Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

I'm back in my home state of Missouri this week for a visit with my dad and my sister's family.  My dear brother-in-law is a bit obsessive about decorating for the holidays, and took full advantage of the warm weather last weekend to hang his outdoor lights.  He also managed to set up the 'small' (that would be 8 feet tall) Christmas tree).  So, when I arrived last Saturday, I was greeted by this:

This is their 'Travel' Christmas tree.  It's covered with ornaments that my sister and her husband have purchased on trips they've taken over the years, plus a few that friends have brought them from far flung places.  My brother-in-law enjoys unwrapping each ornament and reminiscing about the trip when it was bought.  

Some of the ornaments are really fun, but I did notice a lot of moose on the tree!
It's actually a pretty neat idea, if you travel a lot.  My family tree has a few ornaments that we've picked up when we're away from home, but not this many!

So, even with this beautifully decorated tree up, my brother-in-law kept talking about the 'Cowboy' Christmas tree, until finally I said, "Oh, come on!  Let's put up that tree too."  It didn't take a lot of arm twisting for him to run to the basement to fetch the other decorations.  (We first had to move the Travel tree into their living room, 'because the cowboy decorations need more space.')

I helped unwrap the ornaments, but the decorating part was all his.  

In addition to the tree, several Cowboy Santas decorate the fireplace mantel
My sister and I contributed our sewing skills to the Cowboy Snowman Christmas tree skirt.  I think there are more cowboy ornaments than there are travel decorations!
The tree includes chili pepper lights, rope and faux barb wire 'garland.'
I could be guessing here, but I think the Cowboy Christmas tree is an off-shoot of the Travel tree.  My niece and nephews took many trips to the American West with their dad (thus the moose on the other tree), and probably started picking up ornaments like these, which evolved into a set of decorations in their own right. So where ever they see them, they buy Cowboy Christmas items.  Too bad they only put it up every-other year, except this one!  
The barb wire garland is pretty realistic.
I've already been warned that I will be pressed into service when the 'big' (that would be 12 feet tall) tree goes up on Saturday.  I'm anxious to get home and get my house decorated!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

On a Creative Roll

Do you ever feel like you're in the 'zone' when you are working on a project?  You know, you get so tied up in what you're doing that time flies by, but the project is going so well, you just don't want to stop?

I had one of those days last week, and I love the feeling!  Want a peek at what I was working on?

Leather and Stone Necklace
I'm so excited about this design that I immediately started another sample.  It was inspired by a piece in an old issue of BeadStyle magazine by Marcy Kentz.  I will be teaching the techniques on how to create this necklace at The Bead Garden in Havertown, Pa., on December 19th. (To go to sign up.)

Just a few details, then, on this piece.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I like to 'recycle' stuff.  In this case, it's the leather that is re-purposed.  Someone gave me a black suede vest that was too small for me, and rather than donate it, I cut it apart and saved the suede pieces.  I have other similar pieces of leather, from garments or leather items (including a soft-sided briefcase).  I trimmed the leather using my rotary cutter, making strips that were 1" wide.
Trimming butter-soft brown leather that was once a jacket sleeve.
I rounded one end of each strip with scissors, then used my Japanese screw punch to put three tiny holes in in each strip, about 1" from the rounded end.

A Japanese Screw Punch is a great tool for leather work, book making and other hobbies.
The screw bits come in various sizes; this one is 1.2 mm.  
 Softflex beading wire is my stringing material of choice for natural stone or glass beads.  I cut three pieces of wire, and inserted them through the holes.  A small seed bead and a micro crimp bead secured them to the 'wrong' side of the leather.
A clamp on one end keeps the beads from falling off.

After stringing on the stones, I attached the other end of the wire to the second strap in the same manner.  A little E6000 glue on the end was a little added insurance that everything would stay together.  

After determining the finished length of the necklace, I trimmed the excess leather and added a 1" ribbon clamp and a clasp.  

My mind is racing with other stone, metal and color combinations that I can put together to make more of these statement necklaces!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Recycled I-Pod holder

My d.h. was working in the basement (it's a long story...) and was struggling to keep his i-pod from falling out of his pocket.  During lunch break, he asked if I could 'rig up' a band to go around his arm to hold the i-pod.  I think my son has one of those work-out bands for the i-pod, but I have no idea where he got it.  We talked about the design a little bit, and I took some measurements and got to work.

I have to explain something...I recycle fabric and findings from manufactured items, especially if they are unusual or difficult for the home sewer to purchase.  I knew I would need stretchy fabric, and started digging through my fabric stash to find something appropriate. Low and behold, I came across this:

I know you can buy neoprene somewhere, but it sure isn't anywhere near me!
It is a neoprene laptop computer sleeve.  It had a zipper that went around three sides, which I took the time to remove (you never know when you'll need a 20 inch zipper with double pulls).  Once all the stitching was removed, there was plenty of fabric to work with.

The deconstructed laptop bag.
I cut out a pocket the size of the i-pod, then I pieced together two longer strips equal to the circumference of his arm, plus three inches for a tab to make it adjustable.  Using a narrow zig-zag stitch, I stitched the pocket in place, then trimmed the ends of the strip so it would fit through a sliding buckle.

The pocket stretches a bit so the i-pod fits snugly.
Again, I found just what I needed in my stash.  Whenever my husband or kids throw away something like a backpack, I cut off the hardware and toss it into a bin.  There have been many occasions when I dig through that bin to find just the right hook, buckle or D-ring.

My tray of various buckles, clips, D-rings and other bits and pieces of hardware.
Next, I added a bit of velcro that I removed from something else once upon a time.  This piece has both the hook and loop part on the same side. The tab with the 'hook' part slips through the buckle, then folds back onto the 'loop' part to hold the armband in place.

Here's the final product.  Looks great, works great, d.h. is happy!  Now that he has tunes at his disposal, maybe the basement will be finished by Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Gets a New Life

Several years ago, I saw one of these lamps and admired it quite a lot.  I always hoped that someday I'd be able to own one.  When I stumbled across a vintage Singer sewing machine at a flea market a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to make my own lamp.  The man wanted just $20!

One of the great things about vintage Singer sewing machines is that you can use the serial number to search for the year the machine was manufactured. (

This serial number indicated that this model was made in 1925.  Imagine...a machine that's nearly 90 years old!  What is really surprising is how great the gold graphics still look!

The challenge was how to attach a light fixture to the back of the machine.  Luckily, this model already had a small work light on the back.

I was able to unscrew the work light from the machine and disassemble it.   Once I took it apart, I realized I could use the bracket to attach the new lamp to the machine, and the black base was threaded and would hold the new pipe.

The hardware store had a lamp re-wiring kit and a white silk shade.  I had to buy a threaded pipe and a nut separately.  The entire bill was about $40.  After cutting the electrical cord of the old lamp, I ran the new wiring along the same path..  I changed the position of the lamp bracket from horizontal to vertical, and followed the instructions on the back of the lamp kit to thread the pipe, attach the socket base, wire the socket and add the harp, shade and light bulb.  

The new threaded pipe fit snugly into the existing hardware, but I did
turn the bracket 90 degrees to hold the lamp upright.
Next, the sewing machine got a bit of TLC.  I dug out the brass polish, Orange Glow wood cleaner/protector and good ole' fashioned Johnson's paste wax to shine up the metal case of the machine. I also added felt pads on the bottom of each corner of the wooden case, to prevent scratching the furniture.

Time for a little clean up!
Although I'm not generally very mechanically inclined, the step-by-step instructions on the lamp re-wiring kit were easy to follow and I'm proud of myself for finishing this without any help from my d.h. (truth in reporting here -- I did have my son tighten the nut and screw on the bracket holding the pipe...I just couldn't get it quite tight enough!).  The moral of the story -- don't be afraid to re-purpose something neat into a lamp!

My vintage Singer sewing machine lamp!
[After taking another look at the photos of the lamp, I realized the shade didn't cover the base of the socket.  For $4, I bought another harp, two inches smaller than the one pictured, and swapped it out...that solved the problem!]