Need an easy way to transfer a design onto tracing paper when you don’t have a light table?

Here’s a fast and easy way to transfer any design onto tracing paper: it’s as easy as using your laptop computer screen (or even your iPad). I do own a compact little light table, but if I’m in a hurry, I just use my laptop screen. Here’s how:

1. Pull up the picture you want to trace on your screen, and enlarge it to the size you need.
2. Use masking tape to secure a sheet of tracing paper to your screen.
3. Use a pencil to trace the image onto the tracing paper.
4. Voila! You can turn any design into a template that you can use with applique, painting, or any other arts & crafts projects.
I used this cute image of three elves to refashion a plain white turtleneck top into a “Christmas Eve shirt.”
I simply used the pattern I traced as a template for cutting out small pieces of felt and fabric. Then I stitched everything into place on one large, sparkly piece of fabric. Then I used a basic blanket stitch to sew the entire piece onto the front of my turtleneck top.


You’ll feel Happy just looking at the pictures of the quilting projects in this book!

Although I’ve been hooked on crochet for ages, I also enjoy dabbling in other creative pursuits such as embroidery, fine arts, refashioning with fabric, and quilting.happy-quilts1

IMG_8719It’s been a while since I’ve made a quilt, but thanks to a delicious book I got ahold of last week, I’ll be beating a path to my fabric stash the first chance I get. The book is called Happy Quilts by Antonie Alexander, and it’s chock-full of the most vibrant and fun projects to make for kids, accompanied by easy instructions and a CD that contains all the project templates.IMG_8721


Here’s a link to Antonie’s site: where you can order a copy of her book, find a link to her blog, and also discover some lovely free projects to make. You can also order her book from Amazon and other bookseller sites.


IMG_8722Honestly, there are so many awesome projects in there, I don’t know which one to try first!

Forget the kids—I’m going to make them for myself!! 🙂IMG_8723IMG_8720


Say hello to my little friend … Ricky Raccoon!

quilt_racoon1 copyOver the past several years, greedy developers—green-lighted by their equally greedy politico buddies—have claimed pretty much every square inch of green space in our municipality in order to overload it with conglomerations of bricks and mortar that, naturally, flow rivers of $$$ straight into their pockets.

Of course, all the animals that once called those green spaces home are now refugees, forced to forage for food in urban neighborhood garbage bins while trying to survive among a human populace that doesn’t want them here.

I have always believed that those developers who destroy wild animal habitats should be required by law to use a portion of their windfall to relocate these animals back into the undeveloped areas north of the city (that they, the developers, haven’t got their hooks into yet).

Recently a friend of mine was doing a lot of complaining about a family of raccoons trying to take up residence in his backyard shed and constantly knocking over his garbage cans to root through them.

quilt_racoon2 copyAnyone who knows me also knows that I have a pretty warped sense of humor. I had no choice but to make him a raccoon mini wall quilt.

When I gave it to him, he put his head in his hands and I think he wanted to throttle me. But he did keep it. And I think he’s even grown to like it a little. 🙂 When he has a grandchild, it will make a wonderful blankee, and that’s when he’ll finally be able to get rid of it.

As for the raccoons in his backyard? He made some calls to Animal Control and they captured them humanely and relocated them north, with no expense to the mega-rich developers of course.

Ricky Raccoon was fun to make. I used a line drawing of a raccoon that I found in a child’s colouring book and made applique pattern pieces from it. I cut the pieces from some fabric remnants I had in my cupboard and laid them out on a plain white fabric background, then zigzag stitched around them on my sewing machine. Next I sandwiched in some batting and chose a black and white floral fabric for the back, and lastly, used black binding to finish the edges and two big buttons for the eyes. I think the whole project took me a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

The lesson from this story: Don’t complain to me about the refugee animals in your backyard because I do feel sorry for them (even though I don’t particularly want them in my yard either).

You just might end up stuck with a quilted skunk or raccoon or possum to hang on your wall. 🙂

My latest mixed media fabric portrait

maMy mom celebrated her 80th birthday last week (that’s her to the left with champagne all over her dress. Not bad for 80, huh?). I wanted to make her a fabric portrait like the one I made for my dad when he turned 80 (you can take a look at it back in my September 26th post).

So I selected one of my favourite photos of her to use as my templeileen@niagara2ate—a black & white that was taken in Niagara Falls when she was in her 20s.

Little did I know at the time how ambitious a choice that photo was, since it was a full-body shot instead of an uncomplicated head shot like my dad’s.

To my detriment, I can get over-enthusiastic when I have an idea for a project and tend to leap feet first into it without any advance planning. Therefore, stumbling blocks that I hadn’t planned for often crop up as the project evolves. I’m nuts; yes I know. It’s truly amazing that things end up working out in the end as often as they do.

Since that’s how I roll, I also find myself living by the motto “You win some; you lose some.” It’s what I say whenever I start a project with good intentions only to end up relegating it to the “maybe someday, I’ll rip this apart and start over again” pile.

That’s exactly how I began to feel with this project after I was elbow deep into it. More than once I was on the brink of just tossing the whole thing in the trash and heading out to the mall instead to buy my mother a gift that wasn’t spattered with my blood, sweat and tears.

IMG_3637I started the project on a Saturday morning, using Photoshop to pixelate the shot, then printed out an approximate 15” x 15” copy. I used a pen to outline all the various shadow layers on the hair, face/neck, arms and legs and shoes, then traced each layer onto tissue paper to create my patterns.IMG_3636

Next, I selected different tones of grey fabric for the skin and a plain plus a patterned black for the hair. For the top, I chose a crepey white cotton fabric and a white and grey patterned fabric to add a touch of shadowing. The shoes were created with three different shades of cream fabric. I wanted the skirt to be the only three-dimensional part of the portrait so I chose a silky black and white fabric that I could arrange to look poufy, just like in the picture. For the background, I used a large square of plain white cotton fabric.

After cutting out all the fabric pieces, it was time to put the puzzle together. Some of the face pieces were so tiny, I had to use tweezers to pick them up and manipulate them into place. Starting with the legs, I arranged the layers together, then temporarily affixed them with a combination of temporary fabric spray glue and hand-basting. Once I finished the legs and shoes, I moved on to the arms. I left the face/head for last, which was a good call because I would have thrown in the towel if I’d started there. Once those pieces were finally in place (guided by outbursts of cursing), I began laying out the basted parts on my white fabric background. Pinning down the blouse and skirt was the best part, the easiest part. I actually gathered the waistline of the skirt with basting so it would fit the picture realistically.

Once everything was pinned into place on the background, I wanted to cry because as far as I was concerned, my mom’s face looked like that of a mummy you’d dig up from the tombs in Egypt. I was, again, this close to trashing it. But I plugged on and I’m glad I did because—just as a cupcake needs icing—it’s the finishing details that really bring the picture into focus.

First I hand-stitched everything into place, pulling out the basting as I went along. Then I used light grey thread and the finest zigzag stitch on my sewing machine (I also have a quilting foot on my machine to handle any bulky areas) to outline most of the pieces. After all the sewing was complete, it finally resembled the original photo. Whew. Last but not least, I sewed into place a button replica of her earring.

As I stood back to appraise my work, it was obvious that I still had more to do, since my fabric mom looked like she was just floating in a big white space, her arm jutting out into nowhere. I’d been hoping to avoid having to add in all the background details but the picture looked incomplete without them. Damn.

I was done with cutting out any more tiny fabric pieces. No way. Not a chance. So how to get some background detail in there?

Sketching pencils and paint to the rescue! It wasn’t a piece that would ever see the inside of a washing machine, so there would be no problem using regular art materials on the fabric.IMG_3590

I used a pencil to draw the outline of the stone wall and the iron railings behind her. Then I used a combination of pencils, charcoal pencil, and acrylic paint to add shadows and texture. Before long, her hand was actually holding a railing instead of dead space.

As my best friend Sue (a quilt-a-holic who produces the most stunning work) often says, “Don’t things just always seem to fall into place when we really need them to? It’s as if an invisible hand reaches out to help us when we’re stuck.” And that’s exactly what happened after I finished my fabric picture and began to wonder what I was going to use to frame it.

I recalled a large picture frame that my daughter had left behind when she moved out of the house years before; she’d left it leaning against the wall behind her closet door. It was a beautiful, solid frame, but I’d never had any use for it—until now. I dragged it out of her closet and didn’t it just happen to be the exact size and colour (black) of frame I needed. Honestly, my fabric portrait fit the frame as if they’d been made for each other!

In the end, all that work was worth every moment. My mom absolutely loves it.


Turn a black and white photo into a fabric portrait

My father’s 80th birthday was fast approaching and I wanted to give him something a little more special than a tie and socks.

I had some monochrome fabric remnants collecting dust in my craft cupboard and after admiring some impressive applique projects by other crafters on the Web, I decided to try making a fabric portrait of my dad. I found the perfect shot to replicate—his passport photo when he was 21 years old.

How did I make it?

In Photoshop, I just pixelated the photo a bit so the shadows would stand out more. Then I printed the photo to fit a piece of 11” x 17” bond paper.

Next, I made my pattern pieces by placing tissue paper over the printout and tracing all the various parts that I would need to cut from fabric.

Then I selected my fabric: light grey for the main face, medium grey for the shadows, charcoal for the hair and eyebrows, white and light grey for the shirt, and actual grey suit fabric for the jacket. Then to add a bit of interest, I used a deep crimson fabric for the tie.

I chose a plain white fabric with a bit of texture for the background and penciled the basic outline and main features of the picture onto the fabric for placement. Then I cut out all the pieces, allowing for overlap in some places, and basically just laid the pieces out on top of the background, layering them as they would appear naturally in the photo.

Initially, I used straight pins to fasten the pieces to the background, then carefully hand-basted everything in place.

Last, I used a small zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to stitch it all together.

Believe it or not, the bulk of this project was finished in a day! Once all the pieces were cut out and pinned down, the rest was a piece of cake.

Now, wasn’t my father a handsome fellow? (And yes, you still are, dad!)

(Below, left to right, my dad’s passport picture that I worked from; my finished and framed fabric portrait; an 80th birthday card/book I made for him as well.)

quilt_applique karl1

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