Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Horsin' Around

As you know, I make ornaments each year for my two nephews.  Sometimes, it's easy to pick a design and other years it isn't.  That was the case this year for Zach.  I was stumped.  I finally thought it might be a good time to commemorate his love for pitching horseshoes.  He pitches with his father at tournaments in the summer.

Aaaaand, as you know . . . I can't draw.  At all.  I'm pretty good at adapting, so I searched the internet for some graphics I could use and basically found nothing.  This grainy image did at least let me know I wanted one arm swung back and holding a horseshoe.

But that was it.  Back to square one.  I started perusing Carolyn's patterns to see if there was anything usable at all.  I kept coming back to Josh '84:

What if I gave him a rear arm and a horseshoe ... lost the overall straps and cuffs ... and sort of tipped him forward?  Guess what?  IT WORKED!  

P.S. -- In case you wonder if I ever mess one up . . . I stitched Zach's name and the year on the back of the shirt without remembering that the arm would need to be glued there.  So part of it is covered up.  AND, as I'm writing this post and looking at the photo, I'm realizing that the ornament is pitching left-handed and Zach is right-handed.  Oh, well!!

Astro Andy

As I've told you before, my patterns were given to me by my friend, Ouida.  She and her mother, Marjorie, started buying the patterns directly from Carolyn DeAngelis back in the 1970's.  They used to be advertised in the back of magazines like Family Circle, Woman's Day, and McCall's.  (Anybody remember those?)  When Marjorie became unable to stitch anymore, Ouida gave me all her patterns.  I distinctly remember when this occurred, too.  We had met Bill & Ouida in Nashville, TN for a weekend trip to see Ricky Skaggs at the Ryman Auditorium.  (If any of you ornament stitchers are also avid bluegrass fans, let me know at once so we can become best friends.)

Anyhoo . . . I can remember sitting in our hotel room with the box of patterns on the bed.  I was nearly in tears and Scott couldn't understand why.  For starters, I explained to him, these patterns aren't made anymore.  I considered it kind of a lost art and someone had just handed me a treasure box from the past!  Secondly, I know how much Ouida and her mother had enjoyed sharing patterns and crafting together over the years.  I was touched that she had given me something that belonged to her mother and felt so personal.  I have no doubt Marjorie would've enjoyed reading this blog and seeing all of our ornaments!

That night in the hotel room, I remember thinking that the Astro Andy pattern was awfully cute.  I don't know why, but he just never has made the cut since then.  Last week, I decided his time had come.  I was looking at the pattern on my computer and thinking he could use some improvement.

(Anybody but me notice that the flag is backward??)  I didn't like the details on the suit.  It looks like he ripped his clothes and his mom mended them!  I also thought the helmet opening wasn't quite right somehow.  I almost passed on him, but decided to have a look at the pieces.  I got out the tattered envelope containing the paper pattern from Marjorie's collection.  As I spilled out the contents, a surprise came out.  It was this picture clipped from a magazine:

Clearly, Marjorie and I had the same thought!  It was like she'd left me a little present.  I loved some of the details on this one -- particularly that you could see more of the face.  I used this little photo to make some changes to the pattern and created this:

If you're wondering what the white spots are on his head, they're actually a glare.  I inserted a piece of clear vinyl for a face shield.  I was already contemplating using vinyl in an upcoming snorkeling ornament, so I decided to give it a test run.  It was a little time consuming because the vinyl was slippery, but the finished product made it worth the effort.  I LOVE HIM!  The shiny parts are that silvery fabric you've seen me use before.  (For the record, I did NOT mean for that bottom piece to wind up looking like a codpiece -- LOL!)  The flag stick is a wooden toothpick that I clipped the ends from and painted silver.  Don't let the flag scare you -- you could buy some pre-made miniature flags at the craft store if you don't want to mess with stitching one.  He was actually relatively quick.  Give him a try!

(What do you think, Ouida?  Would this get the Marjorie seal of approval??)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Solo Sam

Caleb is our not-quite-son.  It's too long a story, but suffice it to say he's a little souvenir we picked up on a mission trip and he now lives with us when he's not in college.  He's a vocal music education major and participates in a performance group that performs scenes from various operas.  I was really struggling with what ornament to make him this year.  Then I took a glance at the Solo Sam pattern and realized it was perfect.

This spring, Caleb sang the lead part in this song in the opera scenes performance.  No -- that's not actually Caleb, but just a video from You Tube.  (But he did sound that good, if I do say so myself!)  The kids were holding these big fake ice cream cones that they were pretending to lick -- it was hilarious.

Here was Caleb the night of the performance:

I have no idea why the costume person thought a white shirt with a cream-colored suit was a good idea, but I decided that was too boring for an ornament!  I left off the arm band the pattern called for and gave him a striped bowtie like the one he wore.  I borrowed the pattern pieces for the ice cream cone from the Jodi pattern and stuck that in his hand.  He turned out perfect and I know Caleb will LOVE him!

Josh -- A tutorial

You've seen me stitch the angel and mouse ornaments for my friend's daughters.  They became big sisters this spring when this little guy arrived:

Rachel and I narrowed his ornament field down to the Old MacDonald set or miscellaneous boys.  I decided that the boys would be more fun to do as he got older and developed interests and hobbies.  I kept looking at patterns and just kept coming back to Josh -- the baby in the crib.  Then, I literally spent several days contemplating how I wanted to engineer this one.  Here's the pattern:

You can see that Carolyn's vision was for each individual bar to be cut out.  I don't do my ornaments exactly like she did because I stitch everything.  Every time I looked at this pattern, I considered a different way to do it.  I finally decided that I didn't want to spend a month stitching this and wanted it to be as simple as possible, while still having some dimension.  The first thing I did was print an extra copy of the pattern and cut out a new paper piece where the crib was just one piece.  I cut two -- one with the spaces between the bars cut out for the front, and one solid piece for the back.

Next, I started stitching the baby to the mattress and background.  First, I stitched everything that would be along the bottom on the mattress.

Next, I took that whole piece and laid it on top of the white background.  I stitched everything down along the top edge.  I went from the right side of the mattress, up over the head, down the top of the baby's pajamas, and back to the left side of the mattress.  Before I did the details like the button and the face, I turned the piece over and cut away the excess white felt to reduce the amount of bulk:

From there, I attached that piece to the back of my crib front piece.  Then the crib got stitched together front to back as two pieces.  I didn't stuff this one super tightly because I wanted it to be a little flatter.  I did the wheels and teddy bear as separate pieces and glued them on to give the ornament some dimension.  As I told Ouida, I'll 'fess up to taking the coward's way out on this one . . . but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Graduate Pattern Mortarboard Tutorial

I've made the graduate pattern several times.  It makes an awesome gift!  Kelly, the recipient of the marching bear band over the past four years, graduated from high school this year.  (sniffle, sniffle)  Obviously, she'll be receiving the graduate this Christmas!  I've put my own spin on the mortarboard to make it dimensional and accurate-looking and I thought I'd share how I do it in case you want to give it a try.

I get the ornament stitched and stuffed to this point:

Next, I have this piece ready.  I figured out the shape myself by just making the points wider than the width of the hat base.  You'll need two of these.

Stitching it on takes a little time and patience, but it's really not that bad.  I sort of hold it in place with my left hand and stitch with my right.  The first few stitches are a little tricky, but once you get it anchored, it's smooth sailing.  I take my needle down through the diamond piece so the knot is on the top.  Then I take my needle through through the front of the hat base and through the back.  Then back up through the bottom of the diamond piece.  On and on across the length of the hat base.  Here's what it looks like when it's finished.  (You can sort of see my stitches.)

Next, take the second felt diamond.  Use it as a pattern to cut a piece from cardstock or posterboard.  Trim the paper piece to be slightly smaller than the felt piece.  Use a big needle to punch a hole in the middle (I'll explain why in a minute) and then glue the paper piece to the felt piece.  This helps give the hat top some body.  

Now you'll want to make your tassel.  Our school's tassels are red, white, and blue so I used 3 strands of each color from embroidery floss.  Tie a knot in the bottom and use a needle with a big eye to pull the tassel threads up through the bottom of the hat piece, right through the hole.

When you flip it over, it'll look like this:

(Yes -- those are my husbands legs and his empty ice cream bowl in the background!)

The next step is to tie a knot to form the tassel.  You want this to wind up just past the edge of the felt piece.  Take your time.  Sometimes I have to to it more than once to get it just right.  Untying that little knot is no fun, so try your best to get it right on the first try!

The next step is easy.  Just stitch the top hat piece to the bottom hat piece that's already on the ornament.  (I'm lying -- it's really not that easy.  But it's really not that hard, either.  It's just a little awkward because you're stitching a piece to an ornament that's already stuffed.)

Here's what it looks like from the front when you finish. 

The final step is to attach the hanging loop.  I use metallic silver embroidery floss for all my ornaments.  On this ornament, it takes a little patience.  I bring the thread up through the bottom of the hat on the back of the head, feeling around with the needle to bring it through that little hole in the cardstock that's between the hat layers.  I take the thread through the hanging loop and back down through the hole and on the back of the head.  Do that a few more times to secure it and you'll wind up with this:

The last thing I do is print the little diploma.  I have this saved in my Print Shop program.  It measures 1.5" wide by 1.25" tall.  That's the seal of the state of Ohio in the middle, which is on our school's diplomas.  When I did a college diploma, I found a Google image of the school's logo.  I print it on cardstock and then glue it to a thin layer of cardboard -- like a cereal box. 

A little bit of hot glue to attach the diploma and secure the tassel to the hat is all you need to finish this one.  I realize I said the word "patience" several times, but don't let that scare you.  All of the ornaments make wonderful keepsakes, but this pattern is a particularly special gift.


Pim & Pong Thiemmedh

Well, I certainly didn't mean to be away this long!  It's true -- these two ornaments did take some time.  They took a little while to design, and then took awhile to stitch.  Then I had to locate just the right trim.  You get the picture!  Once I finally hit summer and was able to spend my evenings stitching instead of checking homework, I was able to get them done.

I had this picture saved from a couple of years ago when I did a Google search for "felt ornaments."

I just immediately thought they were something special and knew I'd want to make a pattern for them.  Barb, a faithful blog reader, and I exchanged several emails for ideas for new ornaments.  She did some digging and found that a) this was a photo from an old coloring/activity book featuring international dolls and, b) the entire coloring book was online.  How exciting!  She took the time to email me all the pages, including these:

I don't have to tell you that these black & white outline drawings certainly made my work easier!  It took some time to figure out how much detail was feasible to include.  Next up was the color choice.  These are traditional people from Siam (now Thailand) and I spent some time looking at pictures online.  In the end, I stuck pretty close to the colors in the book because they seemed to be pretty true to the photos I looked at.  Green & red were also used a lot, but I didn't want these to look to Christmasy.  I knew I'd want to use some decorative trims and found some perfect candidates at Wal Mart, of all places.

I spent more time than I'd like to admit fussing over the eyes.  Waaaaay back when I did the nativity kings, I was bothered by the eyes on the eastern king.  He looked a little like he just stepped off a spaceship!  I don't know how many pairs of tiny eyes I cut out trying to get something that worked.  I finally figured out that if I cut thin football shapes and then just barely nipped the points off, I wound up with a shape I liked.  I could still improve them for future Asian-influenced ornaments.  The degree of the slant makes a big difference, for example.  But hey -- it's a felt ornament, right?  

So I won't hold you in suspense any longer.  Here they are in all their glory:

"Love" is probably not a strong enough word.  These go straight to the top of my list of favorite ornaments I've made.  The husband and daughter are big fans, too!  You might be wondering about the names.  We have a good friend who is originally from Thailand whose name is Pong Thiemmedh:

It seemed only fitting that I name the boy after him.  Pong's sister's name is Prang (pronounced "prong").  Pong and Prang.  Nope -- too rhymey.  I searched for common Thai female names and landed on Pim.  Pim and Pong -- I like it!  I hope you do, too!!