Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Ornament for the Tree

If you've followed this blog for a while, you know that every year, I include a hand-made Christmas ornament with my mailed holiday greeting cards. Nothing too fancy, something colorful and fun for the tree. Last year, it was elf mittens. This year, the ornament is an ornament! Scroll down to get the tute.

Start out with a simple shape, printed on freezer paper. The circle is 2-inches in diameter. You can download a sheet-full of shapes here.

Fuse the freezer paper to some yummy felted wool. I like this stuff from Purl Soho--the bright colors and texture of the wool felt are fabulous! For the base, I used white, but you can use any color. With the freezer paper fused to the wool, I cut out the ornament shapes.

Remove the freezer paper from the ornament base, and add some colorful strips. I rotary cut strips--some 1/4-inch. Some 3/8-in. Some 1/2-inch. Rough-cut the strips to fit across the ornament and give it a couple of whacks with a needle felting tool and mat to hold things together. . .

. . . and add a few decorative stitches with pearl cotton.

Make matching pairs.

Different colors, too! Place two matched ornament sides, wrong sides together, and button-hole-stitch them together around the edge. Stop when you've gone about three-quarters of the way around. . .

 . . . and stuff in some batting scraps. I used wool batting bits, you can use batting scraps or fiberfil.

Rotary cut ornament tops--3/4-inch by 1-inch rectangles. Fold the rectangle in half . . .

 . . . With a color-coordinated piece of pearl cotton, come up from the 'inside' of the fold in the middle, then pull the thread back down to the inside a couple of thread-widths way, leaving a loop, 2 or 3-inches long . . .

 . . . put a knot in the loop.

Pull the knot even with the felt, and square knot the short tail with the long thread end. Trim the short thread tail. Keep the long thread end on the needle to complete the ornament top.

Re-fold the rectangle and secure it to the top of the ornament with a running stitch around the edge. Bury the thread end in the ornament middle-fluff.


Repeat . . . Repeatedly . . . Mix it up with different stitches and playful color combinations.

Happy Holiday Stitching!
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One year ago . . .

On the morning of December 14, 2012, I punched a couple items off my to-do list on the computer and was heading to the car dealership for a routine annual inspection and oil change. I had a moment to check the weather forecast so I opened my internet browser and saw the headlines. Something about a shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, many details were still pending. Newtown?! I immediately fired off an email to my editor, Renee at The Taunton Press expressing positive thoughts for the staff with whom I have worked over the past few years. Taunton is located in Newtown. Mine is a business relationship. But the people who are The Taunton Press are also my friends.

At the car dealership, the television in the waiting room aired non-stop coverage. And the news kept getting worse. The world stood still as horrible details emerged. By the next morning I was back in touch with my friends at Taunton, and the details were put in place. A call for quilts. Email communications and social media spread the word. And quilters responded.

Overall 120 quilts were received during a three week time frame. Each quilt--enough for family members and first responders--was specially selected for the person receiving it. Members of local community organizations like Women Involved in Newtown helped distribute each quilt personally along with a note from me:

What is a quilt? It seems simple enough: pieces of colorful fabric sewn together, with a simple fabric backing, and batting in the middle to make it warm and cozy. The stitches that run through all the layers are what hold it together and add to its beauty.

Newtown is like that quilt—held together by so many beautiful stitches. And The Taunton Press, my publisher, is one of the largest employers in Newtown. Many of its employees are residents of the town. Some have children that attend Sandy Hook Elementary, and many others are friends with the teachers, students, parents, and first responders who were there that day. After hearing about what happened, I, along with many other quilters, had the desire to help—to make something positive, something meaningful that would honor those we lost, thank those who were the first to respond, and help the community move forward.

Through the years, many problems have been discussed and solved with needle and thread in hand. When something terrible happens in the world, quilters get stitching. And so we did for Newtown.

This quilt was handmade, finished, and selected so that it might bring comfort and hope to a community in distress. Hang it on a wall. Store it for a needy time. Wrap yourself in warmth. Feel the gentle embrace from someone who cares very deeply. Because, a quilt is so much more than the fabric, batting and stitching it is made of—it’s a reusable hug.

And that's the end of the story . . . so I thought.

The good news is that no one in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. The bad news is that everyone in the Taunton family was directly affected that day. I received touching personal messages of gratitude--hand delivered, heart-felt thank-you notes, emails, personal conversations--from parents whose children received quilts--children who were at the school that day. The quilts were from us. The thanks are for you. . .

In September, I was back in Newtown, working on a new project. The town seems to be back to 'normal.' The balloons and make-shift memorials have been moved away. Traffic whizzes down the main road at a speedy clip just like before. But there are differences. You can see it when a police siren is heard in the distance. In any other town, it's normal to hear a siren from time to time. In Newtown, people stop and catch their breath for a moment and remember.

And I thought you should know, too. I'm writing this message to pass along the sincerest thanks to those who participated in this project from those who received the quilts you made. Whether you sent a quilt or said a prayer . . . message received. Thank you.

What's next? For more information on some of the grass roots efforts in Newtown, these websites offer some additional information.

 - The Sandy Hook Promise. Upon entering the site, you are immediately invited to join, but you can close down the prompt window and have a look around the site first. If you like what you see and want to be a part, then join. If not, that's okay.
 - The Newtown Action Alliance. Lots of information here. Learn more about the Newtown Foundation, a non-legislative not-for-profit organization. Purchase ornaments and cards in the shop.
 - Learn more about each of the victims and the individual memorial funds set up in their honor at My Sandy Hook Family.
 - Participate in the National Vigil for Gun Violence Survivors, live streamed from the Washington National Cathedral today, Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm (eastern).
 - I bet you have an unfinished quilt that could make someone smile or help them heal. Look around your own community and offer a quilty hug. Women's shelters, refugee organizations, hospitals, veterans' groups.

Quilters know that a quilt is more than fabric, batting and thread.

A quilt is love.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Three Weeks Left

If you celebrate the Christmas holiday, then you probably don't need me to point out that there are less than three weeks to go before the big celebration!

I don't know about you, but I still have a few things to get done before I can really relax and enjoy.

There's quilting. . .

 . . . and binding. . .

and piecing . . .

and ornament-making and greeting-card stuffing . . .

And baking . . .

Not to mention shopping, wrapping, and taking in some holiday shows and concerts.

*Phew!* I'm getting tired just thinking about everything on my to-do list! I think I need a nap!

I'd better put it on the list!

Happy Stitching!