Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's Never To Early For Starting Handmade Gifts

With the good weather here you'd have to be crazy to be thinking of Christmas and Christmas presents.

Well, crazy - yes!

A planner - definitely!

Organized - sometimes a bit too obsessively!

For the last two months I've spent a LOT of time sitting on the sofa next to my cairn terrier, Bud, who was recovering from his spleen removal surgery and his recent stroke. He wasn't allowed to jump on or off the sofa's - which is his favorite place to be - so I sat there with him until he wanted to get down. Then I'd barricade the sofas with pillows so I could leave and he wouldn't jump up on them.

Since I hate idle hands ( i.e. I'm a multi-tasker) and don't like watching TV during the day I decided to kill two birds with one stone and get some of my crafting done. You might also say that I'm an obsessive crafter - I always have some craft kit or sewing project in my hands. You know how it is!

Earlier this year I decided that from now on the bulk of my Christmas presents were going to be handmade by me. And, since I have a lot of Christmas presents to give that means I need to start creating them way ahead of time.

So, I decided to start on some of the punchneedle, cross stitch, needlepoint, wool felt, and beaded kits that I'd bought last year or even years upon years ago. I searched throughout my house to find all my "works in progress" and "unfinished projects" - and there were a LOT of them. You know how it is!

I gathered them all together, sorted them into different categories, put all the kits for a particular category into its own tote bag (I just LOVE tote bags for this!) and sat down to decide which to do first. Since I just LOVE punchneedle I decided to start on those first. Maybe I'd even sprinkle a few cross-stitch in there as well. The needlepoint's would definitely be last.

Weeks later and I'm thrilled to say that I got 18 punchneedle kits finished and two cross-stitch kits finished. I'd forgotten how tedious and time consuming cross-stitch can be. Punchneedle is just so much faster to complete than the cross-stitch. That's probably why I love it so much.

I've already mounted and framed two of the large 8 x 10" punchneedle creations. They came out really nice - if I don't say so myself. And, I managed to mount all the rest of the punchneedle and cross-stitch kits I'd finished on self-stick mounting boards. Some were mounted on the harder self-stick mounting boards and some were mounted on the self-stick foam mounting boards.

Since they're all mounted this means that I need to ask my dear, loving brother to help me, once again, create shadow boxes and frames for all my punchneedle and cross-stitch creations. Hopefully, he won't mind! This time I have a few ideas that might challenge his skills - which he loves to do.

Last year he helped me create shadow box frames for some of the punchneedle gifts I gave last Christmas . We had a lot of fun doing that and I just LOVE working in his workshop. Maybe I'll take a picture of his workshop so you can all see why it's a GREAT place to create.

In any event, I've made really good progress on some of my handmade Christmas gifts. Of course, I have a LOT more to complete - just don't tell my brother! I'll have to work on him to help me with these later on in the year.

My house is a mess and I have tote bags all over the house. Each has some project in it that is in some stage of completion. All can easily be picked up and started whenever I sit in that chair or on that sofa - you know how it is! All can easily be moved from the house, to the car, or wherever I might be at the moment.

Of course, once everything is done I'll be sure to take pictures so you all can see what I've been working on. That may have to wait until after the holidays - unless, of course, I decide to keep some of my creations for myself - which I may just do. You know how it is!

In any event, it's never to early to start making your Christmas gifts. At least not in my house! Now where did I put that tote bag with the beaded kits? I know I put it...... You know how it is!

Graphic Copyright © 2008 Denise Bailey of  KKL Primitives

A Tribute To Dad And World War II

Several weeks ago my husband and I watched the HBO series "The Pacific" and I have to tell you that I was almost moved to tears by it. Not just because of how horrible it must have been for the soldiers who fought in the Pacific, but because my Dad actually survived it.

You see, my Dad fought in the Pacific area and was at the battle of Iwo Jima. He joined the Navy in April of 1943 and served until December 1946. He was a Pharmacist's Mate assigned to the Marines. He was assigned to the 3rdBn, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division; 3rdBn, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division; and 1stBn, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.

My Dad would never talk about the war with us - all he would say is that the Hollywood movies could never depict how horrendous it really was. I wonder if he'd say the same thing about the mini-series we just watched. It looked pretty horrible to me.

The only people he ever talked about the war with was my grandfather who served in WWI and those rare times when his brother, who served in the Army during WWII, and his brother-in-law, who served in the Air Force during WWII would visit.

My Dad loved Japan and always wanted to go back to visit. He brought a lot of stuff home with him from Japan. When I was in the 4th grade I wanted to do a show and tell with some of the stuff he had brought home and he agreed that I could take some of it. The teacher wanted to keep it on display so I left it in the classroom. To our dismay it was all stolen. My Dad, was really upset by this, but didn't blame me as I had no reason to think that anything would happen to it in the classroom.

I can't remember exactly what the items were that were stolen. But, I still have all of my Dad's papers from WWII, some of his war correspondence, and most of his pictures from boot camp forward. The wonderful thing about his pictures is that he wrote the names of his fellow servicemen on the back of the pictures. He was a "pack-rat" and saved everything. I guess I must take after him in that regard. I, too, save EVERYTHING!

Unfortuntely my Dad never got a chance to re-visit Japan. So, three years ago I thought that as a tribute to my DAD I would create a WWII blog for him. That way his grandchildren and their grandchildren can see who their Grandfather was and what he did for his country. Kind of a glimpse into his life while he was in the armed services.

Also, by including the names of his fellow servicemen and women maybe someone else will be able to see a picture of their father or grandfather in WWII. Plus, with the ability to crop and enlarge the old photo's we'll all finally be able to see what everyone really looked like back then.

Since there are a ton of pictures and other information that my Dad collected it's going to take me a long time to scan it all in. In the meantime I wanted to create a collage of sorts as a remembrance of his service to his country. So, I created the following shadowbox as a tribute to him and World War II.

I think my Dad would like my shadowbox. I know he'd like the blog idea.

Based on some of the genealogy research I've done many of my families ancestors have served in just about every war since the country began. Some in the Revolutionary War, some in the War of 1812, some in the Civil War, etc. My grandfather served in WWI and, I believe, my other Grandfather served as a merchant marine.

Now you might be wondering why I'm telling you this. Well, tomorrow is Memorial Day and, given that I love history, I thought I'd give you a little history of Memorial Day.

It was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize it was New York in 1873.

After World War I the holiday changed from a Civil War holiday to one honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Back in 1967 Congress created Memorial Day as a time to remember those who have given their life in military service to the nation. It was originally called Decoration Day. Then in 1971, Congress decided Memorial Day would always be observed on the last Monday in May and created a 3-day weekend for all federal employees.

It has also become traditional in many cities and towns to place American flags on the graves of those killed during combat and on the tombs of the veterans of all wars and to fly the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time.

While Memorial Day has some how morphed into a 3-day weekend of family picnics and barbecues for the start of the summer we should NEVER forget what it's really about. Brave men and women who died in service to their country.

Luckily for our family my Dad and my two Uncles came home safe from WWII. Many families were not as fortunate. To those who have sacrificed their lives for us "thank you" just doesn't seem like enough to say. How do you thank someone for sacrificing their life for your freedom?

To those who have sacrificed so much:

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. — General George S. Patton

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. — Francis A. Walker

The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem. — Aaron Kilbourn

It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. - Norman Schwarzkopf

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage. - Thucydides

And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me. -Lee Greenwood

“War does not determine who is right—only who is left.” ~Anonymous

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Needle-craft Picture From A Decade Ago - Or So!

I know that I've told you a million times that not only do I LOVE doll making, but I also LOVE floral crafts. Well, you can add needle crafts to my obsessions as well.

Now you might think that the needle crafts is a new interest as I've posted about my cross-stitch and punch needle crafts and shadowbox gifts during the last two years until, I'm sure, I've bored you to tears. Well, you'd be wrong about that.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for some needlework frames to use for some of the Christmas gifts I'm currently working on for this year and ran across some really, really old needlepoint kits that are still WIP after 35 years in storage.

Thirty five years and they're still not done! YIKES!

And, to be honest, I know they're are many, many more around the house. Hiding in the corners - lurking there until I finally get a chance to finish them. That is, if they're lucky enough to get finished and not thrown away. Nah - thrown away - that would never happen! Part of my problem is that I just can't seem to throw anything away. But, that would fill up a whole blog or two and really, really bore you to tears.

In any event looking at the kits I decided that at the time I had to have been into historic scenes and buildings and must have thought it would be fun to do some needlepoint kits of Boston landscape scenes - like Trinity Church in Copley Square and Boston Gardens. The kits looked nice, but I must have gotten bored really quickly with them as one is 1/4 of the way done and the other I never started. You can tell how old these kits are as yarn was used as the thread back then versus embroidery threads.

Thinking about these kits reminded me of another needlepoint kit I had done almost a decade ago and which currently resides in my dining room.

My mother and I had been craft shopping and I had seen this kit and she had spotted a Thomas Kinkade stamped cross-stitch scene she liked. The reason that I remember this shopping trip was I had found the Thomas Kinkade cross-stitch kit unfinished and unopened when I was packing away my Mother's things this past winter.

The kit I bought was a "Ribbons & Roses Wreath" Dimensions Gold Collection kit. I can recall that at the time I was doing the "Ribbons & Roses Wreath" kit that I thought I'd never finish it. It just seemed to get bigger and bigger with more to do each time I worked on it. I'd finish one section and think I'd made progress until I looked at what was still left to do. Then I'd groan!  If you've ever done needlepoint you know what I mean! LOL LOL Well, I finally did finish it and it is shown in the picture above.

Instead of framing it in a picture frame with a mat my husband and I decided to finish it with a wood shadowbox frame that he made and which I painted. What I really liked about the kit was it combined needlepoint with ribbon crafts. Once I had finished the needlepoint part of it I had to outline some of the flowers for affect and create ribbon flowers that were to be added for a three dimensional affect.  Once it was finished it really was stunning.  In fact, the picture really doesn't do it justice.

Sometimes I think my husband and I are so in sync that at times it's spooky.  Just as I was thinking of this needlepoint out of the blue he happened to mention to me that he really liked the wreath needlepoint we had hanging in the dining room and that maybe we should move it to a spot that had more visibility as it really was quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, there really isn't any other place to more it to so it will have to stay in the dining room.

In any event (I know, I say that A LOT) it was nice of him to mention it and thinking about it brought back wonderful memories of one of my many craft shopping trips with my Mom.  I'm thankful for that and thankful that I finally finished it - albeit almost a decade ago.

They say that time flies when you're having fun.  Well, that may be true but I'm not sure it does when you're working on a needlepoint project.  At least not for me.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Quilted Pictures - A Wonderful Concept!

Many, many years ago I came across an interesting quilting concept and was so intrigued that I decided I had to try it. It involved no sewing, gluing or special tools. It also involved fabric, a foam board and a kitchen knife.

Have I piqued your curiosity yet? I hope so!

This small company called "Picture It With Fabric" in Minnesota had a concept for creating quilted no sew pictures and was selling kits that contained a pattern and a specially treated foam board. I don't know what they treated one of the large flat sides of the board with, but it stiffened the foam. The foam used wasn't Styrofoam or soft foam like for cushions. It was somewhere in between.

In any event, the pattern was for a quilt block and contained the instructions and a pattern sheets that you would trace onto the large flat treated side of the foam board with carbon paper.

Then using the kitchen knife you would slice all the lines of the design on the board about 1/2" deep.

The next thing you would do is center your foam board on a large piece of fabric that was to comprise the back and sides of the quilted picture and bring it around the sides to the front and to the frame border line and then add about 1/2".

Then using the kitchen knife you would proceed to tuck the edges of the fabric in the 1/2" slice of the frame border line until everything was taut and secured in place. Once you had done this you had nicely framed the front border, sides, and back of the quilted picture with fabric.

All that remained was to cut out the remaining quilted picture pieces with 1/2" allowance overall for each of the pieces and then proceed, using the kitchen knife, to tuck the pieces in place until they were secure.

Once you got the hang of it creating the quilted pictures was easy to do. So, of course, given that I always do everything in excess I proceeded to create the 3 other kits I had bought. Of course I didn't buy just one kit to test it. Oh, no! I bought 4! LOL LOL

My husband and I decided that a wood frame would not only finish the quilted pictures nicely, but would allow for easier hanging on the wall.  So we decided to finish the quilted pictures by inserting them into painted wooden shadow boxes that we had made.   Well, my husband made them - I painted them.

The welcome quilted picture shown below hangs above one of the doors in our side entrance.  The other quilted pictures shown above are hung near the front door and changed out with the seasons.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to make some more of these quilted pictures as gifts.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the company on line. Every once in a while I try searching again to see what happens.  The last time I did I got a Google map that showed the address was in the middle of a field.

So, I guess the company went out of business.  It's too bad.  It was a great concept with a lot of possibilities.

If I knew what they treated the flat part of the foam board with to stiffen it I'd try creating one from scratch.  But, for now there are so many other projects sitting on the back burner I'll have to put that on hold.

I hope you enjoy the quilted pictures.

Monday, May 03, 2010


Back in November 2006 I wrote a post for my Linda's Blog and Tips For Crafters On The Web blog entitled: I've Taken A BIG, BOLD & PROGRESSIVE Step!

My post concerned my decision to eliminate my monthly newsletters in favor of my blogs. It was A BIG, BOLD & PROGRESSIVE Step at the time that I got positive and negative reactions from.

In 2006 blogs weren't anywhere near as mainstream and popular as they are now. Today many artists and crafters on the web are using blogs to sell their products. They've become "selling blogs" and are created instead of the more traditional websites - which is fine by me.

I was a big proponent of blogs back then and I'm still a big proponent of blogs - which is why I have so many!  It was also why I was dubbed "The Blogging Queen" crown and all!

In any event, back then on several of the forums I belonged to many members openly stated they would "NEVER BUY ANYTHING SOLD ON A BLOG!" My reaction was; "Why not?" I didn't see any difference between the person selling on their blog and selling the same merchandise in a traditional website. In fact, blogs can be set-up to look like the more traditional websites. So much so nowadays that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. I wonder if those same individuals would make the same statement today?

My logic in using the blogs versus newsletters was simply based on exposure. Given all the ways that blog feeds were being generated at the time I figured I would gain so much more exposure from my blogs then I ever would from a newsletters. Since then the use of RSS feeds, feed services, feed reader websites, etc. has exploded. So much so that the exposure possibilities are truly endless.

In fact, nowadays I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly how many people are accessing my blogs RSS feeds as so many can do so without my ever knowing they are.

For example, I use Google Reader for tracking all the blogs I am interested in - which is over 500 now. Every time someone posts something new on the blogs I am subscribed to I get notified via a line item on my Google Reader widget which I keep on my desktop. I can peruse the list, read a brief summary of the blog post from the reader and then click over to read the actual blog post, if I want to. None of the blog owners have any idea that I've subscribed to their blogs this way.

Nowadays I can even link my blog RSS feeds to my Facebook profile and Facebook pages whereby my blog posts are automatically posted to my Walls and/or Notes and whereby my friends can then subscribe or read my feeds from my respective Facebook page.  And, I wouldn't have a clue that they had.

I've had a combined total of 1,028,186 visitors to my blogs since I've been tracking them. That's just visitors to my blog and doesn't count subscribers to my blogs that I'm aware of or readers using RSS feed services that I'm not aware of.  If I were to try and estimate the latter I'd have to guess that number would double if not triple the number of visitors to my blogs.

Also, when I look at the statistics for my websites as to referrals my blogs far exceed any other websites I have listed or advertised with. My blogs send more visitors to my websites than any other website.

Plus, most of my blogs enjoy a Google PageRank of 3 - which is very good. Some even have a Google PageRank of 4. Some websites never attain that.

So, in my opinion, was My BIG, BOLD & PROGRESSIVE STEP successful? Just based on numbers of visitors to my blog since my first blog was created in October 2005 I'd have to say "DEFINITELY!"