Barely coming up for air...

I'm *still* in the throes of holiday crafting.  Yes, the holiday was yesterday, but I don't see my family until next weekend---so their gifts aren't done yet.  I can tell you that if I manage to finish them all, it would be a post-holiday miracle.

Anyway, I have tons of photos to share and projects to write about, but I'm just popping in to show off one thing, my advent calendar:

This is from a tutorial by Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson! on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog.

I used a variety of fabrics and highlighted more prints than the tutorial suggested.

I also changed the seam allowance for the pockets so more of the background fabric would be seen.

I chose a loopy quilting pattern rather than the meandering stitch.  This is the first time that I've ever used a free-motion quilting presser foot. 

There is a lot of room for improvement in my quilting technique, but I'm still pleased with how it turned out.

I used Kei honeycomb dots for the binding.  Don't you just love a good dot fabric?

This was the first time that I ever hand stitched the binding to the back of the quilt.  It really does look invisible.

I hope your holidays were delightful.  We've been busy reading books, playing with trains, dancing to Bing and doing "dishes!"  Henry would rather roll up his sleeves and drag a chair up to the sink than play with his toys.  Silly guy :)

Toddler Gingerbread Houses!

Today we had two of Henry's best buddies over to decorate gingerbread houses.  They turned out so cute that I have to share pictures here.

Henry loved the sprinkles and tucking things into the chimney

Jonas liked the gingerbread bears and munching on the candy canes.

and we could hardly tear Oliver away
 from his "decorating" in order to eat lunch. 

Wishing you all of the joy of the season (and only 1/3 of the chaos!)

Mistletoe!! (and a tutorial to make your own)

For my 202nd blog post, I'm offering my second tutorial!  (the first one is here if you are curious)

One of my favorite parts of helping my grandma decorate for Christmas was hanging the "kissing ball". It was a plastic sphere of mistletoe with a ribbon and a cloud of glitter that it released each year.  Everyone agreed it was ugly, but it wouldn't be Christmas without the kissing ball in the doorway.

Well, this year, for my Potholder Pass Swap and my Trim the Tree Handmade Ornament Swap, I made a felt and ribbon mistletoe ornament to enjoy for the ages--minus the plastic and glitter.

How to Make it Yourself:

a small amount white/cream wool roving   
fine gauge wire
green felt fabric
thread and needle
wire snippers
paper wrapped thicker floral wire
floral tape
green ribbon
another ribbon for hanging

Step 1:  (no photos) Take a small piece of natural wool roving, hold it in rough ball, wet it in warm water and dish soap, rub the wool in between your palms in soapy circles while compressing the wool in your hands.  Check to see that your wool is making a spherical shape, keep pressing it and rubbing it in circles it until it is well-compressed and the shape you want.  Rinse the soap out and squeeze the ball in a towel to dry it.  Make 5 of them.  Finish drying the "berries" overnight.

Step 2: Cut 5" of fine gauge wire.  Fold and stick a piece of tape on front and back of wire.  Trim tape to a rough leaf shape.  Cut two matching leaf shapes out of felt.  Hand stitch along the edge of the leaf leaving a 1" opening along one side. (Do not knot starting end of your thread. Leave a long tail and you'll use it to tie a knot when you finish the leaf)  Tuck the taped wire inside, finish your hand stitching, then make a couple of stitches around the wire and tie the starting thread and ending thread together in a knot.  Make 5 or 6 leaves.

Step 3:  Thread a needle with cream thread. poke the needle through the white felt "berry", make only a tiny stitch at one end and go back through the felt ball with the needle.

Step 4:  Cut a 7" section of thick wire and trim the end paper off.

Wind floral tape on the end of the wire until the sharp end is covered, place the berry threads where you want them and tape them on tightly.  Tug on the threads as needed to get the berries snug to the thick wire.  Once the berries are taped on securely, trim the extra thread off.  

Keep winding the floral tape around until you get to the level where you want your first leaf.  Bend the leaf wire at the base of the leaf to a 30˚ angle. Hold the leaf wire tightly to the big wire and wrap the floral tape around both wires.  Then add your second leaf and wrap the floral tape tightly around that in the same manner. 

Snip the extra leaf wire off.  Then go a little further with the floral tape and add another berry.  Keep wrapping the floral tape tightly and trim the berry thread when appropriate. 

Continue in this manner until you add all of the leaves and berries that you want.

Step 5: Decide on the length of your stem and trim it with the wire snippers.  Add a ribbon loop to the end of your stem (for hanging the mistletoe) and wrap that tightly with floral tape.

Step 6:  Gently bend out the leaves from the stem since you will still need to add the ribbon wrap layer.  Then bend your stick-straight stem ever so slightly in many directions to add a 3-D natural look. 

Here is another angle to see how I positioned the berries and leaves all the way around the stem. 

Step 5: Lastly, you need to secure your ribbon to the top end with floral tape.  Wrap the ribbon tightly around the stem from top to bottom covering all of the floral tape and weaving around the leaves and berries.

One last bit of floral tape secures the ribbon at the stem end.  Then bend your leaves with curves and position them how you like them. 

Now hang it up and grab your sweetie for a smooch!

The most satisfying craft project EVER!

I am drowning in craft projects for the holidays.  Are you?  Just in case you are like me, I thought I'd share one of my recent projects that went really smoothly.

I dyed some playsilks for Henry.  These are 35x35" hemmed pure silk (from here), and kids use them for imaginative play.  They make lovely land or sea or snow playscapes.  They can be used for capes or scarves or blankets or for peek-a-boo. 

I used the procedure listed in this tutorial.  The tutorial calls for packets of unsweetened Kool-aid for the dye.  My kitchen smelled like piping hot Kool-aid with a tinge of vinegar for the night, but that was the only drawback.  Two sets of silks were dyed and drying in my basement and the kitchen was cleaned up within an hour and a half of starting the project.

The flavors and number of packets I used are listed below.
blue: 2-3 packets blue raspberry
green: 3 packets lemon lime and 1/2 packet of blue raspberry
red: 1 packet black cherry, 1 packet tropical punch
purple: 2 packets grape
orange: 2 packets orange (I'd use 3 next time.)


Have you done any satisfying (and quick?) crafting lately?  Do tell.