Tag Archives: Crafts

The Island of Unfinished Craft Projects

One of the scenes in the 1964 “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” features Rudolph paying a visit to the Island of Misfit Toys.

Such a poignant scene, that.

Eventually in that stop-motion animated Christmas special, Rudolph redeems the unloved misfits by finding the perfect children to love the train with square wheels, the water pistol that shoots jelly and Charlie-in-the-Box.

Too bad the Island of Unfinished Craft Projects can’t have a similarly happy ending.

While combing through closets and drawers preparing my house for sale, I kept running across trends to which I no longer subscribed.


Cross stitch, anyone? Sadly, my grasp exceeded my reach (“Kay,” by the way, is my sister’s name — apparently I was thinking emoji-esque thoughts about her decades ago). I also found this incomplete gem:


I haven’t owned a cat for more than 10 years.


This mess represents hundreds of dollars worth of beads, wire and tools to make jewelry. Talk about misfits, though. Half of these pendants don’t have holes through which to string a chain:


They’re pretty in their imperfect way. And like the cat cross-stitch, I found these unassembled earrings, lacking only their hooks and enough finishing work to hide the weaving thread. The instructions are long gone.


More recently, I started and couldn’t finish a wine cork wreath. I even have the glue sticks but, alas, not the stick-to-itiveness.


I tried in vain to unload these odd collections on a couple of Facebook marketplaces to which I belong (because they’re hardly worth the gas to drive across town let alone postage to mail across country). But either I didn’t price them correctly or other folks have dark corners in their homes filled with unfinished projects haunting them because I had only one nibble which fell into the same black hole where my creativity was lost.

Now I am faced with throwing them away, which pains my frugal Midwestern soul, or packing them up for a rainy (snowy?) day that may never come.

Head Elf: Now listen you: You’re an elf, and elves make toys. Now, get to work!

[whistle blows]

Head Elf: Ten minute break!

[Hermey smiles, but then the Head Elf confronts him]

Head Elf: Not for you! Finish the job, or you’re fired!




A serving tray for pitchers (or fans of pitchers)

Remember that decoupage project I mentioned this past weekend?

It started out as this, an unfinished wood tray:


I painted the whole thing “Star Spangled Blue” and decoupaged a number of vintage Twins baseball cards into it. Here it is now, several coats of paint, glue, Modge Podge and sealer later:

finished trayIt’s not perfect by any means, but it’s one-of-a-kind. It’s a gift for a benefactor who is lending us his condo. In Florida. Where the Twins play spring training baseball.

Play ball!


Fashion fix via scissors

Raw edges don’t scare me! Take that, Strangely Proportioned Shirt — chop, chop, chop!

Inspired by Zhenya over at “Being Zhenya: Style, Fashion, DIY, Thrifting,” I got wild with a household instrument today. Zhenya never hesitates to take a scissors to a piece of clothing that needs an update, remodel or complete overhaul.

Not too long ago, Zhenya solved the problem of T-shirt armpit stains by cutting out the stains! I clicked on her post looking for a magic laundry formula, and instead I found her wielding her scissors like a woman on a Mission: Impossible.

How novel, I thought. I never would have thought of that. (That’s one of the reasons I subscribe to something on the lines of two dozen blogs now — I am exposed to a plethora of novel ideas every week.)

As I got dressed this morning, I searched through my closet looking for something different and came upon this bright number. I wear it rarely because is too short to be worn alone (at least by a woman my age), too long to wear with shorts, too sheer to wear without something underneath, and it has weird, useless pockets that show through.

Though I’ve owned it six or seven years, I’ve worn it twice (no, I don’t know why I’ve kept it so long either — but it’s such a happy shade of yellow and it has such a nice neckline). I put it on, apparently hoping it had changed since the last time I donned it, and discovered …

It was still too short, too long, too sheer and had weird pockets.

Empowered by Zhenya (and the prospect of a blog post), I whipped out a pair of scissors and cut off the bottom and the pockets, thinking the worst thing I would have would be a shirt with raw edges that falls apart in the washer, which would finally be the excuse I could use to throw it away.

I’m pleased to have found today’s fashion statement. I’m wearing it now, the raw edges conveniently tucked away (what happens later, be darned), and I’m reminded of how the happy color brightens my day (instead of my closet).

Here’s to making bold moves today!


A pretty lolly adorns this card, but photos ought to star in this year’s Christmas cards

One of the lures of papercrafting is the dimensionality — layers of paper on paper. It’s why I’ve always enjoyed scrapbooking and now stamping. The texture cannot be reproduced in a photo or most printed materials, though embossing, engraving and thermographic printing create texture (think of raised-letter business cards; aren’t you impressed when you receive a business card you can actually feel?).

That’s probably why this card with a lolly (also known as a medallion) delights me. I made this pile of cards Saturday at a card swap: 2 Thanksgiving cards, 10 Christmas cards, 1 Christmas gift card sleeve and a “thinking of you” card (not bad for a few hours work).

A lolly is a 12-inch strip of paper, folded accordion style at 1/4-inch intervals. Adhere the ends together and you have an impressive 3D circle (do a search for “lolly Stampin’ Up” on Google, and you’ll find YouTube videos with visual instructions).

As much as I am impressed with lollies, their robust dimensionality complicates their mailing so they’re not an option for my Christmas cards this year. My new job promoting the Association of Personal Photo Organizers has me in a bit of a quandary right now. In the past few years, I have painstakingly created dozens of handmade, handstamped cards to send my holiday greetings to family and friends, but I probably ought to incorporate one or more photos into my creative efforts this year.

The creative juices are percolating.

Halloween greetings in the bag

September passed by like a fast-moving rainstorm (and believe me, we’ve got the mud to prove it), and here it is: October.

I went to my card making class yesterday, and then spent today watching the Bears devour the panthers while making Halloween cards.

Since I live too far away from some of my favorite little monsters in the world for them to trick-or-treat at my door, I send them Halloween cards. Here’s this year’s message:

The “treat” has yet to be determined, but the card is a unique combination of old Creative Memories tools and new Stampin’ Up supplies (not that I have anything against new Creative Memories supplies and old Stampin’ Up tools, it’s just not the way my closet of creativity is put together right now).

Besides the Halloween cards, I made some cute birthday cards, but some of the people celebrating birthdays this month actually read this blog, so I won’t be posting those masterpieces.

Here’s to Q4!

A rug that tugs the heartstrings, is comely to the eye


“The dog’s happiness comes first.”

~Greg Forte

My mother-in-law has dressed up my dog’s “dining room” with a beautiful rug hooking project.

Rug hooking is an art/craft whereby rugs are made by pulling loops of yarn or, in this case, cotton fabric through a stiff woven base. Back in the ’70s, I received latch hook rug kits for Christmas, and the end result was a yarn shag rug with the face of a dog or a clown.

My mother-in-law’s creation is a neater, sturdier version. The process is a cross between hand sewing and crocheting. Her latest project is as functional as it is pretty.

She made a rug with Chloe’s name to define the area of kitchen where my miniature schnauzer’s dog food bowls reside.

Thank you, Nani! Your work is pulchritudinous (that’s today’s thesaurus entry for “physically lovely”), and both Chloe and I appreciate it.


To the victor goes the blanket

It’s not a brand new car or an all-expenses-paid trip to Australia, but it’s pretty sweet nonetheless.

I won a quilt!

When we were staying at Llano Grande Resort in Texas in January, I attended a quilt show at the behest of my mother-in-law, who was volunteering for the quilt club. It was a masterful event with hundreds of quilts and quilted items on display and more than 1,000 attendees.

Having worked for a company that’s convinced scrapbooking by hand is a dying art, I am amazed at quilting. Almost no one needs to make quilts anymore when machine-made blankets are cheap and widely available, yet women everywhere spend a great deal of time and money making beautiful one-of-a-kind creations.

My 96-year-old grandmother made dozens upon dozens of quilts in her lifetime so I know just enough about it to know it requires an artist’s eye, geometric acumen and lots of dedication. I made a few quilted potholders once, long ago, but my dedication ended there.

At the Llano Grande quilt show, I saw many intricate and creative designs. I also spent $1 on a raffle ticket for a quilt. Who doesn’t have a dollar to donate to a good cause?

A few weeks later, I got a call from a woman with the Llano Grande Quilting Bee, congratulating me on winning! Me? I won? Well, thank you!

The quilt arrived today, and it looks beautiful in my bedroom. According to the applique on the back of the quilt, the design is “Stars Over Llano,” pieced by the quilting bee and machine quilted. The pillows my mother made for a previous bedspread match perfectly.

The stars in the sky over Llano Grande were indeed beautiful in that big Texas sky. What a lucky girl I am!

Crowning moment of awesome

In the Halloween spirit: King Henry VIII.

Yesterday’s quiz question: What do you get when you combine a terry blanket, a pair of long johns with holes, a woman’s fake fur coat, a tablecloth, a shower curtain from Goodwill and a man’s T-shirt?

Answer: Vestments fit for a king — King Henry VIII, to be precise.

Tyler’s mother, a whiz with a sewing machine, picked up a bunch of suitable materials at Goodwill and elsewhere, to create his costume this year, based entirely from this googled image. The top of the sleeves and cloak brocade are from the shower curtain; the long johns were perfect for the bottom of the sleeves. The fur coat — hot glued to the edges — made an impressive trim for the cloak. We found some bling at the Halloween store; tights (the second year in a row my Beloved has donned tights for Halloween) and gold spray painted Crocs finished the ensemble.

"Off with her head!"

The inspiration for Tyler’s costume came from a green velvet-like Renaissance dress my mother sewed for me 10 years ago. If you don’t know your English history, King Henry VIII married six times and did away with two of them by beheading them. I dressed as wife No. 2, Anne Boleyn — complete with a neck gash in tribute to Halloween’s gore.

Parading around as king and queen was fun. The Three Musketeers, whom we encountered at the local pub, promised their undying loyalty. Thanks to our neighbors for giving us the opportunity act regal (or goofy, as the case may be) at their self-described half-assed Halloween party.

Happy Halloween! Long live the king (and queen and their seamstresses)!

Sweet bit of lightness and love

I’m hosting my book club/Bible study tonight, and I wanted to give everyone a treat in honor of Halloween. Something witchy didn’t seem quite appropriate, and I was already serving dark chocolate cherry brownies, so a piece of candy wasn’t right either.

But I found something perfect in my gift closet:

I had some sample boxes and tea lights leftover from an aborted attempt at peddling Gold Canyon candles. Serendipitously, the boxes were orange and the candles came in scents like caramel ginger strudel and toffee drizzled popcorn. With a few Creative Memories supplies, I printed out a verse and stuck it to the inside box cover:

Lord, when doubts fill my mind,
when my heart is in turmoil,
quiet me and give me
renewed hope and cheer.

~ Psalm 94:19 TLB

Thanks, Stefanie, for inspiring me with the verse!

Even if you don’t have the die-cut candle box, you could make a cute little token by sticking a tea light on a little bit of folded construction paper. It might be a nice gift to a special adult who doesn’t get to go trick-or-treating on Sunday. It’s a sweet thought — and no calories! 

I spin tales, they spin yarn

When I was in junior high, I found a pattern for a knitted bikini in Glamour magazine or some fashion magazine like that.

I didn’t know how to knit, but I really wanted to have a knitted bikini!

I had tried crocheting, with limited success. And my left-handed mother was not a knitter and could not have shown me how anyway.

So I taught myself how to knit out of a book.

I did manage to finish the knitted bikini after some time — summer was long gone about twice before I accomplished the task. And as you might imagine, a bikini knitted by a beginner isn’t wearable for a variety of reasons, nudity laws ranking high on the list.

But I persevered with the knitting and have started a number of projects over the years. I’ve even finished some of them, too, learning quit a bit along the way.

Once I made a long-sleeved sweater. I lengthened the sleeves (for my freakishly long arms) in all the wrong places and ended up gathering the shoulders so much that I looked like a football player.

I made a scarf for a boyfriend once that refused to lay flat.

And I have the cutest unfinished halter top in my knitting basket now.

But I’ve also had enough knitting successes to really enjoy the process, and I experienced enough to know that I hate using the cheap 100% acrylic yarn that is available in most craft stores.

This past weekend, I got to see how real wool yarn is made. We had dinner with a couple of Tyler’s high school classmates, who also happen to be the proprietors of Illinois Wool and Fiber Mill.

They showed us around their farm where they raise a small flock of sheep and mill their fleece and the fleece of other sheep owners into yarn. The amount of work that goes into making real wool yarn is amazing, and it makes me appreciate all the more the skeins of yarns I’ve handled over the years.

Besides having to care for living sheep while they grow fleece on their backs, these yarn makers must shear the sheep, wash the fleece, dye it (unless they’re going for a natural color), dry it, tumble it (to further remove foreign matter), blend it with other fibers if necessary, card it into rovings or batt, pin draft it (I think that’s the term) and finally spin it into yarn. Depending on how many ply the yarn has, multiple spinnings are in order. You can see a little slide show of the process at www.ilwoolfibermill.com

As I walked through all these steps, I’m amazed some caveman somewhere ever thought to turn a sheep’s fur into something wearable. And how that caveman got all that dirty fuzz into something useful (like yarn) — wow. The whole step of knitting a string of yarn into a sweater is all the more amazing! Talk about visionary.

The resulting yarn looks and feels wonderful and inspires me to take on another knitting project. Not a bikini, but perhaps a hat.