holidays

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial
02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

I know Valentine’s Day is not on everyone’s “favorite holidays” list, but I think regardless of your stance on the day, you’ll love this little tutorial I’ve got for you! I dreamed up this idea months and months ago, and it’s been languishing in my sketchbook, waiting to come to life. I finally gathered up all the supplies and picked out a sweater from my wardrobe that would be worthy of embellishment. I love how this turned out, and dare say I’ll be wearing it at times other than Valentine’s Day…

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

*Other Ideas for Garments to Embellish (Or, Sweaters Aren’t the Only Option!)

  • blouse (try making the design smaller and simplifying the arrow lines and using this on the collar!)
  • skirt (apply near the hem of a flirty little, knee length skirt)
  • felt beret (stitch on for a bit of color and whimsy!)
  • cloth handbag/tote/bookbag
  • tshirt (would look so fun stitched to the back, upper sleeve or even near the hem on a tshirt!)
  • tweed blazer (for a bit of romantic-preppy)

**Tear-Away Stabilizer: I used a pre-packaged stabilizer I picked up at the fabric store. But you could also use tissue or tracing paper. I find, however, that the pre-packaged stabilizer is a bit easier to work with when embellishing a knit fabric.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Begin by printing out this pattern. Make sure your printer’s settings are set at 100% scaling. Of course, if you’d like the motif smaller or larger, you can adjust accordingly. (It’s a good idea to print the motif off, and see how it relates to the scale of the garment you’re embellishing.)

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial
02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Trace the motif onto the stabilizer. Set aside for now. Using the printed motif, cut around the heart. Pin to the felt and cut a heart from the felt.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Pin the heart to the sweater where you’d like the motif. (I chose the left upper chest, but you could do this on the back, hem or even an upper sleeve!) Using a doubled thread to match the felt, begin stitching the heart to the sweater using a running stitch. As you stitch, pick up a bead with the needle and attach to the front of the heart. This way you’ll outline the heart with beads as you stitch it down!

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

With the stabilizer-traced motif, pin to the sweater overtop the felt heart, aligning the traced heart to the felt one. Baste with a single thread the stabilizer to the material.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Using a doubled thread to match the metallic beads, begin outlining the arrow. To do this, bring the thread up through the front of the material, pick up a few beads (3 or so) and bring the needle down through the fabric with enough space to allow the beads to lie flat. Bring the needle back up where you originally started this stitch, and run the thread through the beads another time. Pick up a few more beads and repeat. Essentially you’re backstitching the beads to the sweater so they’re extra secure! Be sure to tie off the thread at the back of the sweater well whenever you run out of thread.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

I found with beading the arrow on my sweater, it was helpful to work in sections: the long, straight lines first, then the arrow tip, then the tail.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Once you’ve beaded the arrow, it’s time to remove the stabilizer! Carefully begin tearing away the stabilizer from the beading. Go slowly, so you don’t accidently rip any of the beads out. You may need tweezers to help pull out some of the small bits of stabilizer.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

That’s it! Super easy, isn’t it? This is a great project for an evening–it only takes a few hours. Just remember when cleaning the garment you stitched this on that many felts don’t have stable dyes, and will shrink easily if machine washed. So probably gently handwashing or dry cleaning your garment when needed would be the best option (always test a small scrap of felt if in doubt!). I hope you enjoyed this, and of course I’d be more than delighted if you made it up and sent me a photo of how it turned out!

February 6, 2012 · 39 lovely thoughts
posted in tutorials · tags: , ,

It’s the little details of the holidays that always get me. Presents prettily wrapped. Finding the perfect dress to wear on Christmas Day (or finding one stuffed away in a box and rediscovering it!), buying the yearly ornament, crafting up little bits and bobs to decorate the house or myself with… I’ve been toning down things a bit here so I don’t get too exhausted by the frenetic pace I tend to keep up right before Christmas. (which is laughable, I know–humor me and my delusions), so I’ve been focusing on little projects that are easy to tackle in an evening or less.

First up was wrapping! Now granted, we don’t have a ton of recipients for gifts. Nor do we have children yet, so I can do coordinating presents and not worry too much about my wrapping not being appreciated. lol. I really like making packages pretty–it’s something I do for occasions other than Christmas and for Etsy purchases. I also like doing it on the cheap. Which doesn’t mean tacky and shabby of course; it’s amazing what I can throw together that reads “holidays” but uses a lot of supplies I have around the house already. This year I went for a simple scheme using brown kraft paper (already had), red and white baker’s twine (stash), red and white stars (punched using a hole puncher I picked up at JoAnns, but the paper and string were in the paper box) and simple round gift tags I made. The punched and strung stars may look a bit complicated, but they weren’t that time-consuming–just a bit fiddly. I do like the finished look though–and hope the recipients do too!


Now after that little jab at tacky, I do have a few things to show you that do border a bit on tacky. I can’t help it–I do like a bit of gaudiness and kitsch during the holidays; bright colors and a smattering of glitter always seem apropos! But it’s not something I usually gravitate towards, so I though I’d kitsch-things-up for myself this year with a couple glittery headbands and a sparkling deer. Don’t laugh… my sister already did when I told her what I had done. lol. The headbands were inspired by this gorgeous one that Erin sported last week (which looks far better and somehow normal on her than me!), and just consisted of headbands I covered (using my tutorial) and stitched some glittered foliaged I picked up on sale. Easy!

The reindeer brooch is kind of a tradition for me. A couple years ago I bought a bird ornament after Christmas and turned it into a necklace. As someone of acquaintance at the time astutely observed: “only you would go around wearing a bird as a necklace!”. True, very true. In the spirit of my adoration of slightly madcap accessories, I found this sparkly reindeer ornament at JoAnns last week. A few snips to remove the hanger, a bit of hot glue and a couple of good-sized pin backs (yes, it needs two), and voila! Instant Christmas brooch. I shall revel in my tackiness and gleefully embrace it until January 2, when all my gaudy things go back into hibernation until next Christmas.

Have you been working on any little holiday projects? Do share!

December 16, 2010 · 51 lovely thoughts
posted in creativity,holidays · tags: ,

If you followed along with my holiday madness last year, you know that I adore Christmas and this time of year. It also means that I get to go a bit wild (or more so than usual) in the kitchen, as I delight in making long lists of goodies to bake for the purpose of giving to friends and family as gifts. After I got married, I started a tradition of cookies and at least one candy-type item in the mix. This year it’s about four types of cookies and a new-to-me candy that I’m super excited to make. But more about those next week… This week I’ve been baking and preparing to decorate cookies. I’m having to start about a week before I normally do (yes, I know some people start even before now, but I tend to wait a bit!), but that’s because my holiday schedule is such that I won’t have time later.

The first cookies I made were traditional sugar cookies. I always try to do these since I have such fond memories of making them with my mom and sister each year. I remember not only how tasty they were, but how much fun I had decorating them–despite things getting a little wild with the sugar glitter and red hot candies sometimes! I think that is partly why I still like making them (aside from just loving a good sugar cookie): I get to decorate them. While I haven’t done that yet (it’s on the schedule for this weekend), I have been gathering up supplies like gel paste food coloring (which gives a deeper, richer color to icing than the commonly found liquid coloring), delicate sugar glitters and white pearl candies (both from my favorite bake shop: Bake it Pretty). I stuck with a smaller assortment of cookie cutters this year, keeping with the simple shapes that I remembered being the most fun to decorate last year. Now just to decide on what colors to mix up…

For the cookie recipe, I used the same one I baked last year. Although this year they had the homemade vanilla in them, which Sailor Husband swears makes a huge difference. He said they tasted just like the cookies he remembers getting at bakeries on Long Island, NY when he was little (and this is after trying an un-iced cookie!). So that’s a good sign! This weekend I have several other types of goodies to bake, so hopefully next week I shall have some other recipes to share.

For packaging I’m planning on using some Martha Stewart boxes I got at the craft store. I was planning on using tins, but couldn’t find any that I liked and weren’t $5 each (once again, I’m on a teeny budget for Christmas stuff this year!). So a coupon and trip to Michael’s were what sealed the deal for me with these. Plus they’re pretty cute and red and white. I’m also including hand written “menus” in each. So I guess that infuses a little bit of DIY into the mix with the premade boxes!

So the house has been smelling heavenly and the air has been full of Christmas music. Because what is holiday preparations without the appropriate tunes? I’ve been listening to a bunch of remixes on 8tracks, but would love to know: what is your favorite holiday music to get you in the spirit?

December 10, 2010 · 31 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays,in the kitchen · tags: , , ,

A few months ago I spotted a post on Joy the Baker about making your own vanilla extract. What?! Why??? Yes, I know–it’s a little weird to make vanilla extract, considering you can buy it easily just about everywhere. But I was honestly a little curious about how it would be if I made it myself–and it seemed like it could be a lot better than store bought. Worth a try, right?

doing the prep work in September.

Late in September I gathered all the supplies up (vanilla beans, purchased at a local kitchen supply store; 80 proof vodka, and a jar) and set out to get it going so it’d be done by the time I started baking Christmas cookies. I faithfully followed the pointers in the post and was sure to shake the little jar that was stashed away in the pantry every week for the two months it needed to age. I even stuck a pretty label on the front so I wouldn’t forget when I started it, since I tend to be a bit scatter-brained.

see how light it was before? the extract got to be so dark and rich after 8 weeks of aging!

Right before Thanksgiving I just couldn’t stand it any longer, and popped the top open to sniff it–it was the best smelling vanilla I had ever smelled! (And was subsequently passed around to anyone I could grab to confirm that it was indeed marvelous.) I also needed a teaspoon of it for some cream cheese icing for cupcakes and I have to say, it was a huge success. Now I just need to get cracking on my cookie baking and using up some more of this! I didn’t make a huge batch this time, since I wanted to see if it worked before using more vodka and investing in lots of vanilla beans. (They’re pretty expensive, but I’ve seen them on Amazon.com for reasonable prices. Vanilla beans, in my opinion though, are one of those ingredients that are really worth it!) But I think perhaps next Christmas I’ll plan far enough ahead, buy some pretty bottles and give it to friends who bake. It really is loads better than the store bought… Definitely worth the wait and patience (something I don’t excel at!).

Amy Karol also recently posted about homemade vanilla and used a slightly different technique (it has to “brew” for 6 months instead of 2). She also listed some helpful links for bottles, so be sure to check out what she wrote. Would you ever consider making your own vanilla extract? Have you ever done it before? Got a favorite brand of vanilla that is not worth missing? Please share!

December 3, 2010 · 41 lovely thoughts
posted in in the kitchen · tags: , ,

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has entered the giveaway thus far! Wow–I wasn’t expecting so many entries–and gift ideas; I’m seriously gleaning a lot from those. You all are the best!

finishing the cupcakes with a dusting of powder sugar and delicate sugar glitter!

Yesterday I was struck by the sudden craving for gingerbread. Not cookies–cake form. I actually prefer gingerbread cake over the cookies (even though I love those too!). For some reason the whole “Christmas spirit” has already started to set in with me this year; I usually try and suppress it until we get past Thanksgiving. But I’ve been hankering to listen to holiday music and bake goodies. So I gave in… at least to the baking part!

I don’t remember where I found this recipe–I was probably just poking around various recipe sites. But it immediately jumped out at me because it said “spiced”. I usually end up dumping a lot more spices in my gingerbread (cake and cookies) because I like it spicy. Not burn your mouth spicy, but something that has a definite zing to it. Plus, this recipe also did not call for applesauce, which many of the “classic” gingerbread cake recipes seem to. (I was lacking applesauce in the pantry, but had the yogurt required!) My curiosity was also piqued by the use of three ingredients: coffee grounds, ground pepper and ground mustard. Yes, mustard.

Wondering the entire time I was mixing this batch as to whether this would be edible (after all, it did have mustard), I was hopeful because the final batter at least smelled appetizing. Always a good sign with baking, no? Instead of making it a loaf or cake style, I decided to make these as cupcakes. This was also an excuse to bust out the red and white striped cupcake wrappers I had in my baking stash. I don’t use those nearly often enough! I baked them at the same temperature directed in the recipe, but for only 26-28 minutes.

The resulting cupcakes were spicy, but also really delicious! I have yet to do some of my other “traditional” fall rituals (life has just been too exciting lately) like make applesauce and go to Starbucks for a pumpkin latte. But this, paired with a cup of coffee (since I had to grind some coffee for the cupcakes–I didn’t have instant granules–I figured I’d make myself a cup while I was at it!) and a rainy afternoon, it was perfect. The only change I’d make in the future was reduce the amount of pepper by a tiny bit. But then again, I didn’t measure it, so it’s very likely that I put too much in. (I have mentioned I tend to just dump spices in, haven’t I?)

I’ve volunteered to make desserts for Thanksgiving this year (well, at least I’m hoping I can!), and I think these will make fantastic little treats–perhaps even prompt me to finally get a mini cupcake tin. Dusted with a bit of powdered sugar and sugar glitter (as I did here), they’d be a nice end to the traditionally heavy meal. Although I think perhaps a cream cheese frosting might be tasty too…

What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Besides gingerbread, I’m pretty traditional in favoring a good vanilla cupcake. Although finding a really good vanilla cupcake can be tough sometimes…

November 5, 2010 · 34 lovely thoughts
posted in in the kitchen · tags: , ,