Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Gifts Are Revealed

A few posts ago, I talked about making gifts that I couldn't show pictures of -- yet.  They were for the members of my stitch group and were specially made for our stitch retreat.  The Sisters In Stitches meet every month for a stitch day and we always have a gift exchange.  It's a tradition that we would never want to give up.  So when it was time for our spring retreat, we planned our usual fun exchange.  For the occasion, I made a tote bag.
Pat was the recipient of this colorful bag.  It was lined in pink and has two pockets inside and a button closure.  The fabric also had a little sparkle to it.  It's just the right size for a few stitching projects and necessities.

Occasionally I like to make something for the members of my stitch group.  Recently I learned how to make little zippered bags.  I had a lot of fabric remnants left over from making tote bags, so my plan was to stitch up a bunch of bags.  I didn't realize that zippers are so weirdly expensive.  So I did a little research and found a great deal on Amazon - 25 zippers in a rainbow of colors for a very small price!  After a little matching and color coordinating, this is what I came up with.
A little special touch.  I found these cute charms on Etsy.
My fellow stitchers were surprised and delighted!  These little bags can be used for stitching supplies, a very small project, makeup, or just as a little bag in your purse to keep small stuff organized.  I hope that everyone enjoys using this little keepsake of our retreat. 

See?  I told you that my sewing machine got a major workout during the past month or so.  I had fun making these bags and will make some more in different sizes.  What a great use for fabric remnants!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And This Is What We Stitched

I told you all about the Sisters In Stitches' wonderful stitching weekend, and today I'll show you what we were working on.  The things that we stitch are as varied as we are! 
Thea is stitching Drawn Thread's "Easter Eggs".  She accomplished a lot during the weekend!
Laurie picked a pretty color to stitch the Beatrix Potter Quaker Sampler
Rosewood Manor's Bucklebury Sampler is being stitched by Maggie
Pat started a new project.  What do you think this "would be"?  Perhaps a pretty sampler?
An original design being stitched by Sheila.  The inspiration was from a cut glass dish.
Trish is stitching small motifs on ultra fine plastic canvas. 
I'm stitching LHN's Song of the Seasons.  Finally finished part 2.

See what I mean about the different types of stitching we do?  The other thing I noticed is how we stitch.  Some of us use q-snaps, a couple of us love hoops and we have two in our group who always stitch in-hand.  This is what makes stitching with friends so interesting.  Plus, you see charts, threads, stitching supplies and finishing methods that you might not have seen before. 

We're a lucky group -- lucky to have each other as stitching friends and lucky to have a wonderful place to meet every month for a full day of relaxing stitching.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Fine Spring Retreat

My stitching group, the Sisters In Stitches, attended our spring retreat this past weekend.  I think we are all in agreement that it was a success.  We held our gathering at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, GA, right on Lake Lanier.  Two members of our group had been there before, and recommended it for our retreat.  What a great find!  The cabins were spacious, gorgeous, and stocked with all the kitchen equipment we needed.  We couldn't believe our eyes when we entered the cabins for the first time.
Cute on the outside, but the inside was amazing!
Each cabin had two bedrooms with attached baths.  The part that delighted all of us was that they also included a table that could seat eight - the perfect stitching spot.
Comfy, well-lit stitching spot
As we always do, we shared meal duties.  Everything was delicious, from Maggie's breakfast choices, Thea's chicken pot-pie and desserts, Trish's lunch, and Pat's dessert, and we had enough food for several more days (if we got snowed in - very unlikely).  Sheila and I prepared our Saturday dinner. 
Camp food, SIS-style
The park itself was pretty and the staff at the visitor's center and check-in was friendly and helpful. 
View from our deck
We had our traditional gift exchange, which is something we all look forward to.
I don't think anyone wanted to leave on Sunday morning.  It would have been nice to have another day or two.  And of course, we got in a lot of stitching time!  I will feature all of our work in my next post. 

We missed our fellow Sisters In Stitches, Peggy, Renee and Terrie, who couldn't make it to this retreat.  We hope that they'll all be present at our next one!
The friendly park employee even took our traditional group picture!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Thing About Gifts

I love giving gifts more than getting them.  I can honestly say that.  And making the gifts I give is even more fun.  But the problem is that I can't show them to anyone and I especially can't feature them here on my blog until they've been given.  My latest project has kept me in the craft room and away from my blog.  The items I've been creating are going to be for my stitch group's next retreat, which is next weekend.  So no pictures or hints about what I've been working on.

My stitch group, the Sisters In Stitches, is having its spring retreat at a new venue - Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, GA.  There are two lovely cabins, completely furnished and stocked with all that we'll need to prepare meals, just waiting for us.  Two of our group members are coming from out of state, and we're all looking forward to seeing each other.  This will be a weekend of stitching, eating and laughing.  My camera will be there to capture highlights of the weekend. 

I have been diagnosed with an arthritic thumb joint in my left hand.  A cortisone shot has been successful in making it feel somewhat less painful.  But for a while, I hadn't done any stitching.  I did pick up my Song Of The Seasons sampler last week and stitched pain-free!  Yay!  Now THAT I can show you a picture of.
Pretty good progress.  I'm almost done with part 2 of this mystery sampler.  Maybe I can make more progress during our retreat.  Or just maybe I'll start a new project.  Hmmmmm.

I want to welcome my new followers.  Wow, I'm at 195!!  Just 5 more and then the giveaway announcement will be made.  So stay tuned for that and for photos from the retreat.  Oh yes, and photos of those gifts I can't show you right now.  Have a great week!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chalk It Up To Experience

Chalk paint is a product that's made quite a splash recently.  I first heard of it on Facebook and Pinterest, and then saw first hand some items that my friend Suzanne had painted.  She used Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint to brighten up a dresser, table and a picture frame.  I believe that she's added more to her painted collection since I've seen these.  Her finished products were so pretty and she was so enthusiastic about the paint's ease of use that I decided to try my hand at it.

I will tell you that the only thing I can paint well are walls, and I do a very good job at it.  But that's it.  I've tried painting furniture before with not much success.  I spent one entire summer stripping layers of paint off of a very old plant stand, and when it came to putting a new finish on it, I handed it over to Mark.  But I thought that chalk paint would be just the ticket for me to get into a little furniture painting.  After all, there was no sanding involved!  Yay!  With just the project in mind, I purchased a can of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and a can of finishing wax.

I bought a funny little table for $15 at an auction and had been using it in my craft room.  It had flip-up leaves (I think that's what you call them), and when these are flipped up, it turns into a round table.  Cute, you say?  Well, yes, but totally impractical.  Just put a heavy object on one of the leaves and the whole thing falls over. 
What a perfect candidate for some experimental painting!  It is cute and it makes a nice side table by my chair, but quite beat-up looking.  So I started by cleaning the table with TSP and let that dry well.  Then on went the first coat of paint.
Okaaaay, not bad.  I realized quickly that this might not have been the best project for my first-time chalk paint experience.  Too many curvy surfaces on the legs and too many moving parts!  But I forged ahead, applying another coat or two.  Or three.  I talked to Suzanne, who told me not to expect it to be perfect and her words stayed with me.  I then accepted the reality that this table might be considered "shabby-chic" at its completion. 

A strange thing happened when I flipped the table over and started to paint the top.  One portion resisted the paint. 
I sanded (Darn!  I ended up sanding anyway!), and then re-applied paint to that area.  It happened again.  I sanded and re-applied again.  More bubbling.  Ok, let's try that one more time.  Nope, still bubbling and chipping.  Obviously this table had something spilled on it at some point in its history that kept resisting the paint.  Shabby-chic it is!!
 
Now it was time for the wax, which is necessary for a nice finish and to seal the paint.  (The dried paint surface actually does feel like chalk.)  This step was very easy -- just apply the wax with a brush, remove the excess and buff it the next day.  Even with the chippy looking tabletop, I really like the way this project turned out. 
To sum up, here's what I learned:  1.  Annie Sloan Chalk Paint goes a long way.  I have a LOT left.  2.  Amateur painters should start with a simple project.  For example, a table with straight lines.  3.  The wax gives your project a beautiful finish.  Don't be tempted to skip this step!

Would I use it again?  Yes.  In fact, I have a divided wood frame that I will be painting.  I'm looking forward to this much smaller project!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Full Mailbox

My mailbox was a happy place one day last week when I received two Grow Your Blog giveaway wins!  Two in one day! 

First, I received this lovely pin from Asri at Asri's Beadwork.  Asri's blog is a wonderful, colorful place to visit and I'm glad I found it during the Grow Your Blog party. 
Just look at the beautiful work she does!  Please check out her blog to see more of her creations.

The next package I opened came all the way from Australia.  Kerrie sent me a pretty cross stitch chart, some floss and a package of needles.  Kerrie's blog, Channelbank Creations, contains a fascinating collection of sewing, gardening and cooking. 
I love both of these wins and thank Asri and Kerrie for offering these giveaways.  Once again, the Grow Your Blog event allowed me to visit new-to-me blogs and for other bloggers and non-bloggers to visit my blog and become followers.

Speaking of followers, my follower total is slowly climbing and getting nearer to that 200 mark.  Welcome to my new followers!  I will be having a 200 follower giveaway and have a nice prize planned.  Check back once in a while to see what the count is.  When it reaches 200, I'll announce the giveaway details.  Can't wait!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Giving Spirit

Last year I was a participant in a Facebook group project called Xstitch For Those Impacted By The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.  The project started in December of 2012, shortly after the tragic event.  The idea was to give the families of each child a quilt.  We were asked to simply cross stitch a quilt square or two.  There were size limits, but that was it.  We could choose any pattern that we thought was fitting.   Soon there were over 400 members of this group.  The group was spearheaded by a very generous woman named Kyla, who had the ultimate task of organizing all of the squares and finding quilters to donate their time and talent to put them together.  Last month, each family received a quilt and small pillows.  In addition, the school, emergency room, police department, and town hall (and others) were recipients of handmade quilts.  This was a project meant to give comfort and support to the families.  All of the following photos are courtesy of the "Xstitch For Those Impacted By The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting" Facebook page.
Kyla surrounded by all of the quilts.

The quilts and pillows all packed up and ready to go.
Just one of the beautiful quilts.

It was an honor to be a part of this worthwhile project.   I am so grateful for all of the stitchers and quilters, and for Kyla for organizing this cause from the beginning to the delivery.

I recently took part in the Grow Your Blog event for this year.  I happily sponsored a giveaway on my blog, and also entered a few giveaways on other blogs.  Well, can you believe it, I won three giveaways!  I never win anything!  I'm not just saying that.  I don't.  So I feel like it hit the jackpot here.  All three of my wins were from other lands, and I have received the first one from Bonnie at Jasper's Gems.
Not only did I receive her beautiful handmade Tree of Life pendant, the package also included some notecards and a pair of snowman socks.  How fun to receive such cute things!

OK, so now I'm in the giving mood.  I see that my follower count is now 192.  Who would have thought that would happen way back four and a half years ago when I started my blog?  So here's the plan:  When I reach the 200 mark, I'm going to have a 200 follower celebration giveaway!  Come and visit often to watch the follower count and to hear the details about the giveaway.  Thank you to ALL of my followers!