Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun with machine embroidery - H's handprint on a pot holder

I recently got an embroidery machine for my birthday (yes, I am spoiled, I know!) and it. is. awesome. I didn't touch it for a month until I could attend one of the instructional classes at the store it came from, which was extremely helpful, as I had never even touched an embroidery machine before… and then I discovered that the thing does 90% of the work for you! It's amazing. It even threads its own needle. Even N, who is very mechanical, was fascinated with it enough to sit with me for quite a while as I played with it.

I'm sure H and her impending baby brother will have their names plastered all over everything until they cry, "STOP, Mama!"

Anyway, really the only tricky part is hooping, which I'm still learning how to do. But I've gotten along far enough that I've been able to make a few gifts for Christmas, including some initial monogrammed handkerchiefs for my dad (who is so old-school he is NEVER without at least one handkerchief) and, recently, a fun little add-on gift (or, as N's family calls them, lagniappe) for N's and my moms.

I had been wanting to do a kid-themed gift for each of them. My mom is the type who would gush over a t-shirt with a paint handprint or something, but I've never seen N's mom wear a t-shirt in my life -- even around the house -- and didn't want her to have to pretend to like it, or to impose on either of them with something that would take up space or have to be displayed. So I decided to do a kitchen item, which would be useful, but would not have to be displayed: a pot holder. So I decided to get really fancy and try to use my embroidery machine to do it.

I found this extremely helpful tutorial on converting a .jpg file to an embroidery file and downloaded SewArt, the software it recommends, for a free tutorial. (The only annoying part was that I had to do it on N's laptop, because it doesn't run on a Mac.)

Then I traced H's little hand with a marker, scanned that and converted the resulting image into a JPG. Then I put that on N's laptop and ran it through SewArt according to the instructions on the tutorial. And it worked! The resulting image wasn't quite as bold as I'd have liked, but still pretty cool for a trial run. I put the image on my embroidery machine using the flash drive and it actually stitched the image out perfectly. How crazy is that? I didn't really expect it to work. The final question was whether the hand image would be the same size as H's hand, since the image had been converted a couple of times. I had her plop her hand down on it, and it was perfect. Hooray!

The first handprint embroidery, before being made into a pot holder.
I added her name and the year, then quilted into a pot holder (OK, first time quilting or making pot holders, so they're not actually very cute, but… they will still work!). I cannot get over the novelty of having my little daughter's handprint turned go from being traced on paper to being stitched on fabric with very little time or effort and without even having to leave home. Pretty cool, huh? I am thinking the possibilities are endless.
Finished personalized pot holder.
And I'm going to have to buy that software when the tutorial expires!

Gratuitous cute kid shot.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Neighbor Gifts: Homemade Dog Treats


It's our first Christmas in our new neighborhood, and I don't really know if people do neighbor gifts at Christmas, but I like to do a little something for the closest neighbors. I also wanted to give them Christmas cards but thought sending them through the mail when they were going next door or across the street seemed pretty insane, so I decided to do a small gift and leave them on doorsteps along with our cards. 

I did a little thinking and realized that all of our close neighbors have dogs. (We are apparently the only people who don't have one… and I'm just fine with that!) So I thought, why not do a little treat for the dogs instead of yet another batch of fudge, jar of cookie mix, or jar of "Russian tea" mix. Not that there's anything wrong with those things -- I absolutely love them! But I wanted to do something a little different.

Anyway, here is a recipe I adapted from Allrecipes.com. Mine made about 35 good-sized treats.

5 cups whole wheat flour
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
water as needed (I used 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
oats as needed (I used about a cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except water and oats. Add water until you have a consistent dough. It will be sticky and not totally smooth. Then add enough oats that you can work with it with your hands. It will still be sticky, but will be formable. Use your hands to pat it out about 1/2 inch thick, then cut into shapes and put on a cookie sheet. Because this is a sticky dough, the shapes might not be perfect. But you can just keep re-forming the leftover bits and re-cutting, so none should be wasted. Bake until nice and hard, about 40 minutes.


Even though these are totally edible by humans, I just didn't have the heart to take a taste! But they ended up with a hard and crunchy consistency. I hope the doggies like them!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun with machine embroidery - H's handprint on a pot holder

I recently got an embroidery machine for my birthday (yes, I am spoiled, I know!) and it. is. awesome. I didn't touch it for a month until I could attend one of the instructional classes at the store it came from, which was extremely helpful, as I had never even touched an embroidery machine before… and then I discovered that the thing does 90% of the work for you! It's amazing. It even threads its own needle. Even N, who is very mechanical, was fascinated with it enough to sit with me for quite a while as I played with it.

I'm sure H and her impending baby brother will have their names plastered all over everything until they cry, "STOP, Mama!"

Anyway, really the only tricky part is hooping, which I'm still learning how to do. But I've gotten along far enough that I've been able to make a few gifts for Christmas, including some initial monogrammed handkerchiefs for my dad (who is so old-school he is NEVER without at least one handkerchief) and, recently, a fun little add-on gift (or, as N's family calls them, lagniappe) for N's and my moms.

I had been wanting to do a kid-themed gift for each of them. My mom is the type who would gush over a t-shirt with a paint handprint or something, but I've never seen N's mom wear a t-shirt in my life -- even around the house -- and didn't want her to have to pretend to like it, or to impose on either of them with something that would take up space or have to be displayed. So I decided to do a kitchen item, which would be useful, but would not have to be displayed: a pot holder. So I decided to get really fancy and try to use my embroidery machine to do it.

I found this extremely helpful tutorial on converting a .jpg file to an embroidery file and downloaded SewArt, the software it recommends, for a free tutorial. (The only annoying part was that I had to do it on N's laptop, because it doesn't run on a Mac.)

Then I traced H's little hand with a marker, scanned that and converted the resulting image into a JPG. Then I put that on N's laptop and ran it through SewArt according to the instructions on the tutorial. And it worked! The resulting image wasn't quite as bold as I'd have liked, but still pretty cool for a trial run. I put the image on my embroidery machine using the flash drive and it actually stitched the image out perfectly. How crazy is that? I didn't really expect it to work. The final question was whether the hand image would be the same size as H's hand, since the image had been converted a couple of times. I had her plop her hand down on it, and it was perfect. Hooray!

The first handprint embroidery, before being made into a pot holder.
I added her name and the year, then quilted into a pot holder (OK, first time quilting or making pot holders, so they're not actually very cute, but… they will still work!). I cannot get over the novelty of having my little daughter's handprint turned go from being traced on paper to being stitched on fabric with very little time or effort and without even having to leave home. Pretty cool, huh? I am thinking the possibilities are endless.
Finished personalized pot holder.
And I'm going to have to buy that software when the tutorial expires!

Gratuitous cute kid shot.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Neighbor Gifts: Homemade Dog Treats


It's our first Christmas in our new neighborhood, and I don't really know if people do neighbor gifts at Christmas, but I like to do a little something for the closest neighbors. I also wanted to give them Christmas cards but thought sending them through the mail when they were going next door or across the street seemed pretty insane, so I decided to do a small gift and leave them on doorsteps along with our cards. 

I did a little thinking and realized that all of our close neighbors have dogs. (We are apparently the only people who don't have one… and I'm just fine with that!) So I thought, why not do a little treat for the dogs instead of yet another batch of fudge, jar of cookie mix, or jar of "Russian tea" mix. Not that there's anything wrong with those things -- I absolutely love them! But I wanted to do something a little different.

Anyway, here is a recipe I adapted from Allrecipes.com. Mine made about 35 good-sized treats.

5 cups whole wheat flour
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
water as needed (I used 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
oats as needed (I used about a cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except water and oats. Add water until you have a consistent dough. It will be sticky and not totally smooth. Then add enough oats that you can work with it with your hands. It will still be sticky, but will be formable. Use your hands to pat it out about 1/2 inch thick, then cut into shapes and put on a cookie sheet. Because this is a sticky dough, the shapes might not be perfect. But you can just keep re-forming the leftover bits and re-cutting, so none should be wasted. Bake until nice and hard, about 40 minutes.


Even though these are totally edible by humans, I just didn't have the heart to take a taste! But they ended up with a hard and crunchy consistency. I hope the doggies like them!