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Little Embroidered Hoop Ornaments ~ Handmade Holidays 2014

This is my favorite of the projects that I completed this Christmas because these ornaments hold such special meaning for our family! I’m so excited to share it with you! A little over eleven years ago, my husband and I attended an orientation meeting for prospective foster parents here in Florida. We had four children at the time, ranging in age from 13 to 4. Since Florida only allows foster families to have a total of five children in their homes, we wondered if we really could make a difference. We felt like God was calling us to do this, though, so we began the process to become a foster family. We were licensed in June of 2004, and our first placement – a newborn baby girl, straight from the hospital – arrived a day later. That little one stayed with us just a few months, but she became a forever part of our family’s history. She was followed by twelve more little ones, all age 6 and under who came into our home for long and short periods of time, each one finding a forever place in our hearts as we poured ourselves into their lives and their families’ lives while working together to support them through reunification or placement with relatives. In November of 2006, we said good-bye to our last foster daughter, just weeks before we left for a new job in Texas.

We talk often of the children that we loved so much, and each one had an impact on each of us. While we were still licensed, I began to make ornaments for our Christmas tree with pictures of each child who had stayed with us and their names. They were cheesy foam ornaments, but it became a special tradition each year for us to pull those ornaments out one-by-one, look at the photos, recall the memories of each child and take time to pray for every one. Those ornaments were starting to come apart after so many years, and I thought I’d take some time this year to make new ones. When I ran across this post at Sew Mama Sew: Little Hoop Ornaments, I knew I’d found the perfect one! I set about making each ornament. When I finished, I emailed Megan at Lilac Saloon to ask permission to share a tutorial, and she enthusiastically encouraged me to do so!

The names on these ornaments are those of the children who lived with us while we were foster parents, but the photos are not. We feel comfortable sharing their names since they are all very common, and it’s been ten years. We would never share their photos publicly, though, without their parents’ permission. The ornament that I’m showing in this tutorial is actually one that I made for our granddaughter, Katie.

Ready to get started? Here are the things that you’ll need:3″ embroidery hoop (I purchased hoops at both Joanns and Michaels. Both cost around $1.29. The hoops from Michaels, though, are much nicer quality.)
light colored felt
a scrap of fabric at least 4 1/2″ square
lightweight fusible interfacing the same size as your fabric
embroidery floss
embroidery needle
tacky glue
glue stick (not pictured)
Frixion pen (recommended) or washable marker (not pictured)
To add a photo to the back, you’ll also need:
a photo that is at least a tiny bit bigger than 3″ square
optional: clear Contact paper or laminating sheets

Cut your felt into a roughly 4 1/2″ square. For the heart-shaped applique, print this template. Cut around the heart template and trace it onto the center of the felt using a washable marker or Frixion pen. For the center-stripe applique, use a ruler and washable marker or a Frixion pen to draw a 1″ stripe down the center of the felt.
If you have nice handwriting, you can freehand the name, but I found that I got a much nicer result if I chose a font that looks like handwriting, then printed and traced the name onto the felt before embroidering. For this name, I used Pacifico. You may have to play around a bit to find the right size because it will be different depending on the font you choose. Once you have your font chosen, print the name on regular 20# white paper.To trace the name onto the felt, you’ll need a light source of some type. I just used my iPhone because it worked and it was handy.Just place your printed name on the light source, layer your felt on top and trace! I highly recommend using a .7mm or .5mm Frixion pen in black or dark blue for this step. After tracing the name, I wrote the date freehand just under it.Place your felt piece in the 3″ hoop and hand embroider the name and date.If you’re a beginner at hand embroidery, check out these tutorials from Needle ‘n Thread: Hand Embroidery: Lettering & Text.Remove your embroidered felt from the hoop and check to see if the name is still centered. If it’s not, just re-draw your heart or stripe so that the embroidery is centered properly.Cut out your heart or stripe.If you used a Frixion pen, place a scrap piece of cloth over the felt and iron to remove the pen marks.If you used a washable marker, rinse your felt under cold running water and hand press between the layers of a clean dry dish cloth to squeeze out the extra moisture.Iron the fusible interfacing to the back of your fabric. If you’re making a center-stripe ornament, use a glue stick to secure the stripe before putting the fabric into your hoop. If you’re making the heart appliqued ornament, secure your fabric into the hoop, then use the glue stick to adhere the heart to the center of the fabric. (The glue stick won’t secure the felt permanently. It will just hold it in place while you embroider around the applique.)Use a running stitch to embroider around the heart or along each long edge of the stripe.Once your embroidery is done, flip the hoop over so that you can see the back and use a washable marker to trace around the edge of the overhanging fabric. (Don’t worry too much about ink getting on the hoop. You can flip the back piece of the hoop around the other way so that the ink won’t show in the final step.)Remove the fabric from the hoop.Cut about 1/16″ inside the circle that you just traced.If you’re adding a photo, get the photo ready. If not, skip down a couple of steps to secure the fabric permanently in the hoop.Laminate your photo or apply clear Contact paper to the front of it, if you’d like. Place the back piece of the hoop on the photo with the picture centered and trace around the outside. (If you got ink on the back part of the hoop before, be sure to trace around that same side of the hoop so that you can hide any ink from this step inside, as well.)Cut your photo out just inside the circle you just drew. Place the back of the hoop on top of the cut-out circle and check to make sure that the hoop covers the outside edges of the circle with no edges overhanging.Use your glue stick or your tacky glue to secure the photo to the back of the fabric. You should be able to still see the lines where the fabric was in the hoop before. Center the photo inside these lines, checking to make sure that the top of the photo is facing the same side as the top side of the embroidery on the front.Squeeze tacky glue onto the edges of the back of the fabric outside of the photo.Place the hoop back on top of the photo and press the glued edges up onto the sides of the hoop. (Remember to face the clean side of the hoop out if you got ink on the hoop edges before.) The edges won’t be completely secure at this point, but sticking them a bit will keep the photo in place when you flip the whole thing over.Flip the whole thing over and slide the front of the hoop into place. Tighten the bolt, and you’re done!I love that these ornaments will hang on our tree for many years to come to continue to remind us of the little ones that we welcomed into our home while we were foster parents.Jamie was born just one month after we moved to Texas, and with five, then six children at home, we had too many to be a foster family. Early this year, though, with four children at home again, we began to feel that familiar call, and we’ve once more completed the training, background checks and homestudy. We should know within the next several weeks if we have been approved to be a foster family again. We’re excited and nervous about jumping back into this lifestyle of loving, providing for and supporting little ones for as long as they need us, then saying good-bye and readying ourselves to start over again. It’s truly the hardest and most rewarding thing that I’ve personally ever done!

One more thought before I go. You may have noticed that our granddaughter’s name is Katie, as was one of our foster daughter’s. Our Katie is indeed named for the foster sister that our oldest daughter was closest to. Our second oldest has plans to name one of his children (someday!) after the foster sibling that he was most fond of, as well. Can I just encourage you if you have biological children and you wonder if fostering would be too hard on them? It is hard, really, really hard, and you definitely must count the cost. Our children, though, learned so much from being foster siblings, and they have some amazing memories from that time in our lives. I’m absolutely positive if you asked them, they would say that as hard as it was, they would never give up the experience. Our oldest and her husband are actually a foster parents themselves now … to a houseful of teenage boys!

Jethro the Christmas Elf ~ Handmade Holidays 2014

I loved the idea of surprising my two little guys every morning with something sort of Elf-on-the-Shelf-style, but more fun and less naughty. I’d intended to start on December 1st, but that just didn’t happen. Instead, I went with inspiration from the 12 Days of Christmas. Since we’re only through Day 5, though, and I’m totally making this up as I go along, I’ll plan to share the whole 12 days with you next year. In the meantime, here’s a peek at what Jethro’s been doing here at our house. Jethro was knitted by my 16-year-old knitting daughter, Samantha, using Ala Ela’s Wacek the Gnome pattern with a few modifications. She lengthened the arms and legs and gave Jethro a short-sleeve sweater since, well, we do live in Florida.Each morning for the last five days, the boys have found Jethro in a different location with a giant gift tag explaining his gift for the day. (I used a free printable from Living Locurto for the tags. I just enlarged the tag on my computer then added the text using a text box in MS Word.)Some days it’s just been a simple treat, others have included a craft project like these Ninja Turtle ornaments on Day 2 …… and these bird feeders for Day 5.On Day 1, they found Jethro in the kitchen. Day 2, he was in the foyer. On Day 3, he knocked on the front door and the boys found him on the front porch.Day 4, found Jethro perched on one of our bookcases by the back door after having chased away four calling birds.This morning, this poor little guy had to hide out in the garage because I was late putting his gift together, and I almost got caught!We’ve had so much fun with Jethro, I might have to make it a tradition to do something different with him each year! I’m as excited to see what the remaining seven days hold as my little onesĀ are! Tomorrow morning, six geese will be leaving eggs and bacon for breakfast, and I’m off now to come up with a cute little rhyme. (If you want to follow along with the remaining days, just follow me on Instagram! I’m sharing each day in Jethro’s 12 Days of Christmas as we go.)

A Christmas Quilt & the Fastest Tree Skirt Ever ~
Handmade Holiday Ideas 2014

How are the holidays going at your house? We’ve been enjoying our traditional advent calendar activities, visiting with friends, cooking, crafting, playing … all the things that I want our Christmas memories to be made of. I posted a picture on Instagram a few days ago of a fun (and messy!) afternoon spent decorating some very yummy but not very pretty sugar cookies hashtagged #notpinterestworthy, and a sweet friend reminded me that life is not Pinterest-worthy! Before I move on to my crafts for today, I forward that reminder on to you. Have fun, make a mess, and enjoy this Christmas season!Our house is a split-level with a large foyer, and this wall is what you see when you open the front door. I always keep a quilt on that rack, and I’ve wanted to sew a Christmas quilt to display there for a few years. This year, it made it onto my sewing list! The quilt came together in a rather interesting manner, though. I gave up my normal plan-everything-out ways for a bit of improv.

The print fabrics are all from the Christmas – Pure and Simple line by Nancy Halvorsen for Benartex and the solids are Kona cottons. As you can see from my Instagram picture above, I really just started by piecing together blocks. Most of the blocks are slight modifications of the blocks that Lori Holt shared in her Have Yourself a Quilty Little Christmas Instagram Sew-along. The Present Pile block is from Clover & Violet. The others are either traditional blocks that I found through Pinterest or blocks that I made up myself though a bit of trial and error. I just kept adding and piecing the blocks together using the quilt-as-you-go method around the designs until I was finally finished! Once I had the whole top done, I added the back, stitching in the ditch around the blocks. Before binding it, I added more straight-line quilting to fill in the open spaces and give the quilt more dimension. Finally, I machine-bound it, stitching the hanging sleeve into the top binding, and then I pinned the bottom of the hanging sleeve in place and hung it up! (I’ll get around to handsewing the bottom of the sleeve on … eventually.)Also in our entryway is my new white Christmas tree! I’ve wanted one for a few years, so my husband encouraged me to grab one at Black Friday prices this year. It’s decorated very simply for now, but I hope to cover it in handmade ornaments in years to come, and I’d love to make a tree topper for it. I’m thinking of using this one: Moravian Star Tree Topper Tutorial.

I simply did not have time to sew a tree skirt for this tree, and I couldn’t find anything that I really liked that was ready-made. On one of our many Joann’s runs this season, though, I happened to see a roll of this Christmas mesh ribbon near the checkout for 70% off. I grabbed it to see what I could do with it.I’m not going to give you step-by-step instructions for this one because it’s so easy! I just cut a length of the ribbon that I thought would work and wrapped it around the base of the tree until I was happy with how it looks. Isn’t it pretty? And, I have a ton left over for some other future project!Before I go, I have one more little bonus tip for you.I really didn’t want to have hooks showing on my new white tree, but I couldn’t find any white hooks locally, so I bought a pack of white chenille stems instead and used those to attach the ornaments. The stems blend right in with the tree, and they have the added bonus of making it easy for me to position the ornaments exactly the way I want them and secure them snugly in place. Cool, huh?Okay, go have some holiday fun, and feel free not to count my holiday craft ideas up when I’m finished … I might not manage to blog all twelve!

Looped Fabric Christmas Tree~12 Handmade Holiday Ideas

Have you ever run across something in a store, picked it up and turned it over and thought that you could surely make it yourself? I know most of you are crafty people, so it probably happens to you often, right? This project was the result of one of those moments for me! The tree that I saw in the store was made with burlap, and while I realize that many of you probably love burlap, I’m just not a big fan. I figured I could make it work with cotton quilting fabric, though, so I headed home where I knew I had a giant styrofoam cone in the garage. (I think I actually had plans to turn it into a tree of some sort a few years ago.) I went right to work, and I adore the result enough that I thought I would share it with you!

Like yesterday’s project, this one uses fabric scraps, and it requires no sewing! The smaller the tree, the faster it is to put together. The one in this sample is 9″ tall, and it took me almost no time to finish it. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Styrofoam cone (white or green), at least 9″ tall. My larger one is 24″ tall.
Tacky glue
3″ paper mache star wand – I purchased mine at Joann’s, but they don’t seem to be on their website. You can also find them in packs of six here, and sold individually here.
Fabric scraps
Straight pins

Measure the circumference of the bottom edge of the cone.Cut a strip of fabric in a solid color to hide the bottom edge of the cone. I’m using red for this one, but I used green for the taller tree. Cut the strip 1″ longer than the measurement you just found by 2 1/2″ wide for a smaller cone (12″ or shorter), 4″ for a taller cone (taller than 12″).Wrap the fabric strip around the bottom edge of the cone, overlapping the edges at an angle so that the top edge of the fabric is snug against the curve. The fabric will overlap the bottom of the cone at the overlap. Pin the strip in place.Trim the excess away so that the the bottom edge of the fabric is flush with the bottom edge of the cone.Measure the circumference of the cone just above the strip you just pinned.Cut your first loop piece 1″ longer than the circumference measurement you just found by 6″ wide for a smaller cone, 10″ for a taller one.Dab glue along the back side of one long edge.Fold the opposite long edge up and glue the long edges with the wrong sides of the fabric facing. (Don’t press the folded edge.)Use a ruler and rotary cutter or scissors to cut from the folded edge up 1 1/2″ for a smaller cone, 2″ for a taller one, every 1″. (You may end up with a narrower or wider strip at the end. This won’t matter since the ends will overlap.)Wrap this first piece around the bottom edge of the cone, over the solid strip. Align the bottom of the loops with the bottom of the cone.Overlap the edges, keeping the loops straight all the way around. The top edge of the fabric won’t be flat against the cone, but it will be covered by the next layer.Follow these steps to make and attach the remaining sets of fabric loops. Measure first, cut your fabric, fold and glue the edges, cut the loops, wrap the fabric and pin it in place. Overlap each set of loops as much as you like. Staggering the loops above with the loops below will give your finished tree a fuller look.Cut a strip or two of fabric on the bias for the top of the tree. (Cutting the fabric on the bias will allow it to stretch neatly around the top of the tree. If you’re not sure how to cut on the bias, refer to yesterday’s tutorial.)Place bit of glue on the wrong side of one end of the strip.Glue the end of the strip to the cone and wrap it around the top of the cone until it’s wrapped about 1/2″ above the top edge.Dab glue on the inside edge of the extra fabric and fold it in over the top so that the top of the cone is covered, but make sure that there is room to insert the star when it’s completed.To make the star, clip the stick part of the wand so that it’s just a few inches long. Cut the fabric that you’ll wrap it with on the bias.Glue the beginning edge of the fabric to the back of the star and wrap the center first.Wrap the first point of the star.Pull the fabric strip across to the opposite point and wrap it next.Continue across to the next furthest point on the star until all the points are wrapped. Glue the fabric end to the back of the star.Slide the star into the top of the tree.Put your finished tree on display!

Fabric-Wrapped Balls~12 Handmade Holiday Ideas 2014

These fabric-wrapped balls are super-easy to make, and they work beautifully as Christmas tree ornaments or as everyday decor! There are a number of tutorials out there already, but I tried a few, and I just wasn’t thrilled with the results. I wanted the fabric to sit flush up against the ball without having to glue the entire strip down. The trick? Cut your fabric on the bias! When you cut on the bias, you get just enough stretch to allow the fabric to fit around the curve on the ball, and you only have to glue the ends down. Ready for the quick tutorial?

First, you’ll need these items:
Styrofoam balls (I used 3″ balls.)
Tacky glue
Short ornament hooks, if you’re making tree ornaments
Pinking shears or a rotary cutter with a pinking blade

To cut your fabric on the bias, start by folding your fabric over so that you have a fold that is on a 45-degree angle with the fabric grain.I used a pinking blade on my rotary cutter to cut the strips. You can also use pinking shears, or you can just cut the strips with a straight blade or scissors. You’ll want to cut along the angle that you created with your folded fabric.Cut your strips 1″ wide. For a 3″ ball, I used about 80″ total of 1″ wide fabric.If you’re making these into tree ornaments, you’ll need hooks so that you can hang them. I used small ornament hooks that look like this:Leave the curve on one end and bend the other into a flat 90-degree angle. Slide the flat end of the hook into the styrofoam ball and twist the whole hook around so that curved end is straight above the ball and the flat end is down inside the ball about 1/4″ or so.Dab some glue on the back of one end of one of your strips.Place that glued edge over the point where you’ve placed the hook, and press it down.Start wrapping the fabric. You’ll see that when you pull it slightly, the fabric strip conforms to the shape of the ball.Continue wrapping, stretching and overlapping slightly so that the fabric stays snug against the curves. When you get to the end of a strip, dab a bit of glue on the back side and press it in place. Start each new strip where the last one ended.Continue wrapping and adding new strips until the ball is completely covered. Glue the last edge in place.Hang your new ornament on your tree …… or make a few more and pile them into a bowl or basket and put them on display!

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