Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Christmas Journal Completed (with tips for doing them fast!)


Happy New Year!  2016 was crazy and super busy but I have to admit it would not have been Christmas for me without doing my Christmas Journal, which I just finished.  I have been on a bit of a journey to make things easier and faster.  Last year, after Christmas, I went through all of our boxes of decorations and tossed the things we never use, labeled everything left, and made sure that all the boxes were properly filled and sealed.  That really helped this time around when I didn't feel like making the effort to decorate.  I will say that I probably would not have decorated except that I have a kid and she was adamant that the house would be in shape, decorated, and ready to go before her annual Christmas party she hostesses for her friends.  To make it seem doable, I bought a new tree-- prelit and only three pieces. What a nice change from the old tree that required every branch to be hung in place on a 6-part base before several strings of lights had to be painstakingly added.  Even my inner cheapness felt that the purchase was worth it. The 7' tree that I put in my daughter's room had been replaced the year before with a similar style so I knew with the ease of that one, that our big family tree would have to be replaced.

My need to make Christmas easier and less time consuming got filtered into my Christmas Journal as well.  I have been doing these since 2012.  I love Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas for this, not because I do all of her prompts every year, but because she reminds me daily to think of the Christmas season and what makes it special.  Her JYC is a program where you pay once and then get the daily prompts and tips (and even a forum to connect with other JRC-ers) every year after that too! They just start December 1 of each year unless you tell her to stop (which I can't imagine doing!) They continue until January 6 but I typically end my journal on the 25th to keep it from getting too fat. The journals became instantly important to me the first year I did one because it helped me to focus on the meaning of the season, what was important to me, what we were doing right then, my memories of Christmases past and wishes for Christmases in the future, and ways in which we change each year. My daughter who is 12 loves looking at past years' journals. I love that they are important to her too.


These are my previous journals that are here on my blog:

Since starting them, I have found that I don't have to journal every single day, although I like them best when I have time to do that.  I always try to include one photo of myself, a suggestion that I learned from another on-line scrapping class that reminded me that I was never in any of my albums! Now, I make sure that there is at least a selfie of me and it has been fun to see how I change too and to know that I am in these memories as well as my fabulous family.  This is the kind of thing that I think will be important for the future.  I include a one page calendar so that the month is easy to see at a glance and to help with organizing when I get behind on doing pages for the book.  (I get them every year from a blog called A Stitch In Time.)  I include a CD of all the photos I took the whole season, not just the ones that made the journal.  (That is my expectation that someone will want to see the photos I decided not to include!)  I stick our ever-dwindling stack of received Christmas cards in the journal so that I can remember those and keep them.

This year, to make my Christmas Journal fast to do, I didn't worry about doing an entry for every day.  I just focused on what I wanted to include.  I take photos of everything all the time with my phone so there's always something to use.  I bought a small binder and protective pages from Staples instead of making my own pages and binding it myself.  I bought numbers, dimensional stickers, and envelopes from Michael's instead of making my own.  I bought one coordinated Christmas paper pack so I wouldn't have to worry about making sure it went together.

I used my embroidery machine to create a one-color (mostly) merged design using my embroidery software, Embrilliance.  I was able to set it up and go do other things with only one small and fast color change near the end. In this way, my cover sort of made itself.


The embroidery files I used for my cover were:  tree - Urban Threads, 2016 - Stitchtopia, tiny font used for the text Christmas Journal - Lisa Shaw's free Tiny font.

I printed out my embroidery design and used it with my lightbox to cut a paper border from the cover.


I pre-made a bunch of identical tags for journaling.  I used my Cricut Expression without software. For you dinosaurs like me that occasionally enjoy using your Cricut like a punch (cartridges and no software), my tags were from the discontinued Holiday Frames and Tags (a Creative Memories cart that you collectors like me will have) on page 42.


These are the inside pages of my 2016 Christmas Journal.

This year's calendar went right in the front.  I picked one from the free Stitch In Time printables that matched my paper pad.

On days that were true to the date, I added numbers.  I only did this for a few of my pages this year. I made journaling pockets for my tags using the photos. Using ribbon on the tags makes them easy to remove from the sheet protectors.

We did all our Angel Tree buying and stitching before December on Black Friday but it is an important thing to us that really makes it feel like Christmas so I include it.




For the first time ever, a cultural icon was included.  My daughter and I listen to the OCR of Hamilton or the Mixtape almost daily so it seemed appropriate to include. I used fan art that I found on line and saved as a screenshot on my phone.

I always make sure that I include one picture of myself so that I am part of the narrative (you Hamilton fans will get appreciate the choice of words there.)

I didn't do my own manifesto this year, and I didn't put it up front.  I found something to take its place though that I thought was fitting.  Another time saver for me and probably more meaningful.

This season was also overshadowed with political stuff for me.  I allowed it in my journal this year.  Another first.  I think ignoring what is most on your mind and in your heart is a mistake.  Including it will make it more poignant when looking back once this becomes a "past journal."  Some of the journaling is a bit hidden, as it is on other pages as well.      

Our date night for our anniversary was cut short due to a sick kiddo we had to pick up so I put our wedding photo in a phone app to make it different from the original.  I wanted to commemorate it even though I hadn't taken any photos of the evening.




My daughter got braces on this day.  I didn't journal it.  The picture said it all to me.

I used photo collages using phone apps to allow me to get lots of photos on single pages.  In past years, I have cut them apart just to have tiny photos in my journal, especially when my pages were tiny.  I had all my photos printed at Walgreen's every few days this year.  I just worked picking them up into my errand-running.  

I always like to add a page about Santa-- what my daughter wanted, what she got, what it looked like.  She "knows" now but I still have fun with this.  

I didn't add recipes this year but did still find ways to "hide" thoughts that I wanted to keep a little out of the way.  

Instead of a letter to my future self, I answered these questions posted by someone I follow on Facebook:
What did you create this year that you’re most proud of?
What did you invest in that’s most aligned with your destiny?
How can you respond to your setbacks & losses from this year so as to use them to fuel your vision for 2017?
What is no longer serving you? What are the patterns, relationships, structures, old beliefs or anything else in the way of your destiny?
Who do you need to forgive and what do you need to let go of to be free to shine your light in even greater ways?
What can you commit to in 2017 that will most support you to becoming the [person] you came here to be?
What is the most powerful intention you can set for 2017 that’s most aligned with the greatness of your soul and the needs of the world?

Christmas cards received this year (like this one from my mom) are in the back.

I embroidered my cover using fabric and thread to match the papers inside.  To the embroidery, I added a paper frame and added the same paper on the spine.
And now,  I did attempt a little video to show all my journals along with tips to make them fast. This is why I don't do videos very often.  Ha! You will notice my cover for this year's journal had an upgrade after I made the video.



Quick List of Links from This Blog Post (none of these are affilitate links):

I hope you will try your hand at a Christmas Journal or, even better, that you are preparing to thumb through your completed (or soon to be completed) journal!  Best wishes for a creative, happy, and peace-filled 2017.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Another Red Truck With A Tree

I'm not sure how a trend happens or how retailers know it will work, but the whole red-truck-with-a-Christmas-tree is everywhere.  My Facebook feed is filled with 3D paper ones, embroidery and applique ones, ornaments, free SVGs a few crafters have made and shared, even wrapping paper with that icon.  And it is kinda cute so I had to find one to hold a gift card.  I found the truck at Target and added personalizing text to make it fun for my recipient.


It has been the busiest year yet for our family business so crafting has taken a back seat.  But I finally got the dust cover off my Cricut Explore and used a scrap of vinyl to make personalized lettering for each door and the front and back fenders.



I am doing my annual Christmas Journal this year, and this will help with some photos for it!  ha!

Hoping you are finding time for what is fun for you this season!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Prime Members Awesome Deal of the Day: PE770 Embroidery Machine!

If you are a Prime Member with Amazon, you can get the same embroidery machine that I use, the Brother PE770, for $437.99 and free shipping today (Tuesday, November 15)!



The price without Prime and after today even if you do, is $588 so grab it if you have had it on your list to start machine embroidery!

To see what I have done with mine, my list of resources and other info on machine embroidery, check out my embroidery page on my blog or click here!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Busy Summer Stitching

Our family business kicks it up several notches in the summer so my poor blog and fun crafting suffers greatly during this time of year.  I did get a few projects done, mostly for fun and one for necessity.  I wanted to share what I have squeezed into the summer work schedule.

I repaired my 25-year-old bath robe...yes, I am just that silly...but I love that robe.  After years of laundering (and I used to be a bleach-user in my twenties) the wear on the robe included thread-bare areas and totally worn out and missing areas.  I am pretty frugal but mostly, I really wanted a very absorbent robe.  For the past few Christmases, I requested a terry robe and received polar fleece, minky, and flannel robes.  (Clearly, I need to educate the family on fabric types).  I gave up on them and started looking on line and in stores but I have noticed one thing:  vendors like to call things 'terry' that aren't.  Plush robes are NOT absorbent; they are warm and fuzzy but that is not what I wanted. I looked at fabric, thinking I might just make one, since I have made lots of robes and they are really easy.  Even with 50% off fabric coupons, however, a robe was looking to cost more than $50 to make it myself and that just seemed silly since I had a robe I loved.  The perfect ones I found were over $200.  So, instead I bought a hand towel and used it to replace the parts of the robe that were worn out.


I drafted patterns from the robe itself just by tracing and sewed it all in place.  It took almost no time.  I finished it by adding a monogram.  This is the bamboo monogram from Apex.

For a little stress relief, I worked on dressing up some pillow cases.  


The frame is from the Monogram Frames and Borders CD that was in the Anita's Attic sale.  I really love the texture and attention to detail in the digitizing.  This is an example of why I have gone hog wild on Anita Goodesign since I discovered them this year:  really special designs unlike the other stuff in my obsessed-with-embroidery-files collection.


The monogram is Carson from Itch2Stitch.

I did these using a repositional 5x12 hoop with Embrilliance software.  


The pillow cases were one of the unopened packages at the back of my grandmother's linen closet. She has been gone for a while now but embellishing something from her house just makes me happy. I have no idea how long she had these or why she never used them, but the price tag says 97¢ and the store on the tag closed in our city in the late 70s (or early 80s?)  It is going to take a few washings to get the creases out because my steam press couldn't do it.  Vintage pillow cases are one of those things I like to collect so this is sort of in line with that even though the embroidery is new.   


 My current wish on my project board is a purse set with matching accessories.  This is the first accessory:  an eyeglass case.  After trying a pattern that was a total pain, I decided to make my own pattern.  This includes a zipper top and an extra pocket to hold my readers.  The monogram is Elegant Scroll from Itch2Stitch.

I enjoyed doing this so much that I decided to try another and work out some things I wished were a little different on the first one.


The monogram on this one was Apex Curlz Fun Circle font.  I quilted the floral with my sewing machine, but I let my embroidery machine and a block from the Anita Goodesign Quilting 123 collection quilt the strawberry fabric.  I enjoyed these little cases so much!  I have a tutorial coming soon.

Links from this post:

The sewing was done on a Bernina 1230.  Feet used were the #0,  #37 (quarter inch foot), walking foot, and a generic cording foot.  Embroidery was done on a Brother 770PE and Embrilliance embroidery software.  

Thanks for checking my blog post today.  To see many of my other embroidery projects and resource info, check out my Embroidery page (click here).  My paper crafts can be found in my Paper Gallery (click here).  I am looking forward to getting back to more regular sewing and crafting in a couple of months when work slows down.  I hope you are loving your summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Double Wedding Ring Table Runner Made in the Embroidery Machine!


When you think of your embroidery machine not as a machine that does embroidery, but as a programmable sewing minion that can be instructed to embroider, applique, piece, quilt, create cutwork, make lace, and sew, you start to see some new capabilities and interesting options!  I have been throwing myself into techniques and software and one of the most surprising things has been the piecing and quilting I have been able to do, all on the embroidery machine.  This "in-the-hoop" style of quilting can create some really unique quilt blocks.

I started to investigate the idea of quilting with an embroidery machine with files from Sweet Pea (my first project was a pillow- click here), but the sheer number of Anita Goodesign files, in similar sizes with their "Mix and Match" files meant that I could combine designs, and using my Embrilliance Essentials and Enthusiast software meant that I could borrow and merge and delete stitches between the files!

I used four of the blocks on the left to create the design on the right.  
For this project, I wanted to do a table runner for my kitchen.  I needed something that would be small enough that no one would eat on it at the table (a pet peeve of mine), but that was large enough to be seen (to make the time investment worth it) and that could serve as a decorative way to protect my table from hot dishes.

For my design, I chose a square block from the Anita Goodesign file called Anita Goodesign Double Wedding Ring Quilt...



...Then I chose a scalloped block from Anita Goodesign Anita's Anniversary Quilt Premium Collection that I wanted for my ends. (Those scalloped ends are THE REASON I wanted that file!)  The problem is that the quilting didn't match my square block above.  My solution:  I used the quilting from the matching block in Double Wedding with the scallop shape from Anita's Anniversary file!  This was so easy with my Embrilliance software.  I simply deleted the step on the scalloped block that had quilting and then selected and copied the quilt stitches I DID want from the second block and used copy and paste to merge it.

I removed the scrolly quilting design.  Then I copied the quilting design from the second block and pasted it on the first one.  The finished block had the features I wanted.  It was scalloped and it matched my square block.

In addition to design benefits, putting the files through my Embrilliance software means that I get a more user-friendly version of the stitching steps and a full size template, if I choose to print it.

I started the sewing portion of the project by prepping my fabrics.  The way this works is that I cut the base fabrics and batting ahead of time, then use strips of fabric to do the folded fabric steps. I iron the fabrics with starch to keep them crisp.


My personal goal was to change thread only a couple of times to make it easy to do.  The only thread that will show is the satin stitching and quilting stitches.  Unlike hand-quilting, I wanted to use a contrasting color so the quilting would really show up.

The square block starts with batting placed and trimmed and then the base fabric placed and quilted.


Next, the center contrast is placed, stitched, trimmed and quilted.


Then the piecing begins: (1) the file stitches a placement box, then (2) the fabric is added face-down, then (3) the seam is stitched, then (4) the fabric is folded back, then (5) the tack-down is stitched.


I keep it in the hoop the whole time and only trim the ends after each tackdown. This file will stitch two folded fabric pieces at a time.  I did find that as soon as one was done, I needed to stop the machine, adjust the second fabric, then continue the stitching. Once it was done, I removed the hoop and trimmed all raw edges of the pieced fabrics in preparation for the satin stitching.



I continued the process with satin stitching and the end pieces.  I trimmed the block to 1/2" on all sides using my Omnigrid Quilter's Ruler.  The lines on this see-through ruler make it easy to match up the stitching lines with the lines on the ruler.


I stitched twelve of these blocks and then used my regular sewing machine to stitch them together.


This is what the back looks like at this point.


Next, I stitched four scallop blocks, using my altered block that I merged in my Embrilliance software.  I used the same process of stitching and trimming the batting, adding the base, stitching the pieced fabrics using the folded fabric method, and quilting.  Two were stitched together for each end.



The way that I stitch all the blocks together is to match the corner stitches, the satin stitches, and the center of the seams.  The Anita Goodesign instructions always say to simply match the edges since all the blocks have a 1/2" seam, but really, the elements need to be matched for the blocks to form correct points.

I fold back the corners to match, making a square on the stitching and pinning in place.


I fold back to match up the satin stitching.


Pinning on both sides of the satin stitching will keep one from sliding to the side of the other.  Even with a walking foot, I find that they will not stack properly unless I pin in this way.


I want the elements to match so that the seams of the blocks are not as prominent as the pattern stitched to make the design.


I used my Steam Fast Steam Press to make the sewn-together blocks as flat as possible.  I wanted the seams to be perfectly flat without any rounding.  I smoothed it out on top of my backing and trimmed it to size.

Next, I added a label to the back.  This was just a silly idea I had after looking at quilt labels.  I just thought it would be nice to have the year this was made.  I plan on doing lots of projects and giving some away and wanted a nice, extra touch...something that set it apart from things I buy for my home.

This was done using an applique patch from Planet Applique and merging with a label I bought from Urban Threads.  I removed the word "from" in the banner using Embrilliance Enthusiast by lassoing around the text.  Then I merged in the year using Itch2Stitch Teeny Font.


 I stitched-in-the-ditch to combine the quilted top to the backing.  This is why Anita Goodesign suggests a busy print for the back:  to hide that stitching.  I used my walking foot with clear thread in the bobbin.


I matched the backing to the quilted top and trimmed to 1/4".  This is a difference from the Anita Goodesign directions.  To do this, I used a Fons and Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker by Omnigrid. Because it is thin, it is easy to move around the curve.




From this point on, I used traditional quilting finishing techniques that I learned in a Craftsy class I took called Finishing School: Edges and Bindings.  I loved this class, taught by Mimi Dietrich, and because of the format they use, I can go back again and again to be refreshed on how to do things.  I love Mimi's style of teaching and her sweet personality.  I know that sounds silly, but if you are like me and used to Youtube for info, it is a joy to finally start learning by watching professionally produced classes with experts in their fields.  She is the first person to really get me excited about using quilting clips.  I originally bought a small pack of Clover brand clips at a local quilt shop around here.  They were super pricey so I was excited when someone pointed me to UrBest clips.  I got 100 for around $9.  They look like the Clover ones in every way except price.

I clipped the backing to the quilted top to hold them together.  Per Mimi's instruction, I stitched within the 1/4" seam allowance all around the outside edge.

I made double-fold bias binding using her instruction and stitched it on.  Her tips and tricks made all the difference and I loved that I could stop the video and use the 30-second repeat as needed.


My favorite trick of hers in the class is a no-math, no measuring way to cut the binding to the exact size needed, stitching diagonally to finish without bulk.


I pulled the folded edge of the binding to the back and hand-stitched in place.  I recently saw a Fons and Porter video where one of them said that hand-stitching is a way to bond with a quilt that has been made by machine.  I liked that sentiment so hand-stitching it was!

So my runner was finished!  Here, it is pictured on my green counter. It finished at 36" long, but the length and width are completely customizable by using larger blocks (if you can use larger hoop sizes), altering the size in embroidery software, or adding more blocks.  I have a Brother PE-770 so I always make the "D" size block which finishes under 5".  I am in love with the rounded ends and the quilting!  This is a total of 16 blocks.


I wanted it to go with my red serving pieces, colorful plates, green counter, and crazy patterned Roman shades I made a million years ago.  I love this size for keeping hot dishes off my table and to add a little pattern to the setting.


So you know what I think?  I think it would be fun to put together four of the scallop blocks to make round trivets that match for the other dishes I would have at a setting!  Adding it to the ever-growing list!

Buying Guide and Links in this Post
(some of these are affiliate links-I hope you will use them):
Thank you for checking out my blog post today.  To see my embroidery page which lists all my resources, links to my other embroidery posts, links to videos I watched to learn, and a million other helpful things with regard to embroidery, click here.

To see my paper projects, check out my Paper Gallery.

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