Category Archives: Crafts

The Dearth of Social Media

I’m slowly coming back from a 10-day fast from Social Media. Some of my friends have done the same, making the 10-day fast not just a pity party of one, but really quite a social experiment.

Some of the results of this time period are eye-opening!

  1. Of course, I had more time on my hands that I felt obligated to fill, doing something else. Being a crafter, you’d think I’d have had lots more time to  make crafts. However, I cut back on watching You-tube videos of craft techniques because—You-tube is a form of social media. So my idea stream dried up a little.

Some of the activities that were suggested to do, rather than stare into the social media screen, included reading, exercising, cooking, communicating with real friends rather than virtual ones, hobbies, and cleaning.

Here’s another idea: decorating with LIVE Halloween decorations!

I downloaded a couple of new Kindle books and read them, but hey! I was still in the habitual posture of staring at a little screen. Reading a novel is different than reading the little sound-bites and meme captions that you work through for hours a day on Facebook and its cronies Instagram and Twitter. Is a novel, then, better? Am I a better person for sailing on a ship in an ocean of complex constructed plot lines with character development, rather than splashing in the puddles of meme expressions and punchlines?

2. During this time, we celebrated our anniversary, and I didn’t post a pic of these flowers on Instagram like I’ve done past years…

roses jenny skip anniversary roses

Skip is pretty good with sending beautiful flowers and spreading around a lot of happiness that way. But I couldn’t help wondering if posting the pics is…gulp…humble-bragging? Ugh, Social Media will catch you up in that.

3. Some of my “friends” posted that they were shocked when they realized how much time they spent on those chummy social sites, and they’re going to set a timer in the future. And what a coincidence, a new iOS came out during the 10-day fast, which now actually logs the amount of time I spend on the phone or tablet.  It divides the time into these  categories: Social Networking, Productivity, and Creativity. I can schedule time to stay away and set limits and restrict myself from certain things. I could probably find a way to fool it into recording something unproductive as productive, but what if it finds out I’m trying to buck the system? I don’t want to be made into an unfavorable example when the Singularity comes around.

4. I’m more aware of my humanness, since I also sustained a physical injury (spider bite?) during the social media fast, probably when I was gardening. That goes to show what happens when you leave the virtual world and try to participate in real-time activities!

spider bite jenny skip After about a week and a half

The first couple of days I had some serious aches and pains in my right armpit and felt like I was running a fever, but I wasn’t. It felt like a hard, tough miniature heat-infused hockey puck was underneath the bite.  As you can see, it’s right at the area my arm would rest on the desk while typing. I kept bumping it on everything. I finally found these colloidal band-aids to keep it covered up, and the swelling underneath gradually went away, after many days.

colloidal band-aid jenny skip covered with colloidal band-aid

Perhaps staying off social media sites for 10 days won’t break any long-held habits, but it did give me a long, slow breathing space to ponder the time I’ve actually spent, engrossed in some things I don’t really want to care about!

Craft Center Completed

Continuing from where we left off in the previous post, we did some more work on the Craft Room Re-do.

craft cabinets and table jennyskip Craft cabinets and table, before

We added a piece of plywood across the top of the two cabinets, which we planned for the TV and VCR/DVD player to sit on,  and nailed up some primed, sanded and painted molding to cover the raw edges. Skip put together a brace made of some strips of plywood, nailed it to the back of the plywood shelf, and fastened the structure to the wall stud.

craft unit jennyskip all one crafty unit

We’ll have to make sure the electronics line up with their remote controls, to be accessed from the sofa/bed directly across from it:

craft room couch jennyskip craft room couch

And, from the point of view of folks whose eyesight can use a boost, Skip added not one, but two lights under the shelf for the workspace:

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It looks very utilitarian–and it is! The cabinets are roomy and can be closed and locked, making all those sharp blades, tiny objects, and fume-y chemicals out of the reach of curious grandkids! And everything on, under, and including the table can be moved somewhere else.

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Now… let’s get to crafting….

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Craft Room Makeover, and Discount Shopping in Our Own House

We’re re-doing a room in the house that wasn’t using its full potential. It was formerly known as the “Toy Room,” but truthfully, a lot of the “toys” in there were just broken bits of other things and stray parts that came with a game. Whenever the grandkids came over, it looked as if they just grabbed all the available bins full of toys, dumped them all out, scattered them hither and yon, and then their parents would cram everything willy-nilly into whatever bin was at hand when it was time to leave. Any attempt to organize the stuff was ….futile…

I threw out a lot of it, temporarily keeping a few categories of things: doll stuff, doll house stuff, toys with wheels, blocks, animals both current and extinct, potato-head stuff, mag-formers, art supplies, and books.

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my mom’s doll house

My poor mom would be scandalized at the condition of the doll house she worked countless hours fitting up. I actually have a big box  in the top shelf of the closet FULL of broken doll house furniture, which I replaced with cheap wooden and plastic items that I hoped would be more kid-friendly, but even those haven’t proven indestructible.

I didn’t take a “before” picture, but we moved a huge old Sauder entertainment center out of here piece by piece. It didn’t look too terrible, but it was big and overwhelming, and had digs in the fake-mahogany finish. We had a massive old TV set sitting on the big  center shelf, and a VHS/DVD player perched up on the top shelf.

To make the room more useful, I wanted to move some craft and art supplies in there. But I didn’t like the idea of just piling them on shelves, I wanted to lock them away. And I wanted to have a work space next to the storage space. We looked at building a storage and workspace from plywood. We may still do that, but for now, we settled on part-built and part-bought.  We ended up buying two relatively cheap stainless-steel lockable cabinets from Sam’s, which we had to assemble, but they came with free delivery, due to our having a Sam’s membership.  [I didn’t really say free, did I?]

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cabinets

The work desk in between the cabinets is a very old card table we had stashed away in the living room. It’s already the right height and size for a craft desk, plus it’s moveable. Score!

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cardboard box paper caddies

The cabinets came with 2 shelves, which can be installed any distances apart. The sides have pegboard holes in them, so you can hang things from them, with hooks. The above shelf holds card stock, scrapbook papers, and books arranged in cut-up cardboard boxes. The cut-up boxes are kind of artsy, and are just as functional as these magazine holder boxes shown below, that I actually paid money for, and had to assemble:

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cardboard magazine holders

The next step will be to install a long shelf above the cabinets, which will support the VHS/DVD player and a newer flat-screen TV that we got free 🙂 , from shopping in another room of the house. We’re going to install some lighting under the shelf and edge the shelf with some molding. Then, with lighting installed, let the crafting begin!

 

 

Upcycling the Trash for Card Art

Welcome to that time of year when we live in suspended activity for just a few days/weeks before the academic year kicks into high gear.

We survived our 5th Annual Family Beach Weekend and the recuperation of it, but we’re technically still “on vacation.”

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Family reunion at Clearwater Beach

Still doing cards, and becoming more acquainted with the burgeoning world of card crafters on Youtube and the blogisphere. A few of us in the Wednesday Night Knitting Group are making cards and papercrafts. And even Skip is getting in on it, providing “sentiments” (as the text components of greeting cards are called) of a funny and sometimes better-left-unsaid nature; e.g. “Tanks for all you do” or “I’m flushed with happiness”–with a picture of a toilet, and others….

Here are some recent projects:

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backgrounds

This has been one of my favorite projects. I ripped up a few pieces of paper that were ready to go in the trash, and just “painted” them down on large index cards with gel medium, applied with a large paintbrush. First, I brushed on a thin layer to the card surface, and then just began layering strips, brushing more gel medium on top. Some of the paper is ratty, crumpled tissue paper that was balled up in the bottom of a gift bag. The crumpling just adds to the texture. These cards are the backgrounds for a few finished projects:

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art cards
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baby card
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the one on the right has the background

Then I made a few quick, easy beach cards using some Heidi Swapp laser-cut basswood lettering that was in little packages on the clearance rack at Joann’s, but we have already been experimenting with laser-cutting our own letters and motifs, too. It’s a whole new world of little bitty things to make! The pattern paper beach scenes are cut-outs from the Simon Says Stamp July kit.

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beach cards

For these next projects, I viewed a Bluprint (formerly known as Craftsy Unlimited) video of Shari Carroll (of Simon Says Stamp) teaching a card-making class, and tried my hand at some of her techniques. I seriously doubted I could pull off anything close to the beautiful projects she made out of–let’s face it–trash! But I’m somewhat happy with these…

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shabby-chic flower girl

The focus here is the corrugated cardboard background, which is derived from a box that was in the recycle bin, embellished with other 3D elements, which may or may not also be from the trash. This girl image and the ones below, were little cut-outs I found in a box of my mom’s stuff. I don’t know why she cut out these images and saved them, and I don’t know what she cut them out of in the first place.

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our laser-cut letters

Would you believe this bulky card, with its oversized bouquet, does fit into its envelope, although a tight squeeze. ANW/Crestwood made in the USA value pack blank cards and envelopes.

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this funky little owl cut-out has a 70’s look to it

Hope you’re having a great transition time before school, football, cooler weather, and the (yikes!) march toward the holidays.

A Card-carrying Crafter

As a crafter/maker, you know that you must keep on producing…something, whether on a lathe, with hardware, the written word, paint, a sewing machine…something! Right?

We’ve revived the Knitting group once a week, and expanded it to include other crafts as well.

One focus that has come forth in the group is the making of greeting cards, mostly by Tricia and me. She went to a Papercrafting Expo and came back with some great ideas and a resolve to make all her own greeting cards.

Papercrafting is BIG! The amount of tools and materials available for such pursuits is staggering. Several companies sell monthly kits with items that, they advertise, you can make at least 10 cards. With all the scraps and options you probably have around from previous projects, you can probably churn out way more than 10 from a kit (which costs about $40). But when you go to the store to buy cards for an occasion, you’re going to probably spend $5 a piece, or more, if you can’t resist the really ornate ones. And several super You-tube makers vlog about the cards they made from the monthly kit, which can give you so much inspiration and ideas.

Here are a few that I have made in the past couple of months:

Cards made from Simon Says Stamp June 2018 kit, based on Vicky Papaionnou’s designs
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This one incorporates balsa wood letters Skip cut out with the Laser, and some Tim Holtz gears and tape
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This one features a raised pattern by an embossing sleeve that was included in the June SSS kit, dusted over with a gold powder
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These cards used leftover strips cut from 6×6 card stock from the June SSS kit

I learned how to use the leftover strips of card stock (hating to throw anything cute away) courtesy of Shari Carroll’s “Lovely Layered Cards from Top to Bottom” class on the Craftsy platform.

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Card papers from the kit, with floral butterflies

These were made from 1) plain cards (the pink and blue “borders” in the photo above are the actual pink and blue cards that the decorative papers were glued onto)  and envelopes that came in a big package of 80 sets from Michael’s on sale for $5, 2) two 6×6 pieces of card stock that came with the SSS kit,  cut down to size so the background paper looks like a border, 3) the sentiments came from a couple of clear stamps and Archival jet black ink, 4) some large sequins I had leftover from my grandmother’s sewing stash, 5) floral butterflies from Hobby Lobby that came in a pkg of 4.

The package of four floral butterflies and the package of 80 sets of cards and envelopes were each the same price; go figure!

Anyway, loads of fun!

 

May flowers and Mermaids

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Early May flowers

We’ve been taking a break from blogging and vlogging, and it sure gives me a different perspective on life!

Changes in lifestyle–such as living through the aftermath of a hurricane, losing your vision, retiring from a high-paced career, or getting sick–can take a toll on the ol’ creative process.

Documenting our every creation adds a level of stress to each project. I like blogging; it’s Show and Tell for the Digital Age. But not having to immortalize an item via posting it, can sure be freeing. If the project does not live on in my [limiting] descriptive words, it still lives on as what it is: a creative accomplishment, a spark of ideas, a sense of wonderment, a nod for practical uses, shared audacity that might elicit a smile.

Here’s the latest, a quilt that finally assembled itself once I got on board with it…

I don’t think it would have come about if I hadn’t weeded out the fabric stash. I had a lot of fabric in there that was given to me, or that I had scooped up because it was cheap or free, and I didn’t really like it, I just kept it around “in case.” Well, that stuff was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, creating obligations that I didn’t want to have. I had been thinking in terms of clothes I wanted to make, and it suddenly occurred to me, I hate most of the clothes I’ve made. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. All the time and effort and angst I put into apparel sewing, and with lousy results! I’m over it! Stage One was a giveaway, now I’m waiting for Stage Two, the Yard Sale, and then Stage Three will be jettisoning the remaining cargo to the local Thrift Shop or Goodwill. And I’ll be free!  [wait, not stone-free, I’m keeping all the quilting cottons, of course.}

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Focal point of the quilt: the appliqué panel in the center
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With the patchwork border
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Quilting with the Q’nique
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finished quilt

It is lying on top of a king-size bed, so it is pretty massive, the biggest quilt I’ve made from scratch, so far. The backing is 108″ wide cotton fabric from JoAnn’s, one large sheet of fabric with  no seams down the center. The binding is a discontinued color of Wright’s Quilt Binding: I bought three 3-yard packages of it on clearance and I used all of it but maybe 6 inches. Whew! It looks gray in the picture but it’s actually a grayish light blue-green color.

End-of-May flowers jennyskip

End-of-May flowers

Remind Me Again Why We Mix Media?

I was coming home from the gym yesterday morning, and the outdoor speakers in the shopping center were playing the old Bertie Higgins hit, “Key Largo.”

Don’t get me wrong, I adore that song, even if it is a little on the schmaltzy side. It clogged my mind with vague recollections of the feast that was the original movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The song, although cute and memorable, is not in the same league as the epic movie.

Which brings me to my latest craft project, art journaling.

I was introduced to art journaling when I took an online class offered by University of Florida, called Healing With the ArtsIt was fun, but I didn’t really accept it as a serious art form. Later I was surprised, astonished even, to discover that loads of people are out there art journaling, and there’s a giant craft market catering to those journalers!

I would have never found this out if I hadn’t signed up for a free 2-week Craftsy subscription.

The old Craftsy had individual classes for sale, in many different categories, such as photography, sewing, woodworking, cooking, knitting, and various modes of visual art. They also offer kits and supplies to make some projects, and space to showcase your projects and interact with the community. The recently updated Craftsy Unlimited has a monthly or yearly subscription fee, for which you can access ALL the content (with a few exceptions.) And from time to time, they add in a few perqs as incentives to subscribe, such as coupons to buy some of their merchandise. I did subscribe in between two awesome perq campaigns, and got none (so much for my loyalty as a paying customer!) But I have been combing through the class offerings, which are treasure troves of techniques!

That’s where I learned that Mixed Media (including art journaling, paper crafts, card making, and scrapbooking) is such a big thing. I can see card making: you pay about $5 per greeting card at the store, so you might be able to save money making your own cards. And scrapbooking: you can make some really cute memory books for the family to delight in. But art journaling? It seemed to me to be a vast, deep rat-hole to throw your money down, a waste of time and resources that would only ever benefit your own selfish self.  But crafters are jumping on the mixed media arts band wagon.

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Stamps and such

And mixed media art supplies aren’t cheap! Craft stores sell special designer paints and inks, pricey pens and markers, row after row of stick-on and stamp-on words and motifs in cellophane envelopes. One artist called them “sentiments.” Also essential to the craft is paper: you can buy pricey blank books, but some of the class instructors advocate using an old book as a (non-) blank canvas for your work, and even junk mail and newspaper advertisement pages can be covered in gesso and used as the basis for mixed-media works of art.

Each little project has a background, focal point, possibly other embellishments, and “sentiments.” I have to compare our generation with the Edwardian and Victorian English girls who busied themselves doing needlework, playing the pianoforte in the parlor, and painting with watercolors. We will possibly be remembered by our posterity for our inked-up oversize manila luggage tags bearing stamped-on messages such as “Life is better at the beach” and “Bloom Where You Are Planted!”

Bloom…

 

 

The Allez Gators Quilt

Thanks to Google, I was able to quickly find out that the French word for quilt is courtepoint. I have to admit, I’ve never ever seen or heard the word courtepoint before! Not that I have much of a working vocabulary for French anyway; my formal training in French words is limited to 2 years at Herndon High School back in the seventies…“Où est Phillipe? Il est a là piscine….”

But I have a family member who majored in French at the University of Florida. In fact, her grandfather was a French scholar and chairman of the languages department.  Owing that French words and being a gator are dear to her heart, I designed a lap quilt around those two elements.

courtepointe finie
la courtepointe est finie

The design is based on the chants they make you do when you go to a football game. “Orange!” “Blue!” “Orange!” Blue!” et cetera.  So in French it would be “L’Orange! Le Bleu!”  Not exactly rocket science here, but… we’re talking…college football. Then, I added “Allez Gators!” Get it?  The standard greeting in Gainesville, if you come across anyone who is dressed in orange and blue, no matter what the occasion, is “Go Gators!”

The stripes in the quilt were made after the manner of Edyta Sitar’s Mix ‘N Match Inspired Scrappy Quilting class from Craftsy. Fabric is cut into strips, then pieced together, then cut into the desired shapes: in this quilt, the shapes were cut from the Rick-rack template on an Accuquilt Go! Big cutting machine. And the green gator was just a freehand sketch.

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strips into stripes, the orange version

Sitar has a recommended mix for this type of assembly, with 5 types of fabrics that blend well with colors, including a large print, a small print, a polka dot, a stripe,,,but I used fabrics that match up with the gator licensed collegiate fabric. Florida has a distinctive paprika-colored orange and a royal blue; you wouldn’t want to end up with, say, a Tennessee orange which has more yellow, or the Auburn orange and blue, which is burnt orange and navy blue. Totally different orange and blue. Oh, yes, there’s more to college football rivalry than prowess on the field, you have to get the true colors right. There’s room for some creativity, but one must uphold the standards, as set forth here.

Ah, for the lettering…I could have used one of the cool Rivermill machine embroidery appliqué templates, but the problem there, is getting the individual letters sewn onto the quilt top one by one, with a pleasing amount of space in between each letter. If you’ve ever done calligraphy, using a Speedball pen and ink guidelines book, you’ll recall that every letter has a standard dimension, and the spaces between the letters are not the same. When you are appliquéing letters on a background fabric using machine embroidery, you’d have to know the exact dimensions of each letter and how far apart to space them.  I thought it would be easier to just draw out the letters, then attach Wunder-under to the back of the lettering and glue it onto the fabric before satin-stitching around the edges. Easier said than done! Wunder-under consists of a piece of paper that has glue on both sides, one side having an additional backing paper. The idea is to iron it on to a piece of fabric, then peel off the backing, exposing the glue on the other side, then flipping the appliqué over and ironing that side down to another fabric. But to use that “easy” procedure, you’d have to draw the word backwards on to the Wonder-under first, which is something that the left-brained aspect of me, was unable to pull off.

Wunder-under back jenyjenny
ironing Wunder-under to the back of a fabric

So what I ended up doing, was sketching the word on the back of the Wunder-under, the crinkly, textured side that has the first application of glue to be ironed on, then ironing it onto the wrong side of the fabric, then cutting out around the sketched letters with embroidery scissors and an X-acto knife, then peeling off the backing of the Wunder-under and ironing it down to the quilt top.

After all the appliqué pieces were backed with the adhesive sheets and ironed onto the quilt top, I stitched around them with zig-zag or satin stitching to anchor them down. Then I starched both top and backing (both fabrics being white cotton), and quilted them together in random stipple stitching with orange thread,  with a layer of poly-cotton batting in between. I sent off for some pre-wound orange bobbins on Amazon from a dealer who had originally bought them from Superior Threads, and I had no trouble with tension. Then I squared up the edges and applied a binding strip 2 1/4 inches wide, also cut with an Accuquilt die. I bet it would have looked great with rick-rack shaped edges, but I was chasing a deadline at this point, so straight edges it was.

Happy holidays, and though they didn’t even get a bowl game this year,  Go Gators!

Simple Holiday Sewing with Buzzkill Fears and Trepidations

Which is better, cotton or polyester?

It used to be cotton all the way, however, there are so many cool polyester fabrics, it would be a shame to miss out on them. Am I right?

The idea for this Santa blanket came from looking through my fabric stash. The stash includes a big box of polar fleece, minky, minky dot and velour-type fabric remnants, mostly polyester or cotton-poly blends. Our local JoAnn store will roll up some fabric remnants for sale at 50% (sometimes 75%) off.

Most apparel remnants are less than a yard, but most Home-Dec items, including blanket-type material, can be a yard or more. I figure that one yard of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide is a good size for a lap quilt or a baby blanket. If less than .8 of a yard, it would look better pieced with some other fabric.

The main part of this Santa blanket is a high-pile red minky that’s velvety soft on both sides. I think it’s the ideal fabric for a soft blanket. The edges are trimmed with thick bands of white minky dot fabric sewn on right-side edge to back edge of blanket, folded over and sewn down, which are supposed to be reminiscent of the trim on Santa’s hat and suit.

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Santa blanket

The next is a takeoff on the Santa blanket, except the center part is pieced and backed. The top is made of 3 pieces of flannel (flannel is a cotton fabric) in red, black and white. The top was sewn, right sides together at two edges, to a piece of red minky dot fabric (polyester). Actually, the back is two pieces; I had to add a strip because the back wasn’t quite big enough. The big fabric cylinder was then turned inside-out. Then two wide strips of black minky dot fabric were sewn on the two ends with still-raw edges, folded over and sewn down, à la Santa blanket above.

I wasn’t very happy with the way it looked constuction-wise, so I decided this one is going to be kept on our couch, ain’t nobady’s business if I do. If I decided to give this as a gift, I probably would have put a layer of polyester batting in the center and quilted it together.

If not tacked together in the center (which this one isn’t), these layers of fabric will probably crackle with electricity when you shake out the blanket. I always worry about stuff like that. For instance, you see along the selvage, on really cute children’s pattern flannel and other fabrics, the buzz-kill warning: Not to be used for children’s sleepwear.

You can google this and find that there are several points of view: that some of these fabrics could catch fire easily. But then, commercial pajamas for kids have chemicals in them to serve as flame-retardants to the fabric in case it does catch on fire. I can remember my kids wearing sleepers that, when they’d been washed about a zillion times, really did crackle and spark with static electricity when they were romping around in them. Wonder if the flame-retardant chemicals washed out after a while? Wonder if the chemicals contributed to eczema? Wonder if shaking out these blankets full of static electricity could cause a fire?

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take off on Santa blanket

And while we’re on the subject of polyester fabrics, there’s a new contraindication going around: shellfish are eating little pieces of plastic that they find in their natural habitats, which are in turn passed on to us at the dining table. Researchers have found that one source of the tiny plastic particles in seafood is run-off water in which polyester clothes are washed. Here’s one article.

We could wall ourselves off from all polyester and acrylic contamination: wear only organic fibers, eat only organic foods, wash with soap that doesn’t contain exfoliating pellets of man-made whatever.  Or maybe it’s too late for that? Maybe it’s a step in the ultimate direction of The Singularity, where mankind becomes one with machine…it starts with our food sources ingesting plastic, and then little by little, those plastic components creep into our metabolisms, our anatomies, our selves?

I think I like cotton better.

 

Simplifying Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!

Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile.  So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.

The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.

I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.

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Santa’s dirigible, an Urban Threads design

Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.

For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…

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gold fabric for backing
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or maybe one of these?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.

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this was the backing we ended up with
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coffee table cover being snagged by cat
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under the cat-proof tree

On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.