Monday, October 31, 2011

Easy Felt Neck Warmer & Flower Pin

Here it is Halloween & for some of you up in the Northeast, that apparently means it's the beginning of winter. We've been feeling some cool temps here in Tennessee the past few days as well, so it's that time of year for a scarf or neck warmer.

I recently made some from felt, and they were so easy, I thought some of you might like them as well.

Start with 1/4 of a yard of 72" wide felt, and cut approximately 8" off of one end.

Then, simply sew on a couple of buttons onto one end of the "scarf" and carefully cut some button holes into the other end.

At this point, you've spent less than ten minutes on a great little neck warmer. Just wrap it twice around your neck, button it up and you're done.

Or, you can choose to wear it another way by creating a matching felt flower pin from the extra 8" you cut off.

To do this, cut a circle approximately 3 inches in diameter. Then, cut about 30 leaf-shaped petals approximately 2.5 inches long.

Then, just hot-glue them on in layers, overlapping them as you go, using the same technique as you would for a felt flower pillow.

To make the center, fold 2 of the petals in half, placing a dot of glue in the fold to hold it together, then stand them up and glue them into the center.

Glue a pin mechanism onto the back and you can wear it with what ever you want.

To make a child's version, just cut the felt to the length needed to best fit them.

Hope you like this! It's the perfect idea for a simple, homemade Christmas gift. And since each of these only cost about $3 to make, it's great for any budget.

Have fun with them. I'm linking up with a few of these parties!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Favorite Recipe File: Mini Meatloaves

Here's a great recipe I think you're going to love. It's super-easy, ready in around 30 minutes & made from ingredients you may already have on hand.

I first found this recipe for Marvelous Mini Meatloaves from Kraft's Food & Family magazine that they used to send out for free. Now it can be found on their website by clicking here.

I love how they provide a chart for variations on the same basic recipe which involves mixing together ground beef with a package of stuffing mix, water & seasonings, then baking in a muffin tin.

Most often, I make the Italian version. And since we usually have 3 or 4 mini meatloaves left over from the meal, they're perfect for cutting up & using as meatballs for spaghetti a day or two later. I love a good "cook once, eat twice" kind of recipe.

Hope your family loves these like we do!

I'll sharing this post with some of these fun parties.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

So Speechless I Can't Shut Up

Today's post was supposed to be about meatloaf.

And then we got some news yesterday that shook us. It was the kind of news that makes you lose focus in a good way and makes things like meatloaf & furniture makeovers seem as insignificant in this life as they really are.

Someone reading this today knows what it's like to pray for years for good news & hold on for dear life to the thread of hope you have in your heart that one day you will receive it. I want to encourage you.

Ten days before Christmas in 2002, my dad was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. For the the first few days, my family and a lot of other people tried to come to grips with the knowledge that my dad might be gone in a few short months, due to the fierce nature of pancreatic cancer. A few days later, we were relieved to discover that his type of cancer was very rare, accounting for less than 5% of all pancreatic cancer cases. What it meant to us was more time. Statistics showed that, although there is still no cure, patients with this type of cancer usually live years rather than months before it takes their life.

My dad, who is the most optimistic person I know, told me at that time that we could hold onto the hope that since he was given the extra time, perhaps a treatment would be found before it was too late for him.

Since then, he's experienced almost 9 years of daily pain that never completely goes away, procedures that offered little hope, extreme sickness & hospital stays, & doctors who had nothing to offer. He has watched countless people be diagnosed & die of cancer within that time, including Steve Jobs who had the same rare type of cancer that he has. It's the roller coaster life of a cancer patient.

This past May, he reached a very low point. He was feeling worse than ever, continually losing weight, & feeling the cancer begin to take over everything. The little help that his doctor had been able to offer was finally exhausted, and he was told again that there was nothing that can be done for him.

I have to say that as much as I've prayed for him, I had pretty much given up about praying for that miracle treatment. But God never forgot.

Within weeks of leaving the doctor's office without any hope, a new drug was approved for his type of cancer. We immediately saw the hand of God in it as He provided a way for him to get it despite the unbelievable expense.

My dad knew pretty quickly that it was helping him. He began to take less of his pain meds & other treatments. He began to feel better than he had in many years. We were thrilled, not knowing exactly how the drug was working, but just thankful it was.

And then yesterday, he received the results of his routine CT scan and he was given something he hasn't received very often in 9 years: the gift of good news. The drug has caused a significant reduction in his tumors. It was news we almost didn't have the faith to expect. It was cold water to our thirsty souls. It was the answer God sent when we'd almost forgotten we'd asked.

I can honestly say I haven't really questioned why God has allowed this trial to come to my dad. He's a pastor. Many people depend on him. And he has influenced thousands. Some people wonder, "Why him, when he's needed by so many people?". I've known why from near the beginning. I know it's because God knows that no matter what he goes through, my dad will use the opportunity to glorify Him. And whether that means continuing to serve God through unimaginable physical stress or giving Him the glory when miraculous things occur, he will do that. My dad has told me several times that no matter what happens to him, his main goal through all of it is to not waste the opportunity that God has given him. Cancer. Trials. Setbacks. Victories. It's all from Him.

If you're the one today that's waiting for Him to answer, consider this...He may be waiting for you. To see your trial as the opportunity it is. We tend to see healing as the ultimate goal. But that's our humanity butting in. The main thing is to know Him and then glorify Him, through our life and through our death. And then, even unexpectedly, He sometimes chooses to give you a miracle. And those are the days you don't have to be reminded to thank Him.

Here's a recent picture of my dad with his grandkids, 5 of which were born after he was diagnosed.

So, excuse me if I'm a little excited. The meatloaf can wait for another day. This just had to be said today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Love You Just the Way You Are...Except That One Little Thing

Like many of you, I love a good thrift store makeover. It's so much fun to see that little something in its pitiful state and know in your heart that you were sent there to rescue it. And so you take it home, remove all traces of what it used to be, & give it a new life. And thereby, beautifying the world, one little makeover at a time.

And then, once in a great, great while, you find that little something that's actually just right just how it is. It's so fabulous, even you cannot improve upon it. {cough, cough}

Recently, I had one of those days. I walked into the store, & there sat this little beauty.

In my current favorite color.

For only $13.

It was just perfect the way it was. I wouldn't need to change a thing.

Okay, I did have to change the lamp shade to a new burlap one from Target because the other one was dated & falling apart. But other than that one little tweak, I didn't have to change a thing.

For now, it's at home in my entry in front of my Wall of Doors. Did I mention I love the color?

What have you not made over lately?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dog Silhouette Pillow How-To & a Little Confession

I guess this is the part when I should make a confession. I've got lots of quirks. Thankfully, I don't have the time or backbone to list them all out for you right now. But I will tell you one of them as a little background for this project. Ready? Here it is: I'm not a dog person.

There. I said it. And before I get lots of flack from the dog-loving population, let me explain. I'm really more of a faux dog person. It's not that I have anything against dogs. In fact, I think they're adorable, sweet, & loyal. And I know there are dogs out there that are nicer than most people. No, it's not that I don't like dogs. I just don't want one in the family. I know. I'm a terrible mom. My kids beg 'til they're blue in the face, but I just can't do it. And the real bottom-line reason is that I'm too lazy to have one more "child" to clean up after & take care of & take to the doctor & so on & so on. And I know I'm also afraid of getting attached. We'd fall in love with it. And then we'd all be heartbroken if something happened to the dog. And then the kids would be scarred for life. See? It's just better this way.

But, the irony of it all is that I'm a sucker for dog decor. I can't resist a doggy on a pillow or a coffee cup or a painting of a poodle. I know. Quirky.

So, of course I was gaga when I received Restoration Hardware's Baby & Child catalog recently & saw their dog pillows. (By the way, if you haven't seen the catalog, check it out online here. It's full of great inspiration!)

Aren't they adorable? And (sorry Restoration Hardware), just too easy to replicate.

Here's my version:

Want one for yourself? Here's a super-simple how-to.

I thought the perfect fabric for these pillows would be a man's shirt. (Did you see what I made last time I raided my husband's closet?)

I found a nice blue striped one for a great deal at Goodwill. I just washed & dried it, then measured out the size of my pillow insert & cut the shirt.

The back of the shirt became the top of the pillow. To add the doggy to that piece, I simply printed out a silhouette from the internet, cut out the pattern in black felt, & followed the instructions for Heat N Bond to appliqué it onto the pillow top.

For added detail, I added a ribbon collar & an ear, also adhered with the Heat N Bond.

Once the doggy was on, I just placed the pillow pieces right sides together & sewed around all 4 sides. This could possibly be the easiest pillow ever. You could use this method for all kinds of pillows!

Then, I unbuttoned the back, turned it inside out & pressed with an iron. Lastly, I inserted the pillow, buttoned it back up & it was done!

I love how the back turned out, too, with a cute little pocket still intact.

I made 2 of them & they are just right on my craft room window seat. (You can see more about that here.)

These would be sooooo cute in a little boy's room as well. And they'd make great gifts for real dog-people or faux dog-people like myself.

Funny thing was, when Lola & I were admiring the new pillows & taking a few pics, we noticed this little guy peeking in at us, wondering what we were up to. I couldn't help but think he'd be so cute on a pillow.

Did I ever mention I'm a faux cat person?

Sharing these pillows at a few of these parties. Check them out!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diamond Tufted Ottoman. Whew!

I'm totally excited to share my latest with you all because it proves, once again, that you don't have to be a professional to make beautiful things. And if I can do it, so can you!

Now, that's not to say you won't wake up the next morning with sore fingertips and stiff muscles, but, trust me, it's worth it!

Here's the finished product...

I'm loving it!
{insert big sigh}

I did a lot of research before starting this, and I'll list some resources for you at the end of this post, but I'll walk you through my steps as well. And there are a lot of them, so buckle your seat belt.

I started with this coffee table from Goodwill. It did have glass in it originally, but I knew this was going to be an ottoman, so I didn't even bother bringing the glass home.

After removing the top and lightly sanding, it was ready for paint: one coat of Sherwin Williams' Earl Grey and then a little glaze with a walnut stain like I did for this piece. Some light distressing with a sanding block finished off the base.

Now for the "tuft part" also known as the "tough part". (Sorry-I couldn't resist). I used a 4-inch dense foam cut to a 37-inch square.  Click here for a great online source for the foam.  It can be cut with an electric kitchen knife to the size you need!  I used foam that was one inch larger than the size of board I would be attaching it to. You want your foam to be slightly larger so that it will wrap around the edges of the board a little bit and prevent the fabric from poking through later.

I used colored sewing pins to plan out where I wanted the buttons to go. It was super-easy this way to arrange and re-arrange and get an idea of the pattern I wanted. I should add that I had originally planned to go with 23 buttons, but once I looked at it, I realized that, in this case, less was more and ended up with only 11. Of course that meant less work as well, and I'm all for that!

I marked the pins with a marker, then cut the holes. This is where I differed a little from other how-to's I read about. Some people use a cylindrical cutting tool or scissors or a knife, but I decided to try drilling it, which worked out well for me. It was a little tricky and I would recommend trying it out on a test piece of foam if possible to get a feel for it, but I basically drilled in short bursts and just let the bit rip grab onto the foam and rip it out. I also only went about halfway down the foam because my foam was so thick I didn't want the button to go all the way to the bottom and disappear.

The drilling worked so well, it only took a few minutes to get all the holes cut. Then came the batting. I used 2 layers of 1-inch batting and glued it down with a little hot glue.  Here's the type of batting I used.

Then, I cut an "x" over each hole.

Next it was time to prepare the board. I used a 1-inch thick piece of particle board that we already had, but a piece of plywood would work as well. My husband marked the holes for me by hammering a long nail through each hole in the foam down to the board to mark for drilling. Then, he drilled through each mark.

Finally, I was ready for the tufting. So I set up my board and foam across two saw horses so I could work underneath, and then covered the foam and board with my fabric. And if you read me often, you probably know what fabric I used for this: that's right--another canvas drop cloth. I love them so much I couldn't use anything else. And in this case, it really would be difficult to use something else because I needed a width of at least 72 inches to accommodate for the tufting and wrapping. I gave myself an extra 18 inches of fabric all around to make sure I had enough.

I covered my buttons with my fabric using this covered button kit, and had them ready to go along with the longest needle I could find and some strong nylon thread like this one here.

I started the tufting in the center and just pushed the fabric into the hole with my fingers. Then, I threaded a few long strands of the thread onto the needle, and poked the needle up from the bottom of the board. (Sorry I don't have pics of this.) Then, I sewed thru the button and back down thru the bottom. Underneath, I pulled all the strands of thread thru a large button that I used as an anchor and tied them off really well.

Then, I just repeated the process with every button, working from the center out, creating the folds for the diamond pattern as I went. This process isn't as difficult as it may seem. It just takes a little working with the fabric to get it right.

Once that was all done, I wrapped the edges around, stapled it well, and cut off the excess fabric.

To get my pleats a little more defined and crisp, I ironed them down carefully and that made them just right.

Then, I placed the top onto the base and it would've been done. Except for the fact that I had forgotten to take into account that the foam added onto the top of the base would make it too high for the sofa. I like a coffee table or ottoman to be just slightly lower than the height of the sofa. So, learn from my mistake and think about this first so you don't have to do what we did and chop the legs off after the fact. And if you do have to chop, don't forget to add these little furniture tacks on the bottom to protect your floor.

Once that was done, it was just right.

Did I get enough angles for ya?

I. love. it. Hope you do, too. If you have questions, I'll try to help you out. And I hope you're inspired to try this yourself!

Sharing this with some of these inspiring sites.

Here are a few more helpful resources for more info on diamond tufting: