A New Sweater

I know that some of you are waiting for the next post on the quilt along, but I wanted to do a post on something else in between.  For those of you doing the sew along, I will get to that post in a couple days.

In the meantime, I made a new sweater.  Last July.  Yes, that says July and I am just getting around to posting it now.   It’s been too cold to wear it and in July when I finished it, I was too pregnant to wear it, and then in August after having the baby, I was too . . . never mind to wear it.   But – it fits now, so here it is:

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The pattern is Hitofude Cardigan by Hiroko Fukatsu.  I loved making this.  It has enough going on to keep me interested, but not so hard that I had to be counting,  focusing, or thinking too hard while making it.

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It’s an ingenious, seamless design.  You start on the sleeves and yoke, which is just a simple rectangle.  The pattern then transitions into the body where you use yarn overs to increase to create shape.  It is meant to be worn open like this –

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I added some hook and eye closures so I could wear it pulled together in the front if I wanted, or open.  (I need to replace the black hooks with silver ones though so they blend in more).

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The original pattern is much shorter and has a lot more increases – so it has more drape and flow.  This style doesn’t work very well on me, so I followed a couple changes that some other Ravelry users were posting. (photos borrowed from the designer)

I just couldn’t resist this back, and I figured there was a way to make the design work for me.  Isn’t that beautiful?

 

I did less increases, so the back of my sweater isn’t as beautiful/dramatic, but it still works.

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I loved this yarn too.  It’s Euroflax Sportweight Linen Layers by Prism.  I purchased it here.  It is hand-dyed so it has beautiful color variations that don’t show up in my photos.  The yarn has great drape and I think it works well for this lacey pattern.

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To see more details, you can find my Ravelry link here.

Posted in Knitting | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Pretty In Pink Quilt Along Part 3

 

Today on the Pretty in Pink Quilt Along, we are going to talk about applique.  Many of you have asked about the method that I use – it’s called raw edge fusible machine applique, but feel free to substitute your own method.

 

For my method, the first thing you need to do is prepare your applique shapes.  The fusible product that I use for this process is called Heat’n’Bond Lite.   The key word here being Lite.  Do not get the ultra – you will have a really tough time getting your needle through it and it will make your applique feel stiff as cardboard.

 

I like Heat’n’Bond Lite for several reasons –

1.  It is lightweight

2.  It’s very user-friendly.  There are two sides to the product – a paper side and an obvious glue side.   Several products have multiple layers, making them confusing to work with.  Or you can’t tell what the glue side is until it is stuck to your iron.

3.  It is locally available

 

What I don’t like about it?

1.  You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions when ironing it to the fabric.  If the instructions say 2 seconds, it means 2 seconds.  If you over iron this product, the bonding agent in the glue no longer works.  That’s quite a bummer when you have dozens of applique shapes cut and prepared, but they won’t stick to your quilt.

2.  It is affected by age, heat and humidity, so don’t store it in your car and only buy the amount that you will use in a timely manner (not in 5 years).

 

There are many similar products on the market and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know that much about all of them.  Do you have a favorite fusible?  Please share in the comments, so we can all learn about them :-)

 

Once you have selected your fusible product, trace the applique shapes onto the paper side and fuse them to the back side of the appropriate color fabrics – see the flower petals below.

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To save time, I only trace half the number of shapes needed, then cut a blank piece the same size (see the top of the above photo).  Then, when I am cutting, I layer the two pieces together and cut.  Double the shapes, in half the time!

 

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My favorite scissors for cutting out applique shapes is this scissors by Elan  (and sold by Moda/United Notions).  The short blade makes for easy maneuvering when cutting appliqué shapes or threads.

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I also love it because it is so comfortable in my hands.  See why?  Have you ever seen a scissors with a bendable handle?  Love it!

 

 

My second favorite tool for cutting out applique shapes is a miniature rotary cutter.  It doesn’t work for every applique shape, but it works great for the leaves on our project.

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It also works great if you want to trim the glue out of the center of your applique shape.  This helps reduce the stiffness that the fusible product adds.  My goal is to have my applique feel and look like it’s hand-done, and if you are layering multiple applique shapes, then trimming out the glue will help keep your quilt nice and soft.  Please note that the trimming must be done before you iron it to the back side of your fabric, as there is no way to get the glue out after it’s been fused to the fabric.  You only need to leave about 1/4″ of glue, as it just need to the hold that applique shape to the quilt until you get the stitching done.  For our project today, the applique is quite small and we aren’t doing any layering, so this step isn’t necessary.

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Next, position the applique onto your pieced background (referring to the pattern cover for placement) and fuse in place.  This is also the time that I add my ric rac and pin in place.  That way I can make sure everything looks right.

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Now we are ready to get our machines set up.

First, grab your open toe foot, if you have one.  This foot has no bridge, so you will easily be able to see where you are going, how your stitches are aligning, and it will make those inside and outside points easily visible.

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Secondly, find the thread that you want to use for your applique.  I use a combination of two stitches and two different types of thread.   In the photo below, you see the two stitches – a small zig zag and a blanket stitch.

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I use regular weight, matching color thread for the zig zag.  For the blanket, I use “Heavy” thread, made by Dual Duty.  (It used to be called topstitching thread.)

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It comes in several colors, but if they don’t have the color that you want, you can always use two strands of regular weight thread and thread them both through the machine at the same time.  Like this:

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You can also use a matching color thread as shown.  This is great if you are new to applique and don’t want every little wobble to show.

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There are several reasons why I like this heavier thread:

1 – It comes in several different colors – though I usually use black or dark brown.  For today’s project I used navy.

2 – It’s heavier than regular thread so you applique looks like it’s been done by hand.

3 – The thickness of the thread makes it more forgiving.  I find that when I applique with a lighter weight thread I have to be so careful not to get little Vs in my stitching – as shown in the photo below.  The thicker thread just seems to fill them in.

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You will also need the right needles to applique.  You will need a #9 or #10 to do the small zig zag.  This will help reduce the frayed edge that can sometimes happen when you machine applique around curved.

For the blanket stitch, you will need to use a larger needle to accommodate the heavier thread – a size #14 will do it.  Usually, if you have skipped stitches or thread not going through the fabric nicely, you need to try a larger needle.  You may also have crunchy happening down in the bobbin case as the threads gets caught up and a larger needle will help with that also.

Lastly , you will need to adjust your top tension.  On my machine, the tension dial is right in the front and I loosen the top tension slightly – just enough so that the top thread is pulled slightly to the back side of the block.  Just remember “Looser is a Lower number”, when it comes to tension.  BTW – I do not touch the bobbin thread.  There is no handy dial with numbers on the bobbine case, so unless you know how to adjust and fix it, I think it is best (and easiest) just to adjust the top tension.

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That covers having your machine set up and your applique shapes prepared.  When I come back, we will talk about how to applique by machine – such as maneuvering the inside and outside points.  I will give you a few days to gather up the correct thread, needles, etc.

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If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments and check back to see my answer.

Here are a few more shots of quilts that show a mix of the two stitches and thread color ideas.

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Posted in Quilting | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Pretty In Pink Quilt Along Part 2

 

Today on the quilt along, we are going to talk about piecing.  (If you missed Part 1 on fabric selection, click here).  I am going to give hints that relate to this project, as well as piecing in general.  If aren’t sewing along with me, feel free to read along.

A few hints before you start sewing:

1.  Accuracy is very important for Mini quilts. 

Usually the smaller the pieces, the less fudge factor that you have, and the more important being accurate is.  Our project has small pieces, especially the sashing.  If you are accurate right from the beginning, it will make the assembly much easier.

 

2.  Use the same sewing machine throughout the entire project.

Have you ever noticed that not all 1/4″ feet are created equal?  I have two sewing machines – A Bernina 1230 and a Pfaff Grand Quilter.  Both have a 1/4″ foot, but the Bernina foot is an exact 1/4 and the Pfaff is a scant quarter.  Therefore, if I sewed half my blocks with one machine and the other half of the blocks with the other machine, the seam lines (especially the sashing) will not line up.

 

3.  Do a test swatch

Cut three strips at 1 1/2″ wide and sew together as shown below.  Press and then measure the middle strip.  If it measures exactly 1″, then you can move forward.  Please notice that I measure (or in my patterns, it’s called proofing), by laying the ruler on top of the block, rather than laying the block on my mat and using those lines.  By laying the ruler on top of the block it is much easier to see if the  seam lines are accurate.

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4.  This particular project uses a Charm pack, so some of the edges have pinking.  If you lay two pieces next to each other that are pinked, it can be hard to tell exactly where to line up the edge of your quarter inch foot.  I like to pair a straight edge next to the pinked edge when sewing to avoid this problem.

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Like this:  Notice the pinked edge is to the top side so I can see that the tip of the pinked edges is aligned with the straight edge of the white strip below.

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5.  Pressing is also very important for accuracy.  Make sure that there isn’t extra fabric hiding in the fold next to your seam.

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Like this (see photo below).  There is probably 3-4 threads hiding in there – per side of the seam allowance.  That could add up to 1/8″ on this seam alone, not to mention all the other seams in the quilt.  When I teach classes, this is the #2 issue that leads to inaccuracy (behind seam allowance).

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5.  Learn to nest.  This is probably something that most of you know, but I find lots of people in classes who don’t know how to nest.   Though this is much easier to explain in person, I will give it a go.

Nesting means that you press the seams allowances that need to line up in opposite directions (see photo below).  This helps to reduce bulk and is also means that you shouldn’t have to sit and pin every intersection to get them to align perfectly. (My patterns all have little arrows showing you which way to press the seams so that they nest – so follow the arrows in Steps 1 and 2)

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That doesn’t mean that you just sit down and sew and hope the seams line up because they are pressed properly.  I use my fingers as pins, instead of taking the time to actually pin.  This is hard to do with one hand sewing and the other hand holding the cell phone, but see how my finger is right on top of the seam allowance?  It is holding that seam in place until I sew over it.  I also use my other hand and place my pointer finger inbetween the layers, and put a slight bit of pressure on the bottom piece, helping to lock that seam together.  Once you do it a few times, you will be able to feel with your top finger that those seams are locked tight and just keep them locked together as the piece is sewn.

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The sashing seams have two pieces to get lined up and they are very skinny so please don’t hate me ;-)  If you can line up these skinny pieces, you have the technique down pat. With some practice your intersections will look pretty close to lined up.  (Then you just hope that any seam that is a few threads off will “quilt out”.)

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6.  Sew a block or two and see if the size of your block matches the proof size listed in the pattern.   I always try to put proof sizes in my patterns so you know what size the blocks should be.   Then sit back and admire your work a bit!  Aren’t those fabrics cute?

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Next you are ready to sew the block into rows.  I help things stay in order by simply pining the rows in each block together.  I don’t have much luck with stacking blocks and hoping they stay in order.  I could blame this on my two year old, but it isn’t always his fault.

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To keep track of my rows, I put one pin at the beginning of the first row, two pins at the beginning of the second row, etc.

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You can also use little Post-it notes or numbered pins.  I kept the rows in order as I chain sewed my blocks together and didn’t clip the threads between the blocks as I sewed, so everything stayed in order.  There are lots of ways to keep track, so just use the method that works best for you.

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Stop when you get to the point where you have 4 large blocks.  I stop here because I like to do the applique on the smallest possible area, rather than having to work with the entire quilt going round and round in my machine.

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On a side note, feel free to get creative with your project.  I laid my blocks out before sewing them together, just to see what they would look like as a table runner.  If you come up with something fun and you blog or do some other sort of social media, please leave a link in the comments so the rest of us can see it!  You can also post directly to the Instagram quilt along page at #prettyinpinkqa.

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We will talk all about the applique next, so come back and join us for a lesson in machine applique!

 

Posted in Quilt Along, Quilting | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Little Boys

I had one of my favorite days – ever – last week.  Max turned 5 months and I wanted to get some pictures of him.  I was trying to recreate a day that I had with Carter at this same age.  They are some of my favorite pictures and I will never forget Carter at that age, because of these photos.

Usually when I have a grand vision in my head and try to recreate it in pictures, I only get frustrated and mad.  The lighting is always bad and my pictures blurry.  But today my pictures turned out!  Get ready for little boy overload!

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My kids have great Michelin man arms at this age.  I could just spend half the day tucking kisses into those little rolls.  And there are a lot of them.  It might take all day.

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It wasn’t long before Carter wanted to join in the pictures too.

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I love pictures.  I have a horrible memory, so I think that is why I love pictures and they are so special to me.  They help me remember (or at least think that I remember) a particular moment in time.   It always makes me sad to think I to think I am loosing my baby.  Even though each day brings fun new things as my children grow older, each day also brings them further away from this precious little baby.  These pictures will allow me to go back in time and remember.  In the future, I can look as these pictures, close my eyes and remember what they looked like, smelled like, felt like in my arms.  I can briefly go back in time and have a moment of that special time back.  Minus the midnight feedings and poopy diapers.  Thank you Nikon ;-)

 

Posted in Family | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

Pretty In Pink Quilt Along – Part 1

Last week I wrote a post about what I will be sharing on the blog in 2015.   I mentioned wanting to get back to doing a few tutorials and decided to pick a project that we could work on together – so welcome to my first Quilt- Along.  Go grab a cup of coffee and read long!  (even if you aren’t interested in a quilt-along, you can just read along and hopefully you will pick up a few tips).

Today I am going to show you what we will be working on and I will talk about how I selected the fabric for this project.  I have so many people who ask about this, so I know there are many of you who are wondering about my process.

 

I have chosen the pattern Pretty in Pink Mini.

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I selected this pattern because:

A.  I wanted to make another one ;-)

B.  I have a lot of things that I can teach from with this pattern

C.  It’s small – so it isn’t a huge time commitment for you to join me in the quilt along

D.  Many of you probably have a charm pack lying around that is waiting to fulfill its quilt destiny and become something beautiful.

 

The quilt finishes out at 24″ x 27″,  requires 1 charm pack, 3/8 yard of cream, 1/3 yard pink for the flowers and binding, 1 1/4 yards of 1/2″ wide green rick rack, assorted scraps for the applique, a fusible product and thread for the applique.  The pattern is available for $5 (paper pattern here or PDF here.)

For those of you who would like to make the larger size shown below, you can.  The larger size was originally published a few years back in our Living Large book and requires one layer cake, along with some additional yardage.

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Today I want to talk about fabric selection.  First of all, I want to show you the other quilts I’ve made with this design.  One of my favorite things to do is make the same pattern again in different fabrics, just to see how different it looks in other colors.

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For this option, I added borders, used a dark sashing and changed the applique to something more Christmassy.

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In this version, I set the blocks on point and went with a very dramatic black lattice.  (By the way, this was the very first version of the pattern, but it ended up in the reject pile.)

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For some reason I made that version 3 times!

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For our sew along, I am using Miss Kate by Bonnie and Camille.  The pattern is written for Precuts, and that makes the first part of the fabric selection process so much easier.  I used to spend hours pulling fabrics from my stash, cutting a 5″ square off each piece, folding them all back up and putting them away.  No more baby – Just whip out that charm pack and all the colors are already cut and, as a bonus, all color coordinated for you by the designers of the collection!

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The second step in the fabric selection process is to open up the pack and lay out all the fabrics so you get a better look at the line.  When I laid them all out, I arranged them on white fabric because that is the color I wanted to use for the sashing.

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Don’t they look cute together?  See that little pile of white prints at the top?  I already eliminated those because I thought they didn’t set off well enough from the white sashing fabric.  If there isn’t enough contrast, the pattern will be lost in that block.  The sashing fabric is going to touch every color in the line, so it has to set off from every print.  To figure out what to use as this contrast print, pick a different color from anything in the line, OR use a print way lighter or darker than the rest of the prints in the line.  White, brown, black, and cream are example of colors that I have used in the photos above.

 

Step 3 – Figure out a possible color for the applique.  In this case, I chose the color that had the least amount of prints in the line.  Notice that there are only 3 of 4 orange prints, so I went with that color.  I also made sure to use a little bit darker tone of orange in a more solid print to ensure that it would stand out.  I did the same with the green for the stems.

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Step 4 – Arrange all of the prints on a design wall to see how they will actually look in the quilt.  I even cut out a few sashing strips to audition.  This will also be the fabric placement in the final quilt.  I like to figure that out ahead of time, if possible, rather than just winging it.  That way I don’t end up with two prints next to each other, etc.   I made sure that none of the orange or green prints would be underneath the applique,  as that will help keep the applique from blending in with the busy background.

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Step 5.  Next I eliminated a couple of the low volute prints, because I just didn’t think they set off enough from the sashing.  They looked fine when I had them arranged by color in the first photo, but once I mixed them up with the other prints, they got lost (see the squares on the right hand side of the photo below).  The squares in the quilt that have grey circles around them show the new prints that I added to the mix.  In this case, I have a stash of leftover Precuts by the same designers that I could easily mix in.  If you don’t have any scraps lying around, consider cutting an extra square from your binding or backing fabrics.

When I first started quilting, I just selected my fabrics and started cutting and sewing.  After I was done with the project, I would kick myself for my bad choices that were now permanent.  I am not good at having a total vision for my project.  I have to go step-by-step,, auditioning as I go.  By taking the time to do all of the above steps, it helps ensure that I will like everything in the end.  Now take a picture with your cell phone, ipad or camera so you can remember your fabric placement.

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Step 6 – Now that I am happy with the color arrangement, I am ready to cut.  Because of how this quilt is made, my fabric selection also helped me determine the placement of all the prints so now I just took down every other square and cut them as shown in the cutting diagram on page 1.  (Please note that if you are using directional prints, you will need to pay attention to the direction of the prints before cutting them.)  Set aside for Step 1 in the sewing directions.  Take down the rest of the squares and do the same for Step 2 in the assembly instructions.

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One other word of caution, cut carefully!  There isn’t a whole lot of waste with this pattern.  As you can see below, I use a small rotary cutter when working with these small pieces.  It makes it so much easier to maneuver when cutting around these small pieces, plus it’s easier to see around.

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A couple of words of advice about Precuts:

The cutting instructions for this pattern show a little cutting diagram to help you with the cutting.  Notice how there is no waste going one direction.  To make that step easier, I position two rulers next to each other as shown.

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Measure over with the first ruler as specified by the pattern.  Lay the second ruler next to it and make sure that you have enough fabric left to make the second cut.  Once everything is in the right place, pull the second ruler away and cut.

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My charm squares were actually 5″ by almost 5 1/8″.  I made sure to turn the blocks so that the 5 1/8″ was running the direction that required all 5″.  That way I could trim a little off the pinking on each side.  (for more hints on cutting precuts, see my tutorial here)

 

That’s all for today.  I hope you found some of these hints helpful!  I also hope some of you will join along in making this project with me.  If you do, please post pictures to share with the group.  I would love to see the fabrics that you are using!  Please use the hashtag #prettyinpinkqa.  You can also post questions for me in the comments here on the blog and I will do my best to answer – just be sure to check back to see the answer to your question.

 

You have the next week or so to select and cut fabrics.  Next week I will post on making the blocks.

 

Posted in Quilt Along, Quilting, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Little Handwork

I know that Christmas has passed us by again for another year, but I wanted to show you some Christmas ornaments that I have been stitching on.  I was just packing them up the other day and thought I should share them before I put them away again for another year.

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I have a deep seeded love for Christmas ornaments, especially hand-made ones.  It all started years ago, when my Aunt Lynn gave each of the nieces and nephews an ornament each year for Christmas.  Many were ones she had hand painted and they fascinated me.  It was such a treat each year to take them out, look at them, arrange them on the tree.  When I left home, those gifted ornaments were the only ones on my first Christmas tree.

These ornaments are designed by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy.  Her blog is one of my favorites – I love looking at her beautiful photos.  They make me want to move to Portland, move in next door and have Carter play with her adorable little girl (they are almost the same age and they went through some trials to get her too).   If you want to check out her blog you can click here.  Last winter she posted some kits of these ornaments and I took the plunge and ordered some.  I worked on a few or the ornaments then.  I ended up only finishing one this year (bo!) and will have a couple more to work on next year.

Now for some close-ups – A cabin, complete with chimney smoke and beads.

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I loved ice skating when I was young, so I love this one.  Again – the details are so fun.

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I love this little red coat.  My mom once made me a red wool coat, so it reminds me of that.

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Of course, I think the hand knit scarf on the polar bear is a fabulous idea.

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The tree and deer have some beautiful details too, including the sequins to look like snow.

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If you are interested in seeing Alicia’s kits, click here.  She also has just the patterns, if you happen to have all these different colors of felt, beads, ric rac, etc in your stash.  I thought the kits were a lifesaver!  No running around collecting a million things.  Click here to see the patterns.

I hope someday these will be part of a special set of ornaments that the boys take with them when they move out.  Sniff, sniff.

 

 

Posted in Decorating, Minnesota | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Plans for 2015

So . . .  I’m about 12 days late in getting to my plans for 2015.  I want to share a bit about what is coming here on the blog this year and why I am planning a few changes.

First of all, my life has changed a little (or a lot) since I started blogging.  I no longer have the time to devout to it that I once did.  Two little boys will do that to you!  That means that I also don’t have time to sit and read other blogs like I used to.  Does anyone else feel this way?

Secondly, I often find that I have a little something to say, but it isn’t enough for a blog post.  Or I don’t have time to take a photo, load it onto the computer, go through all the steps to write a post and publish it.

 

So what’s the solution?  What is my new favorite social media?  Instagram.

 

That doesn’t mean that I am going to quit blogging.  I am just going to save the blogging for when I have a topic that requires a few pictures and text (just like I have been doing).  But, I am also going to start posting on Instagram to keep in touch with everybody in between blog posts.

So why Instagram?

1.  It’s easy to check with my phone.  I don’t need to have time to sit down at the computer to see what’s going on.  It’s accessible anywhere – including my bed (It’s my new reading material before bed) and during those middle of the night feedings!

2.  It’s really quick to do a post – Just one photo and a bit of text.  I can do it right from my phone.  In fact, I just did one while Carter was in the bathtub.  Easy Peasy.

3.  Readers can still post comments.  Readers can also post photos using hashtags.  This is great for doing quilt-alongs and things like that.  I also allows me to see what you are making with my patterns, so that will be really fun for me. (If you want me to see what you are doing, just use the hashtag #ankastreasures.)

4. Instagram will also post to Facebook, so for those of you who don’t want to add another social media, you can still see what I am posting.  I have found that I like Instagram much better, so I am checking that more often.

 

Speaking of quilt-alongs, that is another reason why I am going to start posting on Instagram.  I have several things planned and I am hoping some of you will join along.  Nothing that I am doing will be a big time commitment, they will mostly be small projects like runners.  I will be posting hints on fabric selection, talk about techniques used in the pattern, etc.  My hope is to help provide some helpful hints that people can learn from.   Some of the things that I have gotten the most positive feedback from in the past have been my tutorials (see the tab across the top header).  Even if you don’t join in the quilt along, you may enjoy following along.  I also plan to do some giveaways, with the winners chosen from those posting photos and participating in the quilt along.   Again, it’s nothing huge, but I’m hoping we will have fun with it.

 

So what do you think?  Is there anything you would like to hear more about on the blog this year?  Are any of you recent Instagram converts?  Your comments mean a lot to me, so feel free to share your thoughts.

 

If you would like to follow my Instagram account, click here.  You can click “follow” to follow my account.  Take a look around Instagram and see what you think.  I only have a few photos up, but there will be more.  And speaking of photos, I had to include at least one in this post!

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