Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

Hey, I'm back from my blogcation. I had a good time doing mini posts on Instagram this past month. I usually forget to keep up with that part of social media, but now that I'm a bit more in the habit, maybe it will stick. Anyway, it was fun to get some snaps of my holiday prep and activities. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, but what fun! And now I can share some fabric-related activities that I couldn't share before because my little projects are all in the hands of their new owners. 

For the past five Christmases, I've been in the habit of making my granddaughter a felt applique Christmas ornament that represents her Halloween costume. This year, I decided to do the same for my grandsons. It was a challenge because the Grands had fairly complex costumes, but by tracing my patterns with freezer paper and ironing the paper to the felt, I was able to cut out precise pieces with my embroidery scissors. I was thrilled with how they turned out and with the reactions I got from my Grands when they found them in their stockings.

For Halloween, my granddaughter was Owlette from PJ Masks (a children's cartoon about kids who turn into superheros and do good deeds at night when they are in their pajamas). My older grandson was a golfer. He's not quite two years old, but he loves to hit golf balls and has perfect form. And my younger grandson was a monkey with a stuffed banana sewn to his costume. For the ornaments, I found clip art online to help me with the basic designs, and I chose felt colors and embroidery thread to match the kids' costumes. 

Here they are:

I stuffed each one with a bit of leftover batting (always looking for ways to use up those odd pieces). 

I also give ornaments to my kids every year. And this year I made a couple of extra ones for my physical therapist and my hair stylist since I had appointments just before Christmas. I can do handwork pretty well now, but using a sewing machine has been more challenging lately--partly because of aches and pains from rehab activities, but also because I've needed to keep the mess to a minimum while getting ready for guests. But I still wanted to use fabric, so I decided to make no-sew ornaments.

I found a folded star ornament that is EVERYWHERE on the internet. It seems that most people attribute the directions for the ornament to Sophie Legarth in this tutorial. Because the tutorial is not in English, I looked at a lot of other sites, too. I probably used this one by Betz White the most. But no matter what tutorial I looked at, I had a lot of trouble with the last step. There's nothing wrong with the tutorial. I just have a really hard time following pictures. I need lots of words to go with them to describe the process. I finally figured out my own way to stuff the ends of the fabric into the star, and I can't even tell you how I did it. All I know is that for each ornament, I had to figure it out all over again when I got to the last step. So these little projects took way longer than they needed to, and I pretty much had to limit myself to making one a day to keep frustration to a minimum. Really, they were fun, though. And my ornaments are quite puffy and tight, so they should stay together pretty well. 

The ornament on the upper right is the one I made for myself for practice. The two red, white and blue ones went to my son-in-law/daughter and to my physical therapist to celebrate the Cubs' win of the World Series (They are fans. Well, my daughter is a White Sox fan, but she was happy for my son-in-law.) The other two went to my son/daughter-in-law and to my hair stylist with no particular reason for the colors except that I liked how they looked together. 

These ornaments were not messy to make. Except for the mess of choosing the fabrics. You should have seen the bed in my quilting room. A fabric explosion! I had a really easy time picking out three fabrics that I liked together, but the fourth was always a challenge. By the time I was done choosing dithering, there was a HUGE pile of scraps on the bed. Because I needed to get it all cleaned up for company, I may have indiscriminately stuffed the mess into my scrap drawers. Oops! No, not the drawers in my closet. Those are still nice and neat ever since I did the major closet reno. These drawers are in a dresser. If I were the kind of person to make New Year's resolutions, one would definitely need to be to get all those drawers back in order again. We'll see. I kept my hand sewing area by my chair neat by using my "garbage vase." 

Yes, I know some of those scraps look salvageable. Maybe I'll go through them before I dump it out. It was so cheery looking, I left it out over the holidays.

Oh, one more thing--someone mentioned that it might be fun to have the recipe of some cookies I posted on Instagram. I usually make my go-to cookies over the holidays: Heath Bar cookies and cream cheese cut-out cookies. This year I also made some simple butter cookies with vegan "butter" for one of my grandsons, who can't have dairy right now. The Heath Bar recipe is my favorite. It was my mother's, and I don't know where she got it, but the cookies always disappear quickly. Yup, they're that good! Delicate and crispy.

I used to make them with a margarine brand that's famous for baking in my area, but the formula seems to have changed, and the cookies don't turn out as well with it anymore. So I went with real butter and upped the flour a bit from the original recipe.

Here's the revised recipe for anyone who'd like to try it:

Heath Bar Cookies  
Cream 2 sticks (1/2 pound) salted butter with 3/4 cup white sugar. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and beat. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Add 1 3/4 cups flour, somewhat packed. Chop 3 Heath Bars really fine (or use half a bag of milk chocolate Heath bar toffee bits, crushed a bit smaller) and mix in well with the above dough. Cool in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. With floured hands, roll dough into small balls (about the size of large marbles). Flatten out each ball very thin on a cookie sheet with a floured fork in a criss-cross pattern. Bake at 300 degree oven for 20 minutes or until light brown. This recipe makes about 60 cookies (if you don't eat the raw cookie dough while you're working). 

So, now, a new year. I fervently hope it will be a good one for our whole fragile world. If you live in my country (or even if you don't) I think you know what I mean. I'll keep doing my best to make it a better place through quilting. I'm not one to make resolutions (although I do enjoy reading everyone else's). I probably should clean up those messy drawers, though. And I do know that I have the same goal I've had for the last 4 (yes, 4!) months. To regain the full use of my left arm so I can sew and quilt as much as I want to again. I think that's enough. (And I will try to get in the habit of regular posts again.) As always, I'll continue to enjoy everyone's wonderful blogs, photos and quilts. 

Looking back over this post, maybe I should have called it Hodge Podge. Oh well. That's just how things are right now.I have three projects in process. Two are fall quilts and one is a summer quilt, so I think for the new year, I'll start something new to boost my enthusiasm and mix in something less seasonal. Stay tuned, and check out my Instagram feed (button is on the right sidebar) for a peek at the fabric. 

I hope the new year is a wonderful one for you, quilt-wise and every other way. 

I'm linking up this week with Freemotion by the River, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Crazy Mom Quilts.  


Beth said...

Those Christmas ornaments are amazing! They would be treasured simply because you made them, but you know your grandkids will be poring over the details decades from now, awed by the care you put into each one. Such works of art and love.

Sandra Walker said...

SO glad to read you here again, although I'm so glad you kept us close with your photos on Instagram. The ornaments are lovely but the grands' ornaments are knock-me-down-with-a-feather beautiful! SUCH a cool idea, so meaningful, just wow. With my two good arms/hands, I can't stitch as beautifully as you lol!! Yes, I keep thinking of creating some beauty in my minuscule corner of this, well put, fragile world, appreciating all the beauty around me here in person and on the internet in photos of friends and family here in North America and in other countries. If we could all hold hands...

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

I'm glad you are recovering, that's good to hear. I love your little tree ornaments, that's a great idea. I have seen these folded stars popping up over instagram, I WILL have to try one.

Jenny said...

What a great idea to make those ornaments reflecting their costumes for your grandchildren!

Preeti Harris said...

Welcome back, Janine. All those ornaments are uber cute. I completely understand the explosion when trying to work with scraps. It takes twice as longer to put them back in. I will be checking your blog regularly for updates.