Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree, with a Polka Dot Cake and More!

Crown

I can’t believe that Princess Bella’s Birthday Soiree was already two days ago!  I have been fixin’ to get ready to post some pics since then, but so many other happenings kept happening!

So let’s get straight down to it.

The cake.  Oh, wow, what can I say.  The hubby is the most brilliant, wonderfully creative, enabling kind of guy.  I know this is all about Bella’s birthday and the cake and stuff, but I just have to say super quickly, my hubby rocks!  He doesn’t ever try to damper my whacky party ideas, he doesn’t try to bring me down to Earth and tell me I can’t do anything.  He actually jumps right in and has a blast with me, and even goes so far as to make it even more awesome than I had imagined!!!

Okay, so back to the cake.  I wanted some kind of cake befitting the Royal Princess (ya know, I hope that doesn’t start sounding like we do nothing but spoil our children, although we might, Bella just really was born in to this world to command it, her personality!)…and it needed to be a total girl cake.

And here’s how it finished up:

Cake

And here’s what was in the middle:

Cake Balls Baked

I know, polka dots!  That is all Christopher’s doing.  I’ll include here a couple of pics of how to polka dots were put together, I might come back later and do a super-quick how-to on that whole thing 🙂

Cake Balls Cake Balls 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But on to the Birthday Banner.  That has become some kind of tradition in our home, at least the kids think that they are supposed to have a banner now for every birthday and holiday event.  My fault…so this time around I just started grabbing stuff out of my fabric stash and throwing it into the sewing machine.  And the kids colored the crown cut-outs to add as decorations.

Swag

Swag 2

Swag 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, that’s some of my paintings on the wall, Bella wouldn’t let me move them for the party!

Now, the party favors.  We don’t do huge parties with all kinds of kids and people over.  Remembering our kidlets are home-schooled, so we don’t have to outdo all of the birthday parties of the whole kindergarten.  We do have a couple of buddies that play with ours just about every day, so we have them over with a couple of close friends.  So I don’t have to put together an enormous pile of party favor loot.  I got to really go for it 🙂

Party Favors

I made the treat bags out of pieces of denim from my stash, all from old pairs of blue jeans.  Jeans that have been outgrown, jeans that have gotten holes in the knees, jeans that finally have too much paint to wear in the light of day.  And I used boys’ jeans and girls’ jeans.  Some had sections that I could use as a whole piece, and some I had to piece together with patches from other pieces.  I also frayed the edges of everything a bit and left the seams on the outside.  For handles, I used lace and ribbons from the stash box.

Party Favors 3I worried throughout the week as I made the little bags, by the way.  I kept thinking they were looking dumb, or that they were a bad idea, just like going through hating some other piece of art I’m creating.  Not sure why I’d get away with it on party favors…

But I just kept sewing, and as the kids were in and out all week, they’d see the little bags coming together.  They were so excited when they finally got to have their little homemade artsy bag creation!  And they’ve been carrying them around with them since, including the neighbor kids!  They’ve all got the little journals I made them stuffed in the bags, along with video games and plastic jewelry and doodads and candy…they just carry their little things in them, even the boys!  It also helped that the bags had lollipops and ring pops and tootsie rolls and starbursts and plastic gemstone rings, too.

Here’s a quick peek at the journals I made them, a la clear packing tape and rubber bands (like the duct tape journals you see all over the place) and patterned papers and cardboard-painted covers.  And just like with the bags, the kids all watched me making the little books and squawked with delight when they finally got their hands on them and could start drawing in them!

Journal cover Journal cover 2 Journal inside

We cooked out burgers, and ate yummies and cake and ice cream, and Princess Bella delighted in all of the rightful attention she was getting.  And everyone showered her with gifts of love and sparkles, a whole pile of dress-up fodder…which she has been donning and trying on and admiring and wearing for the paparazzi.

It’s funny.  I didn’t have to run out and buy anything to do all of this preparation.  I just dug around in my boxes and bins of stashed fodder…so much of it was recycled material, or free craigslist stuff, or thrift store finds saved for a rainy day.  I spent a lot of time, and put a ton of love into it all, but not so much in monies.  But this will be one of those birthdays she’s gonna remember as one of the most magical and love-filled parties ever!

 

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Handmade Denim Purses, How-to Wing It

My sewing machine and a huge pile of scrap fabrics have both been sitting at the side of my room, taunting me.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing such things as, “When are you gonna stop being a scaredy-cat and sew something?”…and clucking noises, as if I’m a chicken…Seriously?  My piles of art fodder are taunting me now??

Really, though, it was a bit of fear holding me back.  I kept thinking that I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t really know how to sew or how to just make something out of an image in my head.  I learned the basics of sewing many many years ago, but I’ve never really sewn anything without a pattern or some kind of instructions to follow.  I’ve never just made up my own pattern to follow.

Finally, I just decided to jump in, and I’m quite thrilled with what I learned:

  1. I can figure out how to do new things on the sewing machine.
  2. I can create my own pattern.
  3. I can use old blue jeans to make cute purses!
  4. The straps needed to be quite a bit longer than just measuring where they’re going to fall on the actual human form.
  5. Sew the embellishments onto the pieces of denim before sewing the pieces together.  It’s much more difficult after the fact.
  6. And lastly, little purses take a really long time to make (at least, when you don’t know what you’re doing yet, lol).

I drew out the pattern pieces on paper, measuring the pieces to the size that I wanted the little purses to be in the end, and then added a quarter inch all around for seams.  I measured the straps to the length that would fit around the girls’ necks so that the purse would hang like a satchel.  That was the one biggie I learned after the first purse…add several inches to what I think should be the length, as much of the length was taken up when I sewed the strap around the actual purse front and back.  By the time I put the second purse together, I was way faster and it all went much better.  You live and learn, right??

And the girls totally freaking love the little purses that I made for them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prompt: What can you make with denim cut from old jeans??

Using Stitching in an Art Journal Page

Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been totally caught up on a project that is taking waaaaaay longer than I initially predicted…I’ll be bringing you pics of that hopefully by the beginning of next week.

I did take some time away from it to play in my art journal.  I’ve had the sewing machine out for some other homey projects, making curtains mostly.  As the sewing machine was sitting on the kitchen table, I couldn’t help but start sewing with fabric scraps and papers!

I used unbleached muslin for the background on the left-hand side of the journal spread.  I like the look of the frayed edges on the muslin…you just pull the strings out as far as you want the fray.  I pre-treated the muslin with gesso (after I frayed the edges) and then smeared some off-white paint around on it.  I followed that with some smears of Neo Color crayons to add some color.

Then I taped down the fabric scraps and the papers to hold them in place.  I used a decorative stitch on the machine to attach the pieces to the muslin, before gluing the whole thing into the art journal.

On the right hand side, I used Neo Color crayons to paint up the background.  I stitched the hearts and the scrap of fabric before gluing the whole piece into the journal.

I added the journal block after the fact, but in hindsight, it would’ve been a bit easier had I done that first, lol.  I guess I tend to do a lot of things backwards!

I like that the journal block is not the top layer, I like that because it is a bit obstructed, it’s not so blatant.

And now I can’t seem to get far away from the sewing machine, I have been having such fun stitching together bits and pieces to use in other pages!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prompt: Try using stitching in an art journal page.  It really does add some fun and interest, and helps with adding in bits and pieces to your journal.  Fun, fun!!

 

 

How-to Make Decorative Baskets, Another Cute Christmas in July Project

The first project in our Christmas in July Extravaganza was making rag strip Christmas trees…and if you missed it, be sure to check it out.

Now we’re going to take a look at how-to spruce up baskets for gift-giving or for decorating your home during the holidays.

Materials:

  • Basket
  • Fabric (size will depend on the size of the basket you’re using, see below for how to measure)
  • Trim
  • Batting (again, size will be determined by size of basket)
  • Sewing Machine
  • Embroidery floss, or other sturdy string
  • Optional: Other trims or embellishments

Choosing a basket: You can use baskets that are round or oval.  This project is easiest with baskets that are coarsely woven, or are woven with heavier materials.  A smooth basket will not hang on to the fabric as well.  Also, a basket with fairly straight up-and-down sides is easier to work with.  A basket with steeply slanted sides makes it easy for the fabric to slide down and off the basket.  Personally, I like the way baskets with handles look, but I have used baskets and glass bowls that have no handle.

Time for project: This project takes about two to three hours in total.

  1. Cut two circles out of fabric: We need two circles of fabric, either two circles out of the same fabric, or one circle out of two each coordinating fabrics.  First you need to measure for your circles.  For the sake of this how-to, we will measure for a round basket.  Measure across the bottom of the basket (the diameter of the circle) and add two inches (for the room of the “seam” between the bottom and the sides).  Measure the height of the side of the basket x 2 (one measurement is only adding to the radius, we want the measurement to be added in the whole diameter).  Add 1/2″ x 2 for the room between the sides and the bulk of the top of the sides of the basket.  Decide how big you want the finished ruffle to be (I used a 1 inch ruffle) X 2.  Add 1 inch to make room for a casing and for any seams (I use 1/2″ casing for the gathering around the top and 1/2″ for the seam on the outer circle and for making room to sew in the trim on the outer edge).
  2. Determine size of circle: Using all of these measurements, you will come up with the size of your fabric circles.  I’ll give you the measurements of my basket and circles and how I came up with the total as an example: The basket has a 10″ circle on the bottom and a side height of 5″:  10″ + 2″ + 5″ + 5″ + 1/2″ + 1/2″ + 1″ +1″ + 1″ = 26″ circles.
  3. Make the circle pattern: I taped together a bunch of pieces of copy paper to make myself a pattern.  Then I measured out the center point of the paper and drew measured lines through the center point, in the length of my measured circle diameter.  You may have some much simpler way, but that’s what I came up with for drawing out a big circle.  Then I cut out the paper pattern and used it on the fabric circles.
  4. Pin the circles together: Right sides facing each other, with the trim you want in between the two circles.  You want the trim edge along the edge of the circles, with the trim top edge towards the center of the circles.  I used bright tape in this project so that the pictures would come out easy-to-see for the post (that did work, it just meant I had to do more steps than if I had pinned all three of these layers and sewed together at one time).
  5. The circles already turned right-side-out, showing the cut in the circle I made for turning.

    Turn the circles right-side-out: Once the circles and trim are all sewn together, slice a cut in the center of one of the circles.  You will want the opening to be on the circle that is going to ultimately be on the inside, facing the bottom of the basket.  This print will show up on the top edge of the circle in the ruffle, but the opening here won’t show as it will be underneath the bottom of the basket on the inside.  I made the cut only as far as about a third away from the outer edge.  Don’t cut the slit further than where you will be stitching the casing for gathering the ruffle.

  6. Turn the circles right-side-out through the slice.  The circles will end up right-side-out and the trim will now be facing outwards from the circles.
  7. Make a casing: Smooth out the circles.  Sew a casing around the circles, leaving the measurement of the ruffle.  I made my ruffle one inch, so the first row of stitches for the casing is one inch away from the edge of the circles.  Sew another row of stitches 1/2″ away from the first row of stitches.  I used a straight stitch.
  8. Add batting inside the circles: Cut a circle of batting to fit inside the circles, the size will be the size of the circle up to the edge of the casing.  Place the batting inside the circle and smooth it out.  The batting will make the whole thing nice and puffy around the basket.
  9. String the casing: Make a small slit in one layer of the fabric of the casing to put your sting inside of the casing.  Use a safety pin or a paper clip to work the piece of string or strong thread through the casing.  I used embroidery floss.
  10. Gather the circles around the basket: Once you have the string pulled through the casing, set the basket in the center of the circle.  Pull both ends of the string to gather the circle up and around the basket.  You can work the gathers a bit as you go, getting the ruffle even around the top of the basket.  Once you have it nice and tight and spaced where you want it, tie off the ends of the string.
  11. Optional: You can add embellishments to the basket at this point.  Try using a flat trim or even a lace to glue around the bottom of the ruffle where the casing is.  I have used laces, cords, sparkly trim, and hemp cord on other baskets.  I have also used different kinds of embellishments to add a bit of flare, gluing them down after I’ve added the trims at this point.  You can use silk flowers, sequin embellishments, Christmas ornaments, wood shapes, etc.
  12. Optional: You can add a circle of one of the fabrics with a piece of batting underneath and glue it into the bottom of the inside of the basket.  I did not do that on this basket, but I have done that before and it looks great.

These work great for other occasions as well.  I have used these for birthday gifts, shower gifts, wedding presents…I have also used them to decorate tables for parties and showers and other holidays.  I always keep an eye out for baskets and fabrics at thrift stores and yard sales, and when I’m taking goodies to a party or event, these are quick and easy to make and they look great!

P.S. I also decorated a small glass bowl, one of those ruffly-edged glass bowls from the craft store that are always on sale super cheap.  Looks a bit like a fish bowl…I had one on hand from some other crafting extravaganza, so I tried this whole thing and put it on the little glass bowl to see how it worked.  Here’s a pic for you, I think the ruffle was a bit overwhelming for the bowl, I would probably make it a bit smaller next time around.

How-to Make Rag Strip Christmas Trees

Materials:

  • Cotton fabric, 3 different patterns or colors, you will need 9 strips of each pattern 5″ x 24″
  • Hemp cord, large, 7′ approximately
  • Sewing machine and thread, with zig-zag stitch
  • Styrofoam cone, 9″ tall
  • Small straight pins (I used tiny finishing nails cuz I had a bunch on hand)

Time for project: This project takes me about two hours, but if you make more than one tree at a time, you will cut down the time per tree

Christmas prints do work great for this project.  I had a coupon for some sale fabrics at JoAnn’s, so I ended up using quilting fabrics in red and green and not actual Christmas prints.  The important part is that they are 100% cotton, so that when you tear the fabrics they fray nicely.

So I used a dark red small flower print and a green print with tiny leaves.  The third fabric I used is unbleached muslin.  I like the way the off-white mixes with the tiny prints.  I have used before three different prints, which is also super-cute.  Try to mix up the patterns, with not all three tiny prints or not all three large prints.  Mix it up a bit.

  1. The first step is to make your strips of fabric.  As I used a 9″ cone, I made my strips 5″ x 9″.  I actually tore the strips out of the fabric, rather than cutting them.  If you haven’t torn fabric much, you just snip the edge of the fabric where you want to make the tear, and then grab the snipped edge with both hands and tear.  It will tear straight.  You will need 9 strips of each of the three fabrics.
  2. Stack the strips into three sets.  Using my color scheme, the first set is red on top, green in the middle, white on the bottom.  The next set is alternated, green on top, white in the middle, red on bottom.  Then alternate the last set, white on top, red in the middle, green on the bottom.
  3. Now you sew the hemp cord onto the back side of the sets of strips, right down the center of the bundled strips.  You will sew the cord down the center of the first bundled strip, then continue onto the center of the second bundled strip, and finally down the center of the third bundled strip, ultimately having the three sets sewn together, end-to-end.  Use a zig-zag stitch to attach the hemp cord to the strips, having each side of the zig-zag landing on either side of the cord to hold it down.
  4. You now should have a long strip of fabric with the cord down the middle.  The strip of fabric is layered in three layers.  The whole piece is about 6 or 7 feet long.
  5. Now you snip the edges of all three layers of fabric, all the way down both sides of the whole bundled strip.  You just snip the edges so that you can then tear the strips up to the center where the hemp cord is sewn.  Make the snips about 1/2″ apart.  Stagger the snips on the next layer down, so that they land in between the snips on the layer above.  It will look sort of like the pattern of a brick wall.
  6. After you make all of the snips on all three layers all the way down the 7 foot strip, tear the bits of fabric towards the middle where the hemp cord is sewn.  Repeat on both sides of the hemp cord.
  7. Smooth the layers of fabric a bit, folding the cord into the middle, wrong sides together.  Keep the cord inside the middle of the folded strip.  This will make the pinning to the cone easier.
  8. Pin the end of your hemp cord to the base of the styrofoam cone.  I leave the plastic on the cone if I can, it helps make the little tree last longer.  Then gently start winding the cord around the cone, pinning every so often into the cone.  As you wind, you will want to keep the “rows” snug and smooth.  It looks best at the end if you wind each “row” equidistantly throughout.  I like the way it looks when it is wound fairly close together, as it makes the little tree look a bit fuller at the end.
  9. When you get to the top of the cone, you can tuck the other end of the hemp back down under the fabric strips.

The measurements can all be adapted for different size trees and cones.  You can adapt not only the length of the finished strip, you can adapt the width of the strip if you like a tighter, neater looking tree.  You can also use other colors and patterns to make decorative trees for other occasions, like birthday bashes or baby showers for example.

I have also used the same process to make rag strips for decorations.  Rather than winding it onto a cone, I have used the long rag strip to hang around the Christmas tree like a rope.  I have also used them for hanging along the windows like a banner and around tables for decorations.

It’s a great way to use some of the random pieces of fabric you have left over from other projects as well.

Celebrating Christmas in July ~ Some How-to Projects to Inspire You

Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.

~ Dale Evans

I know, I know, Christmas in July can seem a bit hokey.  It’s tough for me to think about Christmas this far out, when we’re focused on bbq’s and going to the lake and entertaining kidlets now that they’ve been out of school for so many weeks…

I do start thinking about little gifts and treasures for the holidays, I start stashing goodies that I find on clearance racks and on ebay and craigslist and at the many yard sales during the summer.  When you have four kids, you have to plan ahead and watch great deals.

And every year I promise myself that I’ll start my Christmas projects earlier, so that during the actual holiday times I’m not absorbed with the projects so I can enjoy the festivities more fully.

In honor of that whole idea, I’ll be sharing several fun holiday-inspired projects with you, including a couple of my most-favorite recipes for the holidays.  If you, too, think of getting a few projects out of the way before the holidays are upon us, then hopefully these will help you get inspired.

I’ll be including the How-to Instructions on the projects I’m posting, along with pictures and thoughts on how to adapt the projects for other uses.  As we truck along, I’d love for you to share any thoughts or ideas you have on preparing early, and on what kinds of projects you make for the holidays.

One year, I made everyone on my list custom dream catchers.  Another year it was all jewelry, followed the next year by birth chart necklaces.  And still another year everyone got multi-media canvases.  I’ve made hand-made journals, rag rugs, beautiful photo albums, music compilation CD’s, and Christmas scrapbooks.

I hope you’ll join me this week for a couple of jump-start projects!

xoxo

Prompt: Do you make gifts for Christmas?  Do you like to make decorations and holiday foods and treats?  Do you make your own gift wrap?  What kinds of artsy-craftsy projects do you like to make for the holidays?  

Art Journal Pages, and How To Add Some Visual Interest to Your Journal Pages

Live life like you imagine.

~ Source unknown

I’ve been playing with a couple of fun ways to embellish or add interest to my art journal pages and to my mixed media works.

The first is adding some interest and some color with hand stitching.  Hand stitching is a fun way of adding dimension to your work, and it’s also a great way to add a photo or some other scrap of something to your pages.  It also keeps you from having to try and get your journal through the sewing machine, lol!

It’s super easy…all I did on this page was draw in the shape of the heart in black pen.  I also drew the heart on the back-side of the page so that I could see my template on both sides.  Then I used embroidery floss, separated down to a single piece.  I used a larger needle to sew the stitches around the heart shape that I drew with the black pen.  I stitched up through the back side at the bottom of the hear, and then down through the front side.  When I came back up through the back side for the next stitch, I left enough room so that the stitches didn’t tear through the paper.  After I stitched all the way around the hear one time, I went back around and filled in a bit with a cross-like stitch to add some weight to the stitching.  At the end, I knotted the thread on the back side and glued it down. Tip: You’ll want to be careful to not pull too tight as you stitch, or the stitching will pull through the paper and rip out the stitching.

Here’s a look at the finished page:

I did paint the background a solid blue-ish color and stamp with the light brown colored stamping for texture before I started the stitching.  All of the other texturing came after I stitched the hear.

This other page has another example of some hand stitching in a journal page:

Thanks to Bella for running in and striking a pose, unsolicited!

I used embroidery floss to stitch little “x”s around the border of the photo.  This time, though, I stitched the pic onto a piece of muslin and then glued the muslin into the journal page.

Which brings us to the other fun thing you can do to add some visual interest.  The muslin.  I tore the rectangles out of the unbleached cotton muslin.  I love the way muslin looks when torn, with the edges frayed.  I gessoed the rectangles, then added some bright blue paint with my fingers.  I used a home-made stamp to add the pink.  After all of that dried, I stitched on the photo (spruced up with the Grunge Pic app on my iPhone, my fave new photo app!!).

Then I Mod Podged the pieces into the journal pages, which already had pink added to the gessoed pages…added the decorative tape and the doodles…added the stamped title…and TA-DA!!!  A cute page using a couple of fun techniques!!

I’m not totally sure how I might translate this to my larger works, but I’m still messing around with the ideas.  I’ll keep you posted as I come up with something…

Prompt: Try your hand at stitching in your journal.  You can use the stitches to border the page, to “draw” a shape, or to attach something to the page (you could attach a pocket, or a photo, or some ribbon, for starters).  

Woo-hoo, I Got a Sewing Machine!

Years ago, before I was settling down and making a family and all of that good jazz, I got the wise idea to sell most of my stuff.  The idea was to get my Earthly possessions down to a minimum amount, so that I could easily fit it all into my VW hippie bus.  I had dreams of throwing my stuff into the bus on a whim and going somewhere new…where I would support myself by going to local fairs and selling my hand-made jewelry.

So I did get most of my stuff sold, but I never did get so wild as to jump in the bus and move somewhere new.  I did go on road trips and camping trips, and I did use the bus to find awesome free stuff left-over from garage sales and thrift stores.  I did use the bus to help my buddies move their huge art pieces from place to place for various art shows.  I just didn’t do the part of the dream that would have me leaving my home town to brave somewhere new and unfamiliar.

One of the few things that I did regret selling way back then was my old Singer Futura sewing maching.  My aunt gave me that machine so that I could learn to sew.  I sold it back then for 75 bucks.

Now, finally, many years later (14 or 15 years I think), I have picked up another sewing machine.  A sweet lady around the corner from us was selling 3 of her 4 sewing machines as she and her hubby are downsizing their home.

Lucky day for me!  I got a great find, a Singer 6233, for only 30 bucks!  Woo-hoo!

My new Singer 6233

Closeup

 

Now I just have to remember how to use a sewing machine, thankfully I got all of the attachments and the manual to go along with it.  I’ll be playing this weekend and digging through all of the project ideas I’ve been saving along the way, just waiting for my sewing machine.