If you love little collections of gathered beauties, or are mad about Christmas, then stop on over to The Fable of the Table this week... there's a wonderful idea for an unusual and personal decorating idea, and she's giving away a little set of oddities picked up from her travels in China, Thailand and beyond...
This year, my family is planning a Christmas-of-the-century: a family reunion, meet-and-greet-with-Tilly, house-warming, three-week-long, English-countryside, handmade extravaganza. The idea is that, if we start now, there'll be time to get done all the things we want to have ready for Christmas. So, to spur us on, each week I'll be posting a little Christmas inspiration or tutorial. And perhaps you can add a little handmade fun to your celebration this year, too.
Today, I've got a little how-to on making felt Christmas cones. Very easy, and a lovely way to add colour to your tree.
a piece of felt, about 8" square (I used 100% wool felt as it's a bit sturdier, but acrylic will work, too)
about 20" of trim (ribbon, rickrack, twill tape)
Cut a curved line across your felt from one corner to the corner diagonally opposite. (You can use a compass to mark this out first for perfection, but it's not necessary) Then, starting about 2" along the curve, cut towards the corner. This will trim away one of the sides, so that your cone won't be so wide. Cut a small curve in the bottom corner of the felt, as shown below.
Take the trim you've picked, and pin it along the edge of long curve on the right side of the felt. It may look a bit bumpy now, but it should straighten out when the cone is joined up. Cut the trim to size once it is pinned.
Using small running stitches, sew the trim onto the felt. A thread that matches the colour of the trim will make this almost invisible, or you can use a contrasting colour if you want the stitches to show.
Fold the cone in half, so that the right sides are together and the trim is on the inside. Pin it, and sew down the long sides of the felt, from the trim to the bottom of the cone, and across the bottom. The only opening should now be at the top, where your trim is. Turn the cone right-side out.
Cut another length of trim for the handle, 10" long. Pin it to the sides of the cone, on the inside. The seam where you sewed up the cone should be halfway between the handles.
Sew the handles to the cone. Again, matching thread will make this invisible. Cut away any excess trim.
Now, fill with sweeties!
And why not make a couple more in complementary colours? The beauty of handmade things is that they probably won't be exactly the same size, so they'll be able to stack inside each other just like Russian dolls... which will no doubt make for easy storage when they're not in use.
If you make any cones, I'd love to see! Or, if you've got any Christmas projects of your own you're working on, please share a link so we can all have a look.
And at last, after many evenings of embroidery and one very long session of ironing and ironing and starching and stapling, the "Stars at Night" wall hanging is finally, well, hanging.
If you're not familiar with the song, it's one that Texan school children learn in Elementary school. Justin loves it because it involves clapping (the stars at night, are big and bright, clap clap clap clap, deep in the heart of Texas), and clapping means loud noises, one of his favourite things! I love it because it rhymes, and has stars and hearts in it.
I was reading this post recently about how some people are starters, and some are finishers. Well, I'm a finisher through and through. I really only start things so that I can get that lovely feeling of finishing them! And there was a point, a month or two ago, when I was wondering if I'd ever finish anything ever again. Days were full up with feeding and changing and cuddling the Tilly... all wonderful things, that I loved doing, but the finisher in me kept saying, "Well, those things will all need be done again in an hour's time... you haven't really accomplished anything."
Hence, this project. Each night, I could sew one felt letter onto the linen backdrop. Sometimes two got done, sometimes five, but there was always time for at least one. And I started to feel like myself again, like there was something in addition to the role of "mother". So, as well as reminding me to take in the beautiful night sky here in Texas, this little bit of sewing reminds me that there is time to squeeze a bit of creativity and colour into this new, Tilly-full stage of life.
It's about time Bella got something made for her. Well, that's what I think she was trying to tell me when she bit poor Baarney's arm off a few days ago. Unfortunately, there's really no point in making toys for her, as she's got a gold medal in stuffing-ripping. So, instead, she got something useful. (Can you hear her groan?) A placemat.
It really was the easiest twenty-minute project. I took the manky old white towel which had previously been under her bowl to catch drips, and a piece of doggie-related fabric I found in Walmart's scrap pile, and cut 10x14" rectangles out of each. (Two rectangles from the towel, if your dog is a splasher, like Bella)
Then, with the doggie fabric face down, and the towels face up, I pinned it all together, and machine stitched all around, about 1/4" from the edge, leaving a good 4" gap on one side.
I turned it inside out, through the gap, so that the right side of the fabric was on top, and slip-stitched the opening closed. Now, ideally, one would top stitch all around the edge again to keep it together, but I wasn't sure that Grendal (my mean green sewing machine) was up to all that towel, so I just machine stitched around some of the details in the fabric. Very basic quilting, you could call it.
Bella was overjoyed to have something made just for her, and got right down to trying to chew on it. What a beast!
Baarney the sheep is a lucky little fellow. While he was still just a tiny lamb, he had a run in with a rather ferocious dog, and had to be rushed to the vet to have his arm reattached. All that makes him a little jumpy, and you'll always find him curled up on the couch at night rather than out playing with the other sheep. He likes to knit, and is working on making himself a pair of mittens for the winter.
Ever since Spool created their free bird mobile pattern, everyone with a needle and a baby has been sewing birdie upon birdie from fabric scraps.
The original Spool mobile:
I started making a mobile for Tilly last winter using their pattern, and yesterday, it finally hung above her bed. Now, I made a few changes to the design, for a few reasons. Firstly, because I got sick and tired of sewing birds. Yes, it's a simple pattern, but hand-stitching fiddly, fraying, curved-pieces of cotton is not my cup of tea. Give me felt any day. So, sewing four birds is all I could bear. And secondly, because I do not trust my branch-balancing skills enough to put sharp pointy wooden "spears" above Tilly's bed. Forget SIDS, I'd be worried about SIKS (Sudden Infant Kebab Syndrome).
So, my birdies perch comfortably on embroidery hoops, each swinging at his own pace. I don't think anyone has ever had an organ pierced by an embroidery hoop.
Tilly is fascinated by her new birdie friends... perhaps too much so. When she woke me up this morning, it was because she was tired. I have a feeling she'd been up for an hour or so already, just happily staring at her birds!
I came home tonight to the wonderful sight of Justin making dinner. And not just frozen pizza -- it was Texas-Style, Texas-sized bruschetta, changing what is usually a measly appetizer into a hearty main course. He actually created his own recipe for it, which was so absolutely delicious, and so creative, that I immediately suggested he try out for Top Chef, and then begged him to let me share it with you. He kindly agreed.
Here's what you need to make six pieces (which will stuff two people, or satisfy three):
6 chunky-cut slices of large crusty bread
1 pound of shrimp
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/3 of an onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/8 of a block of sharp cheddar, cut into chunks
1 cup of sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup of softened butter
fresh cilantro (coriander)
Mix the chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, chunks of cheese, cilantro and basil in a bowl, and set aside
Press the garlic, and mix with the butter and shredded cheese in a bowl
Place the six slices of bread on a baking tray, and spread evenly with the garlic-butter-cheese mixture
Bake at 350 degrees for about five minutes, until the cheese is melting
Meanwhile, sauté the shrimp in a little olive oil
Once the cheese has melted on the bread, remove it from the oven, and top with shrimp. Then add a large spoonful of the tomato-onion-etc. mixture on top of each slice.
To eat it the true Texan way, simply pick a slice up with your hands and try to get as much of it in each mouthful as possible. Or, if you'd rather keep the toppings on your bruschetta, try the more modest British method of using a knife and fork!
I'm not a big fan of roses, so the idea of stopping to smell them has never meant much to me. But I've now got a phrase to replace it: taking the time to stop and pick the cotton.
As we drove to San Antonio last weekend, taking Tilly on her longest-yet car ride, there were points when I wondered if we were crazy to drive for a total of seven hours, only to be there less than twenty-four. It's easy to stick to doing what is easy... that is, to stay at home and merely survive, hour by hour, nap by nap. But then, when would we ever see the wonderful things the outside world has to offer, like fields of cotton in bloom?
Now perhaps it's because I've never learnt much about American history, only American literature, but I have to admit, I sort of half-thought cotton plants were fictional. And the popcorn/fluffy cloud/marshmallow-like appearance of the cotton only added to that, making it totally surreal. In fact, the only way I could truly "believe" in the cotton fields was to have Justin pull over the car so I could run down the bank and pick a little piece off to feel it. (It's soft, just like a cotton ball you buy, but with quite big, black seeds in the centre)
And so, even though it made our journey five minutes longer, and Tilly five minutes more grumpy by the time we got there, I wouldn't have missed that moment of wow-I'm-really-living-in-Texas-now for anything!
It's no secret that we love our meatballs round here. And our IKEA furniture. So, I figured what better way to protect our Swedish table from our steaming hot Swedish meatballs than a little Swedish-inspired, Dala horse hot pad. In felt, of course.
You might be forgiven for assuming that the pattern was from the new "Scandinavian Needlecraft" book I just got. No. Typical Astrid: get a lovely book, full of easy-to-sew patterns, and immediately make up a pattern of my own. But it was definitely inspired by the book!
And since a lot of you are crafty folk, I thought I'd share the basics of how to do it:
1. Cut yourself two squares of felt, about 8 by 8 inches. (I used cream and red felt) Round off the corners.
2. Decide on a design. I freehand cut my little Dala horse out of red felt, and embroidered the details, but you could any kind of motif you like. A heart would be quite simple to cut out, or a star. Pin your design onto the top side of one of the pieces of felt. Stitch the design to the felt square with embroidery thread (running stitch or blanket stitch would both work well here).
3. Now you'll need some quilt batting. You'll want three layers of batting to make it nice and cushiony, so cut three squares of batting the same size as your felt squares (you can just pin the felt to the batting and cut around it).
4. Pile up your squares in this order: three squares of batting on the bottom, then the felt square that'll go on the bottom of your hot pad (right side up), and then the felt square with your design on it (right side down). Pin the layers together.
5. Stitch around the edge, leaving about 1/4", making sure you sew through all five layers. I handstitched with a simple running stitch so I could do it on the sofa, but machine stitching would work well, too. Leave a gap of about four inches unsewn along one side.
6. Turn the pot holder inside out. You'll want to push the whole thing through the hole you've left in the side, going between the two felt layers. You'll now have your design on top, and the other felt square on the bottom, with the batting safely inside.
7. Using embroidery thread, sew a running stitch all around the edge, again going through all five layers. I used red thread to show up on the cream felt, but you could use thread the same colour as the felt if you don't want it to show. When you get to the gap you left, pin the edges under and stitch across it, closing it up.
8. Now, cook yourself up a nice dish of meatballs, and you're ready to go!
If there's one bit of advice I heard over and over and over again, it's to "sleep while the baby sleeps." But what I've discovered, over the past few months, is that I'm much better at functioning on few hours of sleep than on few hours of sewing.
So, in the spirit of all things easy to make, quick to finish, here's the latest -- an 'assembly-required' IKEA table runner:
Who needs a white noise machine to help a baby sleep when you've got the sewing machine going full-belt in the next room?
Hop on over to Jodie's to see what Potato has been up to in London so far...
He looks wonderfully happy! And I think he's inspired the rest of the Stuffed Stuffed Completely Stuffed menagerie to leave the comfort of the shelf and prepare to set off around the world for their own adventures.
As I drank my orange juice this morning, in my favourite polka-dot cup, I thought about future tea parties with Tilly. Surely, around here, there'll never be a shortage of stuffed folk to offer a biscuit and a spotty cup of tea to.