Project Pear Tree

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Every once in  while I get the urge to sew and there’s no telling what I might create.  I learned how to stitch when  I was around seven years old and I still look forward to threading a needle when inspiration strikes.  This year, a project I’ve wanted to do for a few years finally couldn’t stand sitting on my creative shelf any longer, so I made the time to get it done.  In the 2008 issue of Holiday Crafts magazine (from the lovely people at Better Homes and Gardens), a pattern for a pear tree appliqué project was featured and my muse went crazy.  It was a cute idea, but there were about a million things I wanted to change about the fabric and layout.  All I needed was three years to work out all the details, (at least that’s what I tell myself to justify such ridiculous procrastination).

Now, I should point out that I rarely complete a project that follows the pattern perfectly.  I always change, add, subtract, or combine some detail or another.  Patterns are simply inspiration and I never let them create boundaries.

For my pear tree,  I replaced all the fabric with wool felt to give it more rustic, folk art feel.  My favorite type of wool felt is a 70/30 blend because it’s sturdy and comes in rich shades of color.  I’m not a fan of floral prints, nor did I like the color scheme of the finished pattern project, so I replaced the colors with deeper reds, greens, and golds.  The floral foo-foo ended up getting replaced with a woven wool plaid.  As a result of the change in color scheme, I also had to rework all the thread choices as well.  This sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but the result was worth all the trouble. While my finished piece has little resemblance to the inspiration, I love how it turned out:

One change I made to this project was the addition of leaves on the branches of the tree.  It seemed only fitting seeing as I live in a place where there is no snow at Christmas and the trees remain green all year round.  Plus, the leaves added some color and detail to a background that seemed a little bland.  I pulled the leaf pattern from another shelved project and I’m thrilled the proportion turned out to be exactly right.

The outer border is another major change and I’m not sorry I did it!  A few years ago, I found three yards of wool plaid fabric at a thrift store for $2.  What a buy!  The colors really compliment the pears and it packs a little punch of much needed blue.  I also added corner pieces on the border that include more pears. This was done to break up the plaid and I think it ties the whole piece together. Inside each pear is a varnished wooden button straight from Northern Wisconsin.  This little detail pays homage to my roots as the Northwoods hold a special place in my heart.

Each pear is hand stitched with an image and text relating to the Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  When I decided to make everything out of felt, I immediately hit a snag when I realized I couldn’t easily transfer the images from the pattern to the felt – it’s too thick!   Thank goodness for my other little hobby of counted cross-stitch, where I learned a handy technique involving Waste Fabric.  This fabric is a lot like aida cloth, but with less bulk.  When layered over the top of any fabric, it’s easy to place a pattern wherever it needs to go and stitch right on the grid. Then, like magic it comes apart when the strings are pulled!  Once the waste fabric is totally removed, the stitched pattern remains behind!

All the edges, (including around the outside border) are finished with a blanket stitch as opposed to the pattern sanctioned whip stitch.  What can I say?  I like the look of a blanket stitch!

With the Twelve Days of Christmas rapidly approaching, I can’t wait to hang my pear tree on the wall. To count down the days to December 25th, I’m going flip all the pears to the reverse and turn them over as each day passes.  I see this as my personal spin on the always fun advent calendar.

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c.b. 2011

Blue Ribbon Mania

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The Arizona State Fair opened this weekend complete with a ferris wheel and a myriad of deep-fried foods on a stick.  No matter how old I get or how many times I’ve gone to the fair, it’s still exciting to hear the gates are opening once again. Bring on the livestock shows, fast-spinning rides, and homemade fudge that makes my mouth water just thinking about it!  However, my favorite part of the fair happens inside the exhibition halls as my family has had a long tradition of competing for ribbons in the Arts and Crafts shows.

I’ll be the first to say my family is a talented bunch.  My mom makes amazing wreathes, ceramics, and mop dolls, while my sister is the ultimate paper crafter and gives Mom a run for her money in ceramics.   Grandpa constructs amazing model trains and Grandma sews quilts so beautiful it feels like a crime to touch them.  As for me, I do everything from sewing, paper crafts, cross stitch, quilting, and felt applique.  The fair always gives everyone a project  and a reason to try something new.  No matter the category, it’s all about that blue ribbon or better still, the coveted rosette.

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of ribbons for various projects and with the fair opening this week I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic.  The fair always brings out the best in my family not only in terms of artistry, but in creating strong connections and wonderful memories.

My collection of State and County Fair Ribbons

It took some doing, but I managed to track down some of my previous projects. Many of my projects are given as gifts or even disassembled for spare parts, but I do keep track of what wins on the back of each ribbon.  They have pesky rules about entering a project more than once, so its important to remember what’s been entered and when!

  

When I was very young, my Grandma taught me how to sew.  It’s a skill I use to this day and its brought me some luck at the fair, too!  Most of my ribbons were won in sewing categories including quilts, felt applique, and stuffed animals.  The sunflower quilt was the first blue ribbon I’d ever won and it remains one of my all-time favorite projects.

  

Ever since I was a small child, I loved Barbie and that love has yet to subside.  I’ve made everything from evening gowns, wedding dresses, and vintage designs for my dolls.  A number of my dresses have won blue ribbons, while the rest raked in the red second place ribbon (still nice!).  There are at least three more dresses floating around somewhere, but try as I may, I could not find them.

  

The nice thing about the fair is that it occurs in October, which is well before Christmas and right before Halloween. I like to make holiday decorations for my home, so most of the holiday projects I make for the fair have a long life after the ribbons have been awarded.  The felt applique advent calendar is one of my favorite pieces.  It hangs in my house every Christmas and it has the added bonus of being a blue ribbon winner.  The cross stitch Santa is one of those projects that took years to complete (it’s the largest cross stitch I’ve ever done).  I’m pretty proud that I actually finished it and even more thrilled that it won!

  

The Halloween placemat is the one and only decoration I have for that holiday.  I’m usually not inspired by black cats and pumpkins, but for some reason I was compelled to make this using three different patterns.  It goes out every year and I still love my “boo-tiful” felt project.

Its been a few years since the family has competed.  The fair stopped giving rosettes and life has interfered with a few distractions as it often does.  However, we are planning to get back into the game next Spring with the County Fair.  The spirit of competition calls and we can’t help but answer. Besides, we are crafters and creativity can only be kept at bay for so long!

c.b. 2011