Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christmas Crafting FO's: Final Edition!

Hey everyone! It's been a while...but, it is now time for the final installment of my Christmas crafting Finished Object posts. First we had jewelry-making, then knitting, and now: sewing!

Balsam Fir Sachets

From a pile of scraps...

To neatly pinked edges...

To round, softly turned corners...

To a finished sachet!

Each of the women in my family got one of these along with their Christmas gift this year, as did a few of my closest friends. Last year, I wrote out some nice little tags along with each handmade item, explaining the materials used and how to care for it. I didn't get around to doing that this year, so I'll tell their story here:

The balsam fir inside these sachets came from Mount Washington, which Andrew and I drove up on our honeymoon. It was a crazy ride - I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area, as long as you're not squeamish about steep, narrow, winding roads with insane drop-offs to the side. I am quite fortunate, because Andrew is unafraid of any of that and is a very skilled driver. It was 80* F at sea level that day (it was the end of August), and I had no idea how truly cold it would be at the top. I think it might have been 50* or something like that.

Trying not to grimace because it's COLD!

We spent some time investigating all of the buildings at the summit - there's the old original structure from the mid 1800's, newer structures built in the 1900's, a weather observatory, a giant cafeteria (serving workers, hikers, and drivers alike), and of course a gift shop. I decided to purchase a large bag of Balsam Fir (which grows on the summit) to commemorate the trip, and kept it in storage for several years before finally settling on a usage for it.

This summer, Andrew and I headed to another classic New England locale, Acadia National Park. For some reason we've yet to edit our photos from the trip and post them online - we had some spectacular weather and really enjoyed our time there. The park produces guide maps for tourists, highlighting places of note to visit. I was surprised to see a few of craft/knitting shops on their list! Andrew was very accommodating and we trekked out to see two of them. Unfortunately only 1 was open when we stopped by. I was really sad about the closed one - it was a knitting / CANDY shop, like real old-fashioned penny-candy in a jar Candy Shoppe. (The name is Bee's Inc; please do visit and let me know how it is if you're ever in the area!) We were able to stop in to a small quilting & knitting shop on the quiet side of the island. Google doesn't list it, but the name is "Quilt'n'Fabric" and it's located on Seal Cove Road in Southwest Harbor.

When I visit independent craft supply stores, I like to ask if they have anything exclusive to that location - locally dyed or spun yarn, custom fabrics, etc. The proprietor happily showed me a few things, and I settled on a yard of "Blueberries My Way Too" fabric, custom designed & printed in Maine by Jolene Harmon. Finally I had all the supplies I needed to produce something special.

Assembling these was a very simple process. I cut out rectangles of fabric and muslin, thinking that a double layer would a) preserve the whiteness of the background and b) keep the fir needles from poking out. I then folded them along one side and sewed around, leaving an opening to stuff them. A small funnel and the knitting needle in this picture were instrumental in getting the fir inside - if you attempt to make any similar sachets, I recommend leaving more than a 1" opening. I experimented with using the sewing machine to close the gap at the end, but I didn't like the result so I opted to hand-stitch instead. All in all I made 10 of these, and it only used half of my stuffing and fabric. 

Leather Needle-Book

Last but certainly not least, I made a leather monogrammed needle-book for my sister-in-law. She is a veritable cross-stitching fiend (I mean that endearingly, of course!) and does some really beautiful work. I thought she should have some beautiful tools to go with it!

I used a bit of leather leftover from my sister's moccasin-making phase, and painted a T on the front using a mixture of black fabric paint and bronze Martha Stewart glaze. It's a little sparkly, but not too shiny.

Inside, there is one piece of black wool felt, cut to be just smaller than the cover. Embroidery needles can be stored by poking them through the felt. The wool is nice and thick and grippy, so things should stay secure. I used my XActo knife to poke holes in the leather, and sewed the felt to the cover like an old-school book binding. Unfortunately it was pretty dark when I took these pictures, and my photos of the interior didn't turn out so can imagine what it looks like :-)

For the closure, I decided to try cutting a loop of leather contiguously with the back cover, just large enough to fit over the button. It looks nice and functions well, but I'm a little nervous that it will wear out in time. If it ever does, I can easily cut it off and run a loop of cording through the back cover instead. I was especially pleased with the owl button I found - I think it adds just the right touch.


That's it! I had a lot of fun this year trying to come up with some simpler homemade gifts, and I'm very happy with the outcome. It was good to have a balance between knitted, sewed, and other kinds of projects to work on throughout the fall and winter. 

Blogging thoughts

I debated apologizing for the lack of posts recently. I haven't really set a posting schedule, but I started out strong with the Wednesday and Friday posts at first, and I'm very good at pressuring myself even if there is no outward pressure to be had. At this stage, I think it's important for me to keep writing, and disregard the 'featured' days. One bad tendency I'm trying to overcome is the feeling that if I want a post to go live on Wednesday, that means I can write it on Wednesday. That just doesn't work. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to pull together a whole post, what with deciding what I want to say, getting photos arranged, pulling together links, formatting, etc, and if I really want a post to go live on a certain day, I need to treat it like an assignment and begin the work before the posting date. On the other hand, I often over-think things and make posts take longer than they need. For instance last Wednesday's post was very quick to write, and I was pretty happy with the story I was able to tell. 

This morning I woke up early, bursting with post ideas - so I took a proactive step and wrote them all down. Hopefully I can figure out some balance - this is pretty new for me, after all! If you're reading this, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you can fit in some time to craft this weekend.


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