Trio of stuffed toys in ribbon

Craft of Opportunity


I don’t generally come up with projects that can easily be accomplished in one night.

Case in point? Something I dreamed up for the book launch, this Saturday, that required an hour and a half in Lowes as part of date night (not that Todd minded, of course), and a few hours on Sunday with power tools (Todd, again, he didn’t mind) and still has 2 more nights of work ahead before it’s finished.

Even when it’s not a wood and tools sort of thing, there’s almost always a need for a trip to this store or that for the one last supply, running out of something or just can’t find it.

So imagine my surprise when I found a project on Thursday, had everything I needed already in the Abyss, and was finished before Saturday evening came around!

Still not a one-night project, but it’s as close to instant gratification as I can get!

Wanna see what I made?

2 storm trooper stuffed figures and a darth vader bean bag toy

These ARE the toys you're looking for!

The patterns came courtesy of Show Tell Share (Darth Vader, Storm Trooper). Vader was meant to have white embroidery but I came across some black bugle beads while searching for my chalk pencils, so decided he could use some shine to his details. He was also supposed to be felt, but I had some nylon-ish stuff leftover from a Halloween costume many moons ago, so he’s not exactly squishable. But he is filled with lentils and lavender because, really, who needs to chill out more than ol’ Dark Helmet here.

Darth Vader bean bag toy with beaded face

The pair of storm troppers (can’t have just one, it’s a clone thing) are rather squishable, though, being filled with your basic poly-fil stuffing. Their appliques are made from the same nylon-ish stuff as Vader, though, so I hit the edges with Fray Check before sewing them in place with a simple running stitch. Talk about quick!

Storm Trooper stuffed toy

I can't shoot but I sure am cute!

A funny thing happened while I was stitching up the storm-faces–working on the visor bits the rest was just sort of hanging over my hand. Todd started looking at me funny and it turns out that when turned upside down, our otherwise stalwart troppers look like happy little dudes in strapless bras!

Upside-down storm trooper toy that looks like a happy face in a strapless bra.

These little dudes will not be staying with me, though. Like many of my craft projects, they have a higher purpose (or something like that). See, a friend’s birthday is today so this really was an opportune find. She happens to own a storm trooper outfit so I know she’ll get a kick out of them.

Trio of stuffed toys in ribbon**here I am, stuck in the middle with you**

Have you made anything quick and fun, lately?


I’m linking up with:


Needles, Threaded and Ready

64 Arts

Well, this has certainly been an adventure, exploring the different lace styles–and I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface.

The final type of lace that I just had to try before moving on to the next art was Needlelace. Of course, there’s not just one kind of needle lace, a lot of the lace appliques you see on dresses or in stores are forms of needlelace. Needlelace is also what makes lace dresses so expensive: the time that goes into one motif or pattern repeat can be astronomical!

That being said, my little practice piece took me less than an evening’s work to complete (actually, about the time it takes to watch Much Ado About Nothing). I kept it small (since I’d read it could take forever to fill in larger patterns) and cobbled together my instructions from three very helpful sites:

I started by drawing out my design, covering it in contact paper so it would be somewhat sturdy but still flexible, and attaching it, via couching threads to several layers of cloth underneath. Some suggest using a matching couching thread while others seem to prefer a contrasting one. I went with contrast and as long as you’re careful not to sew through the couching threads, there’s no problem removing them when you’re done with the lace.

Half-finished needlelace flower with a finger for scale

It took me about a third of the first petal to get the hang of the corded Brussels stitch which was the primary filler for this little lace excursion. After that I started to change it up with double Brussels and Pea Stitch (at least I think it was those stitches) and then did some wrapped bars on the final petal. The buttonhole stitch (what I grew up doing with wide spaces between each as a blanket stitch) then finishes off the outlines to make them stand out a bit more. I loved that the way you held the lace in relation to the stitch made the line of stitches stand out more and create a layered effect. Pretty cool!

completed needlelace flower in the palm of my hand

The important thing, or at least so I’ve read, in needlelace is to alternate very heavily-covered areas with sparser, open areas. The open areas, as you can imagine, go much quicker and can really speed up a project if you’ve strategically planned your piece.

All in all I really enjoyed getting a chance to try this new-to-me lace technique and could definitely see myself doing more of this in the future.

No further update on the crochet lace bag–I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger lately between my own book and some pre-launch festivities going on with a friend’s book. It’s a good kind of busy but man am I tired!

Have you tried anything new lately?

X Marks the Spot

64 Arts

Needlework doesn’t have to be just about serviceable sewing, there’s a lot to be said for the decorative side of things, too.

Embroidery is, in many circles, a lost art. I think a lot of that has to do with people not sitting still long enough (myself included) to finish a project. Add to that the number of stitch variations and a beginner can get a tad overwhelmed.

That said, I think there’s one embroidery style that fits the beginner bill quite well. It’s simple, the materials are easy to work with and it’s easy to make your own patterns up, even as a novice!

That style, of course, is cross stitch.

It’s easy because all you have to know how to do is form an ‘x’ with the thread. Any even-weave fabric can be used though Aida cloth is the most common since the holes between the weave are very easy to see and stitch through and to make your own patterns all it takes is some graph paper and a pencil.

I dug out my storage tote of needle craft supplies and pulled a few samples of some of my work, back when I considered this one of my primary hobbies (i.e. the 90s).

Examples of cross stitch works, mostly in progress

It’s almost embarrassing how many of these projects are unfinished; some just need the outlines stitched on and a good pressing while others I totally abandoned mid-project. I only have a couple of finished items because most of the things I finished I gave away as gifts.

There are two main types of cross stitch and each has its own fans. There’s counted cross stitch, which relies on the charted patterns and counting how many blocks get stitched for each part of the pattern, and printed cross stitch, aka stamped cross stitch, where all you have to do it stitch the exes where they’re printed on the fabric. You might thing that printed cross stitch (shown, below, in the upper left corner) would be easier, and in some ways it is, but if you’re at all obsessive about things lining up just right, the gaps in a printed cross stitch piece might just drive you batty (they do me).

Cross stitch materials and types

The counted is my favorite because you start in the center and stitch your way out, following the pattern and the image appears. Usually I’d advise that you stitch all of one color first, leaving gaps you’ll fill in as you work your way out, but in a larger or complex pattern that can lead to frustration. It’s better to work smaller sections and repeat colors than get one or two blocks off and have to undo a section because of it. Sure, it’s been a while since I had to do that but I remember it well.

While Aida cloth is the most common cross-stitch material, a sturdy linen is great for advanced projects. Aida is also found added in sections to ready-to-embroider items like quilts or fingertip towels which makes stitching up a new baby or housewarming gift an easy task. Or, if you have an item that isn’t ready to go, you can use something called waste canvas (it’s the blue and white material in the corner) that you tack into place, stitch over, then snip the edges and slide the guide threads out leaving only your embroidery behind. I’ve used that to personalize a sweatshirt for Mom, back in the day.

types of cross stitch patterns: magazine, pamphlet and graph paper diy

Patterns are pretty easy to find, too. You can either buy kits that come with everything you need or books or magazines with the patterns only and buy the embroidery floss and fabric separately. Coloring books make good sources for your own charts, just lay a transparency grid over the top or trace the design through the graph paper to figure out how many stitches it’s going to take for your image.

Of course, cross stitch does tend a bit towards the country kitschy sort of designs. But take a page from Subversive Cross Stitch and feel free to go your own way with your projects.

a hank of floss and a separated card of flosses ready to stitch

One final note. If you buy a kit, the thread that comes with the kit is going to be all looped into one hank and you’re going to need to separate it to work with it. Mom taught me to take either the chipboard insert from the package or a spare bit of thin cardboard, cut some notches along the sides, and slip the separated flosses into those notches and label them so that it would be easy to find the color thread I wanted when I wanted it.

Now, looking at all my supplies and unfinished projects, I think I know where some could find good homes. And, maybe if I start now, I could accomplish the goal I often set (but never realized) of stitching ornaments for everyone on my gift list next year!