30 July 2018

Christmas in July: Red White 'n Blue, Christmas Style

July in the United States is awash in red, white, and blue, but I've fallen in love with this more Christmasy version of vivid red, snowy white, and icy blue. This is Joy Squared from the December 2016 issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine. I made a lot of changes (you can see the original in this post), the biggest one being that I stitched all the blocks together instead of individually. The red is GAST Buckeye Scarlet (is there any other red?), and the fabric is 28 ct. Snow linen by Fabric Flair, available at 123 Stitch.

The super fluffy trim is a snowball garland from Hobby Lobby, and the double-sided, wired ribbon I used for the bow is also from Hobby Lobby. This is great ribbon, by the way. It's got a very sturdy feel to it and is nice to work with. I just purchased these items last week, so they should still be available, but remember what I said a few days ago: shop early!

I wasn't too sure the snowball garland would work for trim when I bought it, but I hadn't seen anything like it before (I like unusual trims) and it was so soft and fluffy I couldn't pass it up, and besides, it makes me happy. I think it reminds me of gluing cotton balls onto pictures of sheep during Sunday school when I was little!

Hope you've enjoyed this little burst of Christmas in July!

27 July 2018

Christmas in July: A Dozen Christmas Freebies

Freebies--legal freebies--are just the best, aren't they? It's so much fun to stumble across a really cute free design and add it to your stash. It gives you a little feeling of having won the day. And here's another thing about freebies that I've observed: they seem to give us the freedom to use what we already have and feel comfortable with experimenting. I think perhaps when we buy a design, we subconsciously feel that because we've spent money on it, we have to do it "right" and we search for and purchase just the right fabric and threads. Which is all well and good. That keeps designers and fabric and thread dyers in business. Good for us, good for them. But with a freebie, we seem more willing to dig around in our stash and make do with what we have, substituting and experimenting. That, too, is valuable to us as stitchers. I think it expands our creativity. This sweet little elf freebie is stitched and finished entirely with stuff from my stash. I went a bit nuts on the finishing--two kinds of trim, pearl head pins, a bit of crochet, a rosette, and a tiny pom pom--but that's just fine because she was free and I can do what I want!

I made the rosette by just wrapping a piece of trim into a rose and securing the shape with hot glue.

I've stitched and finished a lot of freebies over the years, and you can check them out by clicking on the "freebie" label at the end of this post or on the right sidebar. I always provide a link to the freebies I show, but as these posts go back years, I can't guarantee all the links are still active. However, here are some really cute Christmas freebies that are on my to-stitch list. All the links are active as of 27 July 2018.

Very pretty "NOEL" and "Merry Christmas" . These are elegantly simple and lovely when stitched up.

A cute Santa design that would lend itself very well to color conversions. Hmmm...

Another "Merry Christmas" in a classic style.

Adorable Christmas House. I have so many ideas for customizing this!

Stitcher's Tree. Another elegant design that invites experimenting with color.

A joyful Christmas Ball. I really need to do this one for my "JOY" collection.

Gorgeous Candy Cane. Don't let the fuzzy chart fool you, this stitches up beautifully.

Graceful Stag's Head

A beautiful Cardinal bringing the Christmas mail.

And finally, a cute Santa Face made up of squiggles. 

Now, then! That's a dozen freebies--hopefully some you haven't seen--to keep you busy! Enjoy!

26 July 2018

Christmas in July: Choosing a Quiet Christmas, Part 2

Welcome back! Today I want to share some of the things I have done and do every year to make sure we have the quiet Christmas we want. As I said in yesterday's post, these ideas may not work for you exactly like they work for me, but they may help you come up with your own solutions. If you missed yesterday's post, you may want to scroll down and catch up.

The things I do fall into three broad categories that I think cover the main sources of holiday stress.

1) Set boundaries
2) Scale back
3) Shop early

Set boundaries.
Setting boundaries can apply to so many things during the holiday season, but let's face it: one of the main sources of holiday stress is family. I only want to touch on this lightly because it can be a sensitive subject, but I think it's important to admit that the three things that make families go bonkers are weddings, funerals, and... Christmas. There are so many people who dread the holidays because it means a lot of interaction with family members who are not easy to get along with. Let me say up front, I'm not talking about people with legitimate mental or physical health issues. I'm talking about family members who are just plain ornery, as we say in Texas. You know who I'm talking about. Allow me to offer up a couple thoughts.

*You teach people how to treat you. If Aunt Sephronia makes everyone miserable during the holidays, maybe it's because everyone around her has inadvertently taught her that if she's cantankerous enough, she'll get her way. There are many, many people who function this way because it works, and they hold their families hostage to their whims. Don't be a hostage. Don't be rude. Don't be confrontational. Just don't be a hostage.

*Christmas is for you, too. If you're wearing yourself to a shadow to meet the demands of family during the holidays, perhaps it's time to recognize that you get to enjoy Christmas, too. It's okay to say, "No." One of my favorite sayings is, " 'No' is a complete sentence." You don't owe anyone an explanation for declining to do something or go somewhere or make something. And here's a radical idea: Simply not wanting to do something is reason enough not to do it. You don't have to be suffering from pneumonia to have a good reason to decline baking eight dozen cookies for your cousin's kids' school bake sale. You can just not want to. She'll figure it out.

Scale back.
Trust me, scaling back will make you happy. There are oodles of ways to do this (see yesterday's post for a few ideas).  Here are a few more things to consider.

*Organize your Christmas stuff. Really. Go through all of it, keep only the things you love, donate what you don't keep, and store it in an orderly way. This will make your holiday decorating so much easier. Christmas stuff tends to mysteriously accumulate from year to year, and if you're not regularly cleaning it out, you'll find yourself storing more stuff than you're pulling out to display. Remember, "When you keep everything, you honor nothing."

*Go small. Give yourself permission to go small on Christmas decorating now and then, or permanently. I love Christmas and I have... I've lost count of how many trees. I think when they're all up there are... six or seven? A couple are big, a couple are sort of medium-sized, and the rest are little table top ones. When they're all out, wow! But I don't put them all out every year. Some years I just don't want to mess with it. I have what I call "Christmas in a box." I made this up years ago because as a military family, we're not always sure what our holidays are going to look like. It's a small tree, tree skirt, lights, and decorations all stored in the same little box. When I need it, I can pull out one box and set up an adorable Christmas tree in half an hour. You could adapt this idea to include your most treasured decorations, the ones you want to use every year. Store them together so that you don't have to root through all your decorations to find them.

*Let go of "The Perfect Gift." The Perfect Gift was already given, about 2,000 years ago. You're never going to top it. Let go of the idea that every person on your shopping list has to have a gift that will take their breath away. More radical thinking: Maybe not everyone on your shopping list even needs a store-bought gift. Consider a charity donation in their name. Consider taking them out to nice lunch. Consider baking them their favorite cookies. I always laugh at those holiday car commercials where one spouse surprises the other with a new car draped in a giant bow. Who buys a car without talking to their spouse about it?! But it's part of the culture we live in that insists that Christmas gifts be lavish and over-the-top. Let that go. Most of us have so much already.

Shop early.
There is a large and vocal segment of the population that hates seeing Christmas stuff appear in the summer and I am not a part of it! Usually, the first stores to start putting out Christmas items are the big craft stores, for obvious reasons. Holiday craft fairs often start as early as October, and people who make items to sell have to get an early start. My favorite source for supplies, Hobby Lobby, is always the first in my area to begin putting out Christmas, right after 4th of July. I love it because July is when I really start getting going on making things for Christmas, including my annual Christmas Open House here on my blog. There are several good reasons to shop as early as possible.

*You spread expenses out over months instead of weeks. Even if you've scaled back your Christmas giving/spending, there are still always expenses associated with the holidays, especially if you're making things. I know there are people who don't even want to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but for me, compressing holiday spending (not to mention everything else) into three weeks instead of spreading it out over four or five months is asking for a stressful Christmas. We no longer buy gifts for everyone at Christmas (we now focus on birthdays, instead), but back when we did, I assigned one month of the year to one or two people and shopped for their Christmas gift during that month (example: shop for Grandmother in February, shop for Aunt in March, etc.). By the time December rolled around, there were only one or two gifts left to find. Note: this is much easier to do if you've let go of the idea of The Perfect Gift.

*The selection is great. By December, most Christmas merchandise looks like a tornado has been through it. When you're shopping in the summer or early fall, everything is well-stocked and in good order. Don't fall prey to the idea that you have to wait until December to find all the best stuff. Let gooooo of the idea of The Perfect Gift!

*You have the store to yourself. When I'm shopping for Christmas craft supplies or gifts, I am almost always the only one doing so. Does that sound like a fantasy? The dream can be yours if you shop early, when no one else is paying attention to Christmas stuff. If you've not experienced this type of Christmas shopping, let me assure you, it's a delight. I haven't been caught up in a Christmas shopping crowd or traffic in... at least a decade. Probably longer. I just don't do it. When everyone else is out there battling each other for The Perfect Gift, I'm at home stitching.


I hope some of my thoughts over the last couple of days have been helpful to you on your journey to a quiet Christmas. I'd like to leave you with one final thought that I try to keep in mind all the time, not just at Christmas.

Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

If you're a perfectionist like I am, you know that perfectionism has a critical flaw: it's better to not do something at all rather than do it imperfectly. Don't buy into this idea at Christmas or at any other time. Don't believe that because you can't have a "perfect Christmas" you can't have a good one. Don't believe that because circumstances may have changed, beloved relatives may have passed, you can't have a good Christmas. You can make your Christmas warm and special and quiet and good.

LHN's Winter Sampler from the 2009 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament Issue
(stitching info here)

If you've made it through the last two monster posts... thank you for reading! And come back tomorrow for more Christmas in July (but fewer words)!

25 July 2018

Christmas in July: Choosing a Quiet Christmas

This adorable design by Sampling of Memories (and available here) perfectly captures my approach to the holidays: I want a quiet, low-key Christmas. I want to enjoy the holidays, not stumble through them in a mad rush to "get everything done." Because that's what I want, I've made choices. And making choices is often the critical point of breakdown between wanting something and having something. 

Last week I mentioned that I have some habits that I keep to strictly in order to avoid holiday craziness, for which my tolerance is extremely low. What I consider "holiday craziness" may be exciting "hustle and bustle" to you. And that leads me to this: Everyone's idea of what constitutes a "perfect Christmas" will be different, as well it should be. People value different things. Christmas at my house might bore you out of your skull and Christmas at your house might send me to the hospital. If you love a holiday season of going places and doing things and being up to your eyebrows in all things Christmas, then I say, "Enjoy!" If you'd rather quietly watch the holidays drift by from the comfort of your stitching chair--with occasional visits to the kitchen to replenish the cookie tray--then pull up a chair.

Just as everyone's idea of what makes a perfect Christmas will be different, so will everyone's idea of what makes for a quiet Christmas differ. To paraphrase Goldilocks, "This one's too boring, this one's too busy, but this one's just right." Beyond deciding you want your Christmas to be quieter, slower, smaller--which seems to be a commonly felt impulse in  the midst of the Christmas rush--you must decide what that looks like for you. 

Is it narrowing down holiday parties from five to two? Or is it foregoing them altogether? Or is it choosing your one favorite and enjoying that one to the fullest?

Is it baking only six dozen cookies instead of ten? Or is it buying them instead of baking them? Or is it baking one batch of your favorite recipe and taking it down to the fire station?

Is it committing to fewer charity events? Or is it redirecting your efforts from attending events to giving? Or is it volunteering instead?

Is it winnowing your Christmas card list? Or is it skipping cards completely? Or is it choosing New Year cards instead, which can be filled out in the post-holiday quiet?

Is it passing the responsibility for the big family dinner to someone else? Or is it changing it to potluck where everyone brings a dish? Or is it changing it to a coffee/dessert/game night?

After giving it some thought and deciding what a quieter Christmas looks like for you, the next step is the hardest: make choices. And this is the point where the breakdown occurs. Many people lament the busyness of the holidays every single year, but will not make the choices that can alleviate that busyness. From my observations, there seem to be two reasons for that: they don't want to "give up" anything and/or they're locked into a vision of what Christmas has to be--often someone's else's vision (the retail industry, the entertainment industry, that one family member everyone has... ). 

As for "giving up" cherished holiday traditions in pursuit of a quieter Christmas, the examples above illustrate that there is a way to do the things you value that doesn't leave you a frazzled mess in January. You just have to be willing to make those choices. The same goes for being locked into a particular vision of what Christmas should be. Is that vision really the kind of Christmas you love? Or is it what you think is expected? When complaining about the madness of the holiday season, how many times have I heard people say, "Well, if I had my way..." Well? Why don't you have your way? At this point, I can hear readers thinking, "That seems kind of selfish." Two questions: 1) Is it selfish to push back against the unrealistic expectations imposed upon us? 2) Is it selfish to try to reclaim from the chaos the things we value most?

Once you've decided what a quiet Christmas looks like for you, and what choices you have to make in order to achieve it, it's time to come up with a plan of how to implement the changes you want to make. Your Christmas and your choices will be completely unique to you, and only you can craft the plan you need. Tomorrow I'll be sharing some of the things I do to keep our Christmases quiet, and while those things may not work for you, perhaps they will inspire some out-of-the-box thinking that leads you to your own solutions.

Come on back tomorrow for more Christmas in July!
Christmas Bake by Sampling of Memories (link above), stitched on 28 ct. Muffin
(I don't know the manufacturer of the linen--it's a flea market find)
with GAST Buckeye Scarlet and Otter Creek
Beads: Mill Hill 2011; Buttons: Hobby Lobby

20 July 2018

Tiger Lily Checks In

It's been too long since we've had a Tiger Lily post. For those who are new, this is my beautiful 12-year-old calico tabby Tiger Lily: Supervisor of Stitches, Eater of Scones, Chewer of Only the Most Delicate of Cords, Stealer of Seats, Napper of Clean Laundry Piles, Enforcer of Strict Bedtimes, Faker of Neglect When Desiring Treats, Caregiver of the Ailing.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all! Hope you get lots of stitching in!

17 July 2018

Big Ol' Mid-Summer Update

Grab your iced tea and settle in... it's time to catch up!

First, here's an update on Clover and Lace by Misty Hill Studio. Y'all, this is a sad amount of progress, but I have reasons, which I'll get to in a minute. Anyway, here she is. So pretty.

So as I've mentioned, this is my Saturday-Sunday project, and I haven't had much time to work on it because our last few weekends have been so busy. The last weekend in June Mr. Wonderful and I got to meet the Stanley Cup... touch it... have our picture taken with it. Now, if you're not a hockey fan, this is not a big deal. If you're a hockey fan, it's the biggest deal ever in the whole wide world oh my stars I can't believe it!!! Our picture turned out awesome! but since we have a strict policy of not posting pictures of ourselves, you'll have to settle for this one and trust me that we did get our mitts on it. *swoon* (I circled the Cup for you in red; it's right below the first 'a' in "Capitals.")

We got up super early, and stood in line for several hours in 90+ degree heat, but it was so worth it. A once in a lifetime experience.

Then the next weekend we went roaming, which always means a little shopping. I found a wool shop that had a few stitchy things, and a quilt shop with some nice fat quarters. I don't quilt, but I have a pretty good-sized collection of fat quarters for my needlework finishing. The thread is Valdani.

I'm not big on prim designs, but every now and then one catches my eye. This one made me smile: "The Gobbler Rides Again!" So cute for Thanksgiving stitching.

At the quilt shop, I picked up this little fox sewing kit. I have a pink one but I needed a red one too, you know.

When I buy a cute sewing kit like this, I take out the sewing supplies and fill it with my small stitchy tools to turn it into a tiny stitching kit.

Of course we managed to find pottery. Look at this gorgeous mug.

Beautiful blue inside.

And this vase. The picture makes it look big, but it's only 8" high and was a whole $10! So much pretty for ten bucks.

On top of all this running around, I'm also redoing the living room and getting the house ready for a possible move next spring. I want everything done by the fall so I can focus on the really important things: stitching and baking. 

Finally, saving the best for last... goodies from sweet Robin in Virginia! Gorgeous notecards, summery sprinkles for delicious cookies, and needle minders!

Y'all, look at this perfect summer needle minder! It reminds me of this finish that I did last year and is one of my favorites. Thank you so much, Robin!

And that's what I've been up to so far this summer. Busy, busy, busy! The stitching has been suffering a bit, but I like to use the summer to get lots of stuff done so the fall and winter can be slow and quiet. I am not a fan of the crazed holiday season and I have a lot of habits that I keep to pretty strictly in order to avoid the madness. Maybe I'll do a blog post on that in the near future. 

However you choose to spend your summer, hope you're having an enjoyable one!

12 July 2018

Emotional Support Glasses

Sometimes, I make strange things. (Example: this guy

We have a dear friend who has been stricken with shingles (ugh!) and I've been putting together a little care package for her. I made her these... which I'm calling Emotional Support Glasses. Purpose: so you can remain fabulous even when you don't feel fabulous. Because really, is there anything more chic than wearing sunglasses when you're feeling unwell? 

They are super sparkly in person. Not all of the embellishments were sparkly, so I dipped into my collection of glitter glues and remedied that. (Yes, that's a llama.)

Random taco. (Random Taco would be a good band name.) I didn't have a theme for this pair (other than awesome!), but there is such a wide variety of these buttons available you could make Emotional Support Glasses to suit anyone for any occasion. 

I've decided I definitely need a pair or two of these for my own emotional well-being. If you need some too (and you do), they're really easy to make.

*pair of sunglasses from the dollar store (plastic frames, the wider the better)
*buttons or flat backs (shank remover, if you're using buttons)
*hot glue
*extra glitter, glitter glue, etc.

* I was careful to position the embellishments around the lenses so that they wouldn't obstruct vision. I wanted them to be fun to wear, not annoying. Also, pay special attention to the placement of embellishments on the bridge of the nose, where the frames rest on the ears, and where the frames possibly touch the cheekbones. You don't want embellishments poking the wearer. Try them on as you're making them to make sure.

*Some of these embellishments are from my stash, some from Hobby Lobby, but these little button packs are in every craft store. If you don't have a source near you, this is my favorite online source. Large selection and very good service. You'll be able to find buttons for any theme you can think of. 

*Go nuts. The whole point of Emotional Support Glasses is to, well, provide emotional support. They should make you smile, laugh, admire yourself in the mirror (even if you feel ratty). They should be nutty, over-the-top, and sparkly. And you can wear them even if you feel just fine.

I have been wearing these around the house (testing them!) and I am too fabulous for words. I have to give this pair away, but next time I'm out, I'm headed straight back to the dollar store for a few more pair. 

Go. Be fabulous.