zig zag stitching around the design.

Finished Dogs.

Back of Tote-appliqued paw prints.

Directions for Craft Tote Bag:

1/4 yd. of 100% cotton fabric in 6 coordinating prints. I used Bali Batik fabrics-aqua dot, green, blue, purple dot, orange dot and yellow dot.

Coordinating thread for topstitching and natural quilting thread for the bobbin.

Heat 'N Bond or Wonder Under fusible fabric web

Whistlepig Creek Productions Pound Hound Pattern- available at

 Felted wool tote bag-available at Hobby Lobby

Tracing paper

Black e beads for dog's eyes

Black thread for stitching dog's faces

1.  Trace the dog's onto tracing paper. Don't cut out pattern pieces. It's easier to trace the dogs if the pieces are not cut out.

2.  Draw the dogs onto the paper side of the Heat 'N Bond. Cut out the Heat 'N Bond images.

3.  Heat an iron according to Heat 'N Bond package directions. Iron the cotton fabric to remove any creases. Let the fabric cool. Place the rough side (web side) of the Heat 'N Bond on the wrong side of the fabric and fuse according to package directions. Cut out the fused images and peel off the paper backing.

4.  Arrange the dogs on the tote bag according to pattern directions. Once you are happy with the placement of the design, fuse the dogs in place.

5.  Set the sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch and sew around the edges of the dogs using a coordinating thread (load a natural quilting thread in the bobbin). Sew around the dog's muzzles with black thread. With a No.2 pencil lightly draw the dog's mouth on and stitch with black thread using a satin stitch.

6.  Sew the eyes on with e-beads using the pattern as a guide.

7.  Trace the paw prints onto tracing paper and then on to the Heat 'N Bond. Fuse the paw prints to the wrong side of the fabric. Fuse the paw prints randomly around the back of the tote bag. Sew around the paw prints with a zig-zag stitch to secure.

8.  After the tote is finished lightly iron it to smooth out any wrinkles that might have occurred during the sewing process.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rock Princess Apron

Brittany loves to cook. She also likes hard rock and metal music. She mentioned that she would like to get an apron to wear when she cooks so I purchased a plain black apron at Walmart and added the Skull design from Cricut's rock Princess cartridge. The best part about this project is that it used fabric pieces left over from the Cat Quilt that I made a couple of years ago.

Apron in progress. Picture was lightened to show detail.

After I fuse the design to the garment I like to let it sit for a couple of hours to allow the Heat n Bond time to cool and adhere to the fabric before sewing around the edges of the design. Here is the project so far. I plan to add a few more elements to the design before it's finished.

Finished Apron

Directions for Rock Princess Apron:

White cotton fabric-approximately an 8 inch square
Black cotton fabric-approximately an 8 inch square
Scrap of dark pink and light pink fabric squares-approximately 6 inch square
Heat n Bond fusible fabric web
Contrasting thread for stitching around the design

1.  Iron all of the fabrics to remove wrinkles and set aside to cool. Cut Heat n Bond slightly smaller than the fabric square and fuse to the wrong side of the fabric, following the directions on the Heat n Bond package.

2.  Place the black fabric on the Cricut mat fabric side down. Roll a brayer over the fabric to make sure that it sticks to the mat. Adhere the edges of the fabric to the mat with a strip of painter's tape. Load the Rock Princess cartridge and mat into the Cricut machine. Press the skull key and cut the skull at 5 inches. Repeat with the white fabric. Press Layer 1 and the Skull keys to cut the top layer of the skull. Place the dark pink and the light pink fabrics on the mat to cut the bow. Press Layer 1, Shift and the Skull keys to cut the bow base out of dark pink. Press Layer 2 and the Skull keys to cut the bottom part of the bow out of light pink fabric.

3.  Position the skull base on the apron and fuse with a hot iron. Next place the white skull layer over the skull base and fuse. Finally fuse the dark pink bow and the lighter pink part of the bow in place.

4.  Applique around the skull design with zig-zag stitch.

5.  Cut a strip of dark pink fabric 2 times the length of the top of the apron and 3 inches wide.  Fold the fabric in half (wrong sides together) and iron. Gather the fabric using a long or gathering stitch on the sewing machine, stitch approximately 1/2 inch from the bottom edge of the strip (the folded edge is the top of the ruffle). Stitch approximately 1/4 inch from the first row of stitching. Pull the threads to gather the strip into a ruffle. Adjust the ruffle and pin in place along the top edge of the apron so that about 1/2 inch of the ruffle is below the top edge of the apron. Stitch 1/4 inch below the top edge edge of the apron, using black thread. After the ruffle has been stitched to the apron, remove the basting stitches. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookies

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.

This year Michelle and I broke with tradition and didn't attend the Black Friday sales. I slept in and ventured out around noon on Black Friday. While I missed the extra 25% off at the registers, I also missed the crowds and the long lines.

The last two weeks I have been busy knitting socks for Christmas gifts. Both Brittany and Diana have strongly hinted that they would like a pair of hand knit Merino wool socks. The first pair is finished and the second and third pairs have one sock left to knit. I used Dream in Color Smooshy (Fierce Scarlet) for the first pair and Valley Yarns Huntington for the other two pairs. Smooshy is easy to work with and produces uniform, well defined stitches. Huntington is a soft, reasonably priced ($4.79/ 218 yd. skein) Merino wool/ Nylon blend. Unlike Smooshy, the Huntington tends to slip off the needles and the yarn has a tendency to split making it hard to pick up dropped stitches. The two socks that were knit in Huntington are so soft. Overall Huntington is a good value and I would consider knitting with it again.

Top to bottom: Dream In Color Smooshy, Huntington Brown and Huntington Scarlet

Last week I was browsing through stores looking for items to add to gift baskets. A small box of chocolate truffles (6 per box) was $12.99. That was only the beginning. I could easily spend over $100.00 to fill a small gift basket. Then the inspiration hit me, why not make my own packaged cookies and treats? After several stops I had enough supplies to make my own creations. Michaels sells Wilton decorating supplies (chocolate, flavorings, decorating sugars, gift boxes and bags), Staples sells Avery Labels for the bags and boxes, and BJ's Wholesale Club was the source for the giant industrial sized package of Oreo cookies.

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies
The chocolate appears shiny until it hardens.

Packaged Cookies

Cookies in Gift Box. was the source for the Santa graphic and font for the label.

For this project you will need a silicone baking mat and  a cookie sheet and some way to melt the chocolate coating for the cookies. Last year I invested in a Wilton Chocolate Pro melting pot. It melts the chocolate evenly and keeps it at a consistent temperature. The Chocolate Pro sells for about $30 but Michaels will let you use the 50% coupons on this item. 

Directions for Choclate Mint Oreo Cookies:

This is a quick and easy project- it only takes about an hour start to finish. Beware of predators that may lurk around your kitchen ready to pounce on "samples". You may want to make extra cookies so that you will have enough to wrap for gifts.

Wilton Chocolate Pro Melting Pot- you can use a double boiler or microwave to melt chocolate if you prefer.
Wilton Christmas Sprinkles (red, white and green combination)
Wilton Melting Chocolate-milk chocolate wafers (this is about $15/bag but it's real chocolate and not chocolate flavored coating). There is a definite difference in the taste.
Wilton Candy Flavoring Oils-don't use liquid extracts that are used to flavor cakes and cookies. The liquid will cause the chocolate to seize and become grainy and unusable.
Oreo Cookies- 10 sleeve box  This project uses half a box of cookies (5 sleeves).
Silicone baking mat- You can line the baking with parchment paper instead of the silicone mat but the silicone mat gives the underside of the cookie a smooth surface. Any chocolate that seeps from the edges of the cookies as they harden can be scraped from the mat and re-melted.
Wilton small metal spatula
Baking sheet or pan
Wilton Chocolate dipping tools-slotted spatula  You can also use a fork. Be careful not to let the fork scratch your melting pot's non stick interior.
Avery 22804 Glossy White Oval Labels
Wilton Treat Boxes 3 inch x 4.5 inches
Decorative cupcake liners from Walmart
Red Ribbon- 3/8 inch wide

1.  Add a small amount of chocolate to the melting pot. No more than 1/3 to 1/2 full. Stir with a heat resistant silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted.

2.  Add 2 drops of Wilton Creme de menthe candy flavoring to the chocolate and stir.

3.  Dip one Oreo at a time in the chocolate. Make sure the cookie is evenly coated. Lift the cookie out of the chocolate using the slotted spatula. Shake off the excess chocolate and transfer to the baking mat. Decorate the cookies with the sprinkles before the chocolate hardens.

4.  After the chocolate has hardened, carefully lift the cookie from the baking mat with the small metal spatula and transfer to another baking sheet until all the cookies have hardened and ready to wrap.

5.  Load the Avery Oval 1 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch white labels in the printer (I used a laser printer). Use your own design or a design from for your label. Preview the label before you print it. If using a laser printer change the paper option from plain to label. The label option will print slower than the plain paper option, allowing the design more time to adhere to the label. This will help to eliminate streaks in the printed design.

6.  Add a label to the top of the treat box. Place the cookies in a cupcake liner and place in the bottom of the box. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly in the treat box. Place the parchment paper over the layer of cookies and place cookies in cupcake liners on top of the parchment paper for a second layer.

7.  Attach a label to the upper left side of the treat box window. Cut a piece of red ribbon long enough to tie around the box and make a bow.