A door hanger for Isobel, material packs and a stitcher’s matchbook

Jubilations and celebrations!
We visited my husband’s parents over the weekend, and as planned I took all the materials for the door hanger tuck cushion with me – remembering at the very last moment to grab the instructions. My mother-in-law held my hand (metaphorically speaking) while I got over my Fear Of Sewing Machines and got to grips with the basic stitches, practised on a towel that was beyond redemption anyway. I am now, not exactly proficient, but at least capable of sewing together a passable tuck cushion/door hanger. I even remembered to sew in the ribbon!
The final touches were added this morning: the back half of the tuck cushion was stuffed and the seam closed with ladder stitch, and after admiring it at some length I have now put it away in a drawer until we visit the family next month.
Alphabet door hanger
Apart from the door hanger there was another job to finish this morning. I’m teaching a "Hardanger for Absolute Beginners" day course at the local adult education centre this Saturday, and I’ve been putting together the material packs for it. I always get caught out by how much time that takes! First working out what is needed, then ordering all the supplies (with the occasional treat for me – only to make the best use of the postage, of course …), cutting the fabric and threads to size and putting it all together. For this class that involved eight packs each containing 5 pieces of fabric with the creases ironed out, 26 lengths of thread, a hoop, 2 gold-plated needles, ribbon, 2 gift tags, an aperture card, a piece of felt and a piece of patterned cardstock cut to size and pre-scored in two places (I’m tempted to add "and a partridge in a pear tree"; perhaps if I ever teach a Christmas-themed class). But here we are with several days to go and they’re all done; the sense of achievement is immense!

Course material pack Course material packs

And finally a little experiment. Someone on the Cross Stitch Forum posted a link to a tutorial on the Make it Do site for a quick needle keep which works like one of those old-fashioned matchbooks. A great idea, and the use of pretty cardstock makes it a very attractive little accessory. But perhaps they’d missed a trick … what is the first thing that comes to a stitcher’s mind when she sees a blank surface? That’s right, put some stitching on it! So I cut the card slightly larger, scored and folded it so that the pattern was on the inside, and stuck a small piece of Hardanger to the outside. Voilà, one stitcher’s matchbook!

Matchbook needlecase Matchbook needlecase

An ornament saga

Remember the Hardanger fireworks idea? Well, it didn’t work. It all looked terribly clunky and not nearly fine and spidery and elegant enough for fireworks. So I now have a name hanging around with nothing to do … Watch this space, I may think of something yet!
On to what is occupying my mind at the moment, which is ornaments. I have once or twice hand-sewn ornaments. The Autumn Wreath tuck cushion is an example. But it is far from ideal, and so I felt I really ought to get, and learn how to use, a sewing machine.
Autumn Wreath Tuck Cushion
The first bit turned out to be easier than expected. Looking into simple sewing machines that would do straight stitch, zigzag, and reverse, and not much more, I found that in spite of their simplicity they would make a sizeable dent in the budget. But then the sewing machine which had resided for years in the attic (given to my husband years ago by, he thinks, a sister) and which I vaguely remembered as fiercely complex turned out to be a very nice Singer with exactly the stitch options I wanted and no more.
From then on it should have been simple. Set up the machine, do a bit of practising on scraps of fabric, sew a practice ornament using a finished piece that won’t be too difficult to stitch again should things go terribly wrong (I chose the red Frills) and then get on with creating an attractive door hanger as a Christmas present for our niece, using an initial I, a bit of ribbon and some lovely turquoise patchwork fabric. And I had well over a month to do it in. What could possibly go wrong?
What went wrong was the sewing machine. We set it up on the kitchen table, I read the manual for a bit, then tried a few stitches on some fabric scraps, and all was tickety-boo. I turned aside to look up a particular stitch in the manual (keeping my foot well away from the pedal), and all of a sudden the machine started sewing like a thing possessed, and would not stop! In the end I had to use the on/off switch it to make it stop, and whenever we tried turning it on again, with no-ne so much as breathing on the pedal, off it went again.
A manic sewing machine is a frightening thing for an absolute sewing novice, and might have been enough to put me off for life if it hadn’t been for this ornament that needed finishing. My husband managed to find a replacement pedal, so I resolved to have another go as soon as it arrived. Unfortunately it took rather longer than expected, and by the time it arrived I was in the throes of Christmas preparations and a rather nasty cold, and in no fit state to tackle learning a new skill.
So niece got a solemn promise for Christmas, and I will make use of the fact that my mother-in-law is with us for a week as she is a whizz with a sewing machine and will be able to show me the ins and outs of this one. We may even finish the door hanger before the year is out! However well I get on though, Frosty Pine will probably not be gracing our Christmas tree until next year.
Frosty Pine