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Burlap Fabric Jar Toppers

This time of year, peaches and cherries are filling up the farmers marker and roadside stands and in our house we’ve been buying them both by the five-pound bag. And while we’ve been eating as much as we can, I also like to turn some of the fruit into jams and preserves to remind us of the summer months all year long. And once I have my store cupboard stocked with jams, jellies and pie fillings, I start giving them away. Which means I have to have some pretty little jar toppers ready to go for all my fruit gift giving needs. These jar toppers are inspired by old red work and flour sacking embroidery, but instead is done with tone on tone brown thread on burlap sacking.

Things you need:
Burlap Sheets
Embroidery hoop
Embroidery needle
Brown embroidery thread
Fabric Scissors
Thin permanent marker

Things to do:
1. Cut an 8″ square from the burlap. Draw or trace the image of your choice onto the center of the square. If you need inspiration, I suggest any of the Sublime Stitching series!
2. Stretch the fabric in your hoop and cover the outline of your image using either stem stitch or slipstitch. Fill in leaves with satin stitch. Tie off your thread and trim the tail close to the edge of your knots.
3. Using your jar ring as a guide cut a circle about 4″ wider in diameter than the ring with your embroidery in the center.
4. Centering the circle on your jar top, either screw the ring over the fabric or tie around the neck of the jar with a length of ribbon.

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Linen Pom Pom Flowers

I love wearing flowers; they are cheerful and fun and a little bit out of the ordinary. And since my children seem to break all of my jewelry, flowers tend to be the only accessory I can keep in one piece. These pom pom flowers are summery and light and add just the right amount of happy to any outfit.

Things you need:
1/4 yard of Linen
Spray Starch
Fabric Scissor
Brooch Clip
Hot Glue Gun and Sticks

Things to do:
1. Spray the fabric with a medium coat of spray starch; allow the starch to set for a minute before ironing the fabric. This will add stiffness to the finished flower.
2. Cut 11 – 3″ circles from the linen. Set one aside.
3. Using the fabric scissors, cut in 1″ toward the center at the top, bottom and two sides of a circle, this divides the circle evenly. Cut each quarter of the circle into 6 thin strips, being careful not to slice across to another cut. Repeat with remaining 9 circles.
4. Thread your needle and, picking up one flower and folding it into quarters, take a few stitches to secure it into shape. Add another flower, wrapping it around the first, and stitch that one in place as well. Continue to add layers, which will gradually be flatter as you go, stitching each onto the last, until you have used all ten flowers.
5. With the remaining circle, cut small, 1/4″ slits around the edge to mimic the pattern of the other flowers. Apply hot glue just inside of the slits all the way around the circle and in the center and press to the back of the flower.
6. Sew or glue a brooch pin just higher than the center of the back of the pom pom.

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Upcycling: Vintage slips turned into sheer curtains

Making new things out of old things is one of the joys of crafting so most of the crafty people I know love estate sales and any other place you can buy a cache of forgotten items that recall past eras. Avid thrift shoppers and yard sale mavens know the disappointment of finding beautiful items of clothing made out of gorgeous fabric but in the wrong size. If you think in terms of re-purposing, you can still enjoy those gorgeous threads. A few years back, I came across a treasure trove at a yard sale. several good condition vintage slips from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Friends of mine have made similar finds at thrift shops, items that look like something an old time movie star would wear in the boudoir but tragically either too small or too large to wear.

Things you need:
Vintage slips (or pretty newer ones in colors you like with nice fabric and styling)
Wooden dowel (sized to go across your window)
Crystal Beads, Tassels, Etc.

Things to do:
1. Paint your dowel in a color that will complement your slips. Let dry.
2. Glue crystal beads to end of dowel
3. Install hooks on either side of window
4. Slide slip straps over dowel
5. Place dowel ends on hooks
6. Depending on the length of slips relative to window, you may want to make a two-tiered slip curtain.

The resulting curtains are delicate and lovely, filter the light softly. They add a feminine yet subtly witty design element to your bedroom. For greater privacy, use these curtains as part of a layered window effect, with either a heavier, thicker fabric for drapes or a pull down shade beneath the slip curtains.

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Wedding Advice: Taking a New Last Name?

changing_name_weddingIt has long been customary for the bride to take the groom’s last name after the wedding ceremony. This is a symbol of joining the two lives together into one, and for hundreds of years, the custom was not questioned.

We live in a much different era now, where women are just as powerful as men. Even as women continue to seek equality, traditions everywhere are being broken. There are several things to consider before deciding to keep your own name or hyphenating the two, but there is no denying that this new custom is gaining popularity.

The first reason that women may decide to keep their own maiden name is that their professional life dictates that they should. Women who have found success before marriage will find that clients or customers confuse easily when a new name is introduced. If you do want to change your name to reflect your new life, you might consider a slow introduction to the new name so that your clients will remember the change when it occurs.

Many women may also just feel a bit of anxiety over losing such an important part of their identity. The groom may feel a bit offended if this is not addressed quickly and correctly, but you must make him see that gaining his name is not the problem, but losing yours is. This might be the best time to consider a hyphenation, which would join the two names together for you. If children are later involved, you will have to discuss whether to hyphenate the child’s name or simply give the child your husband’s last name. There are several details that will need to be discussed, but as long as you address them all, rather than running from them, you should be able to find some common ground that make all involved parties happy.

If you do decide to change your name, whether it is to hyphenate or take your new husband’s last name, there are several things that will need to remember. Think of all of the identifying documentation that you have. Every bit of it will need to be changed to reflect your new marital status. The best place to begin will be with your Social Security card, because that particular identification is often used to procure new identification. By visiting the Social Security Administration website, you can download the necessary forms to apply for a new card. You will need to take the completed form, along with your marriage certificate, to your closest Social Security Administration office.

Once you have changed that, you will need to change your driver’s license, which also requires your marriage license and a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Your passport can often be changed by mail, but you should be sure to consult the required documents closely before sending in your application. By changing these three identification articles, everything else that you need to change should be a snap. Just remember to change them as soon as possible to avoid any delays later.

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Interview with Handmade Soap Maker Tony Laudicina

Sometimes deciding to start a new business is just as simple as… running out of soap. Or at least that’s what happened to Tony Laudicina of Rocky Top Soap Shop. The shop just opened in June of this year, and is stocked with such wholesome-sounding, mild soaps as Goat’s Milk, Fuller’s Earth, and Simple Soap. It sounds funny, but it’s true. One day I ran out of soap,” Tony tells. I was tired of spending money on soap that I knew wasn’t good for my skin, so I decided to start researching what it would take to make a bar of handmade soap that would be good for me and my family.”

Apparently, Tony found out what it would take, because his shop offers over 18 varieties of soap with more being introduced. His customers receive the benefits of his obsession with quality. I experimented with melt and pour soap bases at first, and continued to research and experiment with cold process soaps. I am still in pursuit of that perfect bar of soap.”

Perfection, to Tony is a bar that is totally handmade and natural, with only the healthiest ingredients. I develop recipes, grow the ingredients in the garden, and build the soap molds and cutters; my soaps are as handmade as I can possibly make them.”

I asked Tony where he gets his inspiration for his sophisticated, yet simple recipes. My inspiration comes from nature, my love of gardening, and my own personal preferences. I feel as though in most cases, simple is better. I always keep that in mind when I am considering new recipes or ingredients.”

Tony also likes to educate his customers about the differences between the soap he sells and what is commercially available in stores, and why his are better. In most cases, what you find on the shelf at the store, the commercial stuff, isn’t actually soap, it’s detergent. So the advantage to using handmade soap is that it is actual soap.
Handmade soap not only cleans, but will rehydrate and nourish your skin. It will help replace and balance the natural oils in your skin. Commercial soaps strip the skin, leaving it dry and itchy. Healthier skin helps you become a happier person. Increased personal happiness, great skin and knowing your supporting a small business are all advantages to using handmade soap. Store your soaps in a place that’s cool and dry, like a linen closet, or the root cellar if you have one.”

For anyone who has been thinking about making and selling their own soaps, Tony has these words of advice, I would say do your research. Learn as much as you can about the soap making process. An understanding of the materials, their individual attributes, and how they work together is paramount to making a good bar of soap. Experiment, then use your soap and share it with family and friends.

Get to know the state and federal laws. Each state is different, and the federal laws are currently being written. Also, before you launch your business, don’t forget to buy an insurance policy. Most of all have fun with it. Soap making can be a very creative process. It all depends how far you choose to take it.”
It seems Tony’s quest for the perfect bar of soap has taken him, and his customers, quite far already and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Photo Credit: Rocky Top Soap Shop
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Upcycling: Altered Art Newspaper Ferns

In the blistering heat of mid summer, I find my mind drifting off to the cool, damp groves of my childhood home in the Pacific Northwest. It never seemed to get too hot there, instead remaining blissfully cool, with every available space crammed with deep green ferns. Sadly, I’m no longer living in the land of lush forest undergrowth, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little bit of fern love into my house to remind me of those more temperate climates. These newsprint ferns are a funky twist on botanical prints are look great hanging on a wall, turned into a bookmark or adorning a thank you card.

While magazine paper is easier to cut, newsprint makes for a prettier print. Look for pages without photographs as images cut from solid text look the best. Think about the size of the finished project your after when printing out your template, here I printed out on a sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper, but a larger piece could be made by printing out your templates in pieces and gluing them into one larger image onto the newsprint.

Things you need:
Printed fern image (feathers would look pretty too!)
Newsprint or print only pages from a magazine
Spray Adhesive
Pinking shears

Things to do:
1. Print out an image similar to what you’re looking for. Do an Internet image search for your subject and paste it into a word document, dragging in or out to size it to your liking. Don’t forget to save your ink and print on your fastest draft setting!
2. Spread out your newsprint or magazine pages with the side you want out facing down. Press folds with a dry iron if necessary to obtain a perfectly flat medium.
3. Spray a thin coat of glue onto the back of your image and press firmly onto your newsprint, smoothing out any bubbles as you go.
4. Using a pair of sharp scissors cut the image out as precisely as you can. Use pinking shears to achieve the ribbed edges of fern leaves.
5. Mount to your chosen display and enjoy your bit of newspaper nature.

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Back to School Sandwich Wraps

When I sent my first child off to kindergarten four years ago (Four years! Oh my!) I was horrified at the idea of using two or even three Ziploc bags everyday in his lunch. I hadn’t bought baggies for years, instead reusing containers that food came in when I needed to wrap something up. But lunch was a conundrum. I couldn’t very well send him off every day with a sandwich wrapped in an old bread bag, now could I? For one things I’d run out pretty quickly and for another, well, kids are funny about those kinds of things, and I didn’t want to add to his kindergarten jitters. At the time the only option I could find were plastic containers, which I feared he’d loose easily.

My solution was to make a stack of reusable cloth sandwich wraps that could be easily wiped down when he brought his lunch box home each afternoon. Yes, they too could be lost, but by letting him choose the fabric (space aliens!) I didn’t worry too much about it. I also made several as back ups, just in case. Four years on, we are still using that pile of space wrappers for his lunch every day. This year, however, I’m sending my very girly girl off to preschool for the first time. And because she will be eating lunch at school and doesn’t quite dig the alien thing, it was time to make a few wraps for her.

In the years since I made those first wraps, a much better selection of oilcloths and laminated fabrics has become available. For my original set I used picnic tablecloth fabric for the inside and space fabric for the outside. This time around I found some beautiful laminated fabric for the inside, complete with flowers, which made my girl a happy camper. If you are concerned about plastic, you can also use canvas, which is one of the more water resistant fabrics for the lining.

Things you need:
1/3 yard each laminated fabric and quilting cotton
Sewing machine and coordinating thread
Stretchy Cord
Straight Pins

Things to do:
1. Cut a 12″ square from each of the fabrics, making sure you cut away the non-laminated selvage edge from the lining fabric.
2. Pin at the four corners parallel to the edge to avoid holes on the surface of the wrap.
3. Cut a three-inch piece of stretch magic and tuck it between the layers at one corner, pinning it into place.
4. Sew around the square using a 1/2″ seam allowance and leaving a three inch gap on one side unsewn. (Make sure your gap is along a side and not at a corner)
5. Trim the corners to allow for a sharper point and turn right side out.
6. Finger press the seam (do not iron!) and top stitch 1/4″ in from the edge all around to close up the gap and finish the edges.
7. Set the wrap at an angle with the elastic loop pointing up. Place two slices of bread in the center to act as a guide and fold first the sides in, then the bottom up and the top down. Mark the spot where the loop hits the bottom flap, open up the wrap, and stitch a button in place.
8. Wipe down with hot soapy water as needed.

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Upcycling: DIY shelves from old wine crates

Even the most inexpensive bookcases can look like a major investment if you need a significant shelving space for an extensive home library. In a pinch, you can always stack the crates, but if you want a slightly more formal look rather than going for Early Dorm Room Decor, this project is fairly easy even for those without carpentry skills.

Things you need:
Wooden wine crates
Ball Knobs or Casters
Wood varnish
Wood paint (optional)

1. Acquire some wooden wine crates. If you’re an oenophile and already buy your favorite wine by the crate, you may have some on hand. If not, visit a store that sells good wines (i.e., not the kind that comes in cartons). Some stores will give you the old crates for free, others may ask for about $1/crate. In some cases, you can even scavenge crates sitting next to the dumpster behind upscale food and wine retailers. Check to make sure your crates are in good condition.
2. Prepare the wooden crates to become furniture instead of books. Clean them, and remove any extraneous nails or staples. Sand the interior of the crates, and seal the wood. You can paint the crates if you want, or just treat with plain varnish. Taking the time to do this will enable you to clean your bookcases and make them look more like real furniture. If you want, get creative: paint the interior of the crates a different color than the exterior or leave treat the crates with plain varnish only but paint the exterior rims of the boxes a color that complements your decor.
3. Decide which crate will form the base of your bookcase. Attach ball knobs or casters to the bottom. When choosing these at the hardware store, go for sturdier and stronger over cheaper, you don’t want the castors to collapse under the weight of multiple stacked crates holding books. Lifting the unit slightly off the floor will help prevent your books from becoming dusty, but if you are in a hurry you can skip this step. An alternate method of doing this would be to get a wooden board the same dimensions as the base of the crate and attach it to the bottom using wood glue or nails and brackets as below.
4. Use brackets and screws to connect one crate to another in back. Small nails on either end of the front of your crates will keep your units from slipping as you stack one crate on top of another.

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How to Make Fall Dried Floral Swags

With summer being, sadly, halfway gone, it’s only natural for the intrepid crafter to start thinking of fall-themed projects. Here’s a wonderful one using the bounty from your summer garden. This how-to for a dried floral swag recommends using hydrangea and bittersweet, but you can substitute any flower and vine that air dries nicely, or just use dried florals.

Things you need:
24″ Natural Grapevine Swag
Floral wire
8 – Fresh, or dried, hydrangea blossoms
6 – Small branches of bittersweet
3 – Miniature pumpkins (Note: fresh pumpkins will have to be preserved by painting with two coats of varnish)
Wire cutter
Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Stub wire
Long-nose pliers

Things to do:
1. When making floral swags, you’ll want to work with one type of floral at a time. Keeping the leaves intact, trim each hydrangea stem down to six inches. Insert the stems into the swag and hot glue them lightly into place so that the glue doesn’t show. If you prefer, you may use the floral wire instead of the hot glue, though in places you may need to use both. The swag will look better if you space the florals unevenly.
2. Distribute the bittersweet, throughout the swag, wrapping them around the hydrangea and letting the berry clusters hang out in front. Tuck any vine ends into the swag and hot glue them lightly so that the glue doesn’t show, or secure them with the floral wire.
3. Use the pumpkins to fill in any spaces and gaps. Apply hot glue liberally to the bottom of the pumpkins and immediately press into place. If you are using pumpkin picks, hot glue the pumpkin bottoms, but also carefully insert the picks into the garland and secure them with hot glue or floral wire.
4. Place the swag where air can circulate freely through the branches and allow it to dry completely.

Most pre-made grapevine swags are knotted in such a way as to provide a natural space to use for hanging. If you’re does not, you may use floral wire or stub wire to fashion a hanging wire in back using a pair of round nose pliers to carefully wrap the wire around the vines.

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A Fairy Garden Hammock

A fairy garden can serve as lovely reminder to stay in touch with the hidden magic in everyday life. Here’s a fun and easy way to enhance your fairy habitat while re-using an item you might otherwise toss in the garbage. The project is simple enough to do with your children, and allows for seasonal updates.

Things you need:
Woven plastic produce sack
Seasonal items from nature: flowers, seed pods, moss, etc
Small drawstring bag
Cotton balls

Things to do:
1. Go on a nature walk to find items to make the fairy hammock both beautiful and comfortable
2. Open woven sack lengthwise using knife or scissors. You may need to cut it to the appropriate size to fit in your fairy garden. If necessary, iron the plastic (very low heat with a towel between iron and plastic) so it does not curl up.
3. Fill the drawstring bag with cotton balls, to make a soft pillow for a fairy to rest her head. Make multiple pillows in different colors if you want.
4. Use the ribbon to tie ends of hammock to some kind of support such as tree branches or sturdy plant stems.
5. Place soft items such as flower petals, fluff from seed pods, or small feathers on top of the woven plastic.
6. Place fairy pillows on top of hammock
7. Fill thimble with rain or spring water, place it next to the hammock so the fairy has a cool drink while she relaxes

Photo Credits: Enchanted Fairy Gardens

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