Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Crafting and Travels

With finals all over and done with, and nothing but break time in my near future, it is finally looking a little like Christmas! The Southern weather is not exactly cooperating with my schedule--it still feels like early fall jacket weather. Nevertheless, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care and we're hoping St. Nick will soon be... elsewhere. We're traveling for Christmas! 

This stage of life is a really interesting one. It's really fun, and I can see how many couples would decide not to have kids after living here for a while... The freedom to do whatever you want and to be spontaneous is a beautiful thing. There are limited ties on your money, and all your activities are focused on you and your spouse. There are no carseats, no snacks to fix, no schedules to keep besides your own. It's like college, only better, because you don't have to share this experience with a lot of awkward people smashed into one building, trying to find themselves and whatnot.

This makes for some interesting holidays. Sometimes I think that without small children in our lives, we have a strange void in Christmas. There is no more magic, there are no more silly games, there is no more waiting up at night or setting out cookies. The adult world, the starkly "real" world, is a world without pretending. Our imagination is used towards conceiving the perfect treat to share at the potluck family social; our minds limited to the details of travel and the logistics of packing the perfect suitcase.

With children in our family, I wonder if that magic will return, if we will all put on the guise of Christmas past as we relive our fondest memories through the creation of new ones with these new small people. It makes me consider the traditions lost in youth, and the ones kept childishly. Mr. Kopf and I still sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, as was the tradition in his house--we still make and decorate sugar cookies as was the tradition in mine. The difference is that the Happy Birthday song carries a little more reverence, the cookies less so. Maybe the lack of magic refocuses us on the true meaning of the holiday: the religious significance, the family connections, the lengths we go to in order to make each other happy, the memories of the ones we miss, and the traditions that hold us together, despite time, distance, and age.

My nieces and nephew fill the void on one side of the family. This year, I made them drawstring backpacks for all their adventures. Nephew was a little discouraged by his, but I think he'll come around. The girls gave the present a vote of confidence by wearing them around immediately. 

My sister in law got a jersey knit infinity scarf, as well as a coupon for free kid-sitting whenever they want to have a date night. The gift that keeps on giving!

So the young, childless adults travel... this was Christmas number one. Christmas number two at my folks', here we come.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hello World...

I am still alive, but it feels like it's just barely! The end of a semester is always a crazy time in teaching high school. This second year of teaching has gone a lot smoother than my first, but it's still pretty intense. Why did I pick a job with the longest, highest learning curve ever and homework? Oh right... because I love it! I'm a glutton for punishment I guess.

In all seriousness, stepping back from the crafty life was good in helping me refocus on my first priority: my kids. I truly do have a passion for good, solid education and I try to do right by them every day. I get so excited when they blurt out these crazy sentences that, to me, translate into: I am becoming a critically thinking adult and I have decided I hate/love this philosophy! And sometimes there's blurts that don't make a lot of sense entirely, but I can tell they're working through their thoughts. While I teach philosophy, I don't expect everyone to become a philosopher at the end of it--just to be able to evaluate some crazy ideas on their own.

There's been a lot of grading papers, a lot of presentations, and some hanging out with kids during lunch times, after school, and during my off period. That typically means that when I come home, I crash, and I crash hard. Some evenings, my husband and I don't talk very much. We just sit in a mutual and comfortable silence and give each other silly, delirious smiles that say "yes, honey, I know. We're teachers, and we've been talking for eight hours straight. You know I love you, but let's just watch Colbert and laugh sometimes."

 Finals week is the craziest, but it's winding down. Tomorrow is the last day, and after that, I hope to return to crafting full force! I'd like for crafting (and eating pie, and sleeping in, and reading books) to be a profession but when it is not your full time gig, it has to be ok to ebb and flow. I'm climbing out of a sewing rut, and at the top are all the left behind projects, calling to me like little orphans for me to finish them and put them somewhere that is not the limbo of unfinished crafty things...

And on that note, enjoy a picture of the outdoors until I can give you pictures of crafts. I hope you've all had a wonderful fall season and I can't wait to update you on the winter months. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Simple Back Stitch

I once thought that anything done with needle and thread had to consist entirely of running stitches. That was the way I originally learned how to sew, of course, and could not fathom the depth of variety that the needle and thread pair could create in one piece of fabric. As I started to look closely at samplers and magazine tutorials (this is in my younger years... before the internet was a big deal), the first departure from the running stitch I noticed was the cross-stitch. Still to this day, I hold something against it and I'm not sure why. My mother-in-law has done some beautiful cross stitch work and makes me reconsider my aversion to it. At the end of the day, I think it comes from the rigidity of the pattern--very geometrical, with not as many opportunities for curves or swooshes or the delicate rise and fall of lines that are found in nature. 

I take no issue with geometry in quilting, but with needle and thread, for some reason it's different. This is part of the reason why, when I discovered the back stitch, I suddenly felt the doors of expression in the world of embroidery open with a big whoosh of ideas. There we go, I thought. Here are curves; the stems for flowers; the roll of hills.

Are you ready to take a break from geometry? Give your text some curves. Here's where we left off after we transferred our pattern:

Put it in a hoop! These are super cheap.
I got all my colors picked out for this project and I'm going with a pretty subdued pallet. It's the onset of winter that does this to me.

Thread your needle, knot the end, and stick it through where ever you want to start.

Make a simple stitch to start.

My nails are purple, not black (that's for you mom!)

Wander down the line a bit and pull your thread through. You want to give a stitch's worth of space, as if you were starting a running stitch.

And here's where the "back" in "back stitch" comes in: Instead of moving forward with your running stitch, back it up to the exact same hole where your previous stitch ended up.

Hey look at that! Two stitches! Right together, in a beautiful, wonderful, continuous line.

Keep on going and you'll eventually outline all your letters. I started going backwards and filling in the letters. I think it makes it look more cozy. The onset of winter and all.

Right next to your first line of stitches, start again, making sure that you start in the middle of a stitch on the original line. This will make the stitches appear staggered. They will be neat and tidy, but with variety!

After your first stitch, head backwards again. You're on your way!

I will be packing this in my "fun" bag for my upcoming 12 hour car ride. I can't wait to get the minty color on the leaves!
I hope these photos help expand your stitching literacy. I always look forward to the times when I can just sit, hoop and needle in hand, and see a project come together. 

Also, let me just impress you with the knowledge that I took all these pictures myself, doing some crazy DSLR yoga moves to feature my right hand holding a needle, and hitting the button/holding the camera with my left/keeping the cat out of the shot. I give myself a pat on the back.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pattern Transfer Tips

There are several different ways to transfer an embroidery pattern to your fabric. If you're interested in embroidery, think about experimenting with these to see which one is the most convenient for you. 

First thing is first, find a pattern you enjoy, and if it is online, print it!
  1. Light
    • Place the pattern underneath your chosen fabric, and on top of a light box. Trace the pattern directly onto the fabric with a water soluble fabric marker.
    • If you do not have access to a light box, tape the pattern, with your fabric on top, onto a window with good light.

      I personally don't own a light box, though you can find them at most craft stores for relatively cheap. I have these big sliding doors to my little apartment balcony that have come in handy.
Grab your pattern, some tape (painter's tape leaves no residue!) and a water-soluble fabric marker. Oh, and your fabric.

Tape your pattern onto your window.

Tape your fabric over your pattern. Your image should be clearly visible through the fabric.

You're ready to start tracing.

Trace away!

... until you have finished the whole thing! Remove fabric, pattern, and all tape and get stitching!
  1. Paper
    • Trace the pattern from the pattern sheet to a sheet of parchment paper, using any writing utensil. Pin the parchment paper, which now contains the pattern, directly onto your fabric.
    • Stitch through fabric and parchment paper along pattern lines. When the embroidery is finished, removed parchment paper carefully.
    • You may have to use your embroidery needle to grab little bits of paper from underneath stitches.

The in-between option for "paper" and "heat" is, of course, wax paper. I have ironed wax paper onto fabric before that contains my traced pattern, and stitched through. The heat will help the wax paper stick onto the fabric temporarily, but will not be a lasting solution. It will be good for a project that can be completed in just a few hours, but not for something you will need to put down and come back to.

  1. Heat
    • Print the pattern onto a sheet of heat transfer paper. This can be purchased online or at any craft store in your area (also: Walmart.) Heat transfer paper will usually be found in aisles containing t-shirt crafts. My packet of 6 sheets cost around 8 dollars.
    • Be sure to follow the instructions that come with the heat transfer paper. You will have to mirror the image in adobe before you print, so that it will appear backwards to you.
    • Iron the pattern onto your fabric. Remove the paper and get stitching!
Don't know how to mirror images in adobe? Here's a quick run through:
Open your pattern in Adobe

Head up to "File" and select "Print"

In the print setup, select "Properties"

In "Properties" select "Mirror Image" from "More Options" 
And here's the difference! On the left is your original image; on the right is your new mirrored pattern!

Once you figure out how everything works you can print your new backwards pattern onto the heat transfer paper.

Make sure you print on the right side and follow the instructions on the paper.

Prepare your fabric and get your iron warmed up!

Flip it over and get ironing. Once it's sufficiently ironed (per your heat transfer instructions) you will need to give it some cool off time before you peel the paper off.

Peel slowly, but with purpose.

Congratulations! Your pattern has been successfully transferred. You're ready to start stitching!

For the fastest and most convenient method, I would go with the heat transfer paper. For the cheapest, I'd stick with my little window. The paper method (with parchment paper) can get a little tricky with longer projects, and I usually have to put my embroidery down before I'm finished, so I hardly ever use this method.

I hope this gets you going on your embroidery adventures! "But Mrs. Kopf," you say, "I don't know how to do any of those fancy stitches..." "Check back here tomorrow," I say to you. "I've got you covered."

If you have any additional questions, you can email me at kopfdropcrafts (at) 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Embroidery Patterns

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been working on some embroidery patterns for my Etsy store. These are doodles that I have been making and embroidering for myself for a long time, and now that I have a scanner and some free time, I can finally share them with the world!

"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

You can grab each of these as individual patterns, or in a bundle. Consequently, there's a lot of little girls out there named Faith and Hope, and plenty of people who just plain love Love. The individual are all the same size, but in the bundle, they increase in size, with faith the smallest and love the greatest!

I've got most things set at iTunes prices. They come in PDF form and will be emailed to you 12 hours after your purchase. If you're new to embroidery, I encourage you to jump into this adventure! Throughout the week, I'll be posting tutorials on the two types of simple stitches these easy patterns require, how to fill in your embroidery, and how to transfer your patterns onto your fabric.

Embroidery patterns are my go-to road trip project, so if you're travelling (by car) this Thanksgiving, consider packing this easy craft in your snack bag. I've also given away embroidered messages as Christmas gifts, framed and ready for hanging. They're great projects for when you want something small and simple to be able to put down and pick back up again. Embroidery is also a pretty cheap addiction hobby. Embroidery floss is cheap, fabric can be cheap, and the needles come in packs of ten so if you lose one, it won't be the end of the world. (This all, of course, depends on where you lose it...)

The next pattern I'll have in the shop will be the welcome wreath. Just a few more little tweaks and then it will be ready to go! 


"Small cheer and great welcome make a merry feast." Shakespeare

Check back regularly for instructions on stitches and transfers. Even on Thanksgiving Break, I can't help teaching. :)