December 30, 2013

Christmas on Gingerbread Lane

I've been working on a lot of projects recently, but they all take a lot of time! I post a lot of progress picture on Instagram, but it feels a little silly to devote a blog post to a small amount of progress on a large project. I finally have a new finished project to share with you (and some time to write about it)!

I still need to iron it and frame it, but my most recent project finish is this beauty:


This cute pattern is Christmas on Gingerbread Lane from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I usually use embroidery hoops to finish my projects (which are a lot smaller), so I have never mounted and framed my stitching. I'm excited (and a little nervous) to do it with this project. I bought a red metal frame from Jo-Ann's when I got to use a coupon on top of the crazy frame sale, but I'm not sure if I want to use it. Since Christmas has already come and gone, I have time to get this project framed before I pull all my Christmas decorations out for next year, so I guess I have time to find the "right" frame for it. I also need to order some mounting boards for this project and a few others. I think it'll be fun to do something new!

If you recall, I have also been stitching up the FPS's 2013 Woodland Sampler. I am so close to finishing it! I just have the December frame and the bonus frame left to stitch up. I was really hoping to have it all done by the end of the year, but since that is tomorrow, I don't think it's going to happen. Either way, I can't wait to share that finish with you!

I love making my own patterns, but it has been a lot of fun stitching up FPS designs and sharing them with others I've connected with from all over the world online. So, I already have everything ready to stitch up their 2014 Once Upon a Time Sampler (starts on January 10th)! Do you want to join me?

December 22, 2013

2014 NewFO Challenge with Cat Patches

For the second half of 2013, I found myself crafting more than I had in multiple previous years combined, and it felt good! I started cross stitching again regularly at the end of 2010, but that was about all I was doing until now. In addition to some lower-key crafting for myself and my son, I signed up for some embroidery clubs, joined in on some cross stitch sampler craft-alongs, and made my first machine-quilted project (which was also a quilt-along, but I joined in at the very last minute).

Now that I am in a full-on crafting kick and I have the bug to get behind my sewing machine more and more, I've been dreaming up all the wonderful things I'd like to make. I'm still thinking semi-small scale on my quilted projects because larger ones are a bit scary. I know I will never get better at quilting unless I make stuff! I also know that getting started can be the hardest part of creating. So, to push myself to create more, I'm joining in the 2014 NewFO Challenge with Cat Patches!

The idea behind a "NewFO Challenge" is to start a new quilting project each month. Most linky parties focus on only sharing finished projects or focus on finishing unfinished objects (UFOs). This one just focuses on the starting part. Easy, right? There will be monthly linky parties and prizes too. Want to join in?

http://catpatches.blogspot.com/2013/12/kicking-off-2014-newfo-challenge-linky.html 

I'm also planning to join in on the Craftster "14 Quilt Projects in 2014" that will inevitably start at the beginning of the year, so I'm kind of getting a two-for out of my project plans. I haven't figured out everything I'd like to make, and I might change my mind along the way, but here are my plans so far (in no particular order):

  1. Hand-Embroidered ABC Quilt - I already started this one, so it won't count as a NewFO, but I can use it for 14 in 2014.
  2. Baby Girl's Tumber Quilt
  3. Little Man's Tumbler Quilt
  4. Oh, Fransson! Catvent Quilt
  5. Summer Stitching Club Mini Quilt - My top is already done for this, but I need to decide how I want to finish it.
  6. Autumn Stitching Club Quilted Pillow
  7. Winter Stitching Club Quilted Wall Hanging
  8. Spring Stitching Club Project
  9. Hexie Mini Quilt
  10. Triangle Quilt
  11. Quilted Tree Skirt for My Mom
  12. Quilted Tree Skirt for Me
  13. TBD
  14. TBD

November 14, 2013

Woodland Sampler - November

I've been trying really hard to keep up on my Woodland Sampler, especially since we are so close to the end of the year. There's only one more pattern release day to go! Unfortunately, I spent too much time stitching on a few nights and my tiredness led to some mistakes on my November frame. I didn't feel like picking the stitches out and redoing the affected sections, so I just left them and tried to make it look nice. I think I did a good job. I know that no one will probably ever notice (unless they have stitched the pattern themselves maybe), so I'm not going to worry about it. Well, I'll try not to at least!


November 13, 2013

Heartmade Holidays Ornament Exchange - Done!

At the end of October, I signed up to participate in Heartmade Life's holiday ornament exchange. We got info about our swap partner at the beginning of November and get to make two ornaments for them. The deadline to mail them out is this coming Monday, but I managed to not only finish in time, but I finished early! This is a big accomplishment for a procrastinator like me.

My swap partner loves the color teal, so I based my ornaments on that. I knew that I didn't want to do the same type of crafting for both, and after a lot of thinking and searching for inspiration on Pinterest, I settled on one crocheted ornament and one embroidered ornament. Here are my cuties:


I found the pattern for the crocheted snowman HERE. For the snowflake, I did a Google search for snowflake line drawings and found one I liked. I traced it onto tissue paper and stitched through the tissue paper onto white felt. The back side has another white felt circle, and I stitched 2013 in the center of it. There is a slightly larger dark gray felt circle sandwiched between the two white pieces, and I hand-stitched the three pieces together.

I really like the way they turned out. My son is obsessed with the snowman and didn't want to give it up, so I have another one in the works. I really hope my swap partner likes them, and I can't wait to get my own little surprise in the mail!

November 11, 2013

I've Been Bad

So, I've been a very bad blogger, and I'm sorry. I haven't posted in two months and it makes me sad. It all started because I wasn't feeling well and wasn't really getting anything done that would be worthy of writing about. As you probably know, when you don't feel well, it's hard to get the motivation to do things.

I'm working on a lot of projects and will have a lot to write about, but things might get a little crazy in March . . . because I'm pregnant! We're expecting a little girl this time, and I am so excited!

I've been feeling better (although I still get really tired on most days), and I have been getting a lot more crafting done.

I have only really progressed on one of the projects I last updated you on, my Woodland Sampler:

Woodland Sampler

Since my last update, I stitched up my September and October frames. I am currently working on the November frame and hope to finish it this week.


Wild Olive's Summer Stitching Club

My top is finished (expect for trimming it), but I still don't know exactly how I want to finish it. I have so many projects going right now, that I'm not going to worry about it until next year.

Wild Olive's Autumn Stitching Club

It's still going on right now (I think this is the last month), but I haven't started working on it. I know that once I get started, I'll probably fly through stitching up the designs. At least, that's what happened with the Summer Stitching Club. I may end up waiting to start this until I finish up all the handmade Christmas gifts I have planned.

ABC Quilt

This project has been on hold for too long. Maybe I can get in gear and finish it in time to give it to my son for Christmas. The timing would be good because we recently switched him to a toddler bed, and he doesn't have a nice blanket for it yet. It might be too much work to finish in a month, but I'm going try.

NEW PROJECTS IN THE WORKS

Eloise Baby Sweater

My first handmade item for the new baby is the Eloise Baby Sweater from MooglyBlog. It's adorable, and I am almost finished. I need to finish 1 1/2 sleeves and the neckline. Then, I get to weave in a million ends. That part won't be fun, but I'll be excited to have it all done and waiting for my little girl. Here is my last progress picture:

Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar

BetterOffThread is running a Quilt-Along for this advent calendar designed by Elizabeth from Oh, Fransson! for SewMamaSew. The Quilt-Along started at the beginning of September, but I didn't hear about it until today! They are working on their binding this week, and I am just getting started.


Their final link up, which enters you to win some nice prizes, is on Monday, November 25th. I'm hoping I can get mine done in time to join in the link party.

So far, I have chosen my fabrics. I had a ton of fabric set aside for Christmas projects that will match/complement the family Christmas stockings I made two years ago, so that will make things a lot easier - no running to the fabric store before I can get started! I may have to trek to JoAnn's to get some white fabric for the sashing, but I'm hoping I can scrounge up enough from my stash to make it work.

Here are the fabrics I'll be working with:



Heartmade Holidays Ornament Swap

I'm participating in a handmade ornament swap hosted by Ashley from Heartmade Life. I have two ornaments to make and send to my swap partner by this coming Monday, November 18th. I think I finally know what I am going to make. Now, I just need to get them done!

My Sister's Birthday Present!

My sister's birthday is this Friday, and I have had a handmade gift idea for her for a LONG time. I have had everything I need to make it for a LONG time. I need to get it DONE! I'll be visiting her for her birthday, and I want to have it in hand, ready for her to open, when I get there. She might be reading this, so I'll post about her gift next week. :)

August 30, 2013

Work In Progress Updates

It's been awhile since I posted updates about the projects I'm working on. I have three long term projects going, all at once, but I forget to post blog updates because the changes happen so slowly (although, I have been posting progress pics on Instagram). Since it has been a while, there has been A LOT of change!

Summer Stitching Club

The Wild Olive Summer Stitching Club is coming to an end, but many participants are still working on the project - me included! I had a few weeks where I didn't work on this project because I was also trying to get caught up on another stitch-along, the Woodland Sampler. Once I got started on it again, I plowed right through the rest of the embroidery designs. I finished making hexies and piecing the top yesterday.

Now I just need to decide how I want to finish it. I changed the orientation of my hexies because I was thinking I might make it into a pillow cover instead of a mini quilt or wall hanging. But, now that I've gotten the top done, I might end up just finishing it as the original idea after all. I also need to decide if I am going to hand quilt or machine quilt it together.



Woodland Sampler

It took a lot of time, but I managed to get caught up on my Woodland Sampler. Each month's pattern comes out on the first of the month. I didn't sign up or start stitching until June, so I had a lot to do. It took me until August 7th, but all that stitching paid off. I think it looks great! I can't wait for the September pattern email!

My scroll frame isn't quite big enough to show you the whole thing, so the top of the January and February frames can't be seen, but this is what it looks like so far.


ABC Quilt

Sadly, this project has been on hold for a while. I originally wanted to have it completed in time for my son's 2nd birthday (May 23rd), but that didn't happen. I don't know why I thought I could pull it off in just slightly over a month, especially with my crazy over-planning tendencies.

I was on quite a roll with the project (even though it was late), but I got stuck on some of the embroider designs I was trying to draw up. I really wasn't expecting to have such a tough time drawing an octopus! Then, I started working on the two stitch-alongs I wrote about above, and I got wrapped up in them. There is something really special and fun about working on the same project at the same time as a ton of other people, but I would like to finish this quilt for my little guy in the near future!

 

New Projects Coming Up:

Autumn Stitching Club

I had so much fun with Wild Olive's Summer Stitching Club, that I signed up for the Autumn on too! The new Autumn Stitching Club stitch-along starts on Monday (Sept 2nd), and it only costs $5 for the whole thing right now. You should join in!


Pin Cushion Ring

I'll share this project when it's done. Hopefully it'll be up in the next few days because I really need one now.

August 23, 2013

My Husband's Birthday Present

Every year, my husband and I have a three-day celebration. Well, the last two years we haven't actually been able to celebrate the way we'd like to because of my husband's work, but theoretically, we have three awesome days in a row where celebration is in order.

My birthday is August 19th and his birthday is August 21st (of the same year - I'm older!). We got married the day between, August 20th. See, three days of awesome.

I usually have a really tough time thinking of good gifts to get for my husband, which sucks a lot because he is such a good gift giver. Somehow, I've actually been on a bit of a roll for the last year and have had some great gift ideas for him. I even had some extra ideas, but I was worried about having them written down somewhere, so I forgot them! I was starting to get worried when August rolled around and I didn't have a gift idea, but then inspiration struck!

I don't remember the details, but my husband heard about a drink called The Last Word and was really interested to try it. It had a liqueur in it that neither of us had tried before, green Chartreuse. He kept saying that we needed to go get some at BevMo, but that never happened. A bit later, he was on a business trip and ordered a Last Word at a bar, and he liked it.

So, my idea for his gift was to finally get him a bottle of green Chartreuse. I didn't want to just buy him booze, so I went hunting online for the recipe for The Last Word and other cocktails he could make with the Chartreuse. I was having a hard time finding anything other that The Last Word that looked trustworthy, but then, I found some good recipes on Saveur (shared below). As I was going through the recipes, I noticed that most of the drinks used yellow Chartreuse, not green. The yellow Chartreuse is a bit harder to get (sells out quickly) and is supposed to be good for drinking by itself, so I decided to get him a bottle of the yellow Chartreuse too! I typed up recipe cards for six different drinks (including a photo of the drink to whet the appetite), laminated them, punched holes in the corner, and use a binder ring to keep them together.

I was really excited to give him this gift, and he loved it!


Here are the cocktail recipes I included in the gift. I'll add photos as we make them!

The Last Word

3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
3/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
Twist of lime for garnish

Vigorously shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Champs-Elysees

1 oz. brandy
1/2 oz. yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Strip of lemon peel for garnish

Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Greenpoint

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 tsp. yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura bitters

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice; stir to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Eureka Punch

2 oz. Caribbean-style amber rum
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse
1 Tbsp. honey mixed with 1 Tbsp. water
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 oz. ginger ale
1 lemon wedge for garnish
1 sprig of mint for garnish

Shake all ingredient together with ice until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice cubes. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with lemon and mint.

The Beauty Spot

2 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. green Chartreuse
Orange twist for garnish

Combine all ingredient with ice in a shaker. Stir the mixture thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Lumiere

1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
Dash of orange bitters
Lime twist for garnish

Combine all ingredient in a shaker with ice; stir thoroughly. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist

August 13, 2013

Craft It Forward

This photo popped up in my Instagram feed, and I got excited. These sorts of things sound like so much fun, but I have never participated before.

The idea is to spread crafting love around. The first five people to comment on the post and say they are willing to craft it forward for five other people, get a handmade item from the original poster. My item will be made by @kdarli.

I posted the Craft It Forward on my Instagram and have had two takers so far. Hopefully another three will come through. I'm really excited to make some special gifts for the people who participate.

Have you ever participated in something like this?

July 23, 2013

Back from Vacation!

This past weekend, we met up with my parents and three of my four sisters at Bass Lake for some relaxing, boating, tubing, video games, swimming, drinking, and food I didn't have to make myself!

We spent our first day there on a pontoon boat on the lake. My little guy got to help drive the boat, which I'm sure is totally legal!

Best 2-year-old boat driver ever!

We were only on the lake one day, but we spent a lot of time in the pool the other days. One of my favorite things on the trip was seeing my son get better at swimming. He had only been swimming twice before our trip, so he was still working on keeping his head up out of the water and just spitting water out if it gets in his mouth instead of freaking out. My dad was awesome! He helped with both of those things, and it made a huge difference!

I also really enjoyed taking a walk with two of my sisters. One is away at college, and the other lives an hour away and is busy working and being a newlywed. It's always nice to see them.

Sisters

While I love being on vacation, it is also really nice when you get back and you can sleep in your own bed and use your own shower. I wish our vacation could have been a little longer so I could spend more time with my husband and my family, but there was one "person" was super happy that it was over.

Roxie missed us a lot

July 10, 2013

Burrito Bowl & Chipotle-Style Corn Salsa Recipe

Steak Burrito Bowl - Full of yum!
A year ago, when my husband and I vowed to eat out less, I started trying to figure out how to make my own versions of some of the take out I was missing. Chipotle was at the top of the list for recipes I needed to figure out. Last July, I shared my recipe for Chipotle-Style Cilantro-Lime Rice, and I've used it as a side or the base for a burrito bowl many, many times since then.

I don't know what cut of steak Chipotle uses or how they marinate their meat, but I already had a favorite way to grill up some delicious tri tip, so I didn't bother trying to figure it out. You can find my favorite recipe here: Grilled Tri Tip with Tequila-Lime Marinade.

The last piece to the puzzle was the salsa. I like the fresh tomato (pico de gallo) and the corn salsa on my bowl. The pico de gallo is easy to throw together, but I had to play with the corn salsa recipe a few times before I felt like it was a winner!

I've been making my own burrito bowls for a little over a year now, and it has saved me a lot of gas (and extra hidden calories). No more trips to Chipotle when I have a hankering for some deliciousness in a bowl!

Now you have everything you need to make your very own Chipotle-style steak burrito bowl at home too. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Chipotle-Style Corn Salsa

2 cobs sweet corn (yellow or white)
2 medium jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped (measure before chopping)
juice of two limes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper (optional, but I like it)

Mix everything together in a bowl. The salsa tastes better if you give it a little time for the flavors to develop.

July 2, 2013

I Apologize, But It's Instagram's Fault

I'm sorry. I've been a bad blogger. I blame Instagram.

I've been using Instagram a lot more lately, and the instant gratification and community aspects of it have sucked me in. I've been working on a bunch of creative projects, all at the same time, so I usually just have a little bit more of each one done at the end of the day. That makes for boring blogging. I'd much rather have some significant progress to share with you. Instagram makes it super easy and fun to share mini progress updates, and you get quick feedback to make you feel good and push you to keep creating.

Since I started using Instagram more, I haven't blogged as much, BUT I have been creating more! After finding myself in a bit of a creative lull, that makes me super happy. Being a stay at home mom can be lonely, but I've been able to connect with others in a way I wasn't before. I get to share with friends, family, customers, and other crafters working on similar projects, and it rocks!

I promise to be better about blogging, but for now, here's what I've been working on:

Sun Hat

Summer Stitching Club

The last time I wrote about Mollie's Wild Olive Summer Stitching Club, I had finished stitching up the Week 3 design (a swim suit) and had put a bunch of hexies together. I haven't gotten too much further on this project. I stitched up the Week 4 design (a sun hat), but I haven't made it into a hexie yet. This is high up on my to do list since I'll be able to add the next row of colored hexies too.

I got the Week 5 design yesterday, a picnic basket, but I haven't started stitching it up yet because I've been wrapped up in my Woodland Sampler.

Woodland Sampler

I like designing my own patterns, but I also enjoy stitching up patterns made by other people, especially ones made by other independent designers. I didn't know about The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Woodland Sampler until a few weeks ago, so it'll take my a bit to get caught up. I had to wait for the Monaco cloth I ordered online to get here so I could get started, but I've been stitching like crazy since it arrived.

So far, I have stitched some of the frames and finished the May and June designs. The July design came out yesterday, and I started that one too.

 

ABC Quilt

I was working on sketches for the letters I haven't stitched up yet, but I had some creative blocks with a few of the letters and ended up working on other projects. Hopefully I'll be able to share more on the quilt progress soon.

June 19, 2013

Summer Stitching Club with Mollie Johanson | Wild Olive

Last month, I wrote about a stitch-a-long that I was really excited about. The Wild Olive Summer Stitching Club with Mollie Johanson started at the beginning of June, and now I'm hooked on mini-embroideries and hexies!

Fabric & Floss for Summer Stitching Club
When I last posted about the SSC, I had picked out my fabrics and embroidery floss but hadn't gotten started yet. While at the fabric store, I found myself stuck trying to figure out what fabrics I wanted to use. I saw the same blue that Mollie is using, and tried to resist getting it, but it was so cute, I had to copy her! After I had the blue selected, it was easy to pick the rest. This picture shows a yellow fabric with white circles, which is similar to another fabric that Mollie is using, but I don't think I'll be using that one after all.






When the second week of the SSC began, I still hadn't started cutting fabric or stitching the designs. I was really worried that I would be behind the entire summer, but once I got started, there was no stopping. I was a stitching machine! I even have most of my non-embroidered hexies made, waiting to be stitched together.

2013 Summer Stitching Club - Week 1-3
At the end of the summer, all the hexies can be stitched up together to make a mini-quilt or placemat or whatever else you can imagine. I think I might make mine into a pillow, so I changed the orientation of the hexies. I have a tendency to change my mind, a lot, so who know what it will actually become in the end. I'm excited to find out!

I'm loving making hexies!
I've spent way too much time checking out everyone's projects on Instagram and in the Wild Olive Flickr group, but it's a lot of fun to be creating something right along with people from all over. It's also neat to see how people tweak the project and make it their own. The summer just got started; it's not too late to join us!

June 11, 2013

Goodbye Google Reader!

Since this isn't all that crafty a post, I'll keep it short and sweet.

I don't know if you've heard, but Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st.

I've been using Bloglovin' for a while now, and I love it! The interface is simple and clean, and you can easily organize the blogs you follow into categories. You can comment or like blog posts right from your feed, and my super favorite part is that that there are iPhone & iPad apps so you can get all your favorite blogs in one place while on the go.

If you are currently using Google Reader and need a new place to get all your bloggy goodness, consider switching to Bloglovin'. Here's a good tutorial to help you get your new Bloglovin' account set up.

If you're already on Bloglovin' and haven't followed me yet, here's a linky for you!  :)

Follow Acts of Craftiness

June 7, 2013

Coming Soon: Monthly Newsletter & Stitching Videos

Monthly Newsletter

Yay! I'm really excited about this.

I've been thinking about setting up a monthly newsletter for a while now, and decided to finally take the plunge! I blog about my everyday "acts of craftiness" - my personal crafting, recipes I love, fun things I make for my toddler, things that inspire me, etc. - and not much about my cross stitch and embroidery.

I'm planning to include behind-the-scenes insight into my pattern development, new patterns and kits that have been added to the shop, awesome stitching resources and tutorials I've found or made, special sales and giveaway info, and free patterns. I have patterns I design that don't make it into the shop for whatever reason, and I wanted a way to share them as free patterns. I know I could just add them to a tab on the blog, but I thought it would be nice to share them with the people that support me most first.

I set up the subscription box up on my blog yesterday, and have already gotten some subscribers! Thanks so much to everyone that's already signed up.

Stitching Videos / Tutorials

As a teacher, I know that not everyone learns in the same way. I tend to be a visual and kinesthetic learner, so I need to see how to do something or do it myself before I really know how to do it. All of my cross stitch patterns and kits come with basic cross stitch instructions with diagrams, but sometimes seeing things in action is better. No one I knew growing up did embroidery or cross stitch, so I taught myself. I'd love to help out others, so I'm working on putting together some stitching how-to videos. I'll make sure to let you know when new videos are available so you can check them out.

What do you like to read about in newsletters? What stitching tutorials would you like to see?

June 5, 2013

Playing Catch Up

How has it been a week since my last post? Time seems to be flying by, but at least I'm having fun.

Here are some projects I've been working on:

My "Garden"

My son and I planted some Black Cherry tomatoes and basil in containers on our front deck, and they have been doing really well. Little Man and I go out every morning and water everything. He has his own elephant watering can, and loves it. I think I have an "awww moment" pretty much every morning when he uses it.

Yesterday I made some bamboo tomato cages for the plants. This video gave me the idea to use bamboo poles, but I changed the design a bit. I need to fix the spacing of the horizontal bars and add one more row at the top, but I think I did a decent job in just an hour and with the "help" of a two-year-old.

Gardening with Little Man

Wild Olive's Summer Stitching Club

Wild Olive's Summer Stitching Club started on Monday, and I'm already behind! I've had the welcome info for a few weeks, which included the fabric requirements, floss colors needed, and the hexie templates. I originally planned to have my fabric cut, and maybe a few hexies made, before the first pattern arrived in my inbox. Wishful thinking I guess. So far, I've purchased my fabric and floss and printed out the first pattern.

The fabric and floss colors make me happy. I can't wait to get started!

Fabric & floss for Wild Olive's Summer Stitching Club

ABC Quilt

I just finished stitching block #14 of my son's ABC Quilt this morning. I'm almost halfway done with the embroidery part of the project; only 16 more blocks to go!

I've been posting photos of the blocks on Instagram and Flickr as I finish them. Check them out and let me know what you think!

N is for Night ABC Quilt block



Me

I started working out again at the end of January, and as of this morning, I'm down 20 pounds! Finding the time to work out each day when I have a very energetic toddler and there are SO MANY other things I'd rather be doing is a challenge. I haven't been perfect about working out every time I am supposed to and I've let myself indulge on bad food a few times, but I'm glad I've stuck with it.

What have you been up to?

May 29, 2013

30 Days of Creativity: June 2013

30 days . . . 30 creations . . . and it's starting in just 2 days!

A friend of mine posted about joining 30 Days of Creativity. This is the 4th year it's been around, but I had never heard of it before. I checked out their Tumblr, and it looks like a lot of fun. I'll be tweeting about my creations and will post photos on Instagram.

Anything that gets people creating, sharing, and building community is a great thing. I tweeted my participation pledge earlier today. There's still time for you to join before June gets started.

 

Here are the details from the 30DOC Tumblr:

30 Days of Creativity is a global social initiative encouraging people to create stuff (anything) every day for 30 days in June. 2013 is our 4th year. We hope to make it a big one.

Your brain is like a muscle. When you exercise it, it gets stronger.

I WANT TO CREATE TOO:
Don’t put it off! Create stuff now! Follow #30DOC on Twitter. Send an @reply to @createstuff to let us know you want to participate. Simply say, "I pledge to create something everyday for 30 days in a row."

What if I don't have a Twitter?
You can still pledge! Share your work with the world via email at submit@30daysofcreativity.com.

PINTEREST:
Be sure to use the hashtag #30DoC so we can help share your work with the entire Createstuff community on Pinterest.


They even put together ideas for each of the 30 days in case you're stuck for an idea and need a little inspiration!

Will you join in too?

May 26, 2013

More Embroidery Please! - Summer Stitching Club

I've been cross stitching for a long time, but I never really did much embroidery until about two or three years ago. For my first project with embroidery, I stuck to simple back-stitched names on Christmas stockings I made for my family and some close family friends. I'll probably share that project someday, but here's a peek at how they turned out.

Christmas Stockings
I really enjoy all the love that goes into something that is hand-stitched, so I've been trying to incorporate more embroidery into my projects. Right now, I'm working on an ABC Quilt for my son that has a lot of hand embroidery, and I love the way it's all coming together. I've been on the lookout for another embroidery project, maybe something for myself, and I found the perfect thing!

I've been following Mollie's Wild Olive blog for a while now, and was really excited when she wrote about her summer stitching club. Each week of June, July, and August she will send a tiny embroidery pattern to stitch up that will be made into little hexies. The tiny patterns will be great for a busy mom like me to finish quickly, and I'll finally get to make some hexies. I've been dying to try them! At the end of the summer, they'll all be put together into a cute little project. I'm really looking forward to my weekly emails!

If you want to join in too, it's just $5 if you sign up by June 2nd ($8 starting June 3rd). I think it's an awesome deal! You can click the picture below to go to her site.


May 23, 2013

ABC Quilt Progress - Still Stitching & A Realization

When I first started stitching, it was going by pretty quickly. I really thought that I might be able to finish Little Man's ABC Quilt before his birthday party on Saturday. Then, I hit a few snags. First, I had a few ABC blocks that seemed to just take forever to get stitched up. Second, Little Man decided that he needed hugs and cuddles all day long, every day. I tried, but I found that it's impossible to do any stitching while cuddling with him. Third, my shop had a nice influx of orders, and most were customized patterns and kits which take a while to put together. I love cuddling with my son, and having a busy shop is a good thing, so I didn't mind the lack of stitching.

I realized this morning that I haven't been able to do any stitching in two days. Today is Little Man's birthday, and my husband and I spent all day completely focused on him. So, no stitching again. I knew before today that there was no way I'd be able to finish this quilt by Little Man's birthday party, and that's probably why I avoided blogging for a week, but I'm finally okay with it. I'd rather take the extra time now to do a good job and make it awesome. Hopefully not having a deadline for finishing the quilt doesn't lead me to procrastinate.

I've finished 8 of the 30 embroidered blocks so far, and I'm going to try to get a few more done each day. Here are a few of the ones I've finished:

A, B, C, and D blocks for ABC Quilt

I'll be sharing more ABC Quilt progress photos as I go. You can check them out here:

Flickr

Instagram

May 16, 2013

ABC Quilt Progress - Gettin' to Stitchin'

I'm finally stitching! It has taken far too long to get to this point in my ABC Quilt progress.

ABC Block Stack
I cut out all 30 of the squares I need for the ABC blocks, and the stack made me so happy! I cut them to 7"x7"so I have a little wiggle room. After they are all stitched up, I'll cut down the ABC blocks to 4.5"x4.5".

I transferred a few of my designs to the blocks using my mini light box/table thingy I had in the craft closet from when I hand-embossed all of our wedding thank you cards (it took forever!). The set up was not ideal; the very small size and slanted nature of the table made the whole process a little difficult. It takes a long time and hurts my hand after a while, so I'll probably transfer a few designs at a time and then stitch them up. I might also try to make my own flat light table or use the window the next time I transfer designs.

I tried out a technique that Kristyne Czepuryk discussed on her blog and in her book, S is for Stitch. You transfer the design onto your fabric using small dots to show where the stitching lines are. She uses fine point permanent markers in the same color she will be stitching in, but I did it with a fine point water-soluble marking pen. It's a little hard to see the light blue on my tan fabric, so I might need to switch to a permanent pen or a purple Mark-B-Gone. I couldn't get a good picture of the dot method, but I here is one of the designs I transferred used solid lines.
D is for Dinosaur


I haven't planned out all the floss colors I will use for each design, but I did go through my stash and pulled colors that I thought would look nice with the fabrics I chose and the designs I've drawn. Here's a peek at the palette.



I only have 8 1/2 days left! It's going to be a very busy week trying to get this quilt done in time for Little Mister's birthday party.

May 13, 2013

ABC Quilt Progress - Prepping My Fabric

In my last post, I told you to yell at me if I didn't discuss actually stitching something in my next ABC Quilt progress update. I'm not going to write about stitching in this post, but don't yell at me just yet.

As excited as I am to start stitching, I needed to make sure my fabric was prepared before I could whip out the needles and embroidery floss. I know that whether or not you wash your fabric before sewing or quilting with it is a contentious subject - some always pre-wash their fabric while others never do - but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

I'm not a quilting maven, so I was hoping I could get away with not pre-washing my fabric. Accurate cutting and sewing will be easier with crisp fabric. Common worries are fabric shrinkage and color-bleeding. I don't think I'll mind if the fabric shrinks a little after the quilt is all put together; it'll give it a lived-in look. I've read that most quilting cotton fabrics won't bleed, but to be on the safe side, I decided to check my fabrics to see if they are colorfast. I'd hate to spend hours cutting, embroidering, sewing, and quilting just to have the finished quilt get ruined when I wash it.

To check my fabrics for colorfastness, I cut a small piece from each fabric, soaked the fabric pieces in very hot water, rubbed the fabric pieces to get rid of the fabric processing chemicals, and then laid the pieces out to dry on a paper towel. When I checked to see if any color transferred from the fabric to the paper towel, I was happy to see there was none. So, I'm planning to get started on my quilt without pre-washing my fabric. Since I am still a bit of a worry-wart, I bought some Shout Color Catchers to use in the quilt's first wash - just in case.

Checking fabric for colorfastness

Next up, I'll be cutting my ABC block squares, transferring my embroidery designs to the blocks, and will start stitching! I only have 11 days left.

May 7, 2013

ABC Quilt Progress - Choosing My Fabrics

So, the last time I wrote about my ABC Quilt progress, I set a few goals for myself. By the weekend, I wanted to:
  1. Have my alphabet designs all sketched out
  2. Have my quilt layout finalized
  3. Have my fabric purchased
Well, my weekend deadline came and went, and I succeeded in one of the three. It's sad, but that's not bad for me, Ms. Procrastinator. But, as usual, I have excuses for not completing them! One good excuse was an influx of orders in the shop for custom patterns and stitched items. The other excuses are discussed below.  :)

#1: All Alphabet Designs Sketched Out - In Progress
I was on track for finishing all my alphabet designs by the end of the week, but as I was sketching out Letter L, I realized that I hadn't left enough blank space around the edges of my block. After measuring and re-measuring, I confirmed that if I kept the current margins, my quilting stitches would go over my embroidery, which isn't what I want.

I spent a lot of Friday tweaking my block layout, trying to make all the text look even and leave space for the quilting stitches. After getting it all worked out, I decided that I needed to reprint all of my blocks and check to make sure the sketches I've already done will fit inside the new blocks. I plan to do this today. Originally, I wanted to have everything drawn out before I started stitching, but I realized that it's not really necessary. I can sketch the new designs as I go. Whew! It's nice to give myself a break sometimes.

#2: Quilt Layout Finalized - In Progress
I started out by sketching in a notebook and eventually graduated to the computer. I made a couple of mock ups for quilt layouts. Although I thought I knew what I wanted before started to put my layout together, I couldn't decide what I want to do with the border portion of the quilt. I was really stressing about having a "finalized" layout so I could calculate how much of each fabric I would need, but I decided to give myself another break here. I have a tendency to plan, plan, plan each little detail and that feeds into my procrastination - "I can't possibly start making X because I haven't planned out every possible detail in the project yet!"

I realized that this is crazy and the biggest reason why it takes me so long to finish (or ever start) my projects. To solve the problem of not knowing what to do about my borders, I decided to buy a little extra of each fabric so I can figure it out later. The extra fabric won't go to waste; I'll use it to make Little Man a matching pillow case. Damn! The decision to make the planning freak in me relax a bit felt so good!

Initial Layout Scribbles
Possible Layout




















#3: Fabric Purchased - DONE!  :)
Before our house was our house, the old owners painted what would eventually be Little Man's room green and blue (two walls of each). When we found out we were having a boy, we decided to keep the colors. We like dark wood, so all of his furniture is espresso stained. When picking all our "baby stuff," we went with the colors that were already going to be in his room: green, blue, and brown. I still really like these colors, so I knew I wanted the same color scheme for LM's quilt. Colors, done.

I do not understand how to pick fabrics for a quilt - color value, scale of print, saturation of color, etc. - The thought of picking "the right fabrics" was starting to stress me out. I spent some time looking at pictures of quilts with similar colors to see if I could get some ideas, but I didn't really find anything. I went back through the quilts I've pinned to my quilting board on Pinterest, and I realized that I am really drawn to modern quilts. I love solid colors with bold stitching. After this realization, picking my fabric was easy. I decided that I would get solids. It took me a while at the store, but I eventually found the right colors. LM even helped pick them! He insisted on the blue I chose, and that led me to the one print I bought for the binding. I'm hoping the solid fabrics will let the embroidery be the star while still being interesting.

ABC Quilt Fabrics
I have a lot of work to do on this quilt to get it done in time; there are only 17 days left between now and his birthday party! Having the fabrics purchased really makes the whole project feel more "real" and takes away some of the excuses I could have for delaying more. My next progress post should include some actual stitching. If not, please yell at me!

May 1, 2013

ABC Quilt Progress - Choosing My Alphabet

I can't believe it's already May! I knew that taking on a big birthday project for Little Mister was a little crazy, but since it was still the beginning of April when I got the idea, I figured I'd have plenty of time if I didn't procrastinate too much.

Well, now it's May, and I haven't gotten nearly enough done on my ABC Quilt. Little Mister's birthday is on the 23rd, and his party will be on the 25th. Even though I plan to keep the layout/blocks pretty simple and will be doing straight line quilting, I have lots of hand embroidery to do for the alphabet letters. So, I need to get my butt in gear to get this quilt done in time!

I took the Process Pledge and am excited to write about and share the process I go through in creating this ABC Quilt for my son. It'll be awesome to have a chronicle of the project from start to finish.

My Process Update:
I planned to make an ABC Quilt for Little Mister's birthday. I knew I wanted to hand embroider an image for each letter of the alphabet, and had already made my alphabet list, but I was a little stuck on how I wanted it all to come together. While researching ideas, I found the book S is for Stitch by Kristine Czepuryk from Pretty By Hand. Her alphabet designs were exactly what I was picturing in my head, so I was excited to see what her alphabet list looked like and how she put her quilt together.

After sifting through S is for Stitch, I had a much clearer picture of what I wanted. I liked my alphabet list better than Kristine's. Since I made it with Little Mister in mind, it has alphabet items that I know he likes (a lot of vehicles and animals). I also decided to make my alphabet quilt blocks a little larger than Kristine's. I knew this meant that I would have to make my own embroidery designs, with larger text, but I really like the idea that I am designing and stitching this entire project on my own.

Alphabet Block
I played around in Word to make my alphabet block templates and set up each block with the block's letter (upper and lowercase) and the name of the item I plan to embroider on the block. I chose a simple font to make the text easier to embroider. I'm fairly savvy with computers and basic office programs, but I couldn't manage to get the block size right without the top getting cut off when I print the blocks out. What I ended up with isn't perfect, but it works for me.

I'm still working on sketching my alphabet designs. So far, I've gotten through the letter I (although I plan to redo the letter H), and my goal is to have the whole alphabet sketched out by the weekend. I also want to have my final quilt layout chosen so I can go buy fabric. The embroidery is going to take a while, so I really need to get it started.

Embroidery Designs A-D (Letter C is unfinished)

April 25, 2013

The Process Pledge - I'm #874

A few days ago, I wrote about being stuck upstairs, away from most of my crafting supplies, while our entire downstairs was being painted. I mentioned that I had made some progress on the ABC Quilt I'm making for my son's birthday next month but that it wasn't "ready to share." But, was that really true?

I spent more time than I should have on Pinterest and Flickr last week (going against my New Rule), checking out more quilty inspiration, and I happened upon "The Process Pledge." Way back in May 2010, Rossie wrote a blog post about making her own process pledge and trying to spread it throughout blogland. The process pledge focuses on sharing more than just our finished projects, after they're all done. The entire process should be shared openly - everything from your inspiration, your decision-making moments, how your work in progress is going, your half-done quilt tops, your oopsies/failings - everything.

I know it's exciting to skip ahead to the beautiful, finished project photos that are so inspiring, and that's why so many of us share only those photos and just write a blurb about how we got there. I'm guilty of doing this too. But, the process one goes through is interesting and should be shared and celebrated. We all go through it. Why not share it?

Rossie's pledge was aimed at quilters, but I think it should be extended to other projects too. So, even if you don't quilt, I think you should join in. Will you? You can click the picture below to go to the Process Pledge page.

Expect to see more about my progress on the ABC Quilt soon!

I, Jen | Acts of Craftiness, pledge to talk more about my processes, even when I can’t quite put them in the in words or be sure I’m being totally clear.   I’m going to put my thinking and my gut feelings out there.  



April 21, 2013

My Sister's Crafty Birthday Party

My youngest sister is turning 10. Yep - I said 10. It took my parents almost 22 years to crank out their fifth kid after having their first (me!). My sister had a small party with a few friends yesterday, and my mom asked if I could come up with some crafty activities for the girls to do at the party and help them with their creations.

After I said yes, I took a look at the crafting supplies I had on hand (which is a lot), and brainstormed a short list of crafty activities they could do using what I already have. I knew this would make my husband happy - using up some of my "stockpile" and not buying anything new that will take up more space in the house. I came up with a few ideas, and the one my sister was the most excited about was making covered button rings.

At first, I planned to bring patterned fabric to use for the covered buttons, but as I was going through my fabric stash, I realized that (1) I don't really have much girly fabric to choose from and (2) if we just used printed fabric, there wouldn't be much of a personalized aspect to the girls' creations. So, instead, I decided to bring all the solid cotton fabric I had and some fabric markers.

Peace signs were the most popular design of the day, but my favorite ring was the pretty, abstract design below. I think the girls had a lot of fun, and each one got to take home 3 or 4 rings that they made themselves. I think I might need to make some button rings for myself!

The aftermath - Well, after a bit of clean up.
My favorite ring made at the party

April 18, 2013

Toddler Activity: Stringing Beads

We're having our entire downstairs painted this week, so I had to move all of my shop and craft supplies. I've been stuck upstairs, away from all my supplies, for the last few days. While I haven't been doing my usual crafting, I have found some time to work on my ABC Quilt project while cooped up. I'll share some of my progress soon.

While trying to gather up fun things for Mr. Baby to do upstairs this week, I realized that I have a bunch of toddler activities I've made for him that I never got around to sharing with you.

Back in February and March, I bought a bunch of kid crafting supplies on Amazon so I could throw together new activities whenever I felt the urge.  One of Mr. Baby's favorite activities is Stringing Beads. Stringing Beads will help your little one build fine motor control, and it can also be used to practice counting and color recognition (if you use colored beads).

Stringing Beads Activity

Supplies:

Colorful Wooden Beads - I picked mine up on a whim at Joann's.
Pipe Cleaner - I got mine on Amazon. You could also use a length of ribbon, a shoelace, cording, etc.

The Crazy Easy Instructions (even though they seem long):

  1. Find a bowl or small tray to put the beads in. I removed all the small beads and only used the largest size in the bag. The holes in the largest size make it easier for younger child to string the beads and they are less of a choking hazard.
  2. Prepare the item that the beads will be strung onto. For younger children, the rigidity of a pipe cleaner will make it easier to use than something less rigid, like a shoelace, ribbon, or cording.
    1. To prepare your pipe cleaner:
      1. Bend the tip of one end, about 1/4", down over itself. This will be the end used to string the beads. If you don't bend a little piece down, the metal on the end might poke your little one and will get stuck on the inside of the beads.
      2. For the other end of the pipe cleaner, I put a smaller bead about an inch from the end and then bent the pipe cleaner into a loop and then flat to the bottom of the bead to keep the strung beads from falling off.
    2. To prepare your shoelace, ribbon, or cording:
      1. If your shoelace or cording has a plastic covering on the end, you do not need to do anything to it. If there isn't a plastic covering on the end (or you are using ribbon), you should tape about an inch of the end so beads can easily be strung onto it. This will be the end used to string the beads.
      2. For the other end, and tie a knot. Make sure it is big enough to stop the beads from falling off the end. You could also tie a knot around a bead to hold it in place.
  3. Show your little one how to use the materials. I had to show Mr. Baby what to do (where the holes are on the beads, how to place the pipe cleaner into the bead's hole, how to move the beads down the length of the pipe cleaner, and how to remove the beads with the pipe cleaner is full). Then I helped him once by holding the pipe cleaner while he placed the beads onto it. After that, he was able to do it on his own
★ Make sure you supervise your child when they are playing with the beads. Even if you take out all the small beads, the large ones can still pose a choking hazard.
★ If you are using a length of shoelace, ribbon, or cording, keep it on the short side. If it is long enough to be tied around your child's neck, they will try to do it. I really don't understand why tying things around their necks is so interesting, but you don't want to take a chance that they will do it.

April 12, 2013

Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread

After a long hiatus, my book club finally starting meeting again. We hardly talk about the books we've read, but we have lots of awesome conversations, laughs, and wine. The hostess provides the drinks, and the guests bring an appetizer to share. I always have a hard time figuring out what to bring. I keep telling myself that I'll find some new appetizer recipes to try out so I'll stop making the same five things I always make, but it never happens.

Last night, I made one of my tried and true recipes, Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread with sliced apples. The spread may not look like much, but it's packed with flavor and is always a crowd-pleaser. Best of all, it easy to throw together.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread

Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature (low-fat or regular works)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped small
4-5 oz crumbled blue cheese (the stinkier, the better)
coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper
crackers, crostini, or apples for serving

In a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula until it's softened. Add the walnuts and mix. Season with salt and pepper and mix again.

Gently fold in the blue cheese crumbles. They should be mixed well, but try not to break them up too much.

Serve with crackers, crostini, or sliced apples (my favorite way).

This spread works best at room temperature but should be stored in the refrigerator. If you have refrigerated it, let it sit out on the counter for a bit before serving so it can soften up.

Apple slices in a water and lemon juice bath
* A tip for keeping your sliced apples from turning brown:

Fill a bowl about 3/4 of the way with cold water. Add about a tablespoon of lemon juice (fresh or bottled both work). As you slice your apples, add them to the bowl with the water/lemon juice mixture. Let them soak for a few minutes before draining the water. The acid in the lemon juice helps slow the browning of the apples.



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