Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It's Over

The American people have voted, and in doing so, they have elected a candidate who has made it okay to slur entire races, pigeonhole women as sexual objects who exist for nothing more than providing sexual pleasure to superior males, give huge tax breaks to the richest among us, and other ideas such as privatizing infrastructure at the expense of us working stiffs who will be paying the tolls.  When the leader of the Ku Klux Klan makes the announcement that, "We've done a wonderful thing," we should all be so very afraid.

This is the United States of America, and because it is, I am allowed to have an opinion.  It may be different from yours, but it doesn't make either of us wrong.  Today, I am sad and embarrassed for us as a nation who elected a racist, elite, misogynist to lead and represent us for the next four years.  It is where we will be lead that scares me to the core.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The One & Only FurPet© - Still Made By Me One at a Time!

I am still making each FurPet© one at a time, and I am tickled to report that I've just completed my 300th one! FurPets© are great listeners, love to play catch, eat nothing and make no noise!  And - they are unbreakable and guaranteed to last!

FurPets© started out available in only 4 colors, all of which were short, curly hair.  But they have rapidly evolved! FurPets© are currently available in more than a dozen colors and in short- and long-hair styles.  The lime green (shown) is our best-selling color.  We have heard from a number of people that they glow in the dark, although the manufacturer of the fabric makes no such claim.  It must have something to do with the color and the finish on the fur.

FurPets© have been purchased as toys (the original intent), as key fobs (never, EVER lose your keys again!), as cheer-up gifts for sick friends, as therapy aids for use in a nursing home (they are fun to stroke and squeeze), as stress relievers to live in peoples' offices, as rear-view-mirror hanging decorations, and as party favors for children's birthdays.  It really is incredible how they have just grabbed everyone who see them!

FurPets© are still affordable at $7.50 each.  In fact, the price has never changed.  They are even less in multiples!  If you want a FurPet© in a color I don't currently have, let me know and we will see what we can do!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Who Am I?

It recently occurred to me that I've had this blog for years now, and my loyal readers don't really know anything about me.  Yes, the very first article I wrote was about my quilting history, complete with pictures showing how my quilts evolved.  But still, all you really know is that I'm a person who likes to make stuff.

Living in this internet world, where one must be incredibly careful about giving out too much personal information makes it difficult to share.  But I think I can give you a bit of insight without giving identity thieves too much to work with.

I'm the eldest of five children.  I grew up in a middle-class family which was very much into appearances and keeping up with the Joneses, as the saying goes.  The minute I graduated high school, I bolted to look for those precious intangibles.  I was very much then - and still am - a hippie.

I protested the Viet Nam War with vigor.  I also burned bras and marched for the rights of people - it was irrelevant to me if it had to do with gender or race.  I'm a firm believer that people should be treated equally and fairly.

I love the outdoors and have nearly 500 miles of high country wilderness on my hiking boots.  Yes, I've walked much of the John Muir Trail.  In fact, my husband and I back-packed into a wilderness for 16 days for our honeymoon!  We would have been married at that trailhead, but we couldn't find someone to preform the ceremony.

I've raised four children, spaced over two decades.  They've all grown and gone their own way and are dispersed all over the country.  Our goal was to produce self-sufficient adults, capable of living their own lives. Happily, we succeeded!

I have 7 granchildren, none of whom are anywhere geographically near me.  But I get lots of pictures and phone calls.

I worked for nearly half a century in technology - I was on the "user" side of things and evolved with it.  I finally decided it was time for me to make my time my own and do what I want instead of being a slave to a paycheck.

I'm a happy person, with no time to hate - time is far too precious to waste on hating.  These days, whatever seems right at the moment is.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Now It's Easy to Find The Perfect Handmade Gift!

If you have been searching for the perfect handmade gift, you are probably frustrated.  You go here, there and everywhere and keep finding things that are NOT handmade, or just not what you want.  Well, here's the site that is just perfect for you!

The Handmade Gift Guide Shop at On Fire For Handmade is just full of all kinds of unique, hand-crafted things. Are you looking for something for Mother's Day - no problem. A shower gift - no problem. Something absolutely hand-crafted and unique - No problem!  The owner of the site, Anne Hopfer, has done all the leg work for you, giving you assurance that everything in the Handmade Gift Guide is in fact handmade and not mass produced.  It's a terrific place to find that perfect something for any reason!

The Handmade Gift Guide Shop is incredibly easy to use. You can scroll through the thumbnails until you find what you're looking for in a myriad of categories, from a variety of artists.  Many of the artists also offer custom work - just right when you want to create something special.

Easy to use, great variety, all handmade - The Handmade Gift Guide Shop at OnFireForHandmade will quickly become your go-to site when you're in the market for something as unique as you are!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Way Better Than Mini-Blinds!

I saw this on Facebook and couldn't resist sharing it since it is such a wonderful idea!  No special skills required, as everything is glued!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Value of a Mental Health Day

After cleaning up my workroom yesterday, I stood in the middle of it and thought, "I should do something."  But nothing struck me.  I had done my daily marketing and such, and no projects were hanging in the lurch.  I decided that a bowl of popcorn and a movie sounded like a terrific idea. Hubby came home from work toward the end of the film, Forty Carats, and the two of us finished off the popcorn while watching The Rock.

Many would say that this day was a waste; nothing was accomplished.  I completely disagree.  Absolutely everyone needs a mental health day every now and then; a day where there are no deadlines, no stress and no pressure.  It's completely freeing and refreshing, especially if you are a cottage industry.  A night's sleep is supposed to be refreshing but no so much if you are dreaming about all the things that need to be done to maintain and advance your tiny business.

Mental health day...  try it - you'll love it!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

You Can Knit This Easy Infinity Scarf!

A dear friend on mine's birthday is soon, and I decided to knit her an infinity scarf.  And thinking about it, I thought that there might be some of you out there that would like to knit one, too, and don't know how. This tutorial will fix that for you! This scarf is suitable to beginning knitters and can be finished in an afternoon.

You will need 24" circular needles, size 10.5, one 6 ounce skein of a bulky yarn (I used Red Heart Light & Lofty which is machine washable/dryable - any yarn that has a gauge of about 2 stitches per inch will do), and one stitch marker.  You can use regular straight needles. If you do, your infinity scarf will have a seam where you weave the ends together.

Make sure that the work isn't twisted on the needles!
Cast on 91 stitches. At this point it is VERY important to make sure that the stitches on the needles are not twisted!  Place the stitch marker after the last stitch cast on so you know where the beginning/end is.

This scarf is knitted using a seed stitch (knit 1/purl 1 all across). On each subsequent row, you will be purling the knitted stitches and knitting the purled stitches (thus the reason for casting on an odd number of stitches). Knit around in this manner until the scarf is at least 6 inches wide, or until your yarn is almost gone(my preference since I hate storing small bits of yarn!).  Be sure to leave yourself enough yarn to cast off!

When it's off the needle and laid flat it should look something like this.  Mine is 7 inches wide and 52 inches long.  This is an easy scarf that will definitely keep you toasty warm and can be tossed in the washer and dryer making care a snap.  It is sure to become your favorite!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Hate Marketing!

This day is virtually gone, and I haven't created a single thing.  I've been photographing, listing and marketing handmade cowboy booties.  The worst part of it is the marketing. I'm old school, I guess, but it just bothers me to say, "Look what I did!  It's the best!  You should buy it!" That's just not what you are supposed to do. Trust me...  I didn't use those exact phrases, but that's the gist of it.

The thing is, I may hate the marketing aspect of being a cottage industry, but I absolutely love the sales that the marketing produces.  It's the sales that give me the opportunity to make something to replace what's been purchased. And that is the whole idea...  make some sales.

The reality is this - if you are Proctor & Gamble, you hire an advertising agency to do your marketing for you.  But if you're like me, you bite the bullet and do it yourself. How do you do your marketing?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Word About Thread

I finished my frog quilt this morning, and since my hands are tired from the quilting, binding and sewing on the hanging sleeve, they need a break.  In thinking about this latest project, I was amused by all of the different kinds of thread I used in the quilt's construction.  There is a difference, I thought.  Perhaps it would be an interesting post on my blog.

Different threads left to right: cheap, serger, hand quilting, upholstery, machine embroidery
The photo above shows five different threads, all variations of white.  Why on earth would a person have five different kinds of white thread?  And what is a thread anyway?

Thread is typically spun of three (or more) different fibers, just like yarn. The fibers can be anything from cotton to something man made.  The fibers used can be different weights to begin with, depending on what the manufacturer wants the outcome to be.  Very fine fibers create a decorative thread, without a lot of ability to hold things together. Thicker fibers work harder.   Think about the thread in a pair of jeans; it's much bigger than a thread in a blouse or shirt.  So let's talk about the threads in the photo individually.  All of the pictures below were cropped from the group picture above at the same size ratio.

Super cheap thread
This thread was purchased long ago, before I really knew (or cared) what I was doing. My guess is that I paid perhaps 50¢ for the entire spool of thread, and I got what I paid for.  Notice the variation in the width and density of the thread, how fuzzy it is in places while not in others.  Probably spun from pieces of fiber, this thread will have a tendency to break when put under stress.  Sew a button on with this thread and you will likely be sewing that same button on again very soon.  What do I use this thread for these day?  Nothing at all, but I'm glad I still had it so that I could take a photo of it for this piece.

Serger Thread
Serger thread is a fine thread which is sold on cones rather than spools.  It is designed to be used in conjunction with two other threads (three total cones) primarily to preserve the edge of a piece of fabric.  Alone, it's pretty fragile. You can actually see the twist in the thread toward the bottom of the photo. And note that it is a consistent width top to bottom.  Serger thread isn't very strong as a single strand, since it's designed to be a part of a trio of threads. For light duty repairs, it works pretty well.  Sewing that button on?  Be sure to use a double strand of serger thread if you choose it.

Hand Quilting Thread

I use a lot of hand quilting thread, most of which is 100% cotton as well. Compare the density of the hand quilting thread to the serger thread above and you will immediately see how much denser this thread is.  This is a very sturdy thread, designed to keep a quilt together through years of use and hundreds of laundry cycles. There's no loose fibers in it and it's incredibly tightly wound.  It's a good button thread, too.

Upholstery thread

Like hand quilting thread, upholstery thread is very tightly wound with no loose fibers. It is a lot thicker than any of the other threads, as it is designed to hold upholstery fabrics together.  These fabrics are much heavier (denser) than normal fabrics which is why it requires a heavier thread.  If you want that button to never come off, upholstery thread will do the trick.  But don't use this thread to hold a seam together in your favorite blouse; this thread is stronger than the fabric you're using it in, and may cause the fabric to fail.

Machine embroidery thread
Machine embroidery thread is a fine thread wound of polished fibers.  Note how it appears to be three different colors in the photo.  That is simply the different fibers reflecting the available light; the fibers are in fact all the same color.  Machine embroidery thread isn't meant to do anything other than be decorative, as its name implies.  If you use this thread for a structural purpose, you are wasting your time, as it will fail sooner or later (probably sooner).

So what thread do you need?  Most people do very nicely with a single spool of white all-purpose thread.  All purpose thread is just that - all purpose. Sew a seam together, sew on a button, repair a hem - whatever.  All purpose thread will do the job.

The bottom line is, use a thread that's suited to the application so that it will last.  If you're like me at all, having to do something a second time is just annoying!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt Update January 18, 2016

I got sidetracked for a few days, helping our son lay 800+ square feet of hard wood floor.  I really enjoy doing it - it's just a big jigsaw puzzle.  But the older I get, the further away the floor is!

All the quilting is now finished; it's on to the binding.  This quilt, will need a bit more than 18 feet of it!  Should be done tomorrow.

Have a good rest-of-Monday everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt Update January 11, 2016

Interestingly, most "real" quilters will tell you that a quilt is not officially a quilt until they have bled on it at least once.  Today was my day to make this frog quilt official...  I needed to take 'bleeding' breaks no less than three times!  Nothing serious, mind you, just what you would expect when you are dealing with pins, needles and thread.  But while I am on the subject of bleeding, did you know that the best thing to take out your own blood is your own saliva?  It's true!  It has something to do with enzymes - at least that's what I hear.

Even with the christening, I made a lot of progress today. This is all that's left.

Have a great evening everyone, knowing that Monday is almost over!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Handmade Art Quilt

Hand-quilted and -embroidered wall hanging,  Mother Goose
I make quilts.  My quilts are different because usually, they are a picture.  They function just like any other quilt - they keep you warm and cozy - they just look different.  So I thought you might be interested in knowing how one of these quilts come about.

It all starts when an idea forms in my head.  Sometimes I am inspired by a beautiful landscape or a fabulous piece of fabric.  Sometimes, something just occurs to me, which is the case with the quilt I am working on now.  

Drawing for the current quilt
To get the idea out of my head, it first becomes a pencil sketch.  I am the first one to admit I really can't draw very well at all.  But I have learned that if I can sort of draw it, I can quilt it.  My sketches are just a guideline for me while I work; when fabric comes into play, I sometimes realize that changing the layout a bit will make the quilt better.

I make a colossal mess bringing my sketch into existence!  I don't work from a pattern, so it's cut - place - pin until I am happy.  The faces of my quilts are many little pieces of fabric sewn together to make one big piece of fabric.  To accomplish this, and since I'm not at all into straight edges, my sewing machine and I appliqué everything together, usually edging curves and sometimes even sewing in circles.

Here is a great example of sewing in circles.  The white around the frog's eyes is circular zigzag stitch.  The frog's body, the weeds, the lily pad and even the shoreline are all curved a little or a lot.  

But I feel it's worth it in the end.  This baby quilt is full crib size to stay with its owner all the way through a toddler bed.  I took me six full days to cut out all of the pieces and get them appliquéd together.  Since I quilt by hand (seriously - needle and thread by hand!), it will take me probably a couple of weeks to finish it.  But when it's done, there won't be another quilt like it anywhere.  It will be as unique as the child who grows up with it!