Tag Archives: Gifts

To-Do Tuesday 12-8-15 | Making Christmas Candy

Happy Tuesday! Another week of no sewing, but I did manage to get all my Christmas candy making done. I made a delicious recipe for Salted Caramel Pretzel bark I found HERE on allrecipes.com. I tested this recipe a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t get the caramel to the hard crack stage and so it was too soft. I made two batches on Sunday. My first one turned out perfectly. My second batch turned out terribly. The caramel was gritty and stayed soft in some places. Bummer! It tastes great though, so we have a huge batch that managed to stay here with us. Everyone is thrilled about that except for me… and my fat thighs. Sigh.

Christine's Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Christine’s Chocolate Peanut Clusters

I also made a double batch of my chocolate peanut clusters recipe. This is a recipe I’ve made for years and one that I absolutely love. Take one 12 ounce bag each of White Chocolate chips, Milk Chocolate chips, and Semi Sweet chocolate chips and melt them in a double broiler (I use my largest pyrex bowl over a pan of water that has come to a boil and is then reduced to a simmer). Stir in one 16 ounce jar of peanuts. I’ve used spanish peanuts in the past, but I typically use dry-roasted, salted peanuts. Drop them by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and leave until set and hardened, which is usually overnight for me. This recipe makes between 50 to 60 clusters, depending on whether you drop them with your tablespoon or teaspoon cutlery. DELISH!!

Another batch of peppermint bark was made with great success this time. The Mister and I packaged up the goodies, along with Christmas cards and presents and mailed them today. The last of my Christmas gifts that I ordered online arrived today and everything has been wrapped or mailed off. I am so happy to have everything finished for Christmas!

Brad and I hope you are enjoying your holiday season, however you choose to celebrate!

This week’s To-Do list:

  • Relax and continue to enjoy the season!

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Other Handmade Christmas Gifts

As I planned and created handmade Christmas gifts this year, I worried that they wouldn’t be good enough.  That they would come off as cheesy, ugly, or even not well-enough made.  A friend recently noted that I am a perfectionist about sewing [paraphrasing], and while that could be misconstrued as a negative comment I know that it wasn’t and it was spot on for me… If I can’t make it look perfect enough to NOT look cheesy, ugly or not well-made, then I don’t want to make it.

However, this year while I was creating gifts I had a lot of time to reflect on my issue with constantly trying to make things look perfect.  All the time I spent on choosing just the right fabrics, starching and ironing them, cutting the pieces out, running to the store to purchase the perfect interfacing and stabilizer (LOVE Soft and Stable, by the way), choosing just the right color of thread, the time spent sewing and unpicking errors then resewing… all that was done because I love and care for the people I made gifts for.

I suppose now is a good time to insert the Fedex Cozies Commercial which reminded me that I am totally in danger of becoming this person!

I gave myself a gift when I realized that it was okay if the people I made the gifts for didn’t care for them, or thought they were cheesy, ugly and not well-made. Mister was concerned about how I would feel if some recipients did not like the gift created for them, or appreciate the time and effort it took to make the gift.  I told him that did not matter to me.  They could throw them out if they wanted (but I didn’t want to know about that!), but in my heart I knew that my intent in creating the gift and the work I put in it was my way of showing people I deeply cared about them…and THAT was what was important.  Hopefully they would see that too, and if not, it was okay.

And that, my friends, freed me up from the stress of trying to make my gifts “so perfect that others couldn’t help but love them”. How hard can one person be on oneself?! Sheesh!

Having said that, these are the other gifts I made this year.  I embroidered a banner for my brother-in-law who makes his own cheese (delicious!).  I wanted to do so much more on this, but unfortunately ran out of time.

Mike's Cheese Factory It's yummy too!

Mike’s Cheese Factory
It’s yummy too!

I made composition notebook covers for five of Mister’s grandkids.  I was going to write a tutorial on how to make them, but I figured there are so many others out there who needs to reinvent THAT wheel?!  I did create these on my own, and actually had to make two test runs before sewing up the actual gifts. I got the measurements wrong by .5″ on the long side and .25″ on the short side the first time.  That was not fun in the midst of a time crunch.  Ha!

Composition Covers.   I really wanted to keep them all.

Composition Covers.
I really wanted to keep them all.

And, finally, I made a table runner for my sister-in-law, Jan.  When I was making the Broken Herringbone blocks for the Molli Sparkles Broken Herringbone QAL, she commented on a picture of the blue block something along the lines of those being her colors.  So, I had the idea to use that same pattern, but instead of cutting the blocks down to 12.5″, just keep going.  As I was making the runner I realized that the pattern would only go one direction (obviously), and decided to make two large rectangular blocks and sew them together so that the pattern would radiate outwards from the center.

Table runner based off of the Broken Herringbone Block

Table runner based off of the Broken Herringbone Block

Even with my lack of planning my handmade gifts well in advance, I truly loved sewing up these gifts and hope that those who received them will enjoy them. But, I am SO starting my Christmas sewing no later than July in 2014.  Seriously.

Happy Sewing!

Christmas Quilts Revealed!

I only have three days left of the year to wrap up my 2013 posts… and it’ll take exactly three posts to wrap it up!  This post will be about the quilts made for Christmas presents. *note: this is a rather picture heavy post!

Kim's Quilt - The Sugar Block Club

Kim’s Quilt – The Sugar Block Club

Back of Kim's Quilt/The Sugar Block Club

Back of Kim’s Quilt/The Sugar Block Club

I spent the last four weeks furiously sewing away, trying to get all of the homemade presents finished in time for Christmas.  I wasn’t truly thinking ahead when I decided that three of the Block Of the Month’s I was participating in would become Christmas gifts.  I panicked early in December knowing that I only had 19 days in which to finish the quilt tops, make backs for them, baste, quilt and bind them.  Add to that the fact that I didn’t realize I would come up one quilt short in my gifts, I ended up having to make a quilt top the second week in December and add that to my create a backing/baste/quilt/bind list. I decided to do The Secret Garden QAL by Amy Gibson/Craftsy that has been on my To-Do list since August.

9-Patch Quilt for Brian

The Secret Garden 9-Patch Quilt for Brian

I was able to finish the last quilt with less than 19 hours remaining before giving it to its intended recipient.  Whew!  It was close! I ended up having to machine sew the binding on to two of them, due to lack of time.  I meant to machine sew the binding on the last quilt, but sewed it on “wrong”… which meant I needed to hand sew it to the back.  Turns out that was the best thing anyway.  The quilt was the “Among The Stars” BOM from The Fat Quarter shop, and it has an heirloom quilt look to it.  The hand sewn binding really looked nicer on it, despite nearly running out of time.

Jill's Quilt - Among The Stars

Jill’s Quilt – Among The Stars

The other two  BOM quilts that I did (and gave as gifts) were the SkillBuilder BOM by Alyssa of Pile O’ Fabric, and the Sugar Block Club by Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickory Dock.  I truly learned a lot sewing along with the BOM’s this year, and have joined up with both Alyssa and Amy again for 2014 BOM’s. (BTW, if you’re interested in learning about the 2014 Skillbuilder BOM, click here. And for the 2014 Sugar Block Club click here.) Alyssa expressed surprise at my having given away my Skillbuilder quilt.  It WAS a lot of work, and a lot of learning, but giving away these quilts was of greater joy to me than keeping them.  The people I gave the quilts to this year are incredibly special to me, and I love them very much.  I hope they get to enjoy them for years to come, and that the quilts hold up to the years of use!

Ashley's Quilt - The Skillbuilder BOM

Ashley’s Quilt – The Skillbuilder BOM

Back of Ashley's Quilt/The Skillbuilder BOM

Back of Ashley’s Quilt/The Skillbuilder BOM

I like to make pieced backings to go along with the quilts.  I am not good at designing quilts on my own, but for some reason am confident in my creation of quilt backs.  Possibly because I know that it’s just a “back” so there are “no rules”.  The only back that ended up being whole-cloth was the Among The Stars.  The Sentiments fabric by Three Sisters for Moda had a beautiful floral piece with lovely birds on it, and it seemed to be perfect as an heirloom quilt back.

Brian Quilt Back

Brian Quilt Back

Jill's Quilt Back/Among The Stars quilt

Jill’s Quilt Back/Among The Stars quilt

One other thing I did was to quilt a decent-sized heart onto the quilts.  That was Mister’s idea… to use as a “signature” of sorts on the very special quilts.  Unfortunately I had already shipped off the Skillbuilder BOM quilt to Ashley when he mentioned this idea, so hers does not have a heart on it.  But, hers does have a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of densely free motion quilting on it, and a lot of fmq designs I had not done before.  Hopefully she won’t look too closely at it! 🙂

A quilted heart for Kim

A quilted heart for Kim

A quilted heart for Jill

A quilted heart for Jill

A quilted heart for Brian

A quilted heart for Brian

I find it pretty amazing that I completed four quilts in about three weeks’ time.  I plan to finish more quilts during 2014, rather than doing only BOM’s that bring me right up to the end of the year.  2013 was about learning the basics of a new craft, and now I’m ready to start expanding upon that basic education! First up in 2014 is to tackle the Modern Quilt Guild Riley Blake Challenge!

Let’s sew!