Late to the “red truck” party

Last year around the end of November, when I normally get my Christmas decorating done, I pulled out this seasonal dish towel and thought it would be a great thing to paint on one of the square canvases I had in my closet. So I photocopied the towel and then set it aside and did nothing that year. Then this year, I was cleaning up my desk and found the copy and I thought “I should really paint this, it’s cute!” And I’m only a zillion years late to the red truck party!

Have you noticed all the holiday things with red trucks? Once you start looking, it seems that they’re everywhere! Put “red truck” in the search field of Pinterest and wow. Just wow. I am a little surprised I didn’t see toilet tissue with red trucks, but I digress.

Photo collage of a seasonal dishtowel with a red truck design, and photocopies of the image used to enlarge it.

I had to enlarge the photocopy 300% to have it fit nicely on the square canvas, which was about 18″ square. (I’m sitting in my family room, writing this blog post, and I cannot be bothered to get up and measure the painting 😆) It was a little fiddly to enlarge the image on my outdated desktop printer/scanner. But I managed to get all of the image and then used my portable light table to line up the images and tape them together.

Photo collage of the image enlarged 300%

Next, I painted the blank canvas with some golden yellow chalk paint with a little brown acrylic paint mixed in. This would not be the actual background color. This was just an undercoat.

Photo collage showing the golden yellow color being painted on the canvas.

When that was all dry, I painting over the entire canvas with flat house paint I had in the basement. It is Antique White. When that top coat dried, I used some sandpaper to distress the white finish and have some of the golden yellow base coat show through.

Next, I used the “old school” transfer method I talked about in this blog post to transfer the image onto the newly painted canvas. This took some time. And during this process, it became evident that the image had become slightly distorted due to the enlarging process. I had to cut and re-tape some portions of the image to straighten them.

Photo collage showing how I transfer the design to the canvas.
In this photo collage, you can see how the white over the golden yellow turned out on the canvas.

At this point in the project, I got pretty geeked about this whole thing. I couldn’t wait to start painting.

Photo of pencil outlines of the design on the canvas.
I really wanted to get painting!
Photo showing the letter painting process on the canvas.
Instead of using a true black paint, I chose a craft paint color called Warm Black.
Photo of the red truck, all painted.
It’s all downhill from here! The truck got a little distorted in the enlarging process but I think I made it work ok.

At this point, I should tell you that I was using the black and white copy of the dishtowel to go by. I completely forgot to look at the actual dishtowel, which was in color, and could have helped me. I was looking at examples of red truck designs with these tree farm type phrases on them to get ideas for the colors for the lettering. I decided to go with this scheme shown in photo below, and then I made the colossal mistake of asking my family what they thought.

Photo of the finished canvas, but with some questionable color choice
I was pretty happy with it! For a while…

Two of the four members of my household chimed in with their opinions, which I supposed I did ask for in a round about way. In the end, I decided to tone things down a bit by changing the Farm Fresh phrase to the Warm Black color rather than the green. I’m glad I did.

Photo of the finished Farm Fresh Christmas tree sign.
Yay!

I’m really glad I did this project this year. I see things like this in the store and what keeps me from making the purchase is knowing I can make the thing myself, and usually without buying extra materials. I had the blank canvases from when I thought I was going to paint more. I always have some paint on hand. Most importantly, I usually have the time. And if I don’t have the time, I make it, simply by not cleaning my house or not doing laundry for a few days! It’s pretty straightforward. Listen family, do you want home decor or do you want clean underwear?

(Don’t answer that…)

Thanks so much for stopping by! We are getting closer to Christmas and I have been so busy with projects, but it really makes me happy. 😀 I hope you’re doing well and feeling happy, too.

Jenny

Paint-by-number purgatory

At the beginning of quarantine, I was scrolling thru Instagram and saw an ad for a paint-by-number thing where you upload a photo of your pet, and this company turns it into a project you’ll regret ever starting.

So I bought into it. And it took weeks and weeks for the kit to arrive. It took so long, that I figured it was a scam and I was out $46. (I know, right?!) After emailing the company, I learned that due to all the new shutdowns last Spring, they were behind on orders and if I could just be patient. I AM a very patient person, and also easily distracted, so I waited. And forgot about it.

Then the paint-by-number kit finally arrived, and I was immediately hit with one part excitement and one part horror. Why did I order this? Why did I choose that particular photo? To answer the first question, you only need to recall that everything in the world shut down, kids were no longer going to school, and I didn’t know how many more family games of table tennis I could endure. Also, I have a painting of our older cat, Princess, from a paint-and-drink-cocktails place that I completed several years ago. As for the second question, well, the photo I chose of Dewey, our young rescue kitty, was so darn cute and he looks so handsome, I had to choose it!

I began painting, and I made sure I did this at the dining room table where my two artistic boys could see and be inspired to help me finish it. Sneaky, right? (They don’t consider themselves artistic but they really are!)

Collage of two photos of a paint-by-number of my cat.

I worked and worked on this project in between other projects, like various knitting and crochet things, and eventually I got so close to finishing that I…..stopped working on it. It languished on the dining room table until I moved it to the floor of my craft room, where it languished further and completely lost its appeal.

But I finally picked it up one day a few weeks ago determined to finish it. But I knew it needed to be fixed because somewhere in the zereos and ones of software that converts photos into near-impossible paint-by-number kits, it determined that some shadowing in Dewey’s white fur should be mauve, and not just a sliver here and there, my cat looked like he was wearing a auto racing jump suit. It was bad. Everyone agreed. You can also feel free to agree by viewing this photo. He looked like the Trans Van of cats. (I thought these vehicles were super cool when I was a kid!)

Collage of images of a 1970's era Trans Van recreational vehicle and the paint-by-number of my cat with an unfortunate swath of mauve paint.

I changed out the mauve for a more reasonable shade of cat, and voila! Finished. I wrapped the canvas painting around a canvas on stretcher bars I had lying around and now I can look at it, admire it, and always be reminded that impulse purchases are usually not the best idea.

I hope you enjoyed this little story of impulse, regret and persistence. I can honestly say I never want to do another paint-by-number again. But maybe you’ll give it a try! Just be careful what photo you choose. The amount of detail in this painting just about did me in.

Have a wonderful day! –Jenny

“Wood” ya call me crazy?

I’m not sure how it is where you live, but where I live, in Minnesota, you almost cannot find a winter planter without birch logs in it. Birch trees are plentiful in Minnesota, and truth be told, I have always loved the look of a birch tree or birch bark anything. In fact, I still have a mug I bought probably 30 years ago at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. I used to drink my coffee out of it, but it isn’t the greatest drinking mug, as the lip of it isn’t quite right. It makes a great holder for my crochet hooks, though.

Anyhow, I have admired the winter planters from my neighbors’ front porches, to the local shops in my town. There’s something about the white logs against darker tones of greens, golds and reds. It’s so festive yet natural! But because I’m a bit of a cheapskate, I have refused to purchase birch logs for my own planters. You might even say I grew to hate the sight of them, because they are literally everywhere and I just couldn’t make the purchase. So I had an idea.

On the surface, my idea sounds kind of dumb, I admit it. But many times, I go with a dumb idea, and am surprised with either how good the idea was, or just how ridiculous! And I’m sure I looked, um, interesting as I dragged a huge fallen branch I found on the middle school field to my back yard where I hacked it up into manageable “planter” sized logs. I couldn’t tell you what type of tree it was, but it was not birch, maple or oak.

Photo of cut branches
Logs!

I knew I wanted to paint these logs and turn them into “birch”, but I didn’t have that amount of white craft paint, and I wasn’t ready to buy more, so I rummaged through the storage area of my basement where I knew many cans of house paint were left for us. I used interior latex flat paint in Antique White to put a nice base coat of white on the logs, then I used some craft paints in gold and brown and black to “birchify” them. I used Google to find images of birch logs as my guide, as I transformed these basic branches into something I can hopefully reuse for a few years.

Photo of branches painted white
Antique White latex paint
Photo of one branch painted to resemble a birch log
This log-painting adventure is quite therapeutic!
Photo of several branches painted to resemble birch logs
They might be a bit too gold here.
Another photo of logs painted to resemble birch logs
Yep, I need to tone down that gold color.

I found the best way to get the black marks was to use a piece of stiff cardboard and dip the edge in my black paint, then “imprint” the black onto the log, while turning the log so the straight cardboard could make a mark on a round surface. Then I found that tapping the cardboard on the log in areas gave me some dot-dash patterns that make the logs look realistic. I also found I went a little heavy on the gold and toned it down in some areas.

I ended up with six good logs, three for each planter on my front porch. I think they look nice! I’m happy with them, and I will store them in the garage or basement in the off-season and bring them out next year. Since I painted these “free” logs with supplies I had on hand, my investment was my time, and not my money. The birch logs sell for about $4.99 each. That would’ve been $30 for my two planters. Instead, I purchased these pre-bundled greenery packs at Home Depot for my planters. Last year, I literally went around my yard and trimmed pieces off some evergreens and also some arborvitae.

Photo of a Christmas planter with greenery, pine cones, red berries and my painted birch logs.
Ta-da!! One of my two finished planters.

Thanks for stopping by! I have another big project to write about so stay tuned! For now, I have to get to bed. I am making all my Christmas cards by hand this year, so I plan on getting an early start tomorrow.

Jenny

Some Christmas Crafting!

(I get no revenue from any products I mention. I simply mention products and stores to let you know where I got something and what it is.)

Hello again! This might be a record, me writing another post in less than three months from the last time…

So, I had this nice board laying around for literally 4 or 5 years. It was on clearance from some store, likely Joann’s or Michaels. It’s a nice piece of pine, super smooth, three feet by six inches. And for some reason, my younger son used it to write (in black marker) that “Targets were 3 shillings.” Confused yet?

It’s because back in Illinois in middle school, his grade had this Patriot’s Day or something where the kids had jobs back in colonial times, and they had to dress up and stuff. Jack dressed up in this outfit I transformed for him, and we made some fake foam core board rifles that were also for “sale” at his stall. All I remember from this exercise was I did most of the work, the fake rifles were cool as heck, and he came down with the stomach flu the next day. Ah, memories…

But I digress. I kept this board, and just the other day, I saw it in the storage area of my basement and decided it was the perfect size and dimension for some sort of sign for the space above my kitchen windows. I was going to have it say “Many have eaten here, few have died” but that seemed too wordy and a lot of work. See, I don’t have a Cricut machine or some other device to cut vinyl lettering. That would be neat, but I like to do things old school, cuz I’m old-fashioned or something.

So I started by laying on the floor of my craft room and sketching things out in pencil on the board. But then I started thinking about the edge instead and grabbed some supplies I already had to start laying out ideas for a fun border. I’m sure somewhere in the back of my brain I was thinking about what this sign would say. I thought I wanted something for the holidays.

Photo of wood and possible edging

I could picture in my head how cute this would look with lime green beads and the fuzzy pom-poms that have just a bit of sparkle to them. Next, I found an example of lettering that I had in mind and set out to sketch some letters on graph paper. Whenever I had a repeat letter, I used my light table to trace the one I already had for consistency.

Photo of wood with sketched out letters on paper
I really struggled with that “S”
Photo of my marker sketch of how I thought the final project should turn out
This is what I had in mind for the lettering and the edging.

Next, I painted the wood with two or three coats of red craft paint. While that was drying, I had two important jobs to do. One, I had to paint the beads. I had just the right amount of beads, too. I wanted to use things I already had instead of needing to purchase any supplies. The second job was to liberally apply pencil on the backs of each letter for the purpose of transferring the outline of each letter onto the board once the red paint was dry.

Photo collage of the process of painting wooden beads.
As you can see, I changed my mind about the lime green, and made a new green by mixing my lime craft paint with a more standard green.

When the red paint was thoroughly dry and I was happy with the coverage of the “18” that my son had drawn on (the other side says Targets 3 shillings and some scribbles…), it was time to transfer the lettering onto the red painted board, the old school way. I found I needed to press pretty hard to get the pencil markings to transfer onto red paint. It worked great!

Photo of transferring lettering onto red painted board
Old school method! Still works great.

Now it was time to paint the letters white. I used a tube of artists’ acrylic paint to get the maximum coverage. I didn’t have a fresh container of white craft paint and I worried I would run out. The acrylic paint was thick, but I soon got used to it and filled in the letters. The good thing about the lettering style I chose is that I knew a black paint pen was going to be used to outline all the letters, so my painting didn’t have to be spot-on perfect on the very edges of each letter.

Photo of sign with letters painting, showing one coat of paint vs two coats.
The “S” was slightly improved.

It took two coats, even though I could’ve gotten away with one. Next, it was time to use the black paint pen (Sharpie brand) and outline each letter as well as add the drop shadow. This part made me kind of nervous because paint pens generally have oil-based paint in them and I knew a boo-boo could cause a big problem for me.

Photo of me using a black paint pen to outline each painted letter.
Paint pens can sometimes malfunction and release a blob of paint. I was nervous but I just kept at it, and it did not happen…this time….
Starting to look like a Netflix sign, according to my older son! Also, can you see the slight sparkle of the white pom-poms? Fun, aren’t they?

When all my beads were nice and green and had two coats of glossy Mod Podge on them, I knew I could start gluing them and the pom-poms to the edge of the board. I want to note here that I’m totally aware that these beads can easily pop off since hot glue isn’t as strong as maybe an E-6000 or superglue, but since the sign is for my house, and I know I have to carefully store it in the off-season, I was willing to take that risk. However, I laid my beads and pom-poms out a little differently and went too fast, gluing all the pom-poms on, when I realized I was short two beads. And I looked and had no more of that size. That’s when my air-dry clay came to the rescue!

My skin is so dry and gross.

I had most of the sign completed and just needed one night for the clay beads to dry. The next morning, I was able to match the green paint color, paint the beads and give them two coats of Mod Podge. I thought about coating the entire board in the Mod Podge, but decided against it. I like how the red and white is a matte finish, and the beads and black paint pen have a slight sheen.

All finished!!

I think the sign turned out super cute, and I have yet to install it above my kitchen window. I will do that right after Thanksgiving, when I get the rest of my Christmas decor up.

I also finished up a project I started last month, which is this puffy coffee filter wreath!

I found a few different tutorials online and only needed to glance at those to determine how I was going to make this. I purchased a foam wreath form, using a coupon from Joann’s, and I purchased 300 white coffee filters from the grocery store. I have a lot of glue sticks for my gun. I had this about half done last month and got bored (typical me) but today I decided it’s getting done! And it did. And I love it!! The neat thing about this wreath is that it can be used all year round. It’s easy to use a different hanging ribbon. Some people have dyed their coffee filters first, but I was in the mood for a stark wreath.

Much fluff

Well, thanks for hanging in there for my latest crafty adventure. I had a ton of fun doing these projects, and I hope it inspired you to get crafty! Who knows, you might have a blank board laying around and some good ideas rolling around your head!

Jenny

I’ve been a bit busy!

(I get no revenue from any links. I simply add links if you need to see a pattern or product or video I have used.)

Cross Stitching

My mother-in-law just had a birthday! And I was so thrilled to be able to stitch this piece quickly, get it fully finished and mailed to her in time! This is one of several lovely design collaborations by chalk artist and all-around fabulous stitcher and decorator, Priscilla Blain, and one of my favorite designers, Cathy Habermann of Hands On Design. I’m not a super fan of country decor, but I do love a Mason jar here and there. And these Chalk Full designs by the two women are perfection in my eyes.

Behold, Chalk Full Harvest!

Photo of a finished cross stitch piece

I am so happy with how this turned out. I stitched mine on 14 count black Aida fabric with the called for “fancy floss” by Classic Colorworks and Gentle Art threads. I was concerned I didn’t have the right fabric to embellish the piece but I kept searching in my fairly small fabric stash and found this kind of batik-with-dots-style fabric I once purchased to make myself a night shirt. Well thank God that didn’t work out! (I am not a seamstress, after all). I simply cut strips of fabric 2 1/4″, attached them to become a longer strip, folded in half the long way and pressed. Then I used a good old needle and thread to make a large basting stitch along the unfinished edge and pulled gently to ruffle the fabric. Next, I glued it along the back of the finished stitching, which was wrapped and glued onto a piece of mat board.

Next, I crocheted a little sunflower and then added darker brown accents to the center of it with DMC floss and French knots. I cut some burlap, as well as a few ribbon pieces to make a bow. The bow and the stitching have magnets glued to the back so they can be easily removed from the metal cookbook stand, which I purchased at Hobby Lobby last year. This way, when I stitch more Chalk Full designs, I can put magnets on the back and my mother-in-law can simply swap out the designs as she sees fit.

Trash to Treasure

Pinterest, you sultry gal, I got sucked in again (happens daily) and this time, instead of a new idea popping up on my feed, I was browsing thru pins I already added to my Garden and Yard Board and found this: Giant Garden Alliums! I don’t remember when I added the pin that led to this delightful website, but it didn’t matter. The way my brain works is this: I looked at the photo of the crafted allium, I clicked to get to the instructions, I saw that a softball was needed, then my brain went: there’s a softball rolling around on the garage floor. Someone drew all over it with Sharpie. Your boys don’t play ball. GO GO GO!

So I went to my local hardware store, masked and hungry for supplies, and purchased nails, a 3 foot long threaded steel rod, and spray paint. And I made this!

Collage photo of the process of making a giant garden allium and a finished one

And it’s super cute but one isn’t enough. So I put out a call for more used softballs on Nextdoor and was able to get 11 more. Yay!! I also returned to the hardware store for more nails, rods and spray paint.

Quilts

Next up, something old. Not as old as me, but still. I don’t always finish projects right away. I may have mentioned this before. This first little gem is probably one of my very first attempts at piecing a patchwork quilt. I began this process when my first son was an infant. That was 20 years ago. Twenty.

I didn’t do a great job piecing and matching up all the angles, but it’s not terrible either. I was brand new at all these triangle pieces. Truth be told, I will always be brand new at it. I love the way they look but don’t really enjoy the process so much. Then at some point, I made it into a quilt sandwich and let it sit. I haven’t decided yet how to quilt it, but I did notice that I started hand-quilting it, which I don’t really remember…

Collage photo of a baby-sized calico quilt I began making twenty years ago

This is sized for a baby. I must have been thinking it would be for MY baby, who was just a wee little babe back then. Now he’s twenty! I love the variety of calico fabrics in this quilt, and maybe I will continue hand-quilting it at night while watching something good on TV.

The next UFO/PhD (unfinished object/project half done) is a larger, more modern string quilt! I made this when we lived in Illinois, so that means between 2009-2018, or something like that. String quilts are fun to me. You just grab some fabrics you like and piece a bunch of strips, or “strings” together, and then there are literally endless ways to incorporate blocks into a quilt. Again, get lost on Pinterest when you search for string quilts. I wish I could remember where I got the idea and/or inspiration for this one. It’s really fun, and it is a quilt sandwich now, meaning quilt top + batting + backing material. I dragged it out last month and then last week, I cleared off the ping pong table and set up my machine, thinking I was just going to quilt lines in one direction, maybe about 3/4″ apart. Well guess what. I haven’t quilted something this large before and thus I had a very difficult time managing that much fabric, even just to sew relatively straight lines! I did maybe 5 or 6 lines, then looked at my work and it was crap. It was not going to work out. So I painstakingly used my seam ripper and picked out all those stitches. Then I began again. And that’s where I left off. At the beginning.

Photo of a string quilt I am in the process of finishing
Collage photo of the string quilt and what went wrong as well as what might work.

I guess stay tuned??

Cards

Lastly, I want to share with you some cards I made. I was in need of some birthday cards for some dear loved ones and since I have a ready supply of basically everything paper craft-related, I consulted Pinterest for some ideas. (Do you detect a pattern?) Here are the cards I made most recently.

Collage photo of handmade cards I made.

I like the simplicity of these cards. This is a great way to use different papers from the same collection, as well as mixing and matching to see what works. In some cases, I distressed the edges of the papers with an antique brown ink designed for such a purpose. I love to add tiny flowers or buttons as embellishments. You can see also that I added some hemp string as embellishments. This does make the card bulky in the envelope. I may need to get some thinner material next time. I used rubber stamps to add the words.

Oh one more thing

I ordered a custom paint-by-number kit of my younger cat, Dewey. It took a really long time to arrive but it did! And I unrolled it, gasped, had a bit of buyer’s remorse, then sucked it up and began painting. I cannot let this take twenty years. I work on it a little bit each day.

Photo of a paint-by-number in progress of my cat Dewey.

That detail! The kit of course came with tiny pots of all the colors I will need, which amount to shades of grey, brown, beige. I maybe should have thought more about which photo to submit to the company. In the photo this kit is based on, Dewey is in front of my stone fireplace. Hmmm….

Well, time to get back to work. Those softballs aren’t going to get filled with nails themselves! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you are all safe and well. — Jenny

New Adventures in Minnesota!

(This beginning was written pre-pandemic, and I must say, it’s a bit ominous!)

I have been extremely ambitious in my crafting, and not too monogamous, which can cause some issues. I can’t even recall everything that I’ve made in the past year or year and a half! It’s been a lot, and there’s more to do. It may sound morbid, but sometimes I get anxious thinking about how much more I want to knit, crochet or stitch before I die!

Collage of photos of our new life in Minnesota

Okay, so here’s another beginning. I am not sick with coronavirus, and if I die tomorrow from some thing, I think I will have knit, crocheted and stitched about enough stuff. But there’s no reason to stop now. 😉

So yeah, we moved to Minnesota from Illinois in August 2018. We knew we would be moving for an entire year prior to physically moving, and we chose to do it this way so our oldest son could finish high school in Illinois. Then we had our last summer in IL, moved our son into college in another state, then moved here. Pretty seamless actually, but then it wasn’t. I won’t get into all that here because it’s still a bit painful. Maybe I’ll get into it some other post.

Anyway, I really want to get back to blogging about things I make. Currently, right now, today, I am fulfilling a commitment for 50 masks to be distributed to health care workers. I have until tomorrow to get them finished. I have already made about 100 masks, for family, friends, and the Alzheimer’s/Dementia care organization I used to volunteer at. So I have the process down, and this is a link to the wonderful YouTube video I found that taught me how. I purposely searched for a how-to for a mask that does not involve elastic, because as strange as it is, elastic is hard to come by right now, since so many folks are using it for masks. I am very accustomed to making the masks with fabric ties, so that’s the way I’ll keep making them.

Photo of masks I've sewn with fabric ties

I started up by using fabric I had in my stash, which is 90% quilting cottons, which is perfect. I did end up purchasing more fabric by shopping online and also physically going to Joann Fabrics with my mask on and practicing social distancing. I also have a lovely long-time great friend who happens to be a wonderful designer of things including quilting cottons, and she was kind enough to send me 3 full bolts of fabric. I won’t run out for a while now.

I have also made some felt flower bouquets for the nursing home, my elderly aunt, and a friend recovering from a hip fracture and subsequent surgery. I had some felt in my stash but not quite enough so I ordered some from Amazon, as well as green straws for the stems. Here are some pics. If you’re interested in learning how to make felt flowers, there are plenty of resources on Pinterest. Here is a link to my Crafts board if you want to see some good ones.

Felt Flower Bouquet

I have also knit and crochet so many things, and completed some cross stitch and needlework as well. I came across new YouTube channels to inspire me like Priscilla and Chelsea, the Real Housewives of Cross Stitch, Grocery Girls Knit, and The Crochet Circle Podcast. There are even more, which I will list at the end of this post.

One of my biggest problems is that I have too many hobbies. I do love to knit. And I love to crochet. And I really enjoy cross stitch and needlework. I just love all the textile things, and since I’m fortunate enough to not have to work outside the home, I don’t need to focus all my time and energy on one particular craft. I am so very lucky, this I know.

Eventually, I would love to own a camper, and I mean it will have to look vintage, if not be vintage. I know that I don’t have the knowledge, skill nor strength to refurbish a vintage camper (like a 60’s Shasta, for example) and some manufacturers are producing modern travel trailers with a vintage look and feel. I actually used to work in the manufactured housing/recreational vehicle industry and I know that many interiors from the 80’s on up are not my style, at all.

So, when I make certain things like blankets, or I’m spending hours on Pinterest, I am often looking at things from the standpoint of, will this look nice in my future camper? The blankets I’m working on as of late are potential candidates. Behold, the matelassé style crocheted blanket. Patterns are by the talented Priscilla Hewitt, and you can peruse and purchase there. I purchased the collection of matelassé crocheted blankets and throws from her after purchasing a design for a baby blanket I made for a friend. I loved the way it turned out. It’s one color, but full of beautiful texture that is undeniably gorgeous.

Crocheted baby blanket

Ok this is enough for now. Here are some photo montages of things I’ve made. I hope you are all doing well, and thanks for stopping by!

Photo collage of a baby sweater, hat and booties I knit
Photo collage of socks I've knit or crocheted

Here are some additional YouTube channels I love to watch! Enjoy!!

Arne & Carlos
Brenda and the Serial Starter
Cathy Haberman
Farm Girl
Teresa Kogut’s Creative Whims
VeryPink Knits

Back to it!

How does the time fly by so fast and I haven’t written a blog post? I guess it doesn’t matter because here I am now, attempting to write a post!

Spring has finally arrived in the midwest after a few stray snowfalls that sent most everyone into a depressive rant. Back in February, my husband and I took a work trip (HIS work) to Newport Beach, California. It was so nice to get away but because we have no family here in Illinois, and no family members from Michigan could come to stay with our boys, it was a bit worrisome for me to leave them with friends and neighbors. While my older son was fast approaching 18 years old, he can’t seem to get up on his own for school, so there was no way I could leave him in charge of himself and his 12 year old brother.

It all worked out though, and husband and I had a really awesome time in California even though it was a little bit chilly. It was sunny and seeing palm trees and green grass instead of the brownish-gray frozen midwest was quite nice. Plus, the resort we stayed at (Pelican Hill) was amazingly beautiful.

While we were there, we went kayaking, we went on an Art Walk in beautiful Laguna Beach, we did a super fun cooking class at Manassero Farms in Irvine, and we dined with colleagues at lovely restaurants as well as danced and had a great time at the Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana.

In terms of MAKING STUFF,  I have been very busy making things because that is what I do. I love to make things, as I may have mentioned before. 😉 I also attended Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago for the first time and took a class on Japanese Knitted Fingerless Mitts.Collage 1

So as you can see from these collages, there are a lot of things that have been crafted since my last (so long ago) blog post. 

Then my younger son gave me absolutely NO time to come up with a costume and items for him for Patriot’s Day at school. I crafted him a tricorn hat thanks to a wonderful template and instructions I found at Pizza By The Slice!

The muskets were made with thick foam core board that I layered and glued three thick and then cut out with a reciprocating saw. Then my son and I did some carving and sanding and painting and adding paper bits as well as some hardware to get them looking realistic. It was a ton of work but they “sold” fast in the colonial market. Too bad he didn’t think to keep one! Oh well.

These photos aren’t everything but I would say they represent the majority of what I’ve been up to. More to come!

Thanks for stopping by!

Jenny

Clearance can be a beautiful thing

Often times I go to a craft store with something in mind I need to purchase. Need is a loosely defined term in my life. If I grab a shopping cart, it’s only because what I need to purchase is too big or heavy for me to carry. If I don’t use a shopping cart, I’m likely going to buy only what I came for, and maybe one more thing. I have shopped at Costco for two items and did not get a cart. People look at me funny. But if I get a cart there, I end up getting things we don’t really need and in most cases, I have no freezer space or pantry space for. Oh and the bill. It’s too much!! One can only fit so many dozen bags of snack items on top of one’s refrigerator. And let’s face it, I’m the only one who will eat the seed-filled, whole grain, gluten-free, non-GMO crackers in the 64 oz size. This is NEVER a good idea. Yet I’ve made the mistake more than once.

But what I really enjoy is checking out the clearance areas at my local JoAnn’s, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby. I have even scored some low-priced clearance yarn at my Meijer grocery/everything store.

About 4 months ago, I was shopping at Hobby Lobby for yarn for the ABC Baby Blanket, and I came across these painted needlepoint canvases in a clearance section. I found three that I really liked. I figured I would work these needlepoints and have them framed or somehow finished for whatever house we end up getting when we move next year*. They’re very vibrant — different than what I usually go for.

three canvases

I decided to get DMC embroidery floss for one of the canvases on that same shopping trip, so I could get started someday. I could have purchased perle cotton or Paternayan Persian wool (if it’s still made??) but I knew that would cost more than I wanted to spend. Besides, the canvas had a little sticker on it with a guide for colors in DMC, and I didn’t know if I wanted to spend the extra time picking colors in another thread that were close.

That day, I left Hobby Lobby thinking that was the most expensive three skeins of yarn I ever bought! I DID get a few other items, too. You see, I had a shopping cart. I never needed it, I probably should not have gotten it….Oh well.

Moving on…

I began working on one of the needlepoint canvases yesterday. Actually, I began by cutting floss and transferring the cut pieces onto these handy organizer cards.

organized floss

This took more than an hour, and I still haven’t cut and organized all the floss but I certainly have enough to get started. And in typical Jenny-fashion, I am usually chomping at the bit to get started.

So I began stitching, and followed the very simple illustrated guidelines of the cardboard header that was attached to the canvas (I had removed it and set it aside). I was not happy with how the stitches were looking and began to wonder if I was 1.) using the correct number of strands of floss, and 2.) if I was stitching the half cross stitch correctly.

the start

I had difficulty concentrating on this project because, well, I AM a mom, and my twelve-year-old son decided to hang out with friends, and they wanted to bike, so I had to have my seventeen-year-old son help me put the hefty bike rack in my trailer hitch before he was off and running with his friends. I took the boys where they needed to be and came back home.

Then, I had to go get them a couple hours later and I don’t even know what I did in between! I think it was laundry but it’s all a blur now.

When I went to pick them up, they were greater in number by one goldfish. I did not see that coming. We aren’t even keeping this fish as it’s for some other friend. I still don’t understand all the whys and wherefores but luckily I had a fish bowl and gravel in the basement so we could get the poor thing out of the plastic bag. Then this happened.

uh oh

This is super-cute, I know. But it was soon to be a real-life illustration of the circle of life if I didn’t get that fish out of my house. (As of this post, it’s been over 24 hours and I still have a goldfish, albeit in a cat-free zone)

I tried working on the needlepoint into the evening, but I was tired and cranky and wondering if we were keeping the fish because my son named him….so I went to bed.

Today, I got my coffee and started working on the project again, but I was still unsure of the stitches and coverage of the canvas so I decided to do some research. I learned that I was following the instructions of the card and making the half cross stitch which doesn’t provide good coverage of the canvas. That’s why I didn’t like it. I changed to the continental stitch which leaves long slanted threads on the back of the work and good coverage. I decided there was not a large enough difference to rip out what I already did. I also learned that I was using an embroidery needle that was just a tad too big. I went to Michael’s and found the size I needed. I was surprised at how much quicker I could stitch with a needle one size down. One last thing: I learned that I should separate the six plies of the embroidery floss and rejoin them together before stitching. This makes for better coverage, too. Yes, it does take a little longer to separate the plies but it’s worth it. I honestly don’t know if I can get three canvases completed in a year, because I know me. I have a short attention span when it comes to all the different things I can make!

Look, a cute quilt fabric!!

But in all seriousness, I want the piece to look nice, but I am not entering it into a needlepoint contest, so I can live with some imperfection.

collage pic

It’s coming along nicely but I have a secret project to work on and hopefully complete in time for a trip to Germany!! More on that in a future post.

stitches in hoop

close up

By the way, you should know I was checking out the clearance items at Michael’s when I went for the embroidery needles. I ended up with paint brushes, markers, a piece of wood, and somehow a hula hoop. I did not buy any yarn, but I did look.

Oh. And I didn’t have a cart. 🙂

Thanks so much for stopping by! Next post I will show you how the little baby sweater turned out!

Jenny

*(Husband’s new role in his company is why we are moving, but we will still be in the Midwest)

Sock it to me

Have you ever decorated your laundry room?

The most I’ve ever done in a laundry room is to apply some cute old-fashioned laundry decals I found at the craft store. Really easy to do, and adds a homey touch to the room I spend way too much time in. But this was at my last house. I’ve lived in this current house for going on eight years, and I’ve just painted it for the first time. And it’s not very exciting as far as paint colors go, because we are moving in a year, and I need to keep things neutral (a.k.a. boring).

My current laundry room is on the second floor of my house, and out of the four houses I’ve lived in, only one had its laundry room on the main floor. It’s convenient to have it on the floor where most of the dirty clothes live.

Anyhow, today’s post is about a little sign I made for my laundry room that serves two purposes. First, it’s a little decor in an otherwise boring room. Second, my youngest son is the master of losing socks (somewhere in our house) and I constantly have a pile of single socks, and my ranting about this constant stream of single socks does nothing to change the situation. He is twelve years old, and he cannot wait to remove his socks once he removes his shoes. So I’m either ranting about the dirty socks left where ever he drops them, or ranting about the fact that somehow, only half the pair ends up in a laundry basket. Life’s deep mysteries, I tell you.

I purchased this basic wood and rope sign at my local Walmart, and I’m sorry I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I bet it was under $15 for sure. It was meant to hold photographs in the little clothespins. The wood was already distressed so that saved me a step. I had seen this saying “Clean, single and looking for a mate” on a sign that is meant to hold unpaired socks and like I always do, I said, “I can make that!”

I had also purchased the wood letters because I knew the only ones I had at home were “collegiate” style, and that wasn’t the look I was going for. In the photo, you can see where I already sketched out in pencil the lettering that I would paint by hand. If this is a scary idea to you, don’t worry: you can use more wood letters, or use rub-on letters from the scrapbooking department. If you use wood letters, you should find smaller ones than the ones you use to make CLEAN, SINGLE AND MATE.

Next, I decided on what colors to use for the sign. Since my laundry room is so plain Jane, I decided to use some colors that I saw on a paint store flyer. My colors are not exact matches, of course, but they were a good starting point.

I added white to my palette (former frozen food dish) just in case I need to adjust some colors. And as it turned out, the lime green color was way too bold and needed to be muted with the white. I know me, and it wasn’t in my best interest to match the colors I had found on the flier, but rather get close because while I liked those colors together, I knew I would like a near representation of them, too. Not everyone is adventurous enough to start mixing colors up, but the good news about a project like this is, you do not need a lot of paint. In fact, look at the palette pic above: that’s too much color for a few 1″ high wood letters.

Another quick note about these particular letters: they have what appears to be a light wood stain on the edges of the letters, leaving the fronts and backs unfinished and ready to accept whatever paint or stain you want to put on them. I used a basic small flat paint brush to paint my letters, and as seen in the above photo, I simply used a straight pin to hold the letter while I painted it. I am too impatient to paint half the letter, let it dry, then paint the other half. I don’t have all day! Also, I only painted the fronts. I did not touch the sides. It will never be seen or looked at that closely.

As for what letters should be painted what color, I didn’t think too hard about this. I just painted a few one color, painted a few another color…Just don’t paint the same color next to itself.

Laying the letters out in their proper order really helps you to determine what colors you want to paint what. Plus, you can always paint over a color with a different color once it dries. This is a very forgiving medium.

And here I am muting the electric lime green color with some white. The pale mossy green at the bottom center of the photo is right out of the bottle, and I wasn’t sure about it at this point. Just ignore that for now.

Now I have painted with the purple, the light blue, and the muted lime green.

Now, this paint color flier had this lovely peachy tone and I tried to make it by mixing some pink with muted lime green, and I got close, but not where I wanted it to be. So I took my bottle of horrendous Halloween orange and added a dab to the palette so I could add just a little to get the peachy tone I was looking for.

Your letters should dry fairly quickly, so long as you’re using acrylic craft paints, and thin coats of it, and it’s not too terribly humid where you are. When the letters are dry, it’s time to arrange them the way you want them on the board and decide if the way you plan on doing other lettering still works.

**A note about letter arrangement: When I first opened the letters from their packing, I realized I didn’t have enough room on the wood plank to spell out all the words with wood letters. I am totally unafraid to hand letter things, so it wasn’t a big deal for me. If you are thinking of doing a project like this, try to figure out in the store, before you buy, whether or not what you want on your wood plank will fit. If not, consider doing some words in the wood letters, and consider an alternative like a paint marker, or rub-on scrapbooking letters.**

Like I mentioned before, I decided right away to hand letter the rest of my words, and I had used a pencil to sketch them out. I just needed a smaller paint brush, and I decided to use black paint muted to a charcoal with a little bit of a light color already in my palette.

To the left is the small brush I used to do my lettering.

I painted on a very non-committal comma first.

And here is the rest. It’s not perfect, but I am happy with it. Now is the time to glue the painted letters on.

This is the glue I used to attach the wood letters to the plank. It only takes a little glue. You probably don’t want it squishing out from behind the letters and creating a glue blob here and there.

This is the method I used to glue the letters on. I arranged all the letters on the plank. Then I picked up any letter that wasn’t the first letter. In this case, “L.” I put glue on it, then replaced it on the plank. I then was able to glue the other letters in the word “CLEAN” without worrying about having the spacing right. The good news is, with glue like this, it doesn’t dry immediately where you can’t slightly slide the letter around a bit to get it exactly where you want it. Hot glue would make this more difficult.

At some point, I decided to try the mossy green color on a few letters, and I was really pleased with that result. I also muted the lime green even more. I was glad I did. So here is the finished piece. I’m really happy with it, and I’m also happy the small clothespins hold the socks! I was thinking I may have to swap them out with full size clothespins, but nope–they do the job. And I fully expect my son to end up with more than four orphaned socks at once. Because I know this kid, I may have to add some clothespins, and then some more rope….

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a wonderful day!