Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Gifts 2012: Pt. 1

This year, as every year, I made gifts for my relatives. I always make them gifts. They all love them, even the kids. So I just thought I'd write a short and sweet post showing you what I made this year. This post will be written in two parts since my family is rather large. Didn't want to make one post too overwhelming lol.

Before actual gifts were made, I had to make all the kids Christmas shirts. I did this last year and they loved them so I thought I would try to make it a new tradition. So these shirts were actually given before Christmas.
 I also made ornaments to put on the shirt packages so they could have something to hang on the tree. These three kawaii ornaments were for Mike's great niece, nephew and his mom.

 And these cute candy cane ornaments were made for my great nieces and nephews.

        This design was put onto a t-shirt for my dad because everyone calls him Pop.

       This sweet blanket was made for my almost 18 month old great niece Layniebug

                        My brother Bub likes to hunt so I designed this shirt for him. 

 This shirt was made for Levi, my niece Rose's hubby. Yep, he's a redneck! I also made her a southern girl shirt so they could be a matched pair.

 These cute shirts were made for my great niece Kayden who LOVES all the hair pretties I make her and Hello Kitty. also made her a Hello Kitty shirt with her name on it.

 This cute keychain was made for my mom since she seems to have to drive everyone around. I also made her a shirt that said, "Discover Wildlife: Keep the Grandkids" since she babysits two of my great nephews.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Highlights on HAF

As you know, I belong to a group called Handmade Artists Forum. I wanted to tell you about one of the great features they have there that are called Highlights. What are Highlights you ask? Well, if you've ever been (or sold) on etsy you're probably familiar with their treasuries. Highlights are the same thing. It's a place where other artists feature things they love. A bonus of the Highlights feature is that they have contests for them! They pick a theme, you make a Highlight (or four or five) using that theme and they pick a winner!! How fun is that? 

One thing I love about Highlights is that it allows you to see items you may not even run across while you're looking through HAF. There are SO many goodies so undoubtedly you haven't seen them all! And of course they're a lot of fun to make. 

Here are a couple of examples of Highlights made but HAF members.

Hunter Green & Cranberry by Wyndwalker Creations

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Handmade Gift Giving

I don't have to tell you how commercialized Christmas has become. And it didn't just start recently: it started decades ago. People may say that they believe in the message of Christmas: joy, peace, goodwill to all--but those are the same people that also get in the Christmas spirit by spending, spending, spending. This is the reason why the holiday has become commercialized. Of course retailers LOVE it! And why shouldn't they? They probably make more money this time of year than the rest of the year.

Now you may hear people complaining about cheaply made manufactured items. Their kid opened it on Christmas day and by the next day it broke. Or it never worked in the first place. Well, instead of complaining why don't they just buy handmade. I mean just think about it: handmade items are not assembled in a factory they are made by hand in someone's home one by one. Talk about quality control! I know when I make my items, I don't let ANYTHING go out the door without first making sure it's well made. Do they do that in a factory? yes, but still damaged items slip by. I know there's still a bit of a stigma out there that handmade is "cheap". Well, this is not the 70's anymore and to be honest, handmade is of better quality than the manufactured items people spend tons of money on. 

Or here's another idea: make gifts yourself! Sure, why not? Ever heard of Pinterest? Why there are THOUSANDS of ideas for easy crafting!! And you don't have to be a "crafter" to make them either. To me, handmade just means more. It's been made especially for that person who is receiving it. The giver has actually taken time and effort to make it--and that just means much more than going to the store and buying something. Handmade is so much more personal.

Personally, I have been making things for my family every Christmas (and b-days) for YEARS now. And do you know what---they LOVE the things I make. So much so that one year I ran out of time and bought Christmas presents and my little nieces (I mean LITTLE--like 3-6 yrs old) were so disappointed I didn't make their gifts that they actually made me feel bad about it. I never made THAT mistake again. Even tho I'm usually late getting presents to them on time, they still love that I make them. And that makes me feel good. My time and effort is truly appreciated--apparently more than my time and effort of going to a store and buying something. 

So this year for Christmas--why not try making gifts. Or if you don't have time or just don't know how to craft, buy handmade. There are so many handmade sellers out there now and so many selling venues specifically for buying handmade that there's no reason you shouldn't! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Handmade Artist of the Week: A Bead Thing

If you read my last blog post you will see that I belong to a very special handmade group called Handmade Artists Forum. As a member I decided to join a blog ring for the first time. What's a blog ring? Well, it's a fun way to find new blogs from interesting people for one thing. For another, it's a great way--in this case--to find new handmade enthusiasts! I'm very excited about this because I love meeting new people--especially ones in the handmade community. You will never find more helpful or nicer people. 

As part of this blog ring, we have to feature a different crafter every week. This is the part I'm excited about because I'll get to meet crafters I've not met before and get to see new and exciting things they make!! So, let's get this party started shall we?

Our first artist is Pam from A Bead Thing. She's a retired realtor who lives in Florida and she makes beautiful jewelry. Here is an excerpt from her profile that tells you how she got started:

One day I was to go to a Halloween party and asked my daughter to take some of the beads and make me something to wear. She did and that was the beginning. She began playing around with the beads and we began to buy more and more beads. The more I watched her play around, the more intrigued I became until one day I started playing around with them again. This did not take long at all and I was hooked. I have not stopped since. I began researching techniques and learning all I could about beading and checking out what others were doing and then realized that I was no longer depressed and that God had been working in my life with those beads for many many years. He continues to guide me and provide me with inspiration and I am thankful that He did not give up on me.

If you'd like to see what Pam has for sale you can view and purchase her items in several locations:

You can also take a look at her blog:
Or look her up on FB:
and Twitter:

And here are some of her lovely creations!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Handmade Artists Forum

For those of you who know me, you know that I have been selling online for quite some time. I also sell at a few handmade venues. One I would like to talk about today is Handmade Artists Forum (or HAF for short). I have belonged to this group for a few yrs now and it's a GREAT group--very supportive (as most of us handmade artists are) and quite friendly (yeah, we're that too) so you can just imagine how excited I was when they decided to open up a handmade selling site! 

If you sell online, I would HIGHLY recommend giving them a try for these reasons:
* Great support *
* Forums where you can find help on any subject *
* Friendly atmosphere *
* You meet great new friends who all have something in common (making handmade!) *
* Very affordable (just $5/month!) *
* Easy to open a shop and list *

Those are just SOME of the great features of selling on HAF!! And of course, even if you're not a seller, you can buy some beautiful, high quality items you certainly won't find in stores! Here are just a few I found while window shopping:

A Bead Thing sells pretty jewelry like this Pearl Bling Ring

Reef Botanicals sells hair care products, soaps, scrubs and even hard-to-find men's produts like this beer soap.

Marilyn Kelley Art sells beautiful original handmade art and painted items like this vintage sewing box 

You can even find things for baby like these beautifully crafted moccasins by Thunder Rose Leather
These are just a few items you can find at HAF. So if you're looking for something unique to buy or maybe you'd like to sell your own handmade items, please be sure to stop by and have a look around!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Local Work--Finally!!

This has been a busy three days for me. For three years I've been trying to get my little handmade business noticed locally. It's extremely hard to do if you don't have the funds or means to open an actual brick and mortar store, which I don't. So I've passed out cards, brochures, pinned them on every bulletin board in town--everything I could think of. Unfortunately I've only had a couple decent jobs from this: dog coats. I made over 50 of them for two businesses. But that was last year. 

This year I did the annual Kids Day event but only made $27. Needless to say, I was getting a bit depressed and began to think I would NEVER get noticed locally--or get any more local business. Until this weekend.

On Saturday, a local embroidery shop called asking if I would be interested in a sewing job. I had gone to this shop a couple of months ago and left my card in case they were looking for any help in the future. She had 60 lab coats that she needed the sleeves hemmed on. She was willing to pay me $3.50 per coat. Well that adds up to a nice little chunk of change. Only drawback was she wanted me to come in there and do them. So I told her I would stop in Monday and take a look at her setup and talk it over.

On Sunday, Mike came home with 13 smocks for a friend of ours' beauty shop she needed embroidered. After 30 yrs, she's decided to redo her signage so she wanted her smock design to match. So that was another local business order! 

My only dilemma was: how was I going to get these smocks embroidered AND sew those lab coats in a timely manner when I couldn't bring the lab coats home. To my surprise, I got both orders done in three days. I started the smocks on Monday afternoon and managed to get all but three stitched out. So, Tuesday morning I finished the last three then went to the embroidery shop to work on coats. I got half of those done in 4 1/2 hrs (pretty good I thought). I came home, got the smocks and took them out to the beauty shop (got paid--most important). This morning I went back in to the embroidery shop and finished the rest of the lab coats in three hours. 

So, needless to say, I'm quite impressed with myself! Best part is: Artie (who owns the beauty shop) was so thrilled that her smocks turned out great and that I got them done so quickly that she'll probably be recommending me if anyone ever needs embroidery work done (she knows a lot of the local business owners). So I'm crossing my fingers that this little job is an in for me finally locally! 

Oh, and the lady that owns the embroidery shop also said she'd call me if she ever has any more work--another plus.

Just in case you're curious--here is one of the smocks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tomato & Chicken Pasta

Tonight I decided to do something with the chicken breasts I had taken out for dinner. I really wanted a baked pasta dish but didn't have any mozarella cheese (which most call for) so I had to come up with something else. I am always throwing things together and sometimes I come up with some pretty decent dishes. Mark this as one of them. It was so easy and took ingredients I usually have in the pantry.

Tomato and Chicken Pasta 
3 chicken breasts
Italian dressing
2 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves if using fresh)
2 tsp oregano
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (drained)
1/2 cup vegetable broth (chicken broth would also work)
1 cup half and half (do use this and not milk)
Peppers (I used green and red) chopped
Mushrooms (chopped)
Salt to taste
Pasta of your choosing (I used ziti)

Cut chicken into chunks and marinate in dressing for at least 30 minutes.
Put about 2 tsp olive oil on a pan and add chicken and dressing.
Cook chicken until done.
Add all other ingredients (except pasta)
While chicken and sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to directions
When pasta is done, add to sauce mixture, let simmer about five minutes.
Serve with parmesan cheese and bread if desired.

*Note* I like my sauce on the thicker side, so if it's a bit too runny for you, before you add the pasta you can mix a small amount of cornstarch with a bit of water and put that in the sauce to thicken it a bit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Halloween Super Heroes

Today I finished the accessories for my niece's and her two little boys' (referred to as Tater Tot and Monkey) super hero costumes. If you don't recall, or didn't see, I wrote a post about their super hero capes  that I had made them some time ago. They were SO excited when they got them and my niece thought it would be really cool if they were all super heroes for Halloween. 

So, I have been busily making their matching masks, wrist cuffs and belts (niece deferred a belt and wanted a headpiece instead). I had made them masks when I made their capes but I thought for Halloween I could amp it up a bit and make some really cool ones! 

They were easy enough to make in and of themselves but took some time because I had to design the logos. Then I had to figure out what style of cuffs and belts I wanted to make. After I cut out my niece's headpiece I thought the cuffs might look neat if they had that rounded top on them too, so I just made myself a pattern using it. You can find the headpiece (and cape pattern) at FuddieDuddies on etsy.

For the belts, I decided simple would be best so I just cut out some felt 3" wide x the length of my nephews' waists plus an inch (i.e. Tater Tot has an 18" waist so I cut it 19"). Then I just attached velcro to the ends. For the "buckles" I cut out shapes on my Slice machine and then embroidered their logos onto those. I used heat 'n bond light (if you're not embroidering them you can use heavy) to fuse them onto the belts (no sewing!).

As for the masks, I found a great tutorial on Cutesy Craft's blog. She had Thor, Batman, Ironman, Wolverine, Spiderman, Hulk and Captain America. I used Wolverine for my niece's and Ironman for Monkey's. 

And that was it! I hope they enjoy their costumes and I can't wait to see them in them!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back in Business

The past few months have not been pleasant as far as my embroidering goes. I have had problems with my machine for quite some time. The first time I had a problem we took it to a place in Erie (40 miles away) and they adjusted the tension and timing. Brought it home and it worked great for approximately 4 months. Then I had troubles again. So, back it went. When I got it back this time it worked for about two weeks. Got it back, same thing. So up to Erie it went again. This last time all they told me was to watch my threading. Well if I were threading it wrong then why did it work ok for those four months? I was getting suspicious that they didn't really do anything with it.

This suspicion, I believe, was confirmed this week. I called a Bernina dealer in town just to see if she could work on a White. I was told by a local Janome dealer that they couldn't work on anything that wasn't a Janome because the different brands of embroidery machines all operate differently. So I assumed she would tell me the same thing. I really didn't want to take it back to the place in Erie. To my surprise she said she could work on it. So we dropped it off Thursday morning. She plugged it in, tried it out and noticed right away it wasn't working correctly. So she said she'd take a look at it.

To my surprise, she called back that afternoon saying she had got it working again. I was shocked to find out what all was wrong with it:

1) Parts were put back in the wrong order
2) There was a bar or something bent where the upper thread goes.
3) Bobbin bracket was bent and rubbing on the bobbin thread causing it to bunch up
4) There was sticky gunk in it (she said probably from the thread or something--she wasn't sure what it was)

With all that wrong with it, it's no wonder I'd been having so many problems! This leads me to believe that the other place probably wasn't even looking at it. Surely they could've found SOMETHING with all that wrong with it! I'm just happy they weren't charging us every time we took it in (except for the 1st time when they actually did fix it). Makes me wonder if they were waiting for the year warranty to run out so they could charge to fix it again. Needless to say, I will NEVER take any machine back there.

Now, for the fun part! When we took my machine into the local shop, she showed us an older model Bernina embroidery machine that a lady had traded in. It was almost identical to mine. Both were made by Brother. It took the same hoops, card, and was the same format as mine. It also came with two hoops, the manual, a dust cover and 13 design cards (which cost from $60-$100 EACH). She wanted $350 for the whole shebang. So Mike said we'd think it over.

We decided that was a pretty good deal so when we got my machine on Friday, we brought home two of them. Now I have a backup! I tried the Bernina out when we got home and it works beautifully. AND it's not nearly as loud as the White. I have yet to plug it in and try it out since I got it back but I will do that soon. I may just use it as my backup and the Bernina as my main machine.
The New Bernina
Design cards I got with it
Stitch out on the Bernina. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

D-Day in Conneaut, Ohio

Yesterday me, Mike and his buddy Kevin went to a D-Day reenactment/event in Conneaut, Ohio. If you're not familiar with the area, it's right on Lake Erie (which looks like an ocean when you're sitting there looking at it). They have this event every year but this is the first year we've attended. I'm glad we did. It was pretty interesting seeing all the equipment and guns not to mention the campsites and how the soldiers had to live then. Of course there were plenty of those dressed up (along with women) in uniforms walking around. They had over 750 reenactors this year! We didn't get to see any of the battle reenactments as those are going on today and we won't be attending.

If you'd like to read about this event, here is a link D-Day for you to click on.
Also, here are some pictures I took while there.

American Bike

Helmet resting on the rifle

Sherman Tank: smaller than I thought theyd' be

Tank Specs

American Tents
Sitting on the table are a typewriter and camera
On the crate is a phonograph player

Inside the tent

WASP (Women Airforce Special Pilots) tent

Just thought this hand sticking out of the tent was funny.