Sunday, June 24, 2012

For Your Listening Pleasure

I prefer the sound of acapella, but thought this song was so exceptional, it was worth posting. Hope it gives your heart a lift today.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Easy Shirred Blanket

Shirring is just a way of gathering fabric. The above picture is a blanket that looks "shirred." It is probably made from gathered pieces which are then sewn to other gathered pieces, with a ruffle on the edge and a backing.  The regular cost of the chiffon throw, which is a small blanket or lap quilt, is $250. You can probably see why it is so expensive, since it takes quite a lot special fabric, plus precision and time to cut out all the pieces, gather them, join them together, and add them to a backing.

  I had been looking at this photograph quite a while to figure out how it was made, so that I might have one myself, without paying such a high price. I also wanted to see if I could figure out a way to make it in fewer steps, by just gathering a piece of fabric, instead of attaching gathered pieces to a square.

Of course, if you have the money and prefer to buy this quilt, that's just wonderful, because it is a lot less trouble than sewing one.  This one is for those who have some sewing machine experience and understand the process of shirring, or gathering. This project took me about 2 hours to complete, and I made it just by hand-gathering lines all around the fabric--no cutting or piecing or pulling up gathering stitches. Read on, below to find out more about this shirred blanket!

I chose light weight, thin polar fleece (the thinner the better, which is usually the cheaper kind), but you can use any fabric, including silk, satin, cotton, or white muslin. The project took 2 yards of 50 or 60 inch fleece, but when all the shirring is done, it is reduced to slightly over one yard. You'll need to know that if you decide to make it into a bedspread for any size bed.

The first thing I did to plan this project was to draw the pieces that I thought had been used for the original chiffon throw in the picture. It looked like there was a square or rectangle in the middle, and I counted 3 outer rows of fabric, plus a final row of ruffle. 

The difference between my project and the Victorian Trading Co. blanket, is that mine required absolutely no cutting or piecing together. This is a one-piece project.  I only gathered the fabric as I stitched it, putting the gathers gently through the sewing machine feed by gathering on either side of the needle with my hands.

 I drew these same lines, spacing them evenly apart, (using a large, flat sewing ruler on a cutting board) and also leaving a few inches for the ruffle.  Throughout this project, I did not cut any fabric at all. Everything you see here is gathered right on the fabric, even the ruffled edging.

Above, you see how the fabric is fed through the needle by grasping both sides of it and hand gathering. You don't have to be to precise with this, because it is supposed to look very rumpled and puffy. You do have to be careful not to make the gathers too flat, or it won't turn out well. Just gather up the fabric into small pleats and feed it through the needle til you get to the corner of the pencil drawn square.

This is what the middle square looked like, at first. As the other squares are gathered and sewn around the middle one, it starts to look more like the chiffon throw.

This is what it looks like when another square has been gathered and sewn around the center square. So far, it does not look very square-ish, but you'll see as I get further toward the edge of the fabric, that it looks better.

After each square is sewn around, back stitch, lift off the needle, clip thread, and move the fabric over to the next pencil line and start feeding pleats and gathers through the needle, beginning in a corner. The last square at the outer edge will be the one that creates the ruffle.

 You can see the ruffled edge in this photo taken outside. This whole quilt was only done by pushing gathers through the feed mechanism and sewing them. Because this is fleece, no hemming is needed, but if you make it with muslin or any woven, you will only have to hem the two cut ends, as the two other sides will be already finished by the selvages.

I wondered how to add the roses that I saw in the original photograph. When I had finished stitching all the gathered squares, I noticed places where excess fabric drooped and sagged a lot: the corners and the middle square. So, I pulled up sections in the corners  and wrapped thread around each one, to make puffy roses from the sections of the blanket that were more bulky. You could use a threaded needle to do this, making several stitches through the "stem" area and tying the thread in a knot. 

Shape the roses by fashioning them with your fingers to look like petals.

 This is what the blanket looks like draped over a little table. You can see the rows of stitches going around the center.

 I hope to add pictures of the backing, when it is completed.The backing is more fleece, but with a pile, sort of like fur. I really am excited about this blanket because it is warm, and because it could be made in so many different colors and fabrics. I hope I can sleep tonight, since my mind will be whirring with ideas of another one in a bright color.

This is not a gathered project in the sense that the threads are gathered up. No thread here is gathered or pulled. The gathers or pleats of fabric are sewn down as they are fed through the machine needle.  Be sure to back- stitch at the at the corners, and if you like, you can reinforce the rows of stitching by sewing them again when you add the backing.

One advantage of this hand-made blanket is that it has no satin on the back, as does the original. Satin tends to slip off a couch or bed, but the fleece one will stay put.
This is the backing made of a thin white muslin with a silky sheen, attached by taking small overlapping stitches here and there to secure the top and keep it from being so loose and floppy.

I wish you could see this "for real" because it is so soft and looks like white icing on a wedding cake.

The total cost was probably about $8.00, and I bought the 2 yards of thin fleece (a synthetic) at WalMart fabric department but it should be available in any fabric store.

Anyone is welcome to use this idea for making things to sell. A pillow or a curtain could also be made from this technique.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Adding Comfort to the Home

Another Beautiful Painting by Susan Rios

This painting just arrived in Susan's regular email newsletter and I could not wait to share it. I will be adding a special sewing or paper project to this post as soon as I can. Until then remember to dress up to greet God's beautiful creation, and be sure to have a cup of hot tea served in your best tea set.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Keep Hope Alive

From youth, most people have a hopeful attitude toward life, but as they age, sometimes they allow the feeling of hope to fade.  My belief is that, even if something seems hopeless, it is always better to maintain an optimistic view and keep hoping. "Hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast," the Bible says. (Hebrews 6:19)

Often there are goals that seem never to be reached, and sometimes homemakers think the sameness of things (laundry, meals, dishes) will not end. When hope enters your mind, things can change for the better, for while you are doing the necessary tasks, you may be hopeful of moving on to something a little different afterwards. Though these types of hopes are shortly in the future,( perhaps within a day), they are worth hoping for. Having an interesting sewing project, art theme, or even an hour set aside to write a letter (or blog) are happy rewards to hope for.

Daily goals to look forward to are reasons to keep hope alive, but there are long term goals we all want, which may not be immediately seen, but still we strive forward toward them.  We hope to have success as  "guides of the home," (1st Timothy 5:14). To be organized enough to find things when they are needed, and to have a dwelling place that is a lovely place to see and feel, are things worth hoping for. To train up children to be good, polite, diligent workers with a strong sense of honor, is something worth hoping for. To look after the health and well-being and needs of our husbands is a goal worth working toward and hoping for. These things will not be seen suddenly, but with persistent hope and effort, may one day be seen. Hope is harnessed with faith, and "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."(Hebrews 11:1).

 Here is an easy way to understand hope: Even though we do not always see the things we hope for, we keep hope alive by having faith that these things will one day happen, and even though there will be discouragements, at least, if we have hope, our hearts continue to beat in anticipation. So, in times of indecision, hope for something better, and that happy thought will be the best motivator for continuing to build your life on the values that you believe in.

Some short term goals you might hope for are:
1. Preparing yourself for the day by getting dressed with dignity for the day at home. That way you will also  prepared to go somewhere if necessary. If you are dressed up (and I'm not speaking of formal, impractical clothing) it gives you motivation for an important job.

2. Planning an hour for each daily task: the dishes, the laundry, and cleaning up the areas that are used the most by the family members: the living room, dining room, bathroom, and bedrooms. These jobs can be delegated to others, also, but they should be able to adopt your work habits and your standards, through practice.

3. Setting aside time to do something creative or something relaxing that is renewing for your mind, each day. Go for a walk, pick wild flowers, look at scenery, laugh about something (it is good for your health) knit or crochet, dig in the garden, and offer prayers of gratitude to God, whether in sunshine or rain. These things help keep hope alive.

4. Stop for tea-time each day, no matter how badly things have turned out. Start using the best china you have and treat yourself well. Even a work horse is allowed to stop for a refreshing drink, and you are better than a work horse: you are the guard and the guide of the home, which in my opinion is the highest office in the land.

These are just short term goals that are not always achieved, but if you keep hope alive, you'll add a happy outlook to your live and develop a good-naturedness that will give you more hope.  It is difficult to separate the management of the home from hope, for without hope, your life's work is deadened.  

Keeping the home and guiding the family is more than just a materialistic, mechanical thing. It is a spiritual thing, for while you are caring for your loved ones, you are also giving them a hopeful life and building yourself up spiritually.

Eventually, these things will add up to a home living "condition" that will make it more desirable to be home than to be somewhere else, for as a homemaker, you can make the atmosphere anything you like and everything belongs to you.  There is no better reading room, no better holiday, or better writing desk or tea room than the one you provide for yourself.

Keep hope alive and you will build yourself up. Show that hope is alive in you by preparing for each day as if it were the most important event in your life, and maintaining a cheerful, optimistic ambition for the job ahead. Whether the thing you hope for is realized, or not, keeping hope alive is essential in keeping your sanity and keeping your mind and body functioning at its very best. Maybe your needs may not all be perfectly fulfilled, but if you lose hope, you are sunk for sure, for you cannot function as a hollow soul without things to look forward to. Even if these things never transpire, the hope you keep alive will keep your heart beating and your mind in tune with God.

I have chosen paintings by the California artist, Susan Rios, whose art always represents hope coupled with contentment. I have sent her scenic photographs on several occasions, and she has used parts of them for her wonderful paintings: a very gracious lady indeed.

To print this for your notebook, go here.

If you have men in your family who want to keep hope alive, go here for the men's version of this post.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Love to the Australian Visitors

The Arbor
by Emmanuel Phillips Fox, Australian, 1865-1915

I always enjoy the visits to this blog from many Australians. Around noon time here, I see them waking up and hear the little bell ring as each one tunes in to Home Living, via the live feed counter (Feedgit) at the bottom of the page. As I once lived in Australia, namely, Tasmania, (and hope to visit again) I want to honor the Australian lookers by posting paintings by Australian artists of the 18th and 19th centuries.


Sheep Run by Percy Spence, Australian, 1868-1933

Captain Cook Landing at Botony Bay
by Percy Spence, Australian 1868-1933

Postman in the Australian Outback
by Percy Spence

Australian Sheep Farmer
by Clive Uptton

Shearing the Lambs
 by Tom Roberts, Australian, 1856-1931

Australian Native
by Tom Roberts

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Every Day is a Gift

Each day plan whatever is your duty to do, and then try to go beyond it. It is one thing to get things done, but it is more motivating to look forward to what you are going to do far above what is absolutely  necessary.

Every day, read from the Bible and from another good book, to feed the soul and the mind and keep your thinking active and logical.

Get up with the intention of liking everything you do and every place you go. Eventually you will not be anywhere you do not like.

Know that in this life you will be rewarded , compensated and gain abundance for endurance, faithfulness and  adhering to good values in your life. Conversely, those who live in disobedience will suffer unhappiness.

Live each day as if it were a brand new gift, and try not to take it for granted or be bored, useless or unhappy. Being creative each day can gives the day a special significance.

Serene Sea by Danhui Nai (China/America)

Approach each day as if it were your last, doing all the good you can, letting go of worry and fear.

Take special note of little things that give your heart a lift. You may walk past them each day and not realize how sweet they are. Place small things around your house that will make you smile when you see them: herbs tied in bundles, favorite folded fabric pieces, fresh soap, a gift from someone, a bright card etc. You will be pleased at what these small bright spots can do for your mood and your sense of joy in being alive.

If you keep a list of things to do, make a point of listing "Look at something beautiful" each day. This might include what you see around you or someone's beautiful blog, an attractive book, a painting, a garden, or something you noticed while you are away from home.
Roses by Pierre Joseph Redout

When trying to achieve a goal or finish a task, keep your mood level by working around difficult people, obstacles or inconveniences. 

Give something to someone else every day. This could be anything from a smile, a note, some help, or something hand made. This sort of thing always lifts the mood of the giver more than anyone.

At night, start counting the good things that you have or that have occurred that day, and it will make you so happy that you will have a restful night.   

Saturday, June 09, 2012

New Painting by Susan Rios

The Rose Room, which she painted a few years ago, is available in a print.

A Friendly Fellow Who Greeted Me Today When I Hung Out the Wash

Friday, June 08, 2012

Make A Fancy Picnic Basket From an Ordinary Basket

(click link to view or purchase)

A Picnic
by Henry Nelson O'Neil, 

Hello dear friends. Today I have completed something that I've been thinking about for a long time. It is a lid and lining for a homemade picnic basket.

Those beautiful picnic baskets with all the supplies in them can be quite expensive. The one you see above is just lovely, but it cost $70.00, and some of these types of baskets are up to $100.00. I have taken a few minutes here and there this week to figure out how to make a lid and lining for an inexpensive basket that has some of the same features. Of course, if you really do like the one at Victorian Trading Company and can easily afford it, then go for it. This is for those who do not want to spend very much and still have the luxury of a pretty picnic basket. 

If you are interested in making one of these yourself, you should know that it is not quick and easy, but the good news is, you can use hot glue on quite a bit of it, which takes out a lot of the work. Both hand-stitching and machine stitching are required, so it qualifies as advanced sewing. However, look through the tutorial first, and you might find that you have enough basic knowledge to make this.

These are some of the materials you will need. First, select a basket, any size, preferably one with a moveable handle so that it is easier to work with. I got this one at the dollar store just for demonstration, but you can get a much larger one, and try a different shape, such as square or rectangle. This is a wooden-slatted basket, not a straw or wicker one, but you can use those kind too. Quilting fabric or any woven cotton fabric will be fine for this project, but not knits or silks or synthetics, because it requires something more  stable. You will also need some trim of some sort, like rick-rack or braid or grosgrain ribbon. 

Also needed is some iron-on (fusible) fleece (you can use regular fleece if you like, but fusible is much faster to work with), a piece of corrugated cardboard large enough to make the lid, some good strong scissors (please do not use sewing scissors on paper or cardboard. It makes them dull).  You might also need some craft paint and a sponge brush to paint the basket if you want it a different color. You will also need a hot glue gun with glue sticks. This project is not for children!
Corrugated cardboard is a thick, layered cardboard. You could use any other cardboard, but in my opinion, corrugated cardboard is the best for this kind of craft. Find it in the bottom of boxes you get in the mail, or just cut a corrugated cardboard box.  

To make the lid,  turn the basket facing down on the cardboard and trace around it. No basket has perfect dimensions, so expect it to be slightly less than a perfect circle or square when you trace it.

Cut the circle out and place it on top of the basket, turning it to fit as best as possible, and then trimming it again if necessary.

Lay the cardboard circle on the iron-on batting and trace around it and cut it out.

Usually there is a sparkly side of the iron-on (fusible) batting, and that goes face down on the cardboard. With hot iron, press down on the batting to make it stick to the cardboard, pressing the steam button for bursts of steam to help it fuse.  Cut another batting circle and fuse it to the other side of the cardboard.

Take the cardboard-batting piece and lay it on the wrong side (the non-printed side) of cotton fabric and cut out the circle.

Lay the cardboard with batting on top of another piece of fabric, with the wrong side up, and cut about 2 inches larger, around it. If you are using white glue or fabri-tack (a fabric glue), put a row of it on the circle so that you can fold the fabric up around it. Secure it with clothespins for awhile to hold it. If you are using hot glue (recommended) use some kind of instrument like a knife or spoon to press the fabric onto the hot glue. Remember that the cardboard will be sandwiched between two batting circles.

Click on for a larger view of this to see the small circle glued over the larger circle that was folded over. The edges of the  smaller circle were ironed down approximately a fourth of an inch and then hot-glued to the larger circle, covering its edges so that it has a nice finished, upholstered look.  I have used hot glue, but you may also hand stitch the whole thing together with ordinary thread. I would suggest quilting thread because it is stronger.  Then select some trim, such as rick-rack, as you see above. Place your spoon, knife, tea bag and napkin on the inside lid and and lay a strip of trim across them,  then dot a bit of hot glue in various areas to make pockets to slide them in. As I said, you do not have to use glue at all, as you can stitch this cording or rick-rack or trim in place to make sections for your knife, spoon, tea bag and napkin, You can even place a piece vertically on the lower end to insert a napkin or some other thing.
Thread a large-eyed needle with quilting thread, double it and tie a large knot at the end.
Put the needle slightly under the lid, through the cloth and batting (not the cardboard)  so that the knot will be hidden underneath, 

and then pull the needle inbetween one of the slats or straws of the basket rim,
and out again into the batting and fabric. Make several of these kinds of stitches under the slat or straw and back into the cloth (you do not need to sew through the cardboard) until you have a strong hinge. Knot and clip your thread, and do the same thing again in another area close to that area so that you have two thread-made hinges in the back of the basket lid.

Fold  about two feet of wired ribbon  in half and place it in the middle of the back of the lid, on top, between the two hinges you made with thread. Then hot glue it down the center, on to the back edge of the lid.
Tie it in a bow, arranging it into a curled effect,  and glue down the ends with hot glue.

Trace around the bottom of the basket on to some more fabric and batting, and cut out the circles. Cardboard is not necessary for this part of the basket.

Lay the basket on its side to get the height of it, and roll it on the fabric to see how long a strip of fabric you will need to make the lining. Double the fabric (or use at least one half the amount more) before you cut it, so that it can be gathered to fit. I have not given any measurements because it all depends on the size of basket you are using.

Clip the fabric and tear the strips. Then sew the two short sides together and cut a piece of the fusible batting to fit. Iron it on using steam, with the sparkly side of the batting down on the wrong side of the fabric.

Sew the other end of the fabric-batting strip, pinning it four ways on the fabric-batting circle, as you see above. To divide the circle, just fold it in half and then in half again, marking each fold with a straight pen. Then fold the strip in half and fourths, marking the folds with pins. Then match up the pins and pin the strip to the circle.

The next step is not pictured: Thread a large eyed needle with quilting thread, knotting it firmly on the end. Then take large running/gathering stitches all around the strip and when you get to the end, pull up the thread until it fits the circle. Then, machine stitch it all around.
This is what it will look like on the other side.
With a steam iron, fold down and press the edges of the circle to the other side to make a hem.

Placing the right edge of the presser foot evenly with the right edge of the folded over fabric, stitch all around the piece, using a large length straight stitch.

Stitch another fourth inch from the previous stitching, on the inside.

Insert the quilted lining into the basket, and if you have some stick-on velcro srtipping, put it around the top rim of the basket and the matching piece on the top rim of the lining. 

If you plan to give away this basket, wrap the scones and cheese and sandwiches in waxed paper, insert them in and around the teacup, and add small containers of jam and cream for the scones.

There are probably a few steps left out, but this is not an exact science, so you can adjust it to fit your own style of sewing and crafting. Here is a big time-saving idea: Instead of making a lining, just take a  big square of matching fabric and insert it in the basket. You might also iron on the batting to the square  or circle of fabric and sew another piece on the other side. To measure a circle of fabric to fit the inside, just wrap a piece of fabric around the outside of the basket to get an idea of how much you will need. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you really get a lot of pleasure out of using this "fancy" picnic basket. I've used a small basket to make it easier to demonstrate, but you might try using a family size basket to see what you can do. 

The silver spoon and knife are plastic, and come in a package of 16, from the dollar store. If you go to a thrift store or Goodwill, you can some times find mis-matched cups and saucers for under a dollar, which would be great for a basket like this if you are giving it away.

Save some time by using pre-quilted fabric, and then you will not have to add the batting. 

This might be a good idea for someone who is looking for something to make for their etsy shop.