Categotry Archives: Christmas

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JCS 2018 Christmas ornament issue

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Categories: Christmas, sneak peeks

Yes, I realize it isn’t even July yet, but there’s a reason I’m thinking about Christmas ornaments.  The sneak peek of the Just Cross Stitch 2018 Christmas ornament issue was released, and I was thrilled to see I had made the front cover.  My ornament is the reindeer, center right on the cover.  My sister did a beautiful job with the finishing.  It’s a very special thing to be able to work with your sister in creative endeavors.

If I recall correctly, the issue comes out in August.  It’s something I look forward to every year.  When it’s delivered to my mailbox, I set it aside until I have some time to look through it.  I make it a special moment in the day; I make a cup of coffee, and read through all the stories and recipes.  If stitching smalls is your thing, it’s a great issue to have.  If you subscribe to the magazine, you automatically get this issue.  But even if you don’t subscribe, I believe it’s worth the money to purchase, especially if you find even a few ornaments you would like to stitch.  I’ve found some great recipes in the pages as well.

Even though I am more into the designing side of things, I am still a fan.  In other words, I still love looking at what’s out there, and just admiring all the talent and artistic abilities others possess.  I also find it refreshing to think of cooler days while I’m in the intense heat of summer, and reading Christmas memories and looking at Christmas stitches helps me to do so.

Hope you are having a lovely summer!

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 3

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

This week I worked exclusively on my “Evergreen” piece.  It’s what called to me, so I listened, and stitched on it when I had time.  I finished the polar bear square and started/finished the fox square.  This fox is just way too cute.  He (she?) was a fun stitch.

Cookie recipe for this week … Rolo cookies.  What looks like an unassuming chocolate cookie has a surprise inside.  After making the dough, you wrap it around a Rolo candy.  The candy then melts inside as it bakes, which gives you a delicious bite of caramel and extra chocolate when you bite into it.  I drizzled mine with white chocolate for the wow factor.  Since you dip them in sugar before baking, you don’t have to do that, but you might want to use a sugar which has larger crystals (I think it’s called coarse/decorating sugar) so the tops sparkle a bit.  Oh, and you have to exhibit quite a bit of willpower, as you need to unwrap each Rolo candy before making the cookies.  If you sample too many, you will have to make your cookies without the candies inside.

ROLO COOKIES

2-1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

Bag of Rolo candies  (product sizes have changed so much over the years, just get a large bag)

2 tbsp. sugar, in small bowl

Heat oven to 375.  Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Measure flour, cocoa and baking soda into a bowl; blend well.  Add flour mixture; beat well.  For each cookie, with floured hands, shape about 1 tablespoonful of dough around 1 candy, covering completely.  Press one side of each ball into sugar.  Place, sugar side up, 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 7-10 minutes or until set and slightly cracked.  Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets.  Cool completely on wire rack.

*If you want to drizzle white chocolate over your cookies, I find that the white chocolate bars melt best.  Four ounces is just enough to cover all the cookies.  Put a sandwich bag in a tall glass, and pull the top of the bag over the edge of the glass.  Fill bag, take out of glass, and make a small cut in the corner of the bag.  Easy way to drizzle without getting out the pastry bag.

And to balance out all that cookie eating, I made spinach soup last night for dinner.  I realize for most, this will cause you to make a face, but realize this is coming from the girl who, when asked to draw her favorite food by her second grade teacher, drew spinach.  Here’s a picture of it, since it just looks so festive.  I won’t include the recipe, as something tells me there will not be great demand for it, but if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll make sure you have it.  Honestly, it was very delicious!

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 2

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

Not much to report here today, as this past week was the busiest December week yet.  Between concerts, rehearsals, and holiday gatherings, I hardly had a chance to stitch.  And unfortunately, what I was able to do ended up being stitches I’ll have to frog.  Somehow I made a mistake in my little Scandinavian tree, so I’ll have to do some ripping.  That didn’t sound very appealing, so I put it aside and worked on my “Woolly Winter Wall Hanging”.  This is not the best picture, as I was not going to drag out my still life studio box just to take one photo.  The snowman is almost finished and a tree has appeared.  I don’t like the arms, they’re kind of weird.  I only stitched one arm, but I am going to take out those stitches and make the arms more simplistic.

Woolly Winter Wall Hanging

And that about wraps up my stitching progress.

Moving on to cookies …

chocolate spritz cookies

CHOCOLATE SPRITZ COOKIES

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups flour

2 tbsp. milk

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Powdered sugar for dusting

Heat oven to 375.  In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg; beat well.  Alternately add flour and milk to butter mixture, mixing until well combined.  Add cooled chocolate; blend well.  Fit cookie press with desired template.  Fill press with dough; press onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 for 5-7 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool slightly.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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Christmas Crafting

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Categories: Christmas, crafts

When you look back at all your childhood Christmas memories, which ones stand out the most?  I was thinking of this the other day, and honestly, some of my strongest and most special memories all involve creativity and things handmade.  Maybe not necessarily the things themselves, but the time it took to make them, and the time spent with a loved one to make them.  I’m missing my mother something fierce this Christmas season, and I would say it’s because so many of my memories are wrapped up in her.  She made Christmas special for me, through the little things she did, the creativity she expressed, and the time she spent in doing so.  Some things were very simple, but memorable in their simplicity.  I remember one year she drew a large Santa face on a piece of construction paper.  As sisters, we took turns gluing cotton balls to the picture to make his beard, as a way of counting down the days until Christmas.  We made paper chains to do the same thing.  Times making homemade ornaments for the tree, and times making cookies … although I know we tried her patience doing it – it was obvious by the end, as it took us forever to decorate each tray of cookies, and how she just started throwing colored sugars all over them … that is a funny memory.  (Talk about creativity … how many of you can say you decorated a Christmas tree with Fisher Price people?  Or dogs … he’s the tree topper.)

making cookies

I enjoy crafting decorations at Christmastime.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy store-bought things, but there is a certain satisfaction in looking around the house, and saying to myself that I made this, I made that.  And if I had to be honest, the perfect Christmas tree for me would be one cut from a wooded area nearby, decorated with handmade garlands, handmade ornaments, strings of popcorn, and a string of those large colored Christmas bulbs they used to make … someday, when I’m living in the little log cabin of my dreams.

This year, I decided to make some garlands just for the sheer enjoyment of it.  For some reason, I really enjoy making garlands.  I was on a garland kick a few years ago and made quite a few of them.  The fun thing about garlands is you can use most anything, even common things on hand, such as buttons, fabric, candy, etc.  You are only limited by your imagination.  Since my imagination is quite extensive, I could go crazy making garlands.

Sparkly things are nice at Christmas.  For my first garland project this year, I was envisioning shimmery tinsel and beads.  I took a trip to a crafts store and picked up some silvery pipe cleaners and frosty-colored beads.  This project could work with any kind of combination.  If you wanted a more country look, you could use cream-colored pipe cleaners, or just traditional green or red.  You could use buttons or beads … just make sure the hole of the bead is large enough to be strung through the pipe cleaner.  Oh, and be sure to open the bead box over a container, or your beads will end up bouncing all over the floor …

sparkly things

sparkly things

String on your beads and then twist the pipe cleaners together, connecting them in a paper chain-like fashion until you are satisfied with the length.  I used 100 pipe cleaners and ended up with two garlands, each about ten feet long.  I took them outside to pose them for pictures.  I strung one around a cedar tree in honor of Mom … her family always had cedar trees as their Christmas tree when she was a child.

Christmas garland

Christmas garland

I also made some traditional paper chains, but with a twist.  On my trip to the crafts store, I perused their scrapbooking papers.  I didn’t quite find what I wanted – I was looking for some vintage Christmas papers, or even a book that had a collection of Christmas-themed papers.  I did find red, green and cream dotted papers which I thought would work well – they are more like cardstock.  To make the papers a bit more special, I used my paper cutter with the wavy attachment.  You could also use those specialty scissors which have various edges on them to produce different cuts.  Use our old friend Elmer’s to join them, and you have a beautiful paper chain for hanging on your tree, or anywhere you need a bit of color.

garland materials

paper chains

paper chain

Garlands don’t have to be hung in traditional ways.  I gathered the sparkly one and hung it from a calendar hook in the kitchen, just to see what it would look like.  You could take down a framed picture somewhere in your house and hang a garland from the nail.  Add a bow to cover the nail so it looks more festive.

hanging garland

Last year, I made pomanders to fill a wooden dough bowl I have.  Here they are, from last year, looking fresh and brand new.

pomanders

Just for fun, I kept two and put them in the cabinet with my china dishes.  Amazingly, they still smell just as strongly of cloves, and the oranges are hard now, like they’ve been completely preserved.  The strange things I do … here’s a picture of what they look like, a year later.

pomanders

Make some time this Christmas to be crafty.  Creativity is good for the soul, and I truly do believe the best decorations are handmade.  I think this year’s efforts would have received Mom’s stamp of approval.

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Stitching and Cookies, Week 1

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Categories: Christmas, cooking, cross stitch

Holly’s Law says when you don’t put pressure on yourself to get a finish, you’ll get a finish.  (If you want to get up to speed on what I’m working on and why, click here.)  During my stitching time, I mostly worked on Brittercup Design’s “Mine!”  Here it is … so cute.

Mine!

I also put some stitches in on “Scandinavian Tree” by Scandinavian Stitches.

Scandinavian Tree

In the cookie department, I baked a batch of spice cookies.  I’ve been making these for almost twenty years … they are the perfect autumn/winter cookie, because of the molasses and fragrant spices.  They won’t be the most attention-getting cookies on your Christmas tray, but they are delicious and very addictive.

spice cookies

SPICE COOKIES

1-1/2 cups butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

4 cups flour

4 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. each ground ginger and cloves

1 tsp. salt

Additional sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add molasses; mix well.  Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Chill overnight.

Shape into 1/2-in. balls; roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 6 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Yield:  about 20 dozen cookies.

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Christmas Stitching

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Categories: Christmas, cross stitch

The holidays are now upon us.  Since it seems I’m always stitching Christmas-y things during wonky times of the year (like spring), I decided for the month of December to focus mostly on Christmas stitching.  Something normal people do, but I haven’t done in years.  It’s not as if I don’t have joy in stitching my own models because I do, but I wanted to slow things down a bit, and lessen the pressure I seem to put upon myself every December.  I’ve decided to scale back in other ways as well this month, which was a necessary step for me, since this has been a year of great loss.  I wanted to find the joy of the season in simpler and different ways, and one of the ways I am choosing to do that is to set aside some time for some personal Christmas stitching.  I had so much fun the other night, choosing projects I wanted to stitch from magazines and old leaflets.  I chose colors and fabrics and took pictures so you could share in my progress.  My only goal is to post every Tuesday in December so you can see what I’ve been doing.  I have no stitching plan, I will just stitch what calls to me, when I want to stitch it – no rotations or deadlines.  Remember, this is no pressure stitching.  I may or may not have any finishes to show you come the end of the month, but that’s okay.  This is not about finishing – this is about the joy in the journey.

Here are the pieces I decided to work on in December.

“Holly” by Lori Brechlin at Notforgotten Farm … I had started her 2-3 years ago.  It’s kind of a given to stitch a piece when you share the same name.  Here is my progress so far …

Notforgotten Farm Holly

“Evergreen” by Prairie Schooler … again, I had started this about two years ago.  I think the animals in this one are so sweet.  And that fox with the berries in his mouth?  Doesn’t he look mischievous?  I may change the berries to white since, to me, it looks like he’s planning to trick a lady fox into a mistletoe kiss.

Prairie Schooler Evergreen

This next one is kind of embarrassing.  It has only been a work in progress for, let’s see … maybe 25 years?  It’s from a supplemental leaflet I must have gotten when I subscribed to the magazine For the Love of Cross Stitch.  The official title is “Merry Christmas Trio” and it was designed by Polly Carbonari.  The edges are yellow because, yes indeed, I did have masking tape around them.  That’s what I used to do – isn’t that terrible?  The things I did before I knew better … I found this piece in my cross stitch trunk of goodies and since the only thing I have left to do is backstitch the windows, I may get a finish on this one.  (I just realized one of the trees is missing a trunk.)  I still love it, even though I stitched it years ago.  I think the pattern calls for everything to get backstitched, but that’s not going to happen.  I don’t even think it’s necessary – the windows need a little definition, so they’ll get it, and then I can call it done.  Better late than never.

Merry Christmas Trio

The next one … another oldie but goodie.  From the Snow Folio by Shepherd’s Bush, “Woolly Winter Wallhanging”.  This one is from 1995.  I bought it in 1996, started it then, and put it away.  Twenty-one years later and here we are.  I am stitching it on Aida cloth, which is all I used to stitch on in the beginning.  (Why were we all afraid of linen?)  I have a few stitches in, but this chart is not a large one, so it should go quickly.

Shepherd's Bush Snow Folio

The next four are all new starts, and all ornaments.  The first two are from Brittercup Designs.  I love many patterns from this company.  The first one is called “Mine!” and it’s from the 2010 Christmas ornament preview issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Brittercup Designs Mine

The next Brittercup Design is called “Consumed by Gifts” and it came out of the 2010 Christmas ornament issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Brittercup Designs Consumed by Gifts

Not a traditional ornament in any sense, but I absolutely love it – “Cool Christmas” from Fresh Threads Studio.  This one was also in the 2010 Christmas ornament preview issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Fresh Threads Studio Cool Christmas

And for my last project, a small little tree, called “Scandinavian Tree” by the company Scandinavian Stitches.  This pattern was chosen from the 2013 Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue.

Scandinavian Stitches Scandinavian Tree

I also decided to include cookie recipes and pictures with my stitching progress pictures.  Because eating cookies and stitching go so well together, right?  I wasn’t sure if I was going to do as much baking this year as I usually do, but when your brother specially requests certain cookies from you, hugs you and looks at you with that sweet face you can clearly remember from when he was a little boy, well – you have to give in to doing some baking.  I’ll share some of my favorite cookie recipes with you.  And I can promise finishes on the cookies!  But if you want a taste, you’ll have to swing by for a visit.

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A Blue and Silver Christmas

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Categories: A Blue and Silver Christmas, Christmas, cross stitch, winter

The remaining six ornaments in A Blue and Silver Christmas have been shipped to my distributor to be released next week.  They are, in order of appearance, Silver Bells, Glow, Night, Church, Mitten and Flower.  If you click on “A Blue and Silver Christmas” on the sidebar, you can find more information about the series as well as some thoughts I had regarding personalizing these ornaments to better fit your decor and/or taste.  Enjoy!

Silver Bells

Glow

Night

Church

Mitten

Flower

The whole kit and caboodle …

A Blue and Silver Christmas

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New Series Announcement!

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Categories: A Blue and Silver Christmas, Christmas, colors, cross stitch, new releases, winter

What better way to introduce a new series than through a series of posts about color?  Especially considering the theme I chose for my ornament series.  Here are a few sneak peeks.  Can you guess the color theme?

sneak peek

sneak peek

 

Introducing my new ornament series … A Blue and Silver Christmas.  There are twelve total designs – the first six will be released next week, with the remaining six ornaments being released at the beginning of October.

 

A Blue and Silver Christmas

The first to be released are Firs, Bows & Ribbons, Shine, Twinkle, Snow Fall and Noel Wreath.

Firs

Bows and Ribbons

Shine

Twinkle

Snowfall

Noel Wreath

I have a few things to say about this series and my ideas and thoughts behind it.  I hope you will continue reading and see all the possibilities I envisioned when designing this series.

When I first conceived the idea for A Blue and Silver Christmas, I was hoping for an ornament series which wasn’t as blatantly Christmas-themed, so they could then be possibly used throughout the winter season.  My other thought was to create an ornament series which could be color customized, since I used very few colors in these designs.  This makes it easy to change up the color scheme without being intimidated by a large color palette.  I chose a blue/silver color scheme so these could be displayed all winter but you may choose another color scheme to make them more Christmas oriented.  In keeping with the blue/silver theme, I used opalescent linen as well as metallic threads and beads to give it that extra sparkle.  However, the use of these items is not necessary.  In the cases where metallic threads were used, they were blended with a DMC floss so you can choose to use strictly DMC instead.  French/colonial knots or even full cross stitches can be substituted for the beads.

Just for fun, I stitched up two ornaments using other colorways to see what would happen.  This will give you an idea of what you could possibly do in choosing alternate colorways.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  The beauty of stitching ornaments is that they are small pieces so if you don’t like your choices, you don’t have to feel as if you invested a lot of time in a “mistake”.  In my original designs, I used five DMC flosses – two “silvers” and three “blues”.  In the following example, I stitched “Bows and Ribbons” with a red/gold colorway – I used DMC 729 and 167 (gold tones) to substitute for the silvers and DMC 321 and 498 (red tones) to substitute for the blues.  In the original design, the bow is stitched with a blue DMC floss and a blue metallic floss (blended).  Instead of stitching the bow this way, I changed it up a bit and stitched the gold stripes on the package with a combination of gold metallic floss and a gold DMC.  The only reason for this is that I did not have red metallic floss on hand.  You could certainly keep it like the original design and stitch the bow with metallic floss.  Instead of white opalescent linen, I used “Dirty” linen by Zweigart.  Any beige-y neutral would work for a red/gold color scheme.

Bows and Ribbons - Red and Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this next example, I stitched “Firs” with a green/gold colorway.  I used DMC 729 and 167 (gold tones) to substitute for the silvers and DMC 936 and 937 (green tones) to substitute for the blues.  In this ornament, I also changed it up from the original a little bit.  In addition to using metallic floss for the box around the word “firs”, I also used metallic floss for one of the trees.  Again, I used the “Dirty” linen.

Firs - Green and Gold

Purple/silver is another colorway which would work beautifully for this series.  I substituted purple for blue in my designing software and loved how it looked.  How about using a pale blue linen for this color scheme or even a gray?  Red/silver is maybe not an obvious choice but it also works well.  Keep in mind that one particular colorway may not work throughout the whole ornament series.  For example, “Silver Bells” may look strange in a green/gold colorway since your bells will be gold instead of silver.  You could stitch half of the ornaments using one colorway and the other half with different choices.

Purple-silver colorway

 

Red-Silver colorway

Have fun, be creative!  That was my goal in designing this series, to possibly embolden stitchers to change colors from an original design.  Ornaments are perfect for experimenting as they are small and not as intimidating as a large piece.  Make it your own and be bold in your experimentation.  I would love to see your alternative choices if you decide to go that route.

I’d like to thank my sister, Valerie Leith, for her beautiful finishing work.  Also, I’d like to thank Honeybee at The Copper Fox, as her beautiful blog and tutorials provided inspiration for Val’s finishing work, as well as endless cross stitching inspiration to me as well.

Also set to be released next week is It’s Crunch Time.  This piece was stitched on 32-ct. Creme Brulee by R&R Reproductions (32-ct. Light Mocha from Zweigart is a good substitution) with DMC threads and one Gentle Arts thread (Autumn Leaves).

It's Crunch Time

Happy stitching!

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New Releases

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Categories: Christmas, cross stitch, new releases, winter

Are you ready for some winter stitching?  Winter is definitely the theme in these new releases as well as the hope for peace.

Peace Lights was stitched on 28-count black linen using DMC threads.  The stitch count is 66 x 58 and was finished by my very talented sister, Valerie Leith.  If you buy the chart, you’ll only see this first picture.  I wanted a full picture of the design for the chart but it’s a shame to miss the beautiful flat-fold finish so I thought I’d share a picture of the finish here on the blog.  I know this piece will be a welcome addition to our Christmas decorations this year.

Peace Lights

Peace Lights finish

Winter Peace was stitched on 30-count Weeks Dye Works linen (Aztec Red) using DMC floss.  The stitch count is 152 x 96.  I had the idea for this piece in mind while I was designing A Mid-Century Modern Christmas ornament series.  It has a retro feel just like the ornaments.

Winter Peace

Winter Band Sampler was stitched on 30-count Weeks Dye Works linen (Gunmetal) using DMC threads.  The stitch count is 109 x 193.

Winter Band Sampler

Are you working on any winter stitching these days?

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New Ornament Releases

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Categories: A Mid-Century Modern Christmas, Christmas, cross stitch, new releases

Hello to you all!  The last four ornaments in my series, A Mid-Century Modern Christmas, will be released tomorrow.  Thanks again to my darling sister Valerie for her beautiful finishing work.  I loved designing this series and am looking forward to doing another Christmas ornament series sometime in the future.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

Noel

Noel

For this last ornament, I was inspired by the scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas, where Linus and Charlie Brown go to the tree lot to pick out their tree.  We all know that Lucy wanted Charlie Brown to get “the biggest aluminum tree” he “could find, maybe painted pink!” and Charlie Brown certainly had plenty of options.  Even though he ended up choosing a real tree, I was always intrigued by the scene of the crazy Christmas tree lot and all the modern trees and their colors.  It was 1965 and as Linus said, the trees on that lot “fit the modern spirit”….that modern spirit being what we now call mid-century modern.  Here’s the last ornament, Tree Lot.

Tree Lot

And here is the whole kit and caboodle!

A Mid-Century Modern Christmas

I’m looking forward to Christmas so I can decorate with these ornaments.  Still figuring out where to put the aluminum Christmas tree…

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