Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

crafts for Christmas

I am doing my best to have a bunch of hostess-gift type items on hand to give out to people who show up at the door with cookies. My favorite little gift for this year is cloth dinner napkins. Well, they are sized more like lunch napkins. I get 6 out of a yard of fabric, doing the math to make them come out square.

Challenge #1: a yard of fabric must cost $3 or less.
Challenge #2: I must be envious of the finished product and wish I could keep it for myself.

For $3, challenge #2 is more difficult than you would think. I have been buying fabric on ebay, and off the flat-fold table at Craft World. This means quilt-weight cottons, and not discount store cottons.

I love that goldfinch fabric, don’t you? And I wish I could keep it! That should be sewn into napkins sometime today.

And this lemon fabric? I just love it! It has the whole 1930s or 1940s fruit-crate vibe going on, and it’s just beautiful. I can’t bear to cut it into napkins, not when I am collecting fruit and vegetable fabrics to make a picnic quilt. I did buy it for napkins, but I just can’t do it. Not if I’m not allowed to keep them for myself. I need to ask the ebay seller if she has any more. . . .

One of the things I realized about napkins, is that you use them when something is messy. Spaghetti, barbecue sauce–something that STAINS. Unspoken Challenge #3 is to find fabrics that will hide stains. Which is why I picked the brown leaves above, particularly.


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This summer has been packed full of stuff that is not crafty, sewing, painting, or me sitting-around-reading-a-book related, so I have not had so much to post about. “We went swimming today,” or “we went to the park,” is good only so many times.

I have done a tiny bit of sewing though, and am getting a head-start on Christmas presents for little friends (although Hannah gets hers when I see her, and Max gets one for his birthday). These soft books hold a pad of paper and an assortment of colored pencils, perfect for taking in the car or to church for some quiet amusement.

I did not bookmark the page, but I found the instructions in pdf form at thelongthread blog. For personal use only, and not to be sold for profit.

I bought the old-fashioned auto fabric a while ago knowing a perfect use would one day present itself. Yay! And then found the airplane fabric at Walmart. The inside of the boy-version has skull and crossbones fabric, also from Walmart.
art books
The pad of paper is a Moleskine notebook.
open up

Not counting hand-sewing on the snap closure, these take about twenty minutes (I don’t remember if that includes cutting out the fabric. It might).

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I made this apron for a friend who’s getting married. It’s a fairly quick project, but since it fits kind of snug it needs to be measured for the recipient. I measured me, because she’s about the same size (okay, she’s a little thinner! After her first baby, I bet it will fit perfectly!).

It’s made of two pieces, plus the straps. The bib is 18″ by 9″, the bottom is 20″ by 25″. Baste the top of the bib down to 10″, and the bottom of the bib to 15″ , then sew to apron bottom, the top of which has been basted down to 15″. Finish all the edges, sew on the straps. You can see I used an edge binding all around, instead of a rolled hem. I don’t know if it’s easier, but it’s a little prettier.

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Of course you knew that I couldn’t buy the candy molds and then wait until Christmas to make candy with them. Not when Valentine’s Day is upon us.

I used white Ghiradelli chocolate from the baking aisle, and made a filling of creamcheese, confectioners’ sugar, and raspberry juice strained from berries. The filling was a little thin, but still manageable.

First I gave the molds a shot of cooking spray, and then I broke out the gold leaf given to me as a present many years ago but saved for just the right occasion. Thanks, Janine! There’s still a lot left to use at Christmas, whew. You can buy the gold at fancy baking stores, but you’d better start asking around now just to make sure you have some on hand in time to use at Christmas!

I pinched out a little gold, and it was filled with static electricity so it was like lifting a line of very fine magnets and hard to control. The first bit mashed into my finger prints (such a waste!) and then I tried to guide bits into each heart mold. I pressed them down, so that they wouldn’t just be floating in the chocolate unseen, and they adhered right away to the cooking spray.

Then I melted a bit of the chocolate, poured it in the molds, and let it harden in the refrigerator. Then I put a little dollop of the creamcheese filling in the center, trying to mound it so it didn’t blurp over to the edges but that was a difficult task. I should mention I refrigerated the creamcheese after mixing it so that it would be at its hardest consistency and least runny. Then I melted more chocolate and finished filling up the molds.

Altogether, I think they worked out perfect! (I had a little helper for some of them, so I’m not photographing those. They still taste good, extra cheesy! I’m sorry I can’t mail these out to share, but since they need to be refrigerated….

All this candy thinking reminds me of several years ago I was given a gift of chocolates from my then-manager. She would go to NYC every Christmas and buy her presents there, and she brought me a box of chocolates from Mariebelle. I’ve remembered the name, I don’t know why. The chocolates were unusual flavors, I’m sorry I only remember two: black pepper and paprika. I’m disappointed their website does not specify the flavors of their chocolates, because I’d like to be reminded of the others. I thought “what weird flavors” when I opened the box, but they were all delicious. I especially remember I liked the paprika. It wasn’t a coating, but mixed into the chocolate. Both the paprika and black pepper made for a very spicy chocolate.

I’d like to experiment a bit and see what I can concoct, myself. It’s not like I need to make big batches, just figure out the flavors. I’ll have to let you know how that turns out!

I learned somewhere (and whether it was a class I took or the food channel I don’t remember!), that black pepper for a while was more expensive than gold. When it was first discovered, only royalty used it (in Europe) because only royalty could afford it. At first only kings could afford it. Imagine $2 worth lasts you two years now (and then what’s left is expired and you throw it out). It sort of makes the thought of black pepper chocolates sound more special in that context, though!

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A friend shared with us some blood oranges her son grows in Florida. They were delicious, and got me thinking about a recipe I saw for blood orange marmalade. I couldn’t find the recipe, of course, so made regular orange marmalade.

I used the book on Fine Preserving published in 1969 that I thrifted, for the recipe only since the canning instructions are no longer considered adequate. I used 4 large oranges and 26 ounces of sugar. I squirted in some lemon juice because all the recipes I looked at called for it, but I don’t know if it’s necessary. It might just be a color enhancer, and not necessary for acidity. The recipe also called for something none of the online recipes I looked at asked for: reserve the seeds and tie them in a cheesecloth twist, and boil them with the orange pulp “for the flavor they impart.” Imagine my disappointment to find I’d purchased seedless oranges.

What I’d really meant to do, but forgot to do at the last moment, was make a couple jars of raspberry-orange marmalade. Forgot to add the raspberry juice. Saw a recipe for that not too long ago, too.

I did make up another batch of raspberry jelly, though. This is from a frozen gallon bag of berries, which when thawed and mashed produced two cups of juice.

I used Certo for the gelling part, but I’d really like to find a book of Pioneer recipes; there was a time there was no corner store so you had to use what was on hand. I know that what was on hand was apples, but I don’t see any recipes that say how much and how to use apples for the gelling.

If you’re asking whether it’s economically sensible to make your own jelly when you can buy it pretty cheap at the store with much less effort, the answer is: sometimes. I paid for the oranges in this case, but the raspberries were free to me. The sugar cost about fifty cents to seventy five cents for each project. Buying the jars is spendy the first time, seventy five cents each, but then you reuse them forever, sometimes a couple times a year. I can pick up jelly jars at Goodwill for either a dime or a quarter depending who was doing the pricing that day, but they tend to put them out on the shelf only in the spring and summer and there’s competition for them.

***UPDATE***: After having eaten the marmalade, I can say it is DEFINITELY worth it to make your own! It is like gourmet, compared to regular store brand. The recipe I used had a step that I think makes all the difference: The day before you are ready to actually cook the jelly, you thinly strip the orange part of the skin off the orange using a paring knife, and soak it in water overnight. Then grind the rind into small bits the next day, as usual, and use the soaking water as the “water” part of the recipe. It’s extra-orangey and has a lot of texture and mouth-feel. Great for gourmet gift giving!

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I’ve got my cookie-drop-by gifts ready to go. If you show up this week, you get an orange too, but I can’t guaranty they’ll last more than a few days. I have salsa for the people I know who are off sugar, and raspberry jelly for everybody else. That’s a flower pin on top, good for sweaters or coats. I think I’ll make a couple more red and white ones, because they are super cute. I’ve linked somewhere in blog to a post how to make them, I know I should go find the link but I don’t want to find it. I’m sure it’s under “crafty” or “gifts.”
at the doorpins close up

I’ve hung up the snowflake doilies, they spin ever so slightly and look very pretty.

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While I’m blogging, I did want to link to some of the things I’m making for Christmas. I can’t figure out how to make a hidden post, so if you are someone I am likely to give a gift to–don’t follow the links!

This first one is a quicky for either a stocking stuffer or to give out to cookie drop-ins in lieu of cookies. Excluding time to cut out the fabric, each one took me 15 minutes to stitch up beginning to end. I made 9 in 2 hours, with some small interruptions.

I haven’t made this yet, but it’s scheduled for this weekend. A good gift for that man on your list. Do you have any suggestions on things to make for men? It stumps me every year!

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