Category Archives: Home Decor

A Cold Snap in Central FL is 60°

So far, almost every day since the beginning of October, the temperature has gone up to at least 80° F. But the nights are cooler. Which means I want to have enough blankets on hand.

Blankets are passive accessories until late at night when one is freezing in bed–then they turn into proactive warriors, intent on guarding and protecting you from the enemy.

This is my latest theme quilt for a grandkid who plays music:

center panel jenny skip
center panel

The center panel features a big appliqué of a cello (eyeballed and cut) and some musical note appliqués cut using Accuquilt templates, ironed on to the fabric using Pellon Wonder-Under, then machine-sewn around the edges with a satin stitch.  I chose colors for the note appliqués, from some American Made brand cotton fat quarters, that matched up with the colorful musical notes on a black background in the fabric I planned to use as the nearest border.

squaring jenny skip
squaring it up
finished quilt jenny skip
Finished quilt

I used a solid black cotton fabric backing, the kind you can buy at Joann’s that is already 108″ wide so you won’t have to piece it for a large-size quilt. And I bound the edges with black Wright’s satin blanket binding, because I accidentally ordered WAY MORE than I needed for a previous project:

buffalo check jenny skip
buffalo check blanket

Buffalo-check plaid is very popular this year. I made one of these in blue also, both with matching satiny-fabric backings because–they love it, it is ideal woobie-fabric.

Last step was washing before using, with this:

color grabber sheets jenny skip
color grabber sheets

Best as a precaution to keep those fabric dyes from bleeding onto each other. I’m not worried about the American Made Cotton bleeding, but some other fabrics–you don’t know.

Stay warm, y’all!

 

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:

lighted work space jennyskip lighted work space

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.

crafty storage jennyskip crafty storage

Now… let’s get to crafting….

Halloween cad jennyskip Happy Halloween card

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.

mom's doll house jennyskip
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?]

cabinets jennyskip
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!

paper caddies jennyskip
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:

cardboard jennyskip
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!

 

 

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.

strip stripes in orange jennyskip
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.

Santa blanket jennyskip
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?

take off on Santa jennyskip
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.

design jennyskip
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…

gold fabric jennyskip
gold fabric for backing
gold remnant jennyskip
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.

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

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

 

 

 

Most Lame Halloween Ever

It’s even more depressing to talk about it.

We didn’t even have one trick or treater come to the door.

And I hurt from the knuckles up from my three-hour visit to the dentist to get prepped for a crown.

So the thought of “more candy for me” doesn’t even sound good.

I tried to “friend” my dentist on Facebook a couple of years ago. She was like “hell, no.”

Because I am the worst patient ever. I woke up this morning (All Saints Day, la la!) with crumbles of that rubbery material they use to make impressions of your teeth, two trays of which I barfed up onto the reclining chair of doom, stuck in my hair. Ew.

But here are some pics that capture the spirit of the holiday, at best…

nhd jennyskip
neighborhood hi-jinks
ghouls jennyskip
Who are the people in your neighborhood? Ghouls.
Sheenah jennyskip
Our Sheenah and the new 99 cent Publix shopping bags
space jennyskip
in your space decorations
scary cat jennyskip
open front door, see butt of 12-ft tall scary cat

Thanks to Danielle for the last two pics of their decorations, they were so funny I had to share them. The skull, with its rotating eyeballs, is maniacal!

Orange and Blue Solution to a Bigheaded Problem

College football got off to a slow start this year, thanks to hurricane season showing out at the same time. But a few of the games Florida has played so far, we managed to win! Amazing, considering…considering…well, you know about the things everyone is saying about the Gators.

Curiously, one armchair quarterback we know (who shall remain nameless) sustained an injury in the armchair region that we noticed about the time of the Tennessee game.  Not sure if it was before or after the fracas* during that legendary Hail Mary play in the last few seconds of the game.

chair headrest injury
ouch!

But the large cranium (which is full of knowledge, I admit) that usually resides on the breach of leather seen above, sure seemed to expand with happiness at the outcome of the next game!

We had to do something because a bad case of the bighead was making a hole in the furniture around here.  For a craft project, I could have made a doily to drape over the chair…but that would make us look like old people who sit in the house all the time watching TV with their cats….Hey, wait a minute…

Sheenah jennyskip
Get down Sheenah! You don’t want to root for those wild cats!

But also, crocheting a doily takes time. I wanted something quick, that would be ready by game time next week. Which is…today!

gator head rest covers jennyskip
gator-themed head rest covers

I used cotton batting, one thin layer, sandwiched between two layers of blue cotton fabric, and quilted together with Superior Threads’ New Brytes in a day-glo orange color. This thread is thicker than the average thread, #30 3-ply, it says on the label, which I thought might be a good thing. But when I ran a bobbin, it started rolling rough-shod onto the spool, which I know from experience, is not a good start.

bad bobbin jennyskip
unevenly-wound bobbin

I decided to do free-motion machine quilting, since they were little projects. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done machine quilting, I had to live through a learning curve.

ugly stitching jennyskip
kill me now, because of this ugly stitching on the underside

 

When this happens, I go through all the possible reasons for it: rethread the top thread, check the bobbin tension, wind a new bobbin, install a new needle, but  ultimately, I just have to turn off the machine, then turn it back on.

Ironically, I had recently read an article by Superior Threads about tension. The graphic included in the article was very informative, but ultimately, turning the machine off, then back on, worked.

After many rippings and re-doing of the quilting, I squared up the corners and added shiny orange blanket binding. The iron-on decals were purchased. Yes, I did break a few needles while quilting through the thick decal patches. The teensy quilts  are attached to the backs of the La-Z-Boy chair head rests with Velcro tape from the hardware store.

game time jennyskip
woo hoo! keep that winning streak going!

 

 

 

 

* Fracas is a funny word. I can only picture it being uttered by a big, burly hard-boiled detective in a crime novel. The American pronunciation rhymes with “rake us.” But, I was watching something British on TV, when I heard them say “fracas” in British, which is pronounced “frah-cah.” Which rhymes with ha, ha!

Interdependence on Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Been busy and my little projects are humble! But I’ve had other things to do.

new old bedspread jenyskip
new old bedspread

This red satin (polyester) comforter was old and the batting inside had gotten all bunched up. I was going to throw it away, but the top of it was really a very savory huge piece of fabric. The bottom layer was a nasty old threadbare rag covered with fabric pills; if the skin of my foot ever accidentally touched the backing during the night, I would wake up recoiling in disgust. (My feet are very sensitive to substandard fabric!)

While shopping at JoAnn’s, I spotted a bolt of that extra-wide (108″) fabric that can be used as backings for large quilts, without having a seam.  So I slashed the quasimodo comforter, removed the hump of bunched up batting and the nasty backing, and replaced both with something new.  I thought of my grandmother, who told me that when she was young (in the Great Depression) they would cut the worn bedsheets down the middle and then re-sew them with the outer sides now seamed together in the middle. Waste not, want not!

cotton backing jenny skip
with new cotton backing

For quilting, I loaded it up on the king-size Grace frame, and I mostly traced over the embroidery on the satin top, and experimented a little with the Qnique.  I didn’t care about making it perfect.

I still haven’t mastered getting the bobbin tension right with the Qnique.

patriotic jenny skip
quilted back of patriotic table runner

If you look closely at the quilted back of this table runner, you can see the ugly bobbin stitches.

flag and eagle jenny skip
flag and eagle machine embroidery from Embroidery Library
table runner jenny skip
finished table runner project

This Fourth of July table runner was made from a cute little remnant, a remnant piece of fusible fleece for batting, and a collection of red, white and blue remnants die cut into tumbler shapes with an Accuquilt template. Binding is Wright’s double fold bias tape.

Are you watching fireworks tonight? Be safe.