Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Upgrades – Gift or Curse?

July 12, 2017

Some wretched app on my cell phone absolutely positively had to schedule an upgrade last week. My phone reacted poorly, and I lost all my photos, my Instagram connection, basically anything I actually use. Curses. The good news is once I accepted that I would be without a phone for a while I stopped thinking about it and began to appreciate the gift of time. The hours I  might have been on social media turned into a lovely period for handwork.

I finished the cross-stitch thistle that went off the rails a couple of weeks ago. Now that it is done, I’m actually quite pleased with it.

The next project-in-progress was inspired by some trees I saw on a family trip to Montana. The trunks were straight and tall. I started embroidering lines to represent them. I may or may not add the canopy after I’ve grown weary of laying down straight lines in varying widths. Someone asked what this piece was going to be, but I didn’t have an answer. For the moment, it is simply a bit of beauty to occupy my hands and entertain my eyes.

I still don’t know if upgrades are a gift or a curse. My current phone is toast, so until the new one arrives I’ll be living the unconnected life. At least I know that I can go back to the way life used to be if necessary.

Luck and wisdom!

Pink Elephants!

July 5, 2017

Pink elephants – need I say more? Alright, I will. I found a coloring book of animal designs. The elephant was fabulous. While considering what background to use, my eye fell on a piece of pink wool felt. I was determined to embroider myself a pink elephant. There was only one problem – transferring the pattern to the felt.

Who knew netting could become template material?

I decided to draw the elephant on some white netting, and transfer the pattern to the felt by going over the lines with a fine-tipped pen. Actually, I first thought of tracing the elephant on the netting and stitching through that on the felt, but the netting slipped around so much while inking the design that I abandoned that idea right away.

If you look carefully, you can see a fold of netting by the elephant’s ear

Choosing the thread posed its own problems. I have lots and lots of thread, floss, ribbon, whatever. In desperation, I chose a variegated thread for the outline and yellow for the tusks. I stitched those lines and let the piece sit for a couple of days until it told me what colors to use next.

This is the sort of project that could call itself finished more than once. I could have left off with the outline and tusks, but I did add some more stitching, then a piece of trim, then some beads. At the moment, this is where it stands.

Done until the elephant tells me it wants more stitching or beads

Luck and wisdom!

Cross-stitch For Those Who Can’t Count

June 28, 2017

I love cross-stitch, but I have the worst time following a pattern. Despite having a decent education, I can’t count with thread in my hands. I have the same problem with knitting and crochet, but since I have friends and family who knit and crochet beautifully I don’t mind not mastering those arts. Cross-stitch is different. I refuse to be beaten, even though I often am.

This pattern is beautiful, and as it happened I had floss in the appropriate colors. Don’t ask where it came from. One day I rummaged through my floss box and found several lengths of pink, green and brown tied together. Last week, I decided to give following a pattern another try.

Things started out well enough. I told myself this time would be different, this time I would get to the end of the project and every stitch would be in place.

Oh, how the universe laughed.

By the time I realized how far off the mark I had gone, I was too invested in the project to abandon it. That’s when I had an epiphany – the reason I love cross-stitch is that the pattern can be altered on the fly if one has the courage to seize the needle. So that’s what I did. I soldiered on, inserting colors where I wanted them, adding a leaf, adjusting the shape of the stalk. By the time I finished I almost regretted doing this project on a scrap of aida cloth with a nasty stain and a line of embroidery that refuses to reveal why it is there. Almost, but not entirely. I’ll cut around the design, maybe fill in the background with a cream or very pale green. It might end up on a card, in an art quilt, or on a tote bag. Wherever it goes, it will remind me that even for those who can’t count, cross-stitch can be fun.

Luck and wisdom!

Projects For Fidgety Fingers

February 8, 2017

Last month I attended an all-day writing workshop with some friends. I filled my tote bag with notebooks and pens. Then, for reasons I barely understand myself, I threw in a beading project.

So far, this is untitled with pearls

So far, this is untitled with pearls

My friends asked what the project was for. I said I wasn’t sure, but the truth is I knew my fingers would get fidgety. The workshop included a lot of time for discussion, and we all know that quilters/beaders/knitters/needleworkers can run both the mouth and the fingers at the same time. Sure enough, by the afternoon I was desperate for something to do with my hands when we weren’t actually writing.

When I got home, I noticed once again all the little boxes and bags I’ve collected over the years for portable projects. I opened a few and discovered that while I had indeed used all of them at one time or another, I had never cleaned out a single one.

A darning box for socks I no longer own

A darning box for socks I no longer own

Some of the boxes are big enough to hold several projects. This plastic stacking bin is a good example.

Lani Longshore small tote

I have no idea why I didn’t put another project in the bin. Heaven knows I have enough work in various stages of completion.

A cupcake container makes a wonderful sorting tool

A cupcake container makes a wonderful sorting tool

I’ve collected fabrics that I think would work well together so that when the need arises for a quick gift I can grab a bag and get started. This year, one of my goals will be to clean out the bring-along boxes, and have projects ready to pick and go when I suspect I’ll get a case of fidgety fingers.

Lani Longshore fabric collections

Luck and wisdom!

The Zipper Journey

January 4, 2017

I unearthed a fabric collection that called out for a project. I knew it would make a more useful tote bag than a quilt; however, I have a gazillion tote bags. I also have a gazillion patterns for little zippered bags, so I decided to try one of them even though I’m not great with zippers (they never turn out as pretty as I would like).

The fabric, and the dreaded zipper

The fabric, and the dreaded zipper

For this bag, I decided to try putting tabs on the ends of the zipper.

This tiny rectangle of shoe fabric makes a difference

This tiny rectangle of shoe fabric makes a difference

I also decided I would take the time to baste the little critter in place.

Lani Longshore basted zipper

Who knew taking the time to do things properly was worth it?



Somewhere, my junior high home ec teacher is saying, “I told you so.”

Luck and wisdom!

Don’t Mess With Halloween

November 2, 2016

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but this year I decided to scale back and not carve a pumpkin. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was second-guessing that decision. I went to the grocery Monday morning, pumpkins were on sale, and I took this as a sign that I should carve a pumpkin after all. My third mistake was picking the wrong knife.

Lani Longshore bandaged thumb

Yes, that is my thumb with the bandage covering a proper jab. My husband helped me clean up, then finished the carving.

Lani Longshore carved pumpkin

My husband was really sweet about the whole thing, especially since he is always warning me off knives. I come from a long line of women who can’t cut straight. My grandmother made fabulous bread, but her slices looked more like a sandy beach after a particularly vigorous wave washed over it – all ripples.

My other decorations were far less hazardous to make. I found some delightful orange pipe cleaners, and made a bow-tie for my monster-head scythe.

Lani Longshore Halloween decorations

I also found some bats on clips. Twist a few pipe cleaners together, attach the bats, and you’ve got a door hanger.

Lani Longshore bats

While we may have a pumpkin next year, I can guarantee you I won’t be carving it.

Luck and wisdom!

Rusty Skills and How To Fix Them

October 26, 2016

Norma from She Sews You Know asked her readers what they did to repurpose old clothes. Since I repurpose old clothes to the Goodwill Store if they’re usable, and the scrap or rag bag if they’re not (the scrap bag being the one I save for quilt projects and the rag bag being the one I save for cleaning projects), I had to admit my sewing skills have become rusty. Then I saw an ad from C&T press.

Lani Longshore sewing book

Making clothes was never a joy for me, but I’ve accepted that there aren’t many designers focusing on my specific demographic. I also know that I am adventurous in my art quilts, not so much with the colors and prints I put on my body. So, I’m going to start polishing those sewing skills and see where it leads me. I’ve already taken a few baby steps toward that goal.

Lani Longshore cosmetics bag

I took one of my inherited zippers and some pink scraps and made myself a new cosmetic/travel bag. It’s small – 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ x 3″ – but that’s more than enough room. My beauty supplies are limited to hand cream and a couple of lipsticks. I save the big bags for my quilting projects.

Lani Longshore carryall

This is the latest bag for take-along projects. Sally Kimball gave me the pattern and inserts. This project taught me the value of really reading the directions, not sorta kinda maybe reading them as you are going along. While I managed to make everything fit together, it was often an exercise in humility.

Lani Longshore carryall interior

Luck and wisdom!

Pay The Money

August 31, 2016

The good news is I finished the body of my new handbag. I used a lot of stuff I already had. My pattern alterations mostly came out okay. The better news is I learned a valuable lesson – people who can make things well and readily are worth their weight in gold. Next time I need a new handbag, I will pay the money.

One button used, a bazillion more in the collection

One button used, a bazillion more in the collection

I am pleased enough with my work that I will actually use the bag (once I make the straps). Getting a chance to use this button is a big win.

I am not stressing over an eighth of an inch

I am not stressing over an eighth of an inch

Getting this zipper straight-ish is also a big win. I felt confident enough about my sewing abilities that I made a zippered pouch for the interior.

Zippered pouch, key chain fob, interior pockets

Zippered pouch, key chain fob, interior pockets

Still and all, I really don’t want to go through this experience again. I broke three (3!) needles, went to sleep thinking of different ways to draft patterns, and woke up worrying if I measured correctly for the interior pockets and pouches (I didn’t, but they’re still usable). It’s always good to sharpen up one’s skills, but it is better to learn when to let the professionals do the work – and be happy to pay the money.

Luck and wisdom!

Really, Really Tiny Baby Steps

August 24, 2016

I meet challenges one step at a time. Literally. When a new project looks too scary, I do one thing a day. Taking really, really tiny baby steps works for my nerves, but does extend the timeline for my projects. The handbag project is a good example.

The lining pieces are shiny and golden, and that's all that matters

They’re shiny and golden, and that’s all that matters

Although I couldn’t find a pattern that had all the features I wanted, I drafted modifications that should work. Should is such a scary word on so many levels. I took a full day to decide on the fabrics just to avoid starting on step one of the instructions. The lining fabrics came from a package of silkies that waited in a drawer. The pieces aren’t as large as I need, but since they’ll be on the inside who will care?

Lani Longshore handbag hardware

Next came the outer fabrics, which I chose based on the hardware I already owned. That was the first modification, by the way. The pattern calls for a continuous strap, but I wanted to use these clips and D-rings. I found enough scraps of a red linen-like fabric as well as some brown faux leather for the exterior of the bag.

Angled straps, no zipper

Angled straps, no zipper

Here is the first piece I assembled. It came out well enough that I started on the second panel.

Angled straps, wonky zipper

Angled straps, wonky zipper

Notice the zipper on the panel. This is why I nearly failed my home economics class. Zippers and I aren’t exactly mortal enemies, but we for sure aren’t friends. Once I saw how crooked the zipper was I decided my work was done for the day. Tomorrow, seam ripper in hand, I will begin the battle again.

Luck and wisdom!

Detour, With Paper Bag

August 17, 2016

I’m still pondering options for a new handbag, so I made a gift bag instead.

Sheep may safely gift

Sheep may safely gift

Last summer I bought a couple of gift bags at a quilt show. They sported 9-Patches fused onto a brown paper bag and embellished with a single button in the center square. The woman who made them said she had seen the idea somewhere else, so I can’t give proper credit for the technique. I thought about fusing a 9-Patch and decided I would be happier starting with simple strips. Heaven knows I have enough scrap strips around the sewing room. There really is nothing else to it – press the strips, fuse the strips, fuse the unit to the bag. The ribbon star is meant for scrap-booking or card-making and has a sticky pad on the back.

Once for fingers and toes, now with ribbons and bows

Once for fingers and toes, now with ribbons and bows

I did make one other change. Instead of drawing a dotted line around the fused unit with a felt-tipped pen, I used nail polish. Since this was my first attempt, I used gold nail polish, which adds a subtle sheen more than a sharp line. The reason I am using nail polish is I have lots of it and don’t wear it any more. Of course, I never threw it out. Why would I throw it out when I could have it take up space for years and years until I discovered another use for it?

Luck and wisdom!