Thursday, December 12, 2019

Every Year. . .

Aside from wrapping up this month's FLOCK bird block shipment this week, I'm also wrapping-up a year-long project that I've hinted at here and there this year.

If you are a long-standing Good Migrations subscriber, then you know that years and years ago, I started a tradition to include a hand-made Christmas ornament in my holiday greeting cards each year.

Last year, I had the foresight to start early and avoid the typical it's-Thanksgiving-and-I-don't-even-have-my-ornaments-started-yet brown-bag-breathing panic mode.

Since that early-start concept worked out pretty well to keep panic-mode at bay in 2018. I started the 2019 ornaments way back in January.

Since the 2019 version of my greeting-card stuffer ornaments are fairly labor-intensive, I made it a goal to complete one per week throughout the year, usually starting on Sunday, finishing the ornament that day or a day or two later.

The pattern involves some pretty traditional elements of Hardanger embroidery. Something I didn't even know existed until I saw it in Eastern Europe a couple years ago on vacation.
Like most traditional Hardanger, the framework for the ornaments starts with a series of kloster blocks (satin stitches grouped in fives). Around that, I added blanket stitches encircling the entire ornament.

I did these two steps in traditional white thread, then experimented with some variegated threads in a couple shades and weights for the ornaments. 

Next I added a diamond of cable stitching. I've also seen this stitch called faggoting. Then a variation of a diagonal eyelit - or four of them clustered in the center

Then I added more eyelets in the square spaces created by the kloster blocks and blanket stitching.

I used the same thread that I used for the eyelets in the center.

Next comes the hard part - at least it's the hardest part the first time you do it.

Because Hardanger stitching is pulled tightly, it creates gaps in the stitchery fabric at the stitch edge.

Trim away the excess fabric by nestling small, sharp fabric scissors right over that line of gaps in the fabric. Then cut.

I tried not to cry when I was doing this. It helps to have clear vision for this step. Visions of a pile of threads are hard to eradicate.

And there you have it.

Traditional Hardanger doesn't necessarily have a back. Although, since this is a tree ornament, I did pair up a few of them, and stitched all the way around the outside edge with fine thread, to join two one-sided ornaments back to back. Since that doubled the work, most of the ornaments are one-sided, and I simply tried to keep the back of each one tidy as I buried thread ends.

From there, I added a hanging thread, and these are ready to stuff in my Christmas cards.

Wa la! (wink!)

I just realized I'm out of postage stamps! Better get to the Post Office before they Holiday rush--I may have missed that window!-- So much for planning ahead!

I made a few variations of the ornament. Different color combinations; different sizes. The 'January' ornaments are larger than the 'November' ornaments. Somewhere along the way, I had a facepalm moment - these would take less time to make if they were smaller!

There are about 40 ornaments ready to go in this basket.

I realize that I ran through those details pretty quickly. For those interested in a more in-depth close up of the step-by-step process I used to create my ornaments, I'll be adding a new module with much more detail to the Stitchery Crossover group this week!

Not to mention this new little winter project inspired by a cross stitch chart from the current issue of Cross Stitcher. I want to try my crossover technique with something other than square blocks. This heart-shaped project will be a real test. You can join the fun over in the Stitchery Crossover group, if you like.

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, December 5, 2019

After Turkey

The holidays can be great fun, don't you think. Last Wednesday, after finishing up a few things at my desk, I got down to the real business of making pies for a family Thanksgiving get-together.

Each year, we head to my in-laws, usually Dave's brother's place about an hour's drive away. But this year, thanks to a little goof-up by the local power company, something went wrong with some repairs to the power lines leading to John's house, and while there was no catastrophic damage, nearly all his electronics were 'fried.' I suppose if you're a fan of football on Thanksgiving that *could* be considered catastrophic.

Anyway, the turkey venue was changed to Dave's sister's family home. A little further away, but no big deal. The weather was clear and good to drive.

Unfortunately, Harley (my brother-in-law's red-haired golden retriever) had restricted access to the house. As you can see, he's playing up the sympathy card from the porch with his pathetic glare. Don't worry, he got some frisbee play time.

My job, was to bring desserts. I made the typical holiday fare - pumpkin and apple using my mom's recipes for pies and crusts.

And also went a bit non-traditional with the chocolate thing you see up front.

I found the recipe for the Dutch roll cream pie in a foodie magazine. I hadn't made this one before, and it was a big hit!

Simple, too! Here's what I did:

Cut about 1 and 1/2 boxes of Ho-ho's into 1/2" slices and lined the sides and bottom of a 9" spring form pan. Made 3 packages of instant chocolate pudding and poured it onto the Ho-ho shell. Then topped with one container of defrosted whipped topping (cool whip). The chocolate bits that fell off the sliced Ho-ho's were reserved to sprinkle on the top. 

Super easy, and a HUGE hit!

Thank thank you to Bob and Julia, our friends who made their way to their winter home in Florida before they could use their season tickets for the last home football game of the season. We were the lucky recipients of their tickets for the final home game on Saturday.

I'm sorry to say that the Syracuse Orangemen (my alma mater) football team has had a less-than-stellar season this year.

However, this last game was one for the memory books!

By the end of the game, the score was tied. 30-30. In college ball, that means overtime - one possession for each team until one team scores more than their opponent.

It wasn't looking good for our Orangemen! Wake Forrest (the opponent) was about to score a touchdown for the win!

But an exciting, heart-stopping play leading to a 97 yard dash for a touchdown locked down the game and the season with a win! It's hard to read, but the final score in the picture above is Wake Forest 30, Syracuse 39.

Yay!! (Are you a WF fan? Sorry, not sorry! *wink!*)

Win or lose, the graduating seniors make a final lap around the field after the last home game to greet fans and receive a heart-felt send off.

A nice tradition, made even more sweet with an unexpected WIN!

That's probably more football than you wanted or needed, and more than I typically share. (Thanks for indulging me!)

In other news, this week has been full of stuff I can't fully share. For example, I've been putting the final touches on the December FLOCK kits (the bird remains secret until it arrives in mail boxes) that will ship next week. Have you been considering joining The FLOCK? If so, now would be an especially good time to start your collection.

The photo above is a sneaky peek of the secret December bird, and just between you and me, this month's kit will include a special little giftie, just because. Are you in?

In other stitchy news, things are moving right along inside the members-only Stitchery Crossover area of the Hummingbird Highway website.

Are you a member? Check out the latest info. (Log in required)

If you're not a member and would like more info CLICK HERE and scroll through for the deets!

I know that for some of us, these few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can get a little crazy. My holiday season wish for you is that you take a moment to experience the magic of the season. Take in a holiday concert or movie, prepare something decadent for yourself or to share, enjoy the company of friends and family.

And just breathe!

Happy Stitching

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Even More Cookies

This cookie 'thing' has been going on for several weeks now.

Three weeks ago, I took aim at a stack of scrappy four-patches. The following week, an adorable cookie border stripe print inspired a holiday cookie mat. And last week, a few more four-patches and one last bit of the border print sent me on a new journey with less-than-pleasing (to me, anyway) results.

By the end of my sewing session, I had a light bulb moment and promised to share the results this week.

The problem was that green and white check seemed to 'need' something else.

In the far reaches of my mind, I recall having a roll of printed fusible interfacing with holly leaves and berries - Zig-Zapps by Quiltsmart.

Yet another stash-diving adventure turned up the very roll!

One panel will do. . .

I cut two 2" strips for the binding for this last installment of the Great Cookie Mat Caper . . and had just a skonch left for red berries.

Another stash-dive turned up a just-enough chunk of green.

I rough-cut the interfacing. . I'm opting for the larger of the two holly leaf shapes . .. and cut a slit in the middle of each interfacing shape to use for turning later.

Then placed the interfacing bumpy side facing right side of the fabric.

I fussy-placed the berry circles over the snowflake icing motifs.

Then sewed on the solid lines of the interfacing. . .

. . . .and trimmed on the dotted line.

Turned the fabric right side out (the bumpy fusible side is on the back.

Time to head to the ironing board with my in-the-ditch quilted cookie mat (second in the series).

Then arranged and fused the holly shapes.

Then blanket stitched around the edge with bright red fabric to off-set the green checkers.

And added a bit of free motion swish for the holly leaf veins.


Ready for cookies.

Or gifting!

I'll tell you one thing, I'm ready for a new project (or an old one) that doesn't involve four-patches!

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, November 14, 2019

More Cookies!

Last week, I started with the statement that 'some projects are meant to be.' This week, I hafta say, that sentiment continues.

You may recall that two weeks ago, I was lamenting the stack of scrappy four-patch blocks in hibernation on the small table next to my sewing cabinet. The four-patches were, for the most part, intended to be made into puffy, scrappy pin cushions.

Within the stack, also lived nine matching holiday-print four-patches.

Last week, I took notice of those, and made a small (maybe about 15" square) cookie mat from nine four-patches and some 'found' cookie-themed border stripe fabric in my stash.

At the end of the article last week, I took aim at this short stack of 20 matching green and white four-patches.

I was away on business for the last part of last week, and I sat down at the sewing machine on Monday with a sideways glance to the green-and-white stack.

Plus, there was one last strip of cookie stripe leftover from last-weeks cookie mat.

I laid out the checkerboard four-patches at the top and bottom of the last bit of stripe . . .

Sewed two rows of five four-patches into a panel, pressed, then added the trimmed stripe to the long edge of the piecing.

Then, I trimmed the edge of the stripe so I didn't have to guess where to place the second checkerboard panel.


Cookie Mat, Second in the Series, is nearly complete!

Back to stash-diving to unearth a couple chunks of holiday prints and one last itty-bitty strip of the stripe - you should try saying that.

Stripe strips! Strip stripe!

It works both ways and it's kinda fun to say. . .

(Okay, I'm weird)

Moving on. . . .

I layered with batting then ran out of sewing time for the day.

Only thing that bugs me is that the checkerboard is kinda plain against the stripe strip *a-hem*.

It's a little stark and it needs something else. But what? . . . stitching? a fussy quilting pattern? hand quilting? . . . What?

And then it dawned on me! I have it! But I'm outta sewing time!

That means, you'll have to wait for next week's installment to see if my light-bulb moment worked. I think it's going to be sweet and very festive!

And this added bonus . . . Look at my stack of scrappy four-patches!

Two weeks ago, the four-patches were flirting with the top edge of the storage box!

With 29 four-patches re-purposed (or almost) into finished 'somethings,' my four-patch pin cushioning project is looking a lot lighter.

I'm on a roll. If you're a four-patch, watch out! 

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Magic Cookie Mat

Some projects are just meant to be.

I mentioned this stack of four-patches sitting next to my sewing machine last week. Most of the 3-1/2" four patch blocks are in wait-mode to become pin cushions.

Some, as it turned out this week, have a different destiny.

As I thumbed through the stack selecting my next pin cushion target, I spotted exactly nine similar four-patches. Solid green, plus candy canes and boughs on cream. Holiday themed.

They seemed to tell me they wanted to be one project, so I sewed them together. No idea where this was going.

The four-patch seams were already furled (or rotated) on the wrong side of the block. . . .

I simply continued the furling as the blocks were sewn into rows.

Makes for a flat, lump-less checkerboard center.

Now what?

The search was on for coordinates.

Down to the fabric storage in the basement (AKA the Ford Underground). I was hoping for some solid reds and greens, but what I found was an adorable Christmas cookie border stripe fabric illustrated by Janet Wecker-Frisch. Several years old. I had 1/2 yard of the border stripe, and 1/2 yard of the deep red with white cookie icing.

Once I found the fabric (buried in a box full of larger, set aside pieces) it was clear what this was going to be . . . a holiday cookie tray mat! Perfect!

Cutting carefully, I had just enough fabric for a small border of red, then the lightly iced row of cookies from the border print.

I mitered the corners on the top and had just enough of the border fabric to make the backing.

You know how the rest of this goes.

Prep for quilting.

I layered backing, batting, and the cookie mat top, and pin basted.




Ready for a quick photo (along with a couple elf models I made from a Heidi Boyd pattern).

And, of course, a holiday cookie tray. But that'll have to wait a little while longer. Thanksgiving, first, then cookies!

Nonetheless, I'm ready when the cookies are.

Even the back is cute with the red/icing fabric in between three of the alternate stripes.

This little project took a grand total of about 2 hours of sewing time - start to finish, including quilting and binding.

And a lot of luck. I'd bet that the right fabric is always right there in your stash, the luck comes when you put your hands on the right fabric at just the right moment.

Now . . .

These 20 green and cream four-patches could use a little Christmas magic, too!

Alternatively, I'd settle for some Thanksgiving magic. Jus' sayn!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Die-hard Pin Cushion Project

Sometimes it's just time to move things out. Or on to the next step. Or to the 'done' pile. Or to give up. . . Give UP?? No-no-no-no-no!

This particular project seemed like a good idea at the time. . . years and YEARS ago . . . when I started it.

I have this stack of 4-patches, some of them scrappy, some of them matchy, some of them just squares-waiting-to-be 4-patches, some of them onesy-twosey leftovers from a bigger four-patch project (you know those last couple cuts when you strip-piece) . . . .

None of the four-patch blocks are any larger than 4 or 5" square. Eventually, they get trimmed to 3-1/2" square if they aren't already that size. Once upon a time, as I created the four-patch stack, I paired each set with four 1-1/2x3-1/2" strips. And they're all in a semi-neat stack in a small storage box on the 'staging' table next to my sewing machine.

Every time I finish a seam on whatever I'm *actually* working on, I grab from the box and sew a seam. Instead of a scrap piece of fabric to catch the thread ends between seams, I make one step of progress on the 'four-patch project'

This has been going on forEVER!

Once I create two 'matching four-patches, I attach a strip to each side of one of the four-patches, like four little ears flopping around.

The paired four-patch and it's fraternal twin with ears are stacked in a soft-sided basket - a different one from the box on the staging table - for the next step.

Each 'twin' set looks something like this.

The next step is to add surface embroidery and maybe some beads to the 'eared' twin, then after that's done, the twins come back to the sewing machine to sew them into a squashed cube.

. . . Like this.

Kinda pathetic looking, right?

It'll get stuffed with scrap batting (there is a 1 to 1-1/2" opening on one of the longer seams) then closed and tufted with a button.

 . .  To make fun puffy pin cushions.

The trouble is, there are about a million of these things in process between the two stacks - the one by the sewing machine and in the soft-basket.

(Okay, I'm exaggerating a little - maybe not a MILLION, but truly there must be about 50 or so, easily).

The log jam is the embellishment. I just have to be in the right frame of mind to add the stitching and beading creatively. It has to be fun or it just doesn't come out.

On the plus side, it's a great way to practice surface embroidery stitches and play with my fabulous thread collection on a small, fast-finish project. And little by little, scrap batting disappears into these little pillows of cute.

On the down side, aside from having so many (does anyone *really* need 50 pin cushions?), I'm not as excited about finishing all these little guys as I once was when I started collecting them. I mean, I am and I'm not.

Why didn't I just throw away those last bits of strip piecing way back when?

You know the answer to that, and so do I . . . I just couldn't.

So now I'm pacing myself. One at a time, I pull one pin cushion set of the basket for embellishing. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. . . or 50 of them. *wink!*

Happy Stitching!