What to Get the Man Who Has Everything! (A Christmas Surprise)

Today’s post is about a Christmas Surprise. (originally published on December 21, 2015)

While not at all quilting related, you will find that the DIY value is without question – just in a different way.

So, before I get into the meat of this post, I do need to give a little background.

  1. My husband hates surprises – but I have always wanted to surprise him at Christmas
  2. We usually talk about our gifts to each other each year (not sure why, but probably to be sure we are getting something we like)
  3. Terry is my Knight in Shinny armor – literally – we do Renaissance Fairs and are a fixture at Scarborough Renaissance Festival outside of Waxahachie, TX.
The surcoat of a knight

So, with this little bit of information, I should also say that this all began with a crown and a Facebook post.

The Facebook post referred to the following website: www.mysteriouspackage.com.  You can also do a YouTube search to see how this concept actually works.  Ultimately, the company (Mysterious Package) will send a story in 3 packages for a fee.  There are a few pre-configured stories to choose from.

The problem is that none of the stories really fit my husband’s personality or interests.  I did; however, have a gorgeous titanium crown on the way from the Ukraine. So, I did my own story!

The trick to pulling this off is that:

Every convincing lie must have a vein of truth – the more truth the better!

First thing I did was research our family name, and here is where things started to get a bit eerie.  I found a German Imperial Knight from the 16th century that has a version of our surname.  His story was just too perfect not to use. I enlisted the assistance of my children – who are always up for a challenging mission, and the fun began.

Below you will see the actual letters and “artifacts” that I sent to my husband.  The ultimate artifact was a box with his crown inside.  I presented these all to Terry as if I was a long-lost relative who worked with a University as a scholar of History.  This scholar’s only goal was to be sure that his (and the Knight’s) family line was intact and would continue on.

The First Letter with its attachment

Letter 1

Imperial Knights

This first letter set the stage for what was to follow. There were no artifacts with this letter except for the “proof” of my business card.  The fun part about this is that I HAD given a card to a lady at Texas Renaissance Festival while shopping for soap and I had told Terry about it that day.

Our son brought this letter into the house one day and said that a “carrier” had hand delivered it.

The Second Letter with its artifacts

Letter 2

The Knight and Death

This letter included more in-depth information about the Knight in question – Gottfried “Gotz” von Berlichingen (1480-23July 1562). He was also known as Gotz of the Iron Hand.  It was left on the front doorstep and included a small, wooden puzzle box which held two keys.

The Third and Final Letter with its artifacts

Letter 3

This was really the finale to the entire ruse.  Not only did Terry receive the remaining and very interesting information about his long-lost relative, the artifact included was a box which was protected by a large padlock. And you guessed it – the key from the puzzle box fit the lock!  This lock and key set I also got while at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  Our great friends at Eternal Arms had just the artifact I was looking for.

Inside the box were three items – a letter marked READ ME FIRST, a green bag (with the crown inside) and a hand-written letter from me.  Of course after reading the letter and finding the bag, the jig was up.

Fortunately for me, Terry loved his surprise and may even use his new found heritage to develop a knightly character one day – I hope he does!

MAN-nequin … when a Man needs a Stationary Squire!

Ok, that title sure was fun, but the serious issue here is that sometimes a man (or woman) needs a special way to store and display their armor.  Well, it could happen!  And actually it has. But first, we start at the beginning.

Anyone who sews knows that unless you are a specific size range, you will need to make adjustments to a mannequin (dress form) for it to reflect your dimensions. Also, try as I may, I have had no luck finding a Male form that is adjustable.  Let’s take this one step farther as well. Most female adjustable forms only adjust to a certain size and even the XL forms will not accommodate the dimensions of many mature women. I assume men’s forms would pose a similar problem.

The men’s form below would be way too flimsy for the purpose – and never allow for proper construction of a larger man’s garment

So, when I started sewing Faire-Ware for my husband and son, I had to become creative. Overall, one of the largest issues I have is stability due to height and structure.  My family’s men-types are both about 6’4″ tall and as any seamstress knows, the taller you make your mannequin, the more unstable it becomes.

In reality, they do not extend any where near the height needed which is an issue for creating garments.

So while I am dealing with the creative side of utilizing a male form, my husband, Terry, notices a problem for his needs as well:

How best to store his most cherished garment and armor pieces.

Because we have a large master bedroom and the decor’ lends itself to the look of a medieval boudoir, displaying our garb seemed like a fun way to decorate except….

The mannequin he used kept falling over!

Luckily, we ran across a very robust and sturdy torso form at a local flea market which we picked up for a very reasonable price ($5.00 – yea it was a steal).  This torso had the proper body dimensions, but was lacking any stand structure.  So, Terry rose to the occasion and designed a multi-use stand that works in the following ways:

  • holds up the torso with enough strength to allow for under garment, surcoat and full armor to be attached – without falling over!
  • is designed to be the perfect height – it wears the garments in the same manner that Terry would
  • has additional uprights to store his Son of Sandlar boots between fairs
  • Can be filled with sand to provide further weight and stability
  • the stand came at a total material cost of $35.00

As you can see from the following images, the actual construction was very simple and the finished product looks great!

Prior to assembly, measurements were taken to ensure that this MANnequin best emulated the height of my husband.  I measured in the back from the floor to the top of his T-shirt collar. This ended up being the finished height of the stand from floor to the top of the back of the MANnequin.  Now his armor looks amazing!

His Sandlar boots are protected and have their own place to rest between uses.
His Sandlar boots are protected and have their own place to rest between uses

When a picture is taken of this stand next to one of my X-Large women’s mannequins, it is easy to see how they were lacking.

There you have it, problem solved.  The last bit to do is to paint the PVC black so it blends in and looks good in the room.  The contrast in these images served well to show how everything was designed.

If anyone would like the actual dimensions from this project, just give me a holler – Terry is happy to share!

EMAIL

Cardboard Box Snowmen!

Every year about this time, I like to create some crafty element to add to my Christmas Decorations.  This year, while perusing Pinterest, I saw some adorable snowmen made from huge chunks of wood.  Had I still been living in Wisconsin, finding logs like this would have been easy, but living in Texas posed a problem.

These guys are so cute, but I really wanted to create something that was not so heavy and utilized items I had easily at hand.

So, first, I looked around for a basic shape – and found three rectangular boxes in the garage.  Taping them shut and then applying paper mache’ gave them texture and an easily paintable surface.

The first coat of paint was Gesso, subsequent coats were simple acrylics.  Once the white had dried, I painted the faces.  Note in the picture below that I then decide that my snowmen could do double-duty as ghosts for next Halloween!

In the image above you can see how they look before and after painting.

After the paint was all dried, I brushed on two coats of Modge Podge – now they can weather about any (indoor) storm!

Next up were the hats and scarfs.  I dug around in my stash and found some fleece in Green, Yellow and Burgundy.

It was easy to take the extra cut offs, cut them into strips almost to the end and then put them inside the (inside out) hat and sew it down.  When the hat is turned right side out, the tassle looks very cute!

NOTE: the boxes are quite a bit larger than a human head, so it is important to take that into account when making the hats.

The scarves were very simply a strip of the same fabric that was cut into fringe on the ends.

Lastly, we used a timer’d set of white lights and batting to create a lighted snow blanket effect.

By making my snowman family in this manner, I was able to:

  1. Use items from around the house
  2. Save money – this project cost me less than $20.00
  3. Create decorations that are light and easy to store
  4. Make decorations that serve a dual purpose – the ghosts will be fun next Halloween (I painted the back sides with Ghost faces)

What fun projects are you thinking up this Holiday Season?

2015 Veteran's Quilt Raffle

If you ask 10 different quilters why they quilt, you may just get 10 different answers. Recently, I asked some quilting friends just this question and here is what they said:

The majority of people that shared said they quilt because it is therapeutic followed by:

  • For family an friends
  • As creative expression
  • For pleasure
  • To give to charity
  • It is relaxing
  • For Sale

One person even said that “(quilting) keeps me off the streets and out of the pool halls”.

Ultimately, it is plain to see that this time-consuming and not inexpensive hobby is a labor of love for the majority of us.  It is interesting to see that selling quilts is not a high priority.  I am not surprised at this.  Most people I know quilt for the love of quilting and would rather not be held to a schedule or quota.

So, why do I quilt?

I tend to quilt mostly for the top two answers – quilting as a matter of self expression that then can be shared with others would most accurately sum it up.  It is with this in mind that I get to the real reason for my post – Charity Quilts.

My most recent charity donation is a quilt I call: Wave the Flag which was featured in a post “So, what’s been going on?”

This quilt was donated to the Johnson County Veterans Support Organization.  This new group of dedicated individuals consists of a variety of backgrounds.  The organizers represent Veterans, families of Veterans, local officials and folks that just plain understand the need to showcase our brave men and women and assist them where they can.

Because I am a firm believer that charity begins at home, I was more than honored when asked if I wanted to donate a quilt for their Veteran’s Day Event and dinner held on November 7, 2015.

Wave the Flag is a custom-designed quilt featuring custom feathered long-arm quilting. Our Veterans are all one-of-a-kind, so it is only right to raffle off a one-of-a-kind quilt.

When the festivities had concluded, Wave the Flag was awarded to Jack Albrycht (pictured below).

I urge you to contact this great group to check in as a Veteran or to join in to assist with this great cause.

Next year, I hope I am asked again to participate in this way – there is great satisfaction in giving to your community- this is just one of the reasons why I quilt.

Hippie Rainbow Flowers Quilt

Hippie Rainbow Flowers – Applique Quilt

The Hippie Rainbow Flowers quilt is a custom-pieced and applique lap quilt with lots of color and texture.

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that I should be writing down how I come about creating some of my custom quilt designs.  So, whenever possible, I will do my best to document their creation.

The title is a mouthful, but it surely describes this fun little quilt. Actually this quilt was not at all planned and came as an after thought to the Double Hour Glass Quilt I made from the fat quarters I received from my row-by-row submission.

Choosing Fabrics

After the Double Hour Glass was completed, I was left with several batik fat quarters that were a little different theme – they leaned toward Hippie.

The more I looked at these fabrics, the more I saw that they were really not each of one color, but held different color combinations depending on where in the quarter I looked.

At first I felt this was a stumbling block in using these fabrics to create a quilt, but then I began to see a pattern.  I saw that overall I was looking at a rainbow – or even a rainbow-hued sunset.  It was at this point I decided to cut it all up and see where this would lead.

So, before I get into the meat of the design, I would like to have a talk with all my OCD, waste-not type of friend quilters out there.  Yes, you know who you are.  One of my biggest issues with working with Fat Quarters is that

I HATE WASTE!

Do your math first!

Before cutting up the quarters, I did some easy math and found that if I cut the quarters in 3″ strips and then 3″ squares, I would have ultimately no waste.  I love this idea!  If you remember from the Double Hourglass Quilt, I was so excited with my 3 yards of accent fabric was used totally used up with no waste.  It’s the little things that make our type happy!

Group your colors

The next challenge was separate the blocks into color groupings.  If you have the nuances of color like I did in this quilt, it can take some time and a bit of trial and error, but it is important to note to let your eyes be happy and don’t overthink it too much.

Walk away, get a cup of coffee- pet the cat and come back in a while to take another look

This alone can help to confirm or deny your color choices.  I used this technique both when grouping colors and then when deciding on row configurations.  Once the colors were put in order, I counted the general groups R O Y G B I V

REDORANGEYELLOWGREENBLUEINDIGOVIOLET

Lay out the design

Because there were so many little squares, I put my design board over a bed and arranged (and re-arranged) until I liked the look.  Again, see the note above about going to drink coffee with the cat.

Woo Hoo!

This is the WOO HOO moment when you realize that the toughest part is over. Now I can actually see the road ahead – it’s time to start sewing this section!

After the middle was complete, I took my measurements (top middle bottom) so I could measure my thick, white-on-white borders.  I purposely went with a very thick border so that the flowers would have a landing spot.  The white-on-white is a very large pattern of swirlies which help to soften the geometric blockiness of the sunset(rise)

Creating custom borders

The second border consists of strips that were left over from the original Double Hourglass Quilt.  The rainbow colors and batiks were a good fit. I tried to mirror the internal color flow with the outside border, but besides for going in the same order, I didn’t fuss over it too much.

I also utilized scraps from that quilt as well as some remaining fat quarters to create the flowers.

The flowers were designed using the AccuQuilt Go! Rose of Sharon #2 (55382) die.  Again, I cut out various colors an sizes then auditioned them as a spray on the top right and bottom left of the quilt top. I used iron-on adhesive to affix the flowers prior to quilting and then used the long arm to applique them in place.

The quilting patterns used to finish this up included echo quilting around the flowers, feathers up and down the white-on-white border and finally a free motion swirl pattern over the mosaic sunset/rise.  Overall, this was a fun quilt to create.

Overall, this quilt is:

Dimensions: 52″ x 69″

Center Blocks: 3″x3″ each – 15 across and 20 down

White on White Border: 6″ wide

Colored Border: 3″ Wide

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