Friday, October 18, 2013

A Gift Basket

Life has blessed me with an amazing husband and wonderful in-laws.  My sister-in-law is one of my very favorite people and she never ceases to amaze me.  She had a birthday recently, and I wanted to give her something homemade.

Inspired by a pin I found on Pinterest from a post on the Everyday Occasions blog for  Hostess Gifts, I put together the gift basket pictured above.

I picked up a cross-stitch towel at Michael's (much like this towel I found on and cross stitched the Halloween pattern above that I found in the Good Natured Girls Holiday Towels leaflet. 

My Better Homes and Garden cookbook has a recipe for lemon bread that my boys both like, so I made a few mini loafs to add to the gift basket.

My wonderful husband was kind enough to dress the jars up with Oregon State Beaver Fabric.

The taller jar in the back contains homemade cocoa mix, inspired by a recipe I found via Pinterest.  The recipe is from In Jennie's Kitchen. I did not have vanilla powder, but I did have a vanilla bean.  So, I scraped the inside of the bean into the mix.

One of the smaller containers is vanilla sugar, in case the cocoa was not sweet enough.  (After taste testing the hot cocoa mix (which we made with almond milk) my youngest declared he did not like it.  My eldest did not care for it alone, but added some vanilla sugar and loved it.  My husband and I loved that it was not overly sweet.)  I do not remember where I read the tip about vanilla beans...  Somewhere, I read you can put the remainder of a vanilla bean (after scraping out the inside) into a container of sugar to create Vanilla Sugar.  The moisture from the bean makes the sugar a little clumpy, but we love the flavor.

The other container is homemade pear butter.  Another discovery from Pinterest.  I used unsweetened apple juice instead of water or pear juice, and used honey as the sweetener.  It was a huge hit with my eldest son - he wants me to make more.

It was fun to put some time into a gift especially for my wonderful sister-in-law.

What kind of homemade gifts do you like to give?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

CQI Winter/Christmas DYB RR - Completed Block for Melody

Block pieced by Melody and embellished by Renee
I believe this is the first time I finished a round robin block on the date I needed to mail it out.  I must say, I absolutely LOVE the colors and fabrics Melody used to make this block.  And I had a lot of fun embellishing the block.  That being said, I found this block to be one of the most challenging ones I have done to date.
Melody's block before embellishment
I came up with idea after idea for this block; yet, when I reached the next section, I found the threads I planned to use were too dark, too light, or simply did not go with the colors in the block.  So, the wheels in my little brain began chugging along until another idea caught hold that would work.  For the record, this block made me think and re-think.  I liked that. (I think - lol!)

Hopefully, Melody will like the end result.

The first step was couching silver metallic DMC size 5 floss over the silver tree in the center.

The white Ric-Rac seam stitched with blue metallic floss and lined with silver and blue seed beads was copied from my favorite seam on the stocking I made for the Evening Star Designs 2013 Winter Challenge.

The poinsettias in the upper-left were fun to add - using 4 mm white silk ribbon (I use RiverSilk) and blue beads.

Sparkly buttons I found buried in my stash were surrounded with DMC white rayon floss lazy daisy and straight stitches ended with white beads - in hopes of looking wintery.  Swarovski Elements 4mm Bicone Blue Bell Mix beads separated each of these wintery flowers.

Above the tree is a seam embellished with two snowflakes using white rayon floss and silver metallic floss.  A tiny white bead sits at the center of each.

The seam to the right of the tree is small blue metallic snowflakes, separated by clear white beads.

I wish the photo showed how the fabrics, threads, and beads play in the light!
Melody's block - close up of upper-left corner
A feather-stitched seam with white rayon floss embellished the seam between the silver and blue fabric.

The snowflake trim, I purchased at when I purchased the 2013 Winter Challenge Kit.

I made a small silver snowflake using DMC metallic size 5 floss.  Then, I used a silver metallic thread to make smaller star-shaped snowflakes around the rest of that blue and silver patch of fabric.

Melody's block - close up of the bottom-right corner
This was one of my favorite additions to the block.  Most of my blue shades did not fit the block, or blended right in; so, I simply HAD to go to a quilt shop and pick up a few new shades of EdMar floss!  (An excuse to buy CQ supplies!)  The blue uneven buttonhole uses one of those flosses - EdMar Iris #212.  Silver metallic floss and beads were used for the snowflakes, and white seed beads adorn the rest of the buttonhole stitches.  I thought of this like a streamer with paper snowflakes hanging from it as a winter decoration.

I found this Holiday Glitz Swirl Snowman Charm (part of a set of 3 charms) at JoAnn Fabric and thought it was absolutely adorable.  (I hope Melody likes it!)
Originally, I planned to add a small tree here.  However, the threads I have did not want to cooperate with the fabric colors.  So, I decided to finally try using bugle beads.  Obviously, I need more practice, but I still like the way this snowflake turned out.
For this tree, I twined one strand of DMC metallic white floss and 1 strand of Edmar Glory #071 (a variegated blue) and used a stem stitch for the tree trunk and straight stitches for the branches.  I couched the longer branches down with a single strand of the DMC white metallic floss, and added curvy stem-stitches with two strands of this same floss at the bottom for a snowy ground.  I had to be careful because the lighter shades of the variegated blue did not show up well on the pretty fabric below (I removed a few branches that blended in and carefully avoided those stretches of the variegated floss on the rest of the tree).  It was a fun, easy tree to make!

Thank you so much for stopping by to see what I have been up to.  I do hope Melody likes her block!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Snowball from Rita in Kansas!

Crazy Quilting International Snowball Swap
 Look at what arrived in the mail on Friday!  My snowball from Rita in Kansas.  It is absolutely darling!

I love the lacy snow at the bottom and the snowflakes filling the air above.  However, the beaded snowman is simply adorable!
Beaded snowman Rita made for me.
Now, I have to admit, as much as I enjoy crazy quilting, mailing items out is probably my least favorite part of round robins and swaps.  I tend to get in a hurry - so much of a hurry that I have forgotten all about sending so much as a note with some of the snowballs I have mailed out.  Well, until I made it to the post office and sealed the bubble-wrapped envelope closed.  (Those are amongst the smack-myself-in-the-forehead moments in my life.)

Rita, quite obviously, does not share my problem.  Just look!  This was so pretty, I did not want to open it.  (Okay, knowing what I would find inside, I actually did want to open it - but I HAD to take a picture first.)
This was such a fun package to receive.  I love swapping snowballs!  (And, I hope to have Rita's snowball finished and mailed out by next Monday - or sooner.)

To see more of her pretty work, just visit her blog at

This beautiful snowball is the third in my collection.  All three are pictured below.  I absolutely adore them all!  (You may click on any image for a larger view.)
My snowball collection as of October 2013.
I have no idea how I will assemble them after I collect a few more; and, I am pretty clueless about sewing circles.  That project will be a challenge in itself, but a fun one, I am sure!

(For those of you wondering what CQI is, it stands for Crazy Quilting International.  I stumbled upon their blog less than 2 years ago and saw so much eye candy that I surprised myself and joined their Yahoo! groups.  It has been a great way for me to learn, ask questions, and see so many inspiring pieces of crazy quilt art.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Another Snowball!

A couple of weeks ago, I received the sweetest email from Rita in Kansas, asking me about a snowball swap. 

My husband teased me, as I was still working on my stocking for the Evening Star Design 2013 Winter Challenge, I have a block to finish for my CQI Winter/Christmas DYB round robin, I have not touched my messenger bag in ages, and I am still working on my CQJP 2013 May block - yet I happily agreed to the snowball swap! 

Rita does such lovely snowballs, I could barely wait to see what she might make for me.  Yesterday, she posted a picture on her blog at 

CLICK HERE to see the adorable snowball heading my way and the beautiful snowball heading to Margreet in the Netherlands. 

Now, I need to get a move on and finish my snowball!

I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Winter Challenge Results Posted at Evening Star Designs!

Remember the beautiful kit I received on June 18th for the Evening Star Designs 2013 Winter Challenge?  Well, I finished my project on the deadline - September 15th - and mailed my pictures in to enter.  The results were posted today! 

Last year, I decided I wanted to make a stocking for myself.  When I heard about the winter challenge, I decided it was just the push I needed to complete the project this year.

To see the other beautiful entries, just CLICK HERE.  I love seeing the different way the same materials were used! 

There was also an Evening Star Designs 2013 Miniature Challenge.  To see those beauties, CLICK HERE.

I did not win a prize through Evening Star Designs, but I had a lot of fun, tried some new techniques, and ended up with a stocking that will become a family heirloom someday. 

Top Close-Up
Middle Close-Up
Bottom Close-Up

Here was the block after it was pieced.  I traced a stocking I liked the shape of onto muslin and then added a few inches to the height so it would meet the 100 square-inch requirement for the challenge.  (It was just over 102 sq. in.)

The snowman in the center is from a fabric in my stash that I really like, but have been unable to use.  Of course, once I began stitching, I had to keep reminding myself I was limited to a winter theme.  (Christmas ideas kept popping into my mind!)

One of my favorite seams.
When I painted the stenciled words onto my blocks for the CQI Winter/Christmas DYB RR, I also made my first attempt to paint a motif on fabric with acrylic paints.  Once the paint was dry, I set it with the heat of a dryer.

I checked a painting book out of the library and read about shading fruit.  The book used black paint beneath the color used for the fruit.  I opted to use a blue paint.  I let each layer of paint dry for a day before moving on to the next step.
I stuffed some batting beneath the circle so it would round out like a real snow globe.  To be honest, I was not sure I was happy with this addition, but opted to leave it anyway.  I added metallic blue thread around the border so it would stand out a bit better.

I wanted to add a button cluster, but could not find a combination that pleased me.  While moving the buttons around I was struck with the idea of this snowman.  I was so happy with this little fellow (pictured here without his scarf) that I added one to Kathy's block in our round robin.

I had a hard time thinking of something to stitch on the snowflake fabric, so I opted to embellish the snowflakes on the fabric.

I traced a few of those snowflakes onto tissue paper and stitched them onto this section near the top of the stocking.
 The tree in the little scene above (with the wind blowing in from the right) is my husband's favorite addition.  I just happened to find the little snow globe button stashed away with a few beads I purchased for a Christmas project a few years ago.

 The snowflake/snowman border along the ribbon was fun to make!  And, I do love snow days - as long as I do not have to drive anywhere!

I adapted the poinsettia from a motif design in The Silk Ribbon Embroidery Bible by Joan Gordon.

The tree was adapted from the pencil pine in Diana Lampe's book Embroidery for all Seasons.  (If it looks familiar, I stitched a pencil pine onto Barbara's block in our round robin.)

A few more snowflakes and a sparkly button I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics finished up this section.
It is hard to think about winter without picturing a nice cup of cocoa to warm up with!  I do not think of myself as an artist, so I was quite pleased that I was able to sketch this cup and the steam and actually stitch it so it looked half decent! (It is the little things in life...)
This blue snowflake fabric I found in my stash was perfect for the back.

I enjoyed this challenge so much that I signed up to receive the Evening Star Design Newsletter so I will not miss hearing about next year's challenge.