Monday, July 21, 2008

midnight t-shirt embroidery

I have a lot- and I mean a LOT- of these long, stretchy, comfy cap sleeve tees. I wear them all the time, year round. Recently I dug to the bottom of the pile in my drawer and found a gunmetal grey one that I haven't ever worn before. I bought it a few months ago, but just wasn't too thrilled with wearing grey during the summer. Then it occurred to me that it didn't have to be all grey, so I mulled over how I might beautify this plain tee. Applique? Embroidery? Both? Finally I decided to go with my favorite- embroidery. In my trusty "creativity" photo file on the computer I had just the thing- an image of a swallow I'd found online a while back. I printed the image, then carefully cut around the edge.

Next I pinned the bird in place onto my shirt. Behind that I pinned a square of heavy interfacing to keep the knit fabric of the shirt from stretching while I stitched. It was past midnight when I was doing this, and so engrossed was I in "Pride & Prejudice" that I just didn't take pictures of these steps.

With my trusty Mark-B-Gone pen I traced around the outline of the bird. I considered adding some details to it, but in the end decided that I liked the look of just the plain silhouette.

I chose a pretty dusty blue thread that went well with the grey and plopped down on the couch to start stitching. I put one bird on my right shoulder, and another about halfway down the left side in back.

Once all the stitching was done I knotted my thread, buried the tails into the back side of the stitching, then (carefully!) trimmed away the excess interfacing. It's a little stiff right now, but I think with a few washes it will soften up some.

So, what d'ya think? I think I'm hooked. There are a few other tees in that drawer that I don't get much use out of, but I think with a little embellishment they might just see daylight a bit more often!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lots of show 'n tell

This past weekend before we took off on a quick jaunt back to Eastern Idaho, I got to go garage-saleing for the first time in like, forever. Recently I've been on the hunt for a cute table or console or little desk that I can put in my eat-in kitchen/dining room and use as a small computer area. Currently my computer occupies a good portion of my craft space, which is helpful when I need to jump on and send an e-mail or double check an order, but mostly I'm finding that it's a big, BIG distraction. At this very moment I feel that little twinge of guilt knowing that not five feet away are several pairs of shoes waiting patiently to be stitched... but I'm doing this instead. *sigh* So, my computer is getting banished to the downstairs in hopes that if it's further out of reach I won't be tempted to dawdle and piddle away my working hours online.

Aaaanyway, after hitting 4 local thrift stores and Craigslist and coming up empty-handed, I still wasn't willing to go retail just yet. Knowing that we're in the thick of garage and yard sale season, I geared myself up for a morning of neighborhood scouring. My own neighborhood offered 3 or 4 sales, but not much furniture. I drove through a couple of other neighborhoods but most people seemed to be selling things I wasn't in need of. On my way home I stopped at a house that seemed to have a lot of stuff, even if furniture wasn't among it. I'm sure glad I did because I found some fun things! By now you may have realized that I have a small obsession with embroidery, so when I started digging through a bin of linens and found several to my liking, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. Behold, my goodies!

This little pillow case has the cutest crocheted multi-colored flowers along its scalloped edge, and was in pretty good shape. A couple had come loose, but with needle and thread I re-attached them and now it's practically perfect!

I found 3 other pillow cases that will be great for my kids. The top one has a darling hand-embroidered rose pattern on the edge, and the other two will work great with my son's new quilt that I just made. Boy, these need some pressing!
This pretty white-on-white embroidered pillow case came brand new with a matching king-sized flat sheet. The lady selling them was sure the sheet was a tablecloth until we opened it up and found the pillowcases folded inside. It's made of a very heavy, crisp white cotton and is just lovely! I also scored a cream-colored flat sheet with some pretty edging, as well as another queen sized sheet and matching pillow cases with fancy embroidered edges. Can't wait to use them!

This little book is in really sad condition, mostly just filthy. It's copyrighted 1940 and I think it used to be a library book. Dirty or not, I couldn't pass it up, especially after choosing a fabric for Hakan's quilt from Michael Miller's Dick and Jane series.

The illustrations are so sweet.

Though my garage sale excursion didn't turn up any prospects for a potential desk, today I checked good 'ole Craigslist again and found this one. We're going to go take a look at it tomorrow, but I think it'll end up coming home with me. ;) The wood is a little lighter than I like, but I may be able to do something about that. It's small and should fit right where I want it, and I love how chunky and rustic it looks. Cute, right?

The very same day a package arrived in the mail containing the most recent addition to my hanky collection. I'd purchased a lot of 28 vintage hankies on eBay and was really thrilled with how many lovely ones I got! You know, when you buy in lots you don't often know exactly what you'll end up with, but these were all in really good condition and many had very intricate hand embroidery- my most favorite thing ever! Here's a peak at a *few of my favorites:

I love the colorful threads used on this one, with the happy little flowers and the bright blue crocheted edge.

The edge of this one fascinates me. How do you make those teeny tiny little circles without going cross-eyed?

Aren't these sweet? Tiny and simple, they just make me smile and sigh.

My kids really liked this one. That little joey in his mama's pouch is precious!

These sweet little blue and pink pineapples are ever so cute! I love the matching pink edges.

I'm not usually a fan of the printed hankies, but this silk one deserves a mention with its pretty floral and bird design and, though you can't tell from just a photo, it's as light as air. When I touch it it feels like... nothing!

I love the white-on-white design used for this one. So elegant and understated.
The lace corners on this give it such a feminine feel. Can't you just see some dainty lady pulling something like this from her sleeve to dab her eyes at a wedding?

Well, my hanky box is now overflowing. What am I ever going to do with all of these?? Keep collecting them, that's what!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

turning a child's art into embroidery

I came across this idea on another craft blog recently (unfortunately, I can't remember where) and fell in love with the notion that you could change a simple drawing on a piece of paper into something textured, durable and perhaps even functional (a pillowcase or t-shirt maybe?). My 4-year-old's art astonishes me sometimes. Her imagination, creativity and innocence comes through in each piece she creates. I love that she likes drawing, because I remember sketching and doodling constantly as a kid, and still find a lot of joy in it. I am also very big on preserving memories and creating long-lasting keepsakes. I treasure items from my childhood, especially ones that I made myself, and I want my daughter to have the thrill of holding and touching something that came from her young mind and little hands when she gets older. Add to all of this my fierce love of embroidery and this project is perfectly suited to me.

Before I started I did a quick search on the internet to see if I could find a good how-to, then realized I didn't really need one- this is a cinch! Here's what I did:

This part was by far the hardest- choosing which drawings to use! Luckily I had about a gazillion to pick from so I had no trouble finding 5 that I just love and were roughly the same size (clockwise from top left: dinosaur, alien lion, dinosaur/dragon, robot and alien puppy).

I used natural cotton twill for my fabric, and since it's too heavy to see through easily I decided to use a window as a light box. This did the trick nicely. I taped each drawing to the window, then taped a piece of the twill on top of it using packing tape. Some of her drawings were a little faded due to many weeks of sun exposure on our fridge, so I painstakingly re-traced her lines to make them dark enough to show through the fabric.

Then take whatever marking tool you'd like (I used a Mark-B-Gone pen), so long as it'll wash out, and go to work tracing.

If you come to an area where you're unsure of what's really under there and just can't make out the lines, lift up your fabric and peek at the drawing before you keep going.
Just a couple of suggestions if you decide to try this project -
-Iron your fabric first. I was too excited to start and skipped this step, which made tracing over the wrinkles a little annoying.
-Tape down your fabric (securely!) on the top and 2 sides, leaving the bottom open for peeking. --Resist the urge to correct your child's "mistakes". Every little overlapped line, misplaced eye or extra tongue (a la "alien puppy") is an important aspect of your child's artwork. When tracing be as true to their lines as you possibly can and your finished project will just glow with their personality. And that's the whole idea, right?
-When you start to stitch, keep the original art handy and refer to it often. I think I'm going to embroider each drawing in the same color Pyper used to draw them, just so they look as much like her originals as possible.

Here are a couple of awesome quilt ideas I came cross on two of my favorite blogs, Wee Wonderfuls and SouleMama, which incorporate this project. What a great way to use these little pieces of embroidered art!! Man, I can't wait to actually start stitching these! I'll definitely be showing off the results.

Monday, July 7, 2008

waste NOT!!!

There's something about being wasteful that really bugs me. I've always appreciated hand-me-downs of anything- shoes, clothing, furniture, housewares- whatever! Thrift stores are my favorite places because I like knowing that the things in them were once used by someone else, and will now be used by me, too. I like giving second life to unwanted items.

Last night as my family and I were on our way home from a walk through the neighborhood, something poking out of a neighbor's trash can caught my eye. I paused, noticing the wood construction, and wondered what it was and what it was doing in the garbage. Our trash pick-up is on Monday morning, so most of the neighborhood's garbage was already out by the curb. I don't usually take such notice of refuse, but I couldn't seem to get it out of my head. This may sound silly, but hours later as I was lying in bed exhausted and ready to go to sleep, all I could think about was that thing I'd seen in the trash. Why would someone throw that away? What was it, anyway? Maybe it was broken, or otherwise ruined. Why else would it have been in the trash?

'I should go get it,' I thought.

'Don't be ridiculous, it's after midnight! Aaron would think I'm out of my dang mind if I left now to pull something out of a stranger's garbage can.'

'But what if it's something nice? What if I could use it? It'd be free, after all.'

(to Aaron): "Is it illegal to take something out of some body's garbage once it's on the curb?"

Aaron: "I don't know. Maybe."

me: "That's it, I'm going to get it."

So I did! I haven't been dumpster diving that often, so this was a little nerve-racking. Pulling up to a dark house on a still street, well past midnight. Trying to look casual as I approach an overflowing garbage can and swiftly remove this... item. Then I hustle it back to my car and drive away, ever so nonchalantly... sweating all the time. I walked proudly into the house with my prize and showed it off to hubby. I've decided that it's some sort of little bench or stool. Not quite sure. But there's nothing wrong with it other than a scuffed up top and some dust. For heaven's sake, why would it have just been chucked?! Take it to Goodwill, for crying out loud! So, so wasteful!!

Anyway, since I don't really need another stool around, I decided to make it a little shelf above my printer for storing stuff. I was thinking of painting it, but now I'm not sure if I will. I thought it would look nice in a fun color, like a robin's egg blue or something. Whatever I end up doing with it, it will have a much nicer life with me than at the city dump where it was headed. Sheesh, can you believe some people?

And for the record, Aaron didn't give me a hard time about my midnight scavenging. He knows me. :)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Indepence Day top

In an effort to dust off my clothes-making skills (and to procrastinate working on a big pile of baby shoes), I decided to spend the 3rd of July making this little number for my 4 year-old to wear for Independence Day. I used a top she already had as a guide and set off with some scraps of red & white floral and some blue & white polka dot fabrics. It actually went pretty smoothly, which doesn't always happen when I try to make something without a pattern and instructions. The only regret I have is that I didn't make the bodice and skirt as one piece. I'd intended the skirt to be more gathered and full, but the fabric remnant I was working with just wasn't quite wide enough. There are a few tucks here and there, but it looks more accidental than intentional. Ah, well. Overall I think it turned out pretty cute! We might even get a few more wears out of it this summer.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

thrift store goodness

Today was a long and frustrating one with the kids, so practically the minute Hubby walked through the door I said, "I need to run away for a while," and I did just that. I've been wanting to check out a particular thrift store nearby that I hadn't been to yet. After getting a little lost I found it and spent a blissful hour or so strolling up and down aisles, trying on shoes and clothes and filling my cart with treasure. I love thrifting. Shopping is fun, but thrifting is heaven. One of the most exciting discoveries I made was a pile of old 1980's McCall's Needlework & Crafts magazines. Let me first say that I am not a fan of the 80's and am mystified by this resurgence of 80's style that has been happening lately. Quite frankly, I can't wait until it passes. But these books were intriguing. They were full of cute projects and fun ideas, with this vintage feel that I just couldn't resist. There was a whole pile, but because my cart already had so many other purchases waiting, I could only grab a few. Here's what I found just flipping through 3 of the 5 (before my camera batteries died):

Whoops, I lied. One of them is a Better Homes and Gardens Needlecraft Ideas magazine.

Something about this coat made me take a picture... not sure what... looks cozy, though.

These little creatures are too cute. That snake cracks me up!

I'm in love with these sweaters. I would totally wear them. Doesn't that chick on the right look like Julianne Moore??

And of course, irresistable baby shoes. One of these days I'll sit down and try out the pattern for these fabric cuties.

I adore crewel embroidery. Never actually tried it, but it's design is so very appealing to me. The style of the flowers that are often used is something I've unconciously become addicted to. They're on my rugs, my pillows, dishes, and artwork.

That little turtle is sooo cute! I love the look of the edging on these baby items, though I'd probably take a shortcut and just use jumbo ric-rac to get a similar effect. See, I'm lazy. But this is not news.

Everything about this little girl's room makes me sigh; the whitewashed shutters with their stripey curtains, the heirloom coverlet and matching pillowcase, the sweet little chair in the corner with cute little friends waiting...

I feel a little bad because a lot of what is in these magazines is projects and patterns for knitting and crocheting, which I don't do. I feel they're kind of wasted on me. But I do appreciate the shot of inspiration they've given me, and maybe if I'm lucky a few of the remaining magazines will still be at that thrift store next time I pay it a visit.

Just for fun, here's one more little find I came home with. I'm a sucker for vintage toys, and this little wooden car was no exception. It's now right at home in the kids' room.