Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Post Holiday Projects

After the hectic holiday season, it was nice to grab my copy of Ever Yours: the Essential Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (a Christmas present) and sip my coffee while I read. Not only was Van Gogh a talented and prolific artist but he was also an eloquent writer. I first became acquainted with his writing two years ago when I received a copy of Dear Theo for Christmas. I couldn't put the book down and was sorry to finish it, so when I saw that Ever Yours was going to be published before Christmas, it went on the top of my list. The letters are in chronological order and include the sketches that he often sent in his letters. For anyone interested in learning more about Vincent Van Gogh I highly recommend reading his letters and Dear Theo is a good place to begin.

In addition to some cards and other studio projects that will be posted at a later date, I'm working on some knits. I love Susanna IC's shawls. They are so beautiful and her patterns are well written and easy to follow. Her latest pattern- the beautiful Shawl for Emma was recently published in the fall issue of Jane Austin Knits. I love Jane Austin's novels and this shawl is stunning so it was a must knit. I ordered the yarn that Susanna used to knit her shawl, Juniper Moon's Findley in Dove, since I wanted my shawl to look exactly like the model. Interweave Knits must have really lightened the photographs because rather than the off-white pictured, the Webs site showed the color as a light pearl grey which I ordered any way.

Shawl for Emma in Dove.

It's not the off-white pictured but the color is very pretty. This pattern starts off by increasing the first row with left and right lifted increases every few stitches. This is not something that you want to do if you are tired. I found myself getting to the end of the row and having too many stitches left and having to pull the entire row out. I had ripped the shawl out so many times that my husband said that he thought I should choose a less demanding hobby because knitting and then ripping out what I had just knit can't be enjoyable. The problem with lace is that once you start ripping out stitches, other stitches slip off the needles and then it's difficult to tell what row you're on even if you are keeping track with a row counter.  After restarting my shawl from cast on for the 7th time I decided to add a life line. My Addi lace needles had the cords that allow life line attachments maybe now is the time to use them.  Once I started the yarn overs, I started using the life line every two rows until I reached the end of the first chart. A couple of times a few stitches slipped off the needles but the life line kept everything in tact while I replaced the slipped stitches. Now I am finally at the short row shaping and 1/3 of the shawl has been knit.

The same day that I had ripped the Emma Shawl out for the 7th time I decided to knit a quick project to build my knitting confidence back up.  Malabrigo has just published Book 7 Rasta in Brooklyn. The book is filled with brightly colored cowls, hats and sweaters all knit in the super chunky Rasta yarn. Normally I am not a fan of knitting with chunky yarns on large needles but I love Malabrigo yarns and after knitting with lace yarn on size 4 needles this might be a nice change of pace. I chose the Dumbo brick stitch cowl. The pattern called for size 17 needles but thankfully I was able to get the exact gauge using the slightly smaller size 15 needles. I was able to knit the cowl in two nights with no dropped stitches or ripping out rows. I really liked the colors used for the model but was a little disappointed when the yarn actually arrived. The actual yarn was not as bright as the model in the photograph. While I really like the colors of my cowl I do wish that those printing the pattern books would not enhance the photographs. If the yarn used in the knitted model appears muted print it that way, so those of us who want to knit that design can see the actual color. Kudos to Webs who both times showed the yarns as they actually appear. Both times I knew that knitting in the exact yarn as the model would not yield exactly the same color garment as it appeared in the pattern book but I decided to order it any way.

Mozart is modeling the Dumbo cowl from Book 7.

This yarn did not photograph as it actual appears.
I am disappointed that the archangel color photographed mostly red instead of showing the actual colors. I wish that the colors of the yarn were actually that bright. The Azules (blue) is a soft shades of muted blue and the Archangel is not mostly red but has muted earth tone fall colors, much like the color of leaves.

Album Cover in Cross Stitch

The day Michelle used an orange crayon to paint our white door I started to channel my children's creativity. After spending hours scrubbing the so-called washable crayon off the door, I decided it was time to purchase some art supplies. We had art time each day in which the kids were encouraged to use watercolors, finger paints, play-doh and markers. The only rule was that everything had to be created in the designated art area on the Little Tikes table. Now that they are much older they are still involved in art, Michelle leans more toward decoupage and crafts and Brittany toward cross stitch and the needle arts.

Dismayed by the lack of commercial cross stitch patterns in our area, Brittany decided to design her own. She really likes the band Slip Knot and made a pattern using one of their album covers. She faithfully stitched the design for the past six years and has finally finished it. I promised her that I would post the finished picture after it was professionally framed.  So here it is.

The finished picture was framed by Michaels.

Several individuals have approached her about selling the finished picture but she can't bear to part with six years of hard work. One person actually offered her $50. While $50 may have sounded like a fair price to the buyer, it does not begin to cover the cost of creating this piece.  The materials and framing alone were almost $400 and that doesn't include the hours and hours of stitching time. More information about this design can be found on Kveldulv Designs.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel and Happy Holidays. I hope that everyone has a happy and safe holiday season.

Whenever I look at Santa holding his sack, I am reminded of the line from one of  William Butler Yeats poems-"Take if you must this little bag of dreams, loose the cord and let them wrap you round."

                                                         Joyeux Noel,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nutcracker Gift Bag

Every year we leave a gift bag filled with cookies in the mailbox for our letter carrier, Bryan. Bryan provides great service, he delivers our mail in winter weather even when UPS and Fed Ex won't attempt to make deliveries. In addition to the cookies, I like to make a card and a gift bag to show Bryan how much we appreciate having him as our letter carrier.

Cricut recently released the Holly and Ivy cartridge. One of the images on the cartridge was the Nutcracker, and of course I just had to have it.  The cartridge contains a lot of other nice images, bells, wreaths, Santa, etc. but the Nutcracker was definitely the selling point for me. The order containing my cartridge spent the last 4 days sitting in someplace in Maryland that I had never heard of and I was holding my breath that it would arrive before December 24, otherwise I couldn't use the Nutcracker for my gift bags.

Finally the cartridge arrived yesterday and I immediately started cutting the images for my gift bags. The Nutcracker is fairly detailed but there are none of the clothing or hair cut outs that I am used to with Cricut cartridges. While I really liked the image cut out of black card stock, it just looked blah on a gift bag and not very festive. I wanted to add color to the Nutcracker but wasn't sure how I was going to do that. I cut the image again in the solid option on white card stock and glued the black outlined image over it. I grabbed my Prisma Color pencils and my Copic markers and started coloring in the Nutcracker. I added a few embellishments and the result was dramatically different from the original.

Original Nutcracker from Holly and Ivy cartridge.
Embellished Nutcracker
Finished Gift Bag.
Cookies wrapped for giving.

Directions for Nutcracker Gift Bag:

Medium size gift bags- available at Michaels, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby or Walmart
White and black card stock
Cricut Holly and Ivy cartridge-this cartridge does not come with a key board overlay and uses the universal overlay available at Michaels. I didn't know this until the cartridge arrived. I was able to use the cartridge by substituting an overlay from another cartridge. The Holly and Ivy booklet shows the position of the keys for the image in a key board diagram for each image. I then pressed the corresponding keys on my the substitute overlay.
Colored pencils, markers or watercolors for coloring the image
Red ribbon
Recollections self adhesive gold beads and small blue crystals
Red plaid tissue paper
Blue brads-4
Cuttlebug Snowflake embossing folder
Embossing machine
Ranger Tim Holtz Tea Dye distress ink and foam applicator
Platinum Stickles glitter glue

1.  Using the Cricut Holly and Ivy cartridge cut the Nutcracker out of black card stock (at 5 1/2 inches). Cut the solid Nutcracker out of white card stock. Glue the black image over the white solid image.

2.  Color the Nutcracker's face and hands with peach color, colored pencils and accent his cheeks with light pink. Burnish over the face and hands with the white colored pencil until the face has a slight sheen.  Color the jacket and the crown with a red marker and color the pants with a dark yellow marker.  Add the gold beads to embellish to the jacket and the crown.  Add the small blue crystals to the eyes. Accent the shoulders, top of the boots and the sleeves with the platinum Stickles and set aside to dry.

3.  Cut a piece of white card stock large enough to fit the Snowflake embossing folder and emboss the image. Lightly apply the tea dye distress ink over the snowflakes to highlight them.

4.  Attach a blue brad in each corner of the embossed card stock. Glue the embossed card stock to the front of the gift bag.

5.  Glue the Nutcracker to the embossed card stock.

6.  Tie the red ribbon around on of the gift bag handles and make a bow.   Fold the plaid tissue paper to make a triangle and place in the gift bag, add the gift and add another piece of folded tissue paper.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Inspirational Book

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. I have spent the last few days hibernating in my studio, working on gifts. One of those gifts is an inspirational book, The Cat and the Moon. This book is truly a labor of love and I vastly underestimated the amount of time that it would take.

Last year my husband gave me a Cinch binding tool as an anniversary present. I love making books and the Cinch makes it a lot easier. My first project was an inspirational book for Brittany. The book contained inspirational quotes, poems and pictures. She loved the book and keeps it on her nightstand. The book was such a hit that I decided to make one for Michelle as a Christmas gift.

Michelle's book contains inspirational quotes, poems and pictures of her cats. I can not thank Brandon enough for supplying pictures of their cats. Without his help there would have been no book. Getting the pictures was the easy part. I spent hours cropping and printing the pictures and then matching them to the quotes.  There were so many design decisions, book size, paper for the book pages, decorative accents, etc.  Each page had to be hand made but the end result was worth it. Once the book pages were finished, I turned my attention to the book cover. I used chipboard for the cover and covered it with card stock. I found a picture on Pintrest and printed and matted it for the cover. I then hand lettered the title (from the Yeats poem by the same name that I used in the book) with black Sharpie. Once the cover was in place, I covered it with two coats of  Mod Podge. I wasn't sure how this was going to work but it ended up giving the book cover the look and feel of a commercial book.

This was a fun but time consuming project.

Book Cover- The title is from the Yeats poem, picture from Pintrest.

I used the Art Impressions stamp for this page.

One of the decorated pages.

Page embellished with paper punched butterflies.

Directions for Inspirational Book:

Chip board- I used two 12x12 pieces
Light grey card stock- 8 1/2 inch x 11 inch from Staples
Cinch 1 inch Antique Brass Binding Wire
Wire Cutters- I used the Cinch Wire Cutters, but any wire cutters will work
Cinch Binding Machine- the Zutter Bind It All will also work
Martha Stewart Butterfly Paper Punch
Assorted card stock and black card stock for matting photos
Assorted ribbons, trims and stickers to embellish the pages and the book cover
Mod Podge
Foam craft brush
Hot glue gun
ATG tape runner or similar tape gun
Scotch Scrapbooker's glue
Photos printed with a laser printer
Quotes and poems printed with a laser printer

Notes:  Personalize the book as much as possible. Use what you have on hand to create the book. Embossing folders, distress inks, stamps, sticker, scraps of paper. Except for the Crazy Cat Lady stamp, which I purchased specifically for this project, everything else came from supplies I had lying around my studio. The butterflies were punched from a left over scrap of card stock that was used on one pages. Do not use dimensional embellishments such as buttons or flowers because they will keep the book from closing properly and give it a lopsided appearance.

1.  Cut two pieces of chip board to 7 inches wide by 10 inches high and set aside.

2.  Cut 15 pieces of grey card stock 6 1/2 inches wide by 9 1/2 inches.  These are the book pages. With a pencil lightly mark about a 1/2 inch border along the edge of the page. The border will be on the right edge of the left book page and the left edge of the right book page.

3.  Cut a piece of patterned paper of card stock, leaving at least 1/4 inch top, bottom and page edge margin. Print photos on multipurpose paper using a laser printer. For this size book I printed the vertical photos using the 4x6 inch option and the horizontal photos using the 3x5 inch option. Trim the excess white paper away from the photos. The decision to mat some of the photos was based on the background paper used. Some photos looked better when matted, while others didn't. Print the picture for the book cover using the 4x6 inch option.

4.  Type the quotes and poems for the book in Microsoft Word.  Use varying font styles and sizes.  Print the quotes and poems using a laser printer. Cut out each quote and mat it with card stock.

5.  Use the ATG tape gun to adhere the photos and quotes to the decorative card stock and to adhere the decorative card stock to the grey card stock book pages.

6.  Use the Scrapbooker's glue to adhere the embellishments to the book pages.

7.  For the book cover, use two pieces of identical card stock. I used medium slate blue textured 12x12 inch card stock. Lay the textured side of the card stock face down on the work surface.  Apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the chip board with a foam craft brush. Center the chip board, Mod Podge side down, on top of the card stock. Press down, brayer the chip board in place, then turn the card stock over and brayer the textured side. Trim the excess card stock from the edges, leaving about 1/2 inch of card stock around all of the edges of the chip board.  Fold the bottom edge of the card stock over the end of the chip board and crease with a bone folder. Open the folded edge and fold the corner of the card stock over the chip board corner. Fold the bottom edge of the card stock back over the bottom of the book cover and glue in place, using the Mod Podge.. Repeat this along the top edge of the book and then the sides.  Book Play by Margaret Couch Cogswell has detailed instructions on making book covers (and hand made books).

8.  Center the picture on the book cover. Keep in mind that the wire spine will take up approximately 1/2 inch of the left edge of the book cover.  Hand letter the title on the cover, using a black Sharpie. Go over the lettering , with the Sharpie, two or three times.  After the Sharpie has dried apply Mod Podge to the book cover to seal it. Let it dry and apply two more coats. After the Mod Podge has dried, attach decorative trim around the picture using a hot glue gun.

9.  Put the book together in the order that you want to present it.  Punch the pages with the Cinch binding machine. Punch the front and back covers separately. Cut a piece of binding wire to fit the length of the book and place on the side of the Cinch machine. Remove the front and back covers and set aside. Starting with the last page, place the pages on the wire. The first page of the book should be on top. Now place the front cover on top of the stack of pages and then place the back cover so that the inside of the back cover is facing up.  Use the binding bar on the back of the Cinch to crimp the wire. Press the handle down slowly and crimp the wire just until the front and back coils meet. Remove from the machine and adjust the covers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Chocolate Butter Cookies

Every year around this time the stores stock tins of Danish Butter Cookies. I came across tins of these cookies in every store and decided to buy a large tin.  Originally, these cookies were going to be placed in small decorated plastic bags and placed in gift baskets. Instead of plain butter cookies, why not dip them in chocolate and make them a little more special?  I melted the chocolate in my Wilton Chocolate Pro and dipped one end of the cookie in chocolate and set it aside on a silicon baking mat to harden. I used about a cup of chocolate melting wafers for a 2 pound tin of cookies. Once the chocolate has hardened the cookies will be placed back in the original tin until time to package them for gift giving.

Chocolate dipped Danish Butter Cookies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Decorated Journal

The Christmas crafting continues. Finally I am almost finished knitting my last pair of socks. Now it's time to turn my attention to other projects. One of those projects is a decorated journal for Brandon. Brandon is a free lance writer so he would probably welcome a journal to jot down his ideas. I searched every outlet that I could find for a unique journal and was about to scrap the idea when I was visited by the Muse. I found a plain cover journal for about $3 on a Black Friday sale. Brandon loves sports especially football and he is a Terps fan. He had the opportunity to cover the Gator Bowl as a reporter and has mentioned the game several times. I decided to make a journal cover centering around this theme.

Here's the finished journal. The turtle and the Terps logos were taken from a book that we had around the house. The Gator Bowl ticket was from a Maryland memorabilia book (last year's present).

Decorated Journal Directions:

5x7 inch black journal
Mod Podge and Mod Podge Sealant
Foam brush
Assorted Maryland memorabilia copied on to white computer paper
Tim Holtz Distress Ink- Rusty hinge, tea dye and vintage photo
Foam blending pads and blending tool
Tim Holtz Distress Tool
Red acrylic paint
Golden Molding Paste
Small paint brush

1.  Print the Gator Bowl ticket at 3x5 inches using a laser printer. Trim the excess paper from the edges of the ticket.

2.  Apply the distress inks with the foam blending tool to give the ticket a slightly aged look.  Use the distress tool to distress the edges of the ticket. The edges should be uneven and the ticket should look worn.  Lightly crumple the ticket into a ball and carefully unroll it. Smooth out most of the wrinkles with your hands.

3.  Brush the back of the ticket with Mod Podge and center the ticket on the journal cover.

4.  Type University of over Maryland in Microsoft Word, using a smaller font than used for Maryland. Highlight Maryland and apply Word Art, using a curved word option. Change the color to red. Print the banner with a laser printer and trim closely around the banner. Apply Mod Podge to the back of the banner and center it above the ticket.,on the journal cover.

5.  Print the turtle and the Terps logos with a laser printer, cut them out and apply Mod Podge and position on the bottom of the journal cover. Cut out a small Maryland state flag and cut the flag in half diagonally. Attach to the corner of the journal with Mod Podge.

6.  Mix red acrylic paint with molding paste and carefully apply the mixture to the Terp logo and to the M on the turtle's chest, using a small paint brush. Set aside to dry.

7.  After the molding paste has dried, apply a coat of Mod Podge. Let it dry and apply 3 more coats, letting it dry between each coat. Once the journal cover has dried apply a coat of Mod Podge sealant and let it dry.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Meet and Greet Gift

I hope that everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. It's always so nice to get together with family around the holidays.

We were invited to a "Meet and Greet" over the Thanksgiving holiday. This was a chance for the Maryland relatives to meet our newest family member from Chicago. With all of the holiday preparations, I had forgotten to buy a gift for the new baby. No problem, I will just pick it up while I'm out shopping. I went to the store and was told that the item is only available on line. Panic quickly set in. It's 2 p.m. on Friday; there's no way that I can place an order an receive the gift by Sunday. I need a gift idea quickly. I had been up most of the night shopping, I was tired, the stores were crowded, so the last thing that I wanted to do was shop for a last minute gift. I walked around the mall hoping that the muse would hit me over the head with an idea. I had given up and decided to give a monetary gift. I headed into American Greetings to buy a money holder card and discovered some stuffed animals for $1.99 on a Black Friday sale. Then the muse hit me over the head. I could make a card and decorative envelope and use the stuffed animal as part of the presentation. I was so proud of myself. I not only have a last minute gift that doesn't look last minute, but now I can finally go home.

Decorated envelope.

Card attached to leopard.
Side view of leopard holding card.

Directions for Meet and Greet Gift:

Stuffed animal large enough to hold an invitation sized envelope
Dark aqua satin ribbon- 1/2 inch wide
Aqua print ribbon- enough to tie a small bow
Martha Stewart Bangle Chain craft punch
Light blue, medium blue, white, green,light brown, brown and tan card stock
Yellow dotted card stock
Cuttlebug Swiss Dot embossing folder and embossing machine
P-touch label machine and white label tape
Piece of light brown hemp
Colored pencils and Copic markers- tan, light pink, brown, white
Stickers-photo corners
Small wiggly eyes
Cricut Baby Steps cartridge
Mineral Spirits and tortillion
Foam dots

1.  Use the Cricut Baby Steps cartridge to cut Toddler 1 at 3 inches. Cut the base out of brown, the top layer out of light tan, the outfit out of light blue and the bib out of white and medium blue. Cut the nose, cheeks and hair out of light brown.

2.  Draw a small circle on light blue card stock and cut it out. This will be the balloon.  Place the light blue outfit and the balloon in the Swiss Dots embossing folder and run the folder through the embossing machine.

3.  Assemble the toddler, do not glue the cheeks to the toddler's face. Color the cheeks with a light pink colored pencil. Color the face and hands with flesh colored markers and colored pencils. Burnish the entire face with the white colored pencil until the face has a slightly glossy look. Color the hair with brown markers and pencils. Dip the end of a paper tortillion in the mineral spirits and go over the face to blend the markers and the colored pencils. Work in a well ventilated room.

4.  Glue the wiggly eyes over the eye cut outs on the face.

5.  Cut a piece of yellow dotted card stock 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the front of the envelope. Glue to the envelope leaving a 1/4 border, on all sides.

6.  Use the bangle chain craft punch and the light blue card stock to make a border long enough to fit along the edge of the envelope. Glue the border to the left edge of the envelope.

7.  Tie a small bow out of the aqua dotted ribbon and glue to the center of the bangle chain border.

8.  Attach foam dots to the back of the toddler and center the toddler on the envelope and press in place.

9.  Cut a piece of hemp long enough to make a string for the balloon. Glue on end under the edge of the balloon and the other end to toddler's hand.

10.  Apply decorative photo corner to the right edges of the envelope. You can also cut small corners from decorative card stock.

11.  Use the P-touch label maker to make a name label for the balloon. Microsoft Word can also be used to generate a name tag for the balloon. Cut the label close to the name and attach to the balloon.

12.  Tie a piece of aqua satin ribbon long enough to fit around the leopard's neck and tie in a bow.

13.  Make two small holes at the top of the envelope and thread the hemp through the holes. Thread the hemp so that the end is on the underside of the envelope and make a knot. Bring the hemp around the back of the leopard's neck and thread the other end through the envelope and knot it so that the knot is on the underside of the envelope.