Wednesday, January 11, 2017

having problems with your Sulky Printable Sticky Fabri-Solvy?


Hello, guys! This is a Sulky PSA. You folks know how much I love their Printable Sticky Fabri-Solvy. I can't live without it! It's an integral part of my Twelve Days ornament series. However, I've heard from several heartbroken crafters just lately who can't get the Sulky stabilizer washed off of their embroidered ornament pieces even though they have followed all the directions and are doing everything right. If this is YOU, you are not crazy. You have some faulty stabilizer!

I've just spoken to Patty Lee at Sulky. She was so helpful and apologetic! She tells me the manufacturer who makes the glue for the stabilizer reformulated the glue without informing Sulky. While the reformulated glue worked for some industrial applications it did not work for Sticky Fabri-Solvy. Sulky was not aware of the problem until some of the faulty stabilizer had already been distributed to resellers.

Have they fixed the problem?
YES! Any stabilizer you purchase directly from Sulky will be the correct one. If you are worried about getting the faulty stuff, purchase directly from them. There are no batch numbers to check.
(I learned from a helpful commenter that if you order from Sulky.com the order may be fulfilled by someone else. Just call them directly to be sure.)
Patty Lee
(800) 874-4115, extension 173
(If you are outside the US you might need to visit the website to get the correct phone number)

How do I know if my stabilizer is the bad batch?
If you are breaking open a new pack, test it first! Before you do any lengthy work of embroidery, do a few test stitches with the stabilizer, cut out the shape and try soaking it away from your stitches. If it doesn't soak away after a reasonable amount of time, you may have the bad stuff.

I have the bad stuff. What do I do?
Sulky will gladly replace your faulty stabilizer. Please contact:
Patty Lee
(800) 874-4115, extension 173
(If you are outside the US you might need to visit the website to get the correct phone number)

OK, but how do I fix my current project?
There are some things to try. Patty has a list of suggestions that will hopefully fix the problem and she even offered to foot the bill for dry cleaning for your project if that would help. Please contact her.

Thanks very much to the crafters who let me know about this problem! I'm so sorry you ran into it and I hope you will be willing to try another project with the REAL stabilizer so that you can discover just how wonderful it is!

Monday, January 9, 2017

what I'm up to


Well, hey there! It's me. Can we talk hair color?
See my nice silver sideburns growing in? This photo was taken at the end of December after about three weeks of no color. It's hard to tell but there was about 1/2 inch of gray all over my head at my roots. Creative combing.

I've been covering my gray since I was about 23. Which means I've been coloring my hair for more than 20 YEARS. Almost 25! I can't tell you how tired I am of it. And the last few years in order to keep the brunette illusion I've had to intervene with either all-over color or touching up roots every two weeks. Dumping smelly chemicals on my head every two weeks doesn't seem like a great idea.

So I made a big decision in December (a big decision in Frivolous Beautyland at least). My silver hair wins. I'm going to embrace it. No more squeezy tubes of color and plastic gloves for me. I'm going gray! This decision feels so right. I can't tell you how happy I am to never have to purchase a box of Espresso brown EVER AGAIN.

On the other hand. I feel like I'm violating some universal female pledge to do what I must to look younger at all costs. My wonderful, diplomatic, seldom negative mom says I won't like it. She may well be right. Gray hair might be a large blow to my vanity. I'm going to have to look at myself in a whole new way. My big sister is also very skeptical. But she kindly went with me to get some highlights to help with the transition right after Christmas.

Because. Y'all. I'm not getting a pixie cut. And I can't just let it grow in cold turkey and have a skunk stripe for months. I DRAW THE LINE THERE.


Post highlight picture! OK, so I asked for gray highlights. Hmmmmm. These look blonde to me.

Right? However, it has softened the effect of the gray growing in very nicely, I think. So far. We'll see how it goes over the next few weeks. Next time I go for a touch up I'm going to ask if it's possible to get truly gray/silver looking highlights with a glaze or something. That certainly seems to be possible, judging by the number of twenty-somethings on Pinterest sporting 'granny hair'.

My plan is to keep going every couple of months for probably the next year or two for these highlight touch ups so that my new gray hair blends with my old colored-to-death hair, and then at some point I'm going to chop off the colored ends and be left with my au naturel hair. I'm pretty curious just how much gray I do have. It's hard to tell until it grows in more. But I think it's a lot.

I have a Going Gray Pinterest board under construction if you'd like to be inspired! This lovely young lady is a great encourager. Wish me luck. It's going to be a rough hair year. I keep telling myself when my silver streaks are grown in I can try occasionally dyeing some of them lavender and be really hip and cool*. Can't do that with brunette hair.

*Possibly using the old school words 'hip' and 'cool' make me inherently unhip and uncool but you know what I mean.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

curated felt color collection for Maid a-Milking ornaments


Happy 2017! What a crazy December I had. January life is a little dismal in comparison and sadly lacks twinkle lights, eggnog and sausage balls. Whose dumb idea was it for Christmas to end? I say keep it alive by making ornaments all year round!

All three of these^ Twelve Days Series Maid a-Milking ornaments shown were made with the same Benzie Design wool-blend felt color collection as the Turtle Dove ornament.


Photos courtesy of Benzie Design.

If you would like to make ornaments that match my samples shown above you'll need to purchase the Turtle Dove/Maid a-Milking wool felt bundle from Benzie, and you can also add the optional matching floss shown. Having the matching floss is really handy to sew the ornament parts together!*

*Note: you'll need to purchase additional floss colors for the decorative embroidery. Some of the matching floss colors might also be used for decorative embroidery.

This No. 2 Benzie felt collection (Turtle Dove + Maid a-Milking) includes these felt colors:
1) Peacock
2) Aqua
3) Swan
4) Magenta
5) Burgundy
6) Orange
7) Mustard
8) Ochre
9) Silver
10) Graphite

Here are the color and floss keys for each sample ornament:


OK! First up is this yellow/blue/gray maid above. 

Felt colors:
Body: Peacock for bodice, Graphite for legs.
Skirt: Mustard
Sleeves: Silver
Apron: Graphite
Buckets: Swan
Hat: Ochre

Decorative embroidery:
DMC B5200 (bright white)
DMC 413 (charcoal gray)
DMC 3801 (light red)
DMC 782 (dark mustard)
DMC 3844 (dark turquoise blue knots)
DMC 3846 (light turquoise blue veins)

Now for this maroon/magenta/blue maid:


Felt colors:
Body: Mustard for bodice, Graphite for legs.
Skirt: Burgundy
Sleeves: Swan
Apron: Magenta
Buckets: Silver
Hat: Silver

Decorative embroidery:
DMC B5200 (bright white)
DMC 154 (burgundy)
DMC 3804 (magenta)
DMC 3852 (gold)
DMC 3844 (dark turquoise blue knots on sleeves)
DMC 3846 (light turquoise blue)

Aaaand lastly this blue/yellow/orange maid:


Felt colors:
Body: Graphite
Skirt: Peacock
Sleeves: Orange
Apron: Ochre
Buckets: Silver
Hat: Aqua

Decorative embroidery:
DMC B5200 (bright white)
DMC 413 (charcoal gray)
DMC 3805 (magenta)
DMC 608 (orange)
DMC 3821 (yellow knots on sleeves)
DMC 3845 (medium turquoise blue)

Did you notice there is now a button on the sidebar at the top left for the Twelve Days ornaments resource page? Just an easy way for you to locate all the info about the series, including all the color keys for the samples.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

handmade Christmas gifts 2016 - angel ornaments for Lesley and Paula


I made a similar angel ornament last year for my sweet niece, Erin, who had lost a baby boy. This year Erin helped me make this one for her sister-in-law after they suffered a loss. I hope it's a special way to remember their baby who flew straight to God.


At the same time we made the one above for Lesley I also made this gold trimmed angel for my in-laws. It's to remember their little girl from long ago, Jennifer, born to them in the early 70s. Jennifer only lived a few days. I think it's a sweet way to remember her little life. She's still missed and loved.

Monday, December 26, 2016

handmade Christmas gifts 2016 - two more ornaments for Robyn


OK, yes, this is a repeat. Again. Because I do not love the swan I made her last year. Its beak looks funny. Clearly inferior. I have requested that she ceremonially burn it but it's unclear whether she will follow through. I guess she can have a tree with the real, final, Larissa-approved set of ornaments and then a smaller tree in the garage with all the reject inital attempts.



Anyhoo, this is her FOR REALS Swan a-Swimming and her Right-The-First-Time-Unless-I-Change-My-Mind Maid a-Milking. I added a few sequins and glass beads to them for sparkle.

On to Drummer Drumming. Yes, that is right, the drummer! Not the Lady Dancing. Because I'm using the song from the 1700s that has Colly Bird and the Lady has to wait to dance until no. 11. Ha cha cha.

As I sit here and ponder it I'm seriously rethinking Robyn's Partridge and Pear. Also her French Hen has to go. I'll address that next year. She's going to have to commit to being my friend for a few years more to complete her set. That's my evil plan!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

all that is merry and bright to you


I wrapped presents earlier this week. Bags are so much faster but I do love looking at a pile of nicely papered and beribboned packages. I'm still making a couple of handmade things but I pledge to relax and enjoy over the long weekend.

I wish you and your families a bright and beautiful and hopeful Christmas, filled with the love of Christ, warmth, and good things to eat. And a nicely wrapped present.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

tips and tools for making your Twelve Days ornaments


Wowee, folks! Thanks for making my Black Friday/Small Biz Saturday/Crafty Sunday/Cyber Monday Etsy sale the most successful ever! And by far the most popular items from my shop were the Twelve Days ornaments. Quite a number of you have some cozy hand-sewing to do! Thanks again.

As you might imagine, I've made a lot of these ornaments. I thought I'd share some tips and tricks of the trade that will make crafting your Twelve Days ornaments easier and quicker!

SULKY® PRINTABLE STICKY FABRI-SOLVY
First and most obvious one. Can't say enough about this magical felt craft and embroidery helper.


This sticky-backed stabilizer is the key to making these ornaments. I live in terror of it being discontinued. I miiight be hoarding it.


You just print (or copy) the pattern to the Sulky stabilizer, peel off the backing, apply it to the pre-shrunk* wool felt and start stitching right on the lines. It's FANTASTIC. No pattern tracing or transferring embroidery designs.

When you are finished embroidering you cut out the piece and soak it in cold water** about 15 minutes. The stabilizer dissolves away and when your piece has air dried you have a perfectly executed embroidery design with no trace of the stabilizer.

You may notice the felt and stitching feels stiffer after it's dry, like it's been starched. That's perfectly normal. It's a leftover invisible residue from the stabilizer and I actually prefer it because it secures your stitching and adds body and durability to the ornament.

And of course, Sulky PSF-S also works great for your regular fabric hoop embroidery projects. You can get it at your local craft/sewing store and also at walmart.com, amazon.com or Shiny Happy World.

*You should pre-shrink your wool or wool-blend felts the day before you make the ornament by simply soaking them with cold water and letting them air dry. 

** If you have hard water you may want to use bottled or distilled water to both pre-soak and soak away the stabilizer. According to some users, hard water seems to make washing the stabilizer away more difficult.

THREAD HEAVEN


Do you guys know about Thread Heaven? I love this stuff. If you do a lot of embroidery or hand sewing you need to have this right next to you.


It adds a siliconey (technical term) coating to your needle and thread, which keeps knotting and snarling at bay as you sew. It makes the whole process of sewing French knots way less frustrating. If you coat your needle along with the thread it makes poking through the stabilizer as smooth as butter. Mm. Butter. But anyway, I love it and you can get it in several places but I bought mine here. It seems to last forever because I can't remember when I bought this one and I still have plenty.

STUFFING FORK


Do you guys have a stuffing fork? You might need one. So much better than a dowel, crochet hook or that leadless pencil you've been using. It can't be matched at stuffing tiny, hard to reach areas. Here's a closeup of the business end:


You are perhaps saying, 'So it has a tiny fork at the end, big whoop.' That's because you don't realize the fork is GENIUS. You take a loose pinch of stuffing, press it against the fork and spin the fork like you are eating spaghetti. It makes a compact ball of stuffing that you slide into place in the tiny spot you are trying to stuff. The fork also makes positioning stuffing inside an ornament a cinch. It grabs and repositions the stuffing whereas a dowel just pokes through it. I use my stuffing fork all the time with this ornament series. The store I purchased it from doesn't seem to have them anymore, but this is the website listed on the handle: Barbara Willis Designs.

There's a stuffing fork I've seen online made by Clover, but I can't find a closeup of what the end looks like. It's not as long but if it has a little fork on the end it would also be very helpful for these ornaments. Anyone have one?

DRITZ® FRAY CHECK


Dritz® Fray Check is listed as optional on my pattern supplies, but it's really nice to have. It's a clear, quick drying liquid that keeps things from raveling. Think of it like the hand sewing version of nail polish on your pantyhose.


Metallic embroidery threads tend to ravel and come untied, so just adding a dot of it to your hanging loop attachments and hanging loop knots ensures they won't ravel with use. I love it for sealing the ends of cut ribbon also. You can see by the label that you shouldn't expose it to heat, so keep it away from your iron. It's available at all your local sewing and crafting stores.

ALEENE'S ORIGINAL TACKY GLUE


Whoever Aleene is, I'd like to hug her. I love this glue. It's widely available in the US at any self-respecting local craft store or Wal-mart or Amazon.com. I use it on all my Twelve Days ornaments where glue is needed. It's nicely thick and dries to a clear finish pretty fast, but not so fast that you can't reposition if needed. If used sparingly, I never have trouble sewing through it. If I get a smear of it on something I can easily wipe it away with a damp cloth if it's still wet.

I keep mine stored upside down in a cup at all times so that it stays ready to dot on when I need it. I also cut the hole in the nozzle as small as possible to control the flow of the glue.


I never said it was a pretty cup.

Just as important as having the right glue is knowing to use as little as possible to get the job done. It doesn't take much. I hardly ever squeeze the bottle. I just dot it on. In most cases when my patterns call for glue it's just to tack something in place long enough for you to sew it down without using pins. Always, always, always just tiny dots or even smears.

In some instances glueing is used instead of sewing to hold something in place, like wings. In those cases you'll want to use a little more glue, but it still doesn't take a lot. You'll know this if you ever accidentally glue two felt pieces together and then try to get them apart.


Are you Glob Challenged? Do you have problems with accidentally adding too much? Easy solution: squeeze a glob of glue on a scrap piece of paper (the backing from the Sulky Printable Fabri-Solvy is good for this because it's coated) and use a toothpick to apply the glue instead of the glue nozzle. Voila!

COTTON PIPE CLEANERS AND WOOD BEADS
You'll notice several patterns in the series call for cotton pipe cleaners and unfinished wood beads. First, cotton pipe cleaners. Here's a shot of the ones I'm using:


So why cotton pipe cleaners as opposed to the more easily found craft pipe cleaner?


Here's a side by side comparison of the two. The white one is a BJ Long's cotton pipe cleaner and the gray one is a cheapy craft pipe cleaner from Joann.

First thing you'll notice is the width. The cheapy one is wider and the fuzzy stuff is not as dense, so you can easily see the wire in the middle. Also the wire in the middle of Mr Cheapy is pretty flimsy compared to the BJ Long. The BJ Long on the left has soft, dense cotton fuzz so that the interior wire is not visible and the skinnier width works better for my ornaments. If you need a different color than white I have seen and purchased packs of colored cotton pipe cleaners on eBay, but it might be easier just to color the cotton pipe cleaner with a few strokes of a fabric marker and let it dry.

I buy mine here, but you can find smaller packs in local cigar/pipe shops too. Other brands I've tried and liked are Ideal and Dill's.


OK, unfinished wood beads. Several of my ornaments use 8 mm (5/16 inch) wood beads and 20 mm (3/4 inch) wood beads. If your craft store is a nice, big one they might have those available right on the aisle. In my town these sizes are not usually available, so I ordered them from Etsy. There are several shops that carry them and you can find them by doing a quick search for the size you need. The ones shown above came from here and here and they were great quality beads.

WOOL FELT AND WOOL-BLEND FELT
It's important to get the right kind of felt for these ornaments. Both 100% wool felts and wool-blend felts work great. Wool-blend felts are a mixture of rayon and wool fibers and are less expensive than 100% wool felts. Most of my samples are made using wool-blend felts.

I buy my felt online because my local craft store doesn't carry it. I have a few vendors I like listed in my FAQ if you'll scroll down to the question about wool felt.

Photo courtesy of Benzie Design

For your convenience, Benzie Design has put together wool-blend felt and floss bundles curated just for this series and you can find them all here. You can find my color samples for each ornament and embroidery floss color guides here on my blog. Just scroll to the bottom to see a list of links.

Just say no to acrylic craft felts! They are plentiful and cheap but they won't work for these ornaments. Besides not being very durable or dense, the acrylic felts don't work with the Sulky stabilizer and often turn the stabilizer into a gummy glue-like substance when you try to soak it off. Please use wool or wool-blend felts only.

So that's it for the tools and tips. I hope it's been helpful! The heirloom nature of these ornaments and the time it takes to sew them make it worth getting the right tools and supplies. You'll thank yourself!