Christmas, 2023 & more

I can finally show you what I made for Christmas presents…sort of. USPS has lost one of the packages I mailed on December 18, and I am in the process of re-making those gifts, but since that family doesn’t read my blog I’m not worried about revealing what they will get…hopefully in a few weeks. 🙁

In mid-December I shared my early efforts with weaving rag placemats. After having what I considered to be success, I decided to weave placemats for my sister, my niece, and my nephew. For my sister’s placemats I used some really beautiful fabric that our oldest sister had, which I saved when I cleaned out her apartment.

I was a tad disappointed that the beauty of that fabric didn’t really show through as much as I’d hoped, but I knew that they would be appreciated anyway.

While I had more gorgeous fabric from that oldest sister, they were all rather dark. After my experience with the above placemats, I thought my niece and nephew, each with young families, would prefer something lighter, so I made a trip to the fabric store and bought some cotton yardage for this purpose. My niece and family live on Hilton Head Island, so I decided she needed beachy colors. More weaving surprises…the sun was more identifiable than I’d expected, but not in a bad way.

My nephew and family live outside Dallas and have 2 very active little boys, so I chose yardage that seemed perfect to me. This time I was surprised that none of those words showed up, just the colors. That was actually what I was hoping for but didn’t expect. 😉 After accepting that the package was really lost I made another trip to the fabric store and managed to snag the last of this fabric to re-make the placemats. I haven’t finalized warp colors yet.

The other things I made for Christmas weren’t from my loom; they were made sitting the living room watching way too many cheesy holiday movies. But knitting isn’t a fast process, at least not for me. I made 6 pairs of these fingerless mitts, and am now making a 7th pair to replace the ones in the lost package. Cindy over at EweniquelyEwe turned me on to the pattern, which is free from Carolyn Greenwood on Ravelry. The pattern is called Keep the Leaf.

So much for the Christmas reveals. Life has been…interesting. About 10 days ago, almost home from our evening walk, Jack & I were…assaulted…by a pair of French bulldogs who had clearly escaped from their home. Real short version of the story – I was saved by a runner who heard me screaming. THANK HEAVENS FOR HIM!! It could have been SO much worse!

Jack & I were both emotionally traumatized, and Jack has a wound on his tail that doesn’t look bad and will heal. I ended up at urgent care with 2 wounds on my right hand from one of the Frenchies biting me, and bunch of bruising on that forearm from other attempted bites. Those wounds are healing well, BUT, my ulnar nerve had some trauma and as a result my pinky & ring finger have a constant tingling as if they’d fallen asleep. Numb but not really. I’ll be seeing an ortho doc on Tuesday, and am hoping he can give me better news and/or strategies than my PCP had, which is that it can take 6-12 months for the nerve to fully recover.

I’ve never seen those dogs before and have no idea where they live. I’ve been doing some asking around to see if anyone knows them, but so far no luck. I doubt I’ll ever know. I now have both pepper spray and one of those little emergency alarms. I don’t know that I could have made effective use of the pepper spray in the moment, but I feel like I could have activated that alarm, which would hopefully either sent the dogs running or alerted neighbors sooner.

Other than that, I keep line dancing, reading, doing yoga, baking sourdough bread, living my life.

Oh, yeah, and weaving. Thank you to Susan Poague for providing a great crackle draft. I’ve said it before and will say it again, I always think I don’t like crackle weaves – until I see them. Then I really like them. 🙂

I made a TINY modification to the treadling in Susan’s draft. I wove eight towels and listed them in my Etsy shop at 8AM Saturday morning. By 9AM four of the towels were sold, and three more were gone by 5PM. WOWOWOW!!! Truth be told, one woman – who has purchased countless towels from me – bought all seven – she’d been waiting for me to list more towels.

Now I must get back to re-making Christmas gifts. In February. Sigh.

Fun with thread

I knew what was coming up on my to-do list and knew that I’d better get my bead bags for January cut out and sewn before I started my next project. With more duplicate fabrics than I usually like to use, I got them done.

January '24 bead bags

While that was going on I had a professional painter working in my kitchen. My cupboards had been painted many times since the house was built in 1948. They definitely needed a refresh, and this was not a task I wanted to undertake, especially because I wanted to replace all the hardware. I hired a painter I’d used before and was very happy with, and early January was when he could fit me into his schedule. Here are the before photos. Everything was white, white white.

The differences may not be so obvious in the photos (I almost didn’t post the photos because of this), but suffice it to say that in real life the change is very noticeable. I am very happy with the work. And thrilled that I didn’t try to do this myself. The man I hired is a professional, for sure, and it took him a full 40 hours to do the work. Much time had to be spent removing the doors. Those old hinges had so many coats of paint on them, getting the screws out without stripping them was not easy. I know I would have been in tears of frustration trying to do this myself. The upper cupboards are white with a bit of tint to soften the look. The lower cupboards are a light grey.

kitchen after painting and new hardware

I really try to make my Christmas cards for the coming year in January or February. Any later in the year and I either completely forget about it or am too busy doing other things. I showed you a sample of what this year’s cards would be in my last post. I have now done the embroidery on the 40 cards I need, and here you’ll see them all.

First up is a design I didn’t create; it comes from stitchedstories. You can find a wide variety of patterns there, some are very complex; I just downloaded her free printable holiday gift tags. Here are her snowflakes. Easy and lovely. They were the first cards I embroidered.

Next I moved to a simplistic trees. I added all the red accents and a few of the green lines on one card, but somehow they never really pleased me.

simple design embroidered tree cards

A few other designs came with the free pack, but either they didn’t speak to me or I tried them unsuccessfully on cardstock. So now came the REAL time suck. I sat in front of my computer and googled. And googled. And googled some more. Then I got out my graph paper, 6″ ruler, and mechanical fine-line pencil. This led to a seemingly-endless round of drawing and erasing, trying again, crumpling paper, repeat. But I came up with some designs I liked well enough to try. First up here is a different type of simple tree. It’s just okay IMHO. Three cards was enough for me.

my design simple tree embroidered cards

Then I tried some strings of lights. Fun, but still just okay, so I was again done after 3 cards.

embroidered string of lights card

Now the more serious designs started being embroidered. Here are my Peace cards. I liked them well enough to initially embroider 3 of them. At this point I realized that I was better at the embroidery end than at the design end. I knew what I liked but not necessarily how to create it. So what could I do to make my Peace cards please me more? I added the little stars, which I thought improved them, ultimately making 3 more.

embroidered Peace design cards

Next up, I designed a rather complex-looking star. Interestingly, I think it wasn’t as hard to emboider as it looks like it would be. I initially made just a few of these, and then as I was counting the completed cards and figuring out how many more I needed, I made more and more of these, ultimately finishing up with 10 cards. They are my favs, for sure.

embroidered star cards

The last cards I designed were a more complex snowflake than the downloaded snowflake. I quite liked these, too, and made 6 of them as well.

embroidered more complex snowflake cards

The final design, a parabola with a star, worked fine but didn’t seem very Christmas-y, so I only made 1.

parabola and star card

A clever reader will count and see that this is 39 cards, not 40. HAH!! My record-keeping sheet told me I had made 11 of the complex stars, but in reality there were only 10. I didn’t realize my error until I was in front of the computer making this blog post. However I’d already put away all the supplies and wasn’t going to get them all out again, so I’ll go into the 2024 holiday season with 39 cards. This will probably be enough – I usually have a few extra. If not, I’ll make one more at that time. I certainly kept all my designs along with the finished cards, so it won’t be a huge deal. Plus, that’s the time when I’ll have to decide what to back the cards with. The backside of the embroidery is very messy and must be covered – will I use card stock? Wrapping paper? Something else? I have time to make that decision.

Still stalling on Christmas reveal

At the end of every calendar year I have to do a bunch of administrivia for my weaving business. I sort of hate it. I dread it. Until I get started, it’s always a HUGE deal. Once I’m in the process, it’s not so bad. It takes probably a total of about 8 hours, all told. But because it only happens once a year, I don’t seem able to remember that it’s just not all that bad. So I got that done in preparation for my accountant guy.

I also like to work a jigsaw puzzle this time of year. It’s an indoor activity that has a high degree of inherent reward and gratification – what more can you ask? I’ve had this particular puzzle for about a year, so it was time.

In the past I’ve done the puzzle at my kitchen table, but it takes up my entire small table so I can’t even eat at it. So this year I had a different plan. I had a large piece of plywood in my garage that was left over from some project or other. I measured it and it was perfect. Brought it in, put duct tape on the raw/fraying edge, put it on my large ottoman in the living room, and set to work on New Year’s Eve. Here’s how far I got that evening before I went to bed at about 9PM. (Yup, I’m a party animal – but a tad more on this below.)

After not having a cold for a few years thanks to constant masking, I’m now working on my second cold in several months. BAH! This one started with a fever that had me sleeping for about 24 hours straight. After that I don’t feel bad, but there’s lots of sinus involvement, with plenty of post nasal drip and its resultant coughing, and this time some plugged ears, to boot. Not a big deal, but not pleasant, especially when trying to sleep. So that’s my excuse for going to bed so early on NYEve. Mind you, I’m usually in bed by 10PM anyway. HAH!

On New Year’s Day I spent a bunch more time working on the puzzle. Sappy Christmas movies were on the whole time. Seasonal, and yet no attention is needed. By the end of New Year’s Day the puzzle looked like this.

This happens to be a Pomegranate puzzle, 1000 pieces, title Monteverde. I found its design and use of color quite a bit easier than the last puzzle I did – and definitely easier than the one I did in 2000 – which was a good thing…since I hadn’t yet done the above-mentioned administrivia.

I finished the puzzle up on Tuesday.

Now it was time to try out some ideas I had in my mind for my 2024 Christmas cards. I’d gathered a sizeable amount of used & crumpled wrapping paper from Christmas with the family, and planned to use it to make paper for next year’s cards. But then I saw something online that intrigued me and I exchanged texts with a fiber friend. She expanded the idea a bit – embroidering on card stock. Would I, could I, do this on handmade paper? I tried it, and the answer was I could, but it wouldn’t be as clean and easy as doing it on card stock. And it added an unnecessary step that would not add to the finished result. So I did a sample on some card stock I had here, and it was a definite YES!

This is one of several designs I’ll be using. I have the card stock and envelopes ordered, and am excited to start this process when they arrive.

Now I have to run without even proofreading because I’m babysitting tonight. Maybe the next post will be about this year’s handmade Christmas gifts.

Are YOU a robot?

If you’ve ever tried to leave a comment on my blog before, you know how easy it was. That was a good thing. 🙂 And a bad thing. 🙁

Good for you; bad, in the end, for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had ‘moderation’ in effect for my comments. That meant I would get an email telling me someone had left a comment and I’d have to go to a specific place to approve your comment. No big deal. Until.

Starting a few weeks ago, spam bots found my blog and started leaving comments. They built up over time, ending up being 5-dozen-plus a day. That meant 60+ emails and 60+ times I had to go somewhere to mark those comments as spam. So I had to find a way to stop that.

I worked with my tech-helpful web host, and added 2 tools. Now you have to enter your name and check a box that you are not a robot in order to leave a comment. I promise to try and get back to posting more regularly, and hopefully you’ll continue to comment, even though you have to jump through a hoop or 2.

I’d love to include relevant images with this post, but relevant ones are all online and I don’t want to get dinged again for illegal use. So here’s a photo of my son wearing a Tshirt I just love. Isn’t this a perfect message?! He is clearly NOT a robot.

December moves SOOOO fast

It’s now December 17th and I’m still making Christmas presents. Several left to make, nothing is wrapped, packages have to be mailed out of state. Everything I ordered online has arrived, so there’s that.

Of course I can’t show you any of what I’m making because it would ruin the surprises. So instead you’re getting a variety of other things, many Christmas related but not gift- or making-related.

There are 3 wonderful teenagers in my neighborhood. We have actual conversations when they’re hanging out in the street after the school bus drops them off; I love it! A few weeks ago one of them asked if I had any allergies as she wanted to bring me a plate of Christmas cookies she and her mom were baking. HOW SWEET IS THAT?! So I decided I’d bake cookies myself this year, too. Here they are in order of being baked. First up, cappucino cookies. My process was mix the dough on one day, leave it in the fridge overnight to cool, and bake them the next day. Repeat the process with a new batch each day.

Then I made chocolate crinkles. I’m not happy with how they turned out and will not use this particular recipe again.

The third batch was my sister’s recipe for gingerbread cookies. I particularly like her recipe because it has a lot of freshly grated orange rind in it – so YUM! Some got a little browner than ideal, but none are burnt.

I am not a fan of frosting on either cakes or cookies, so went very minimalist with my decorations.

Then I made a new-to-me recipe for cream cheese cookies. I wish they’d stayed a bit rounder, not flattened out so much, but they taste good.

Next up are two things I bake every year, even when they’re all I make. First is my grandmother’s recipe for date-nut bread. It just wouldn’t be the same for me without these mini loaves.

And finally, pizzelles. I think that my pizzelle maker used to belong to my mother-in-law, although I can’t be positive of that. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This is a very old-fashioned pizzelle maker. It is not electric. If I didn’t have a gas stove I don’t know if it would work. Here’s the process: send everyone in the family away. Turn off the Christmas music so you won’t sing along with it. Mix up the dough, then turn on the gas burner to preheat the pizzelle iron. Once it’s at the appropriate temperature, grease it lightly with cooking spray or an oiled pastry brush and put in a tablespoon or so of batter. Now start counting the seconds. When you think it’s enough, flip the iron over and start counting again. Do this every single time for every single cookie you make, one cookie at at time. That’s why there can be no distractions. My husband liked pizzelles that were very blond; I prefer them with a bit of color to them.

I carefully froze everything as I went so that I didn’t eat it all. 😮

Also Christmasy – this year I managed to pay enough attention to score some free tickets to TubaChristmas. I’ve wanted to go for a few years, but the tickets were always all gone by the time I heard about it. This year I looked into it in November and put an alert on my phone for the day the tickets became available. This is the 40th annual TubaChristmas in Rochester, and this year there were 125 tubas in various sizes on stage in one of the halls of the Eastman theater, so great acoustics. I went with a friend and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’ve decorated wreaths with all natural decorations for many years now – maybe as much as 20 years. I took last year off as I just couldn’t get up any enthusiasm for it. This year I was back at it, and made a wreath for my front door. I really got into the gold spray paint this year: milkweed pods and the pods from Green Lantern or Paper Lantern trees that grow in a nearby park.

…and for my son’s. He’s a hunter so when I saw that Buffalo plaid ribbon I knew that was for his wreath.

New topic, not Christmas related. Some time ago I was gifted a few rolls of fabric, the kind that you can get at a fabric store that is used to make quilts, I think. It sat around for months and I decided I’d try to make some rag-style placemats for my kitchen table with it. I poked around online to get some idea about warp sett, how wide the fabric should be, etc. I used a few different techniques, and am quite pleased with the outcome. And I like how they add a pop of cheery color to my kitchen. And they coordinate with that paper dahlia I’d made. 🙂

Now I MUST get back to my making of Christmas presents. Time’s a-wasting!