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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seriously, Sewing?

I’ve been known to tell folks in the past that sewing machines frighten me…or perhaps should be frightened of me. I have a long, sad history with sewing machines. Remember how I said that my grandmother tried to teach me to quilt? What really happened was that she tried to teach me until I broke her sewing machine—then, she was done. My seventh grade home economics teacher assigned me to make a skirt, but after the third sewing machine paradoxically stopped working, she let me write a paper about food instead. My parents gave me a brand new sewing machine when I was in high school. I inexplicably killed it the first time I plugged it in. After I’d been married to her son for a number of years, my mother-in-law offered me her in-perfect-condition sewing machine housed in a beautiful antique cabinet. “Oh, you can’t hurt it,” she said. It soon came to function as a really pretty end table in my living room—’cause it doesn’t run anymore. And now, x-number of years later, the Love-Of-My-Life has actually paid money and bought me another brand new sewing machine. What was he thinking? I’m terrified…do you think Pat Sloan can save me if I try to learn to sew in honor of National Craft Month?

That’s Pat! You’ve seen her on my blog before.

And that’s her book—I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing, which I’m hoping will keep me from taking the life of yet another sewing machine, plus I’m really coveting those tote bags Pat’s clutching.

In I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing, Pat teaches everything a beginner needs to know about:

• Finding, using, and maintaining a sewing machine
• Buying fabrics, threads, and notions
• All the basics of sewing in a Sewing Primer
• Basic quilting
• Plus 18 really cool baby, gift, and home projects like coasters, a table runner, a scarf, baby blankets, those great totes I previously mentioned, shower curtains, pillows, and more!

I hope I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing helps me overcome my run of sewing machine mishaps ’cause Leisure Arts also has another sewing book I’m really excited about—Mary Engelbreit’s Sew, So Cute!

Along with the aprons and pincushions, potholders and pillows, and more in this book, I want to make my very own chenille Bunny Rabbit in time for Easter. I mean, really, a girl can dream, right?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quilt Hallway Revisited!

The Quilt hallway at Leisure Arts has changed colors again, and I thought you might like an update for National Craft Month…

Are you planning your Easter projects yet? This hall made me think of the holiday ’cause it’s looking a little like Spring with pink, green, blue, and yellow pastel Easter hues. Although, that might be Halloween on down the line.

Keep your eyes open for these designs in future Leisure Arts’ publications!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What’s New in Quilting?

Check out some of the newest quilt pattern book releases from Leisure Arts. Along with lots of beautiful classic, timeless designs, plus simple contemporary styles, they’re full of wonderfully breezy Spring projects:

Attention Fons & Porter Fans! We’ve added two books to our Best of Fons & Porter book series. I know you remember the Fons & Porter Love of Quilting magazine. How many of you wish you could find some of those patterns again? Well, now you can! Both of our new books showcase patterns from the pages of that beloved publication for every skill level, including bright seasonal designs, and some of Fons & Porters trademark Sew Easy lessons.

Fons & Porter: Tabletop Top Quilts features 34 small, quick-to-finish little quilts and accessories with designs for every season of the year. Their adorable Chicken Dance table topper would take your dining room all the way through Spring and into Summer! Those chicks would look pretty cute on your Easter table, too!

If you’re thinking green in preparation of Earth Day in April, you’re going to want Fons & Porter: Scrap Quilts. What more eco-conscious way to use up your scrap fabrics than to make one or more of the 31 patchwork and appliqué quilt projects in this book? Just imagine the floral fabrics you could pull out of your scrap bag to create their Lotsa Potsa Flowers quilt and truly bring Spring into the house!

You can enjoy your favorite seasons all throughout the year thanks to Tracy MacKay, aka Dandelion Mama, and her new book—Seasons and Reasons to Celebrate. Her scrap-friendly wall hangings (including one that celebrates all 12 months) are fun to make with easy piecing, fusible appliqués (animals, flowers, and trees), and highlighted with embroidery. I’m loving the bunny in The March Hare design! Too cute!

Fresh Impressions by Allison Jane Smith feels very springy to me with its 6 contemporary quilt patterns. Showcasing designs like the Chevron Stripe quilt shown above and the Gardenia Bud (shown on the front cover), this book’s bound to help quilters bring a little sunshine into their décor.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Consider Quilting!

Who doesn’t love a beautiful quilt? I’ll have to show you some of my collection someday. I’ve got a thing for vintage quilts in particular…in fact, The Love-Of-My-Life has firmly requested that I don’t bring any more home until I find a better way to store or display for the ones I’ve got. Do you have any suggestions? (I think he’d actually prefer I find a completely new home for most of them…)

Currently, I don’t actually quilt myself (I just appreciate the creativity of others), but I’m thinking about it. I’m seeing a crazy quilt in my future. What about you? If you’re considering learning to quilt, take a look at our Leisure Arts I Can’t Believe series from designer/teacher Pat Sloan:

I Can’t Believe I’m Quilting

This is our beginner’s complete guide to quilting, and Pat shares all her secrets for selecting fabric, choosing the right tools, precise piecing, perfect quilting, quilting by hand and machine, binding, finishing touches, and more. The book features six skill-building lessons that include instructions for these projects: Nine-Patch Block, Nine-Patch Table Runner, Rail Fence Quilt, Nine-Patch Wall Hanging, Friendship Star Table Runner, and Variable Star Quilt.

I Can’t Believe I’m Quilting: Beyond the Basics

Have you mastered quilting basics? Ready to try the next level? Then, this is the book for you. Inside, Pat introduces you to her easy methods for making Flying Geese, how to speed the quilt-making process with Chain Piecing, and the secrets to perfect Curved Piecing. You will also experience the fun of Paper-Piecing, give your quilt a different look by setting Blocks on Point, and much more! Each technique is presented in lesson form with a quick-to-finish companion project—including quilts, wall hangings, and a table runner.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Charming Pincushions

Welcome to the second meeting of the Pincushion-of-the-Month Club. I thought I’d kick off quilt week of National Craft Month by sharing a couple of simple pincushions that we made from those cute little fabric squares that you find in quilters’ charm packs (pre-cut 5" fabric squares). Charm squares are the perfect size for these projects—no waste!

So gather up your supplies, and let’s get started. For each pincushion, you’ll need:

  • a couple of color-coordinated charm pack squares
  • paper for pattern if you’re making the Round Cushion
  • a needle (I used a really big one, 3.5", ’cause it was easy)
  • embroidery floss
  • buttons
  • sewing machine & thread

Round Flower Pincushion

1. Draw a 4.5" dia. circle pattern on paper. Use pattern to cut two circles from charm squares.

2. With right sides together, sew circles together, leaving an opening for stuffing. Turn, stuff, and sew opening closed.

3. Starting in the middle of the cushion, use 6 strands of floss to create the flower petals, pulling firmly.

4. Sew button in middle of cushion.

Square Flower Cushion

1. With right sides together, sew two charm squares together, leaving an opening for stuffing. Turn, stuff, and sew opening closed.

2. Starting in the middle of the cushion, use 6 strands of floss to create the flower petals, pulling firmly.

3. Sew button in middle of cushion.

If you like charm packs, you might like this new quilt book from Barbara Groves & Mary Jacobson of Me & My Sister Designs—3 Times the Charm! It features 7 quick and easy designs each stitched 3 times using a different charm pack for each quilt—to create 21 unique looks. How cool would it be to be able to sew dozens of colorful fabrics into one quilt top—in a single day? You can—with charm packs and this book!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Leisure Leftovers

Thought, for fun, I’d share another of the perks of working at Leisure Arts. Remember me babbling about going to a food photo shoot the other day? Well, one of the best things about taking pictures of the food that will one day show up in one of our cookbooks is that, sometimes, we get to eat the leftovers. Fudge, cheesecake, popcorn, and Christmas cakes! Yum!

And we do have a couple of brand new cookbooks out, featuring two of my favorites—chocolate and bread! After flipping through Celebrating Chocolate and Celebrating Quick Breads, I may actually have to cook this weekend...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Take Up Embroidery

Celebrate National Craft Month by learning a few embroidery stitches. This timeless style of needlework has been with us forever. Genteel ladies worked on their embroidered samplers. My mother did crewel embroidery back in the 60s. I remember stitching peace signs, flowers, and hearts on my denim shirts in the 70s, and how many of you have dish towels with the days of the week, teacups, or kitties stitched on them or pillowcase wedding presents featuring your initials?

If you’d like to learn classic embroidery, check out Teach Yourself to Embroider from Kooler Design Studio. It walks you step-by-step through the history, supplies, the basics, transferring designs, and the actual stitching with diagrams for each stitch. Plus, it includes 15 traditional projects: a butterfly and flowers on table linens, an iris on a denim shirt, floral monograms, floral-embellished fingertip towels, four fun bookmarks, and more.

Looking for more contemporary designs? I really love the patterns in Stitch This! (created by the Leisure Arts design team), Modern Primitive Embroidery by Jennie Baer, and Mary Engelbreit’s The Art of Embroidery. These designs are fresh, up-to-date, and most are even quick-to-finish which helps them fit right in a busy stitcher’s schedule!

Stitch This! will show you how to create you own patterns from a favorite photograph, how to embellish your embroidery with beads and chalk, and how to experiment with different fabrics to create your own unique artwork.

Modern Primitive Embroidery is all about sweet phrases and simple designs that work up fast. It features lots of flowers, birds, sheep, and seasonal designs—all with patterns drawn in three sizes, so you don’t have to fool with reducing and enlarging!

Mary Engelbreit’s The Art of Embroidery lets you transform Mary’s illustrations into fabulous home accents. Plus, we show you how to make your projects more colorful by using permanent markers rather than additional stitching time.

Are you an advanced embroidery artist in search of a challenge? Discover beautiful, elegant Hardanger with Teach Yourself Hardanger Embroidery. “No way,” you say. “That’s too hard.” But I’m here to tell you—don’t let this type of embroidery frighten you! I do admit that the first Hardanger piece I attempted did terrify me! It looked so complicated, and the idea of cutting threads on the fabric of my stitched piece left me panicked. Seriously though, Hardanger really only involves a few basic simple stitches that even a beginner can master with heirloom results. Give it a try!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fast-To-Finish Cross Stitch

Maybe you have a long-term cross stitch project in the works—one of those designs destined to become a family heirloom. I’ve got a couple of those going with no end in sight. The busy world we live in with jobs, kids, significant others, etc…doesn’t always leave much time to indulge our creativity. How about some wonderfully wordy cross stitch designs that can be finished in an evening? Does that sound good? Try the Leisure Arts Stamp ’n Stitch technique.

We’ve combined cross stitch with rubber stamping and a few embellishments (if you want) to create little works of art that you can finish in no time. Just stamp the background, cross stitch a word, add a purchased or custom frame, and you’re done. I love the projects in the supporting publications—Nature, Reflections, and Inspirational. They’re lovely, easily manageable designs that would make great gifts or add a special touch to any home décor.

There is even a Stamp ’n Stitch book for holidays and one especially for kids. In Holidays, you’ll find 8 extra-quick projects, including designs for New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Kids will take youngsters step-by-step through the technique to prepare them for making any of the 6 awesome projects with themes like the beach, skateboarding, flowers, friends, sports, and camping.

Quick & Easy—that’s sometimes what it’s all about!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Birthdays, Winners, and Awards, Oh My!

I’ve got lots of stuff to share today what with birthdays, winners, and awards flying around me!

First I’d like to say, “Happy 12th Birthday” to our partners in creativity—the folks at TwoPeasInABucket.com. Join their celebration of 12 years in business by watching their video party!

Happy belated birthday to Jacob in the Leisure Arts’ Art Department. He turned 25 the other day, and since he likes Chuck (the action-comedy TV program), some of our Art folks dressed up as Chuck to celebrate the day.

Guess who won the copies of Tour Ireland during our St. Patrick’s Day Pat Sloan Blog Hop! Visit Pat’s blog to discover who has books heading to them as we speak. If you didn’t win this time, you can still pick up a copy for 25% off!

And the Award goes to…Have you heard? Designer Drew Emborsky, the Crochet Dude, won the About.com’s Readers Choice Award for Favorite Handmade Artisan, Crochet Designs. Congrats, Drew! Be sure to check out his newest book from Leisure Arts—Crochet It. Love It. Wear It!

And that’s the news-of-the-day as I know it, so far…so good!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lighthearted Cross Stitch

Are you a lighthearted soul that loves a witty and maybe a little sassy view of the world? Then Leisure Arts has got some fun cross stitch designs for you!

Billed as, “Real Cross Stitch for Your Real Life,” Born to Shop’s Life Lessons and More Life Lessons are sure to tickle you. These two books tackle the topics that are near and dear to the hearts of women everywhere with bright designs featuring captions like:

“I don’t suffer from stress, but I am a carrier.”

“There’s nothing better than a good friend except a good friend with chocolate.“

“You can’t control everything. Your hair was put on your head to remind you of that.”

“It’s been Monday all week.”

“Instant human…just add coffee.”

And that’s just a few of them! Each book features 10 lusciously lighthearted designs. What fun!

Smirk…you know you enjoy a little smirky attitude once in a while. Looking for a quick giggle right now? Check out the cute and whimsical, fast-to-finish stick-figure characters that creator, Australian artist Kyla May calls—Smirk. With Just Between Friends (featuring 14 super-quick designs) and Attitudes A to Z (including 52 Smirk figures and 2 alphabets) you’re sure to be able to express your favorite friendly, sweet, or sassy sentiment in no time.

National Craft Month—Try Cross Stitch!

If you’ve never experimented with cross stitch before, devotees will tell you that stitching all those little Xs is easy and addicting. If you’d like to give it a try, Leisure Arts has the perfect beginner’s guide—I Can’t Believe I’m Cross Stitching. This book tells you everything you need to know and then some—how to choose your fabric, needles, and floss, how to read charts and color keys—even step-by-step instructions for the exclusive Leisure Arts’ Stitch ’n Paint and Stamp ’n Stitch techniques. It also includes 12 simple yet wonderful projects to create with your new skill! (Don’t you love the birdy pincushion on the front cover? Too cute!)

Once those sneaky Xs have you obsessed…You’re going to need a great basic cross stitch book to keep your hands occupied. You’ll love The Best of Cross Stitch Basics featuring 108 classic designs! We’ve included baby bibs, florals, samplers, bookmarks, alphabets—something for everybody—from some of our favorite artists: Lynn Waters Busa, Jane Chandler, Deborah A. Lambein, Donna Vemillion Giampa, Carol Emmer, and Paula Vaughan.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Official First Day of Spring!

It’s a beautiful first day of Spring Sunday! My daffodils have thought it was Spring for a while now.

The hyacinths just realized it.

The Bradford Pear trees in the Leisure Arts parking lot are just covered in fluffy white blossoms, and…

The amaryllis plants in graphic artist Becca’s office window are in full, incredible bloom!

And that makes me think about bringing nature indoors with florals. How about some cross stitch flowers to brighten up the house after a long winter? Here’s some inspiration:

I love the designs in Hummingbird Quartet by Frankie Buckley because the flowers are gorgeous, and the four projects remind me of the hummingbirds that should be returning soon to the feeders in my backyard.

Barbara Baatz Hillman’s Beautiful Cross Stitch Blooms features a bursting-with-color pillow duo (that could also be framed)—Hydrangea and Peony. These designs remind me that I need to check and see if my hydrangea bush survived the winter and make me wonder if my peonies will come up this year.

If you’d like to add a quick cross stitch floral touch to your home, check out Variegated Floral Borders by Linda Gillum for Kooler Design Studio or Spring Florals for Fingertips by Jane Chandler. With either book, you can enhance lots of different décor items (or clothes) with your favorite flowers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Collecting Shakers?

It’s a bright and glorious Saturday morning! While I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, I thought I’d share another of my collections with you. This collection is my mother’s fault. See, when I was a kid, my mother always had a bunch of salt and pepper shakers lined up on her kitchen windowsill—a Dutch boy and girl, plastic oil lanterns, wooden outhouses, yellow rose-shaped shakers, and more. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. I wish I had them to add to my collection now.

My kids make fun of me ’cause my shakers are sort of taking over the house. My newest acquisitions are pictured above—an assortment of plastic shakers. I love the lime green camel! He exists out there in the collecting world in an assortment of colors, and I might need all of them…

These are my milk glass shakers. I’ve got them all crammed together on a cake pedestal, so I can display other shakers (and stuff) below them. (Space is obviously becoming an issue!) See the green lantern shakers (in the original packaging!) in the center of the photo? They’re just like my mother’s except hers were yellow.

Here’s a peek at the collection below the cake pedestal—lots of pinks and blues. I’ve got teardrop pattern, Fiesta, cobalt blue, Cameo Rose, shakers that look like wine bottles, and even a little white bunny who has a companion yellow chick that goes with him. The extra stuff? Well, there’s a depression glass creamer, a pink beaded block vase, a juicer, and some silverplate utensils that I’m saving for an art project…

Another shot of shakers—I really like the mini soda bottles and the green shakers beside them. (Green is my all time favorite glass color.) This photo unfortunately also shows off, what, for me, is the worst part of collecting salt and pepper shakers—the dust!!!

Collectors, I need your advice. What cool ways are you using to display your shaker collections and do you have any magic tricks for eradicating dust?

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