Diane's blog


Hi, everyone.

So, 2015 has started rough for me. If you read my Mom's blog, then you know she's been ill since early January. If you follow me in social media spaces, then you know that we lost our dear Pushkin in February.

These days I'm really not doing anything bloggable, so I'm laying low. I'll be back in June to talk about my new book. I'm super-duper looking forward to it. See you then.


Finished Projects in 2014

Last year at this time, I pulled together a mosaic of all the tutorials I'd made in 2013, and I found that to be such a nice experience, I thought I'd do it again this year. But this time I wanted to focus on finished projects.

…And I'm so glad I did! I knew I'd been sewing a lot this year, but in no way did I realize I was getting so many things completed. In most other aspects, 2014 has sucked, so viewing it this way feels quite healing – if nothing else, I did a lot of making, and these 33 projects represent some serious hours of happy calm carved out of the gloom.

I'm not building a link list, for which I hope you'll forgive me. Some of these things are in my Tutorials page, some are in my online shop, some are in various magazines, and some are now residing with family and friends.

pushkin-new-yearWhatever 2015 has in store for all of us, I wish you lots and lots of making-time, in which you can savor the good events of your year and process the hard ones.

…And with that, I'm going to go make some more coffee and get out my sewing box. Cheers!

(Oh - and Pushkin wishes you Happy New Year in his most solemn way.)


Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

This tutorial is basically an act of sheer determination. As some of you know, I started a part-time job recently, and while that's a very good thing, it's also been quite an adjustment – particularly when it comes to creating blog content. I'm working from my home studio only three days a week, and this being Portland, the sun keeps ignoring my requests to shine on these days so I can take blog photos. (Such a jerk sometimes, that sun.)

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

Anyway. A couple months ago, I was noodling with some plastic canvas triangles I found on clearance at my local Jo-Ann, and discovered this ornament form. Then I spent a full month trying to get a tutorial photographed, but kept missing my light opportunities. Finally this morning, I was all "This thing is getting shot TODAY, and I don't much care what the light looks like." So, making use of some wan and paltry window light and a ridiculous amount of photo editing, I got 'er done. And thank goodness!

I'd call this an intermediate sort of PC project. The stitching's very easy, but the assembly may need a little patience. And maybe a beer. But definitely not two!

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

You'll Need:

  • • 8 Plastic canvas triangles (available online if your big-box store doesn't have 'em)
  • • Scrap of 7 count regular plastic canvas
  • Synthetic raffia or worsted weight yarn, 3 colors
  • • Needlepoint needle
  • • Scissors

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

OK, so let's have a little discussion about supplies first. These PC triangles have, as it turns out, triangular holes. That may make stitching on them seem daunting, but don't worry. As you can see, those triangular holes line up nicely in both diagonal and vertical rows, and that's what we'll be using to line up our stitching.

PC Placemat Raffia Spreading

I opted to stitch my ornaments with synthetic raffia, which adds a nice matte finish and straw-like look. But I should say, this stuff is a little more high-maintenance than yarn. You'll want to carefully spread out each strand of raffia before stitching with it, so that you can get maximum coverage over those larger triangular holes. You might want to skip all that and use yarn instead. Play around with your yarn and see if one strand or two gives you the coverage you want.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

OK, with that said, let's make an ornament. The first step is to trim the bottom corners from your eight PC triangles, as shown here. Use the bottom row of holes as your guide. Count in five holes from each corner and make your cuts.

Then, just use the first piece you cut as a guide for all the rest.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

You'll also need four little squares cut from some 7-count PC. Measure against the cut edge of the triangle as shown here. Or cut your squares to 6 holes by 6 holes.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

There's no real need for a formal stitch pattern here - we're just following the canvas. So thread up your first color and start at the bottom right corner. Bring your needle up, and then pass it back down at the next corner up, forming a long diagonal stitch that follows the diagonal row of the canvas.

Then make four more stitches like that, following the edge of the canvas along the top and keeping them all the same length.

When you have five stitches, come across to the left side of the canvas and make five diagonal stitches in the opposite directon. The first one should share the same bottom hole as the top stitch of the previous row, as you can see above. Then follow with four more stitches below that and fasten off your raffia.

(Do you need some basics on stitching plastic canvas? Try this video of mine: How to Start and End a Strand of Yarn. Raffia works exactly the same way.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Next, take your second color and make vertical stitches to fill in the rest of the canvas. I find it easiest to start with the longest center stitch, and then make stitches on either side of that.

(If you look closely, you'll see that I missed a hole in my canvas here. So, you know, don't be like me.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Then, with your third color, stitch a great big "X" across the piece, following the edges of the design. Run your needle under some stitches at the back of your work to secure the end of the raffia, and then use the same holes on both sides to make your "X".

You'll then make a little straight stitch to secure the point where these big stitches overlap. In the fourth photo above, you can see where I'm bringing up my needle, right at the tip of my blue triangle. That's also where I'll put my needle back down to finish the stitch.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

That's what the stitch looks like - see how it tacks down the big "X"?

Go ahead and stitch up all eight pieces in this manner.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

You'll also need to stitch your four squares, using either Color #2 or Color #3. These are super easy - just vertical stitches from corner to corner. Again, do the center one first and then fill in on either side.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Right – so, just so we're on the same page, here's what you need to have stitched up. Then we'll move on to assembly.

(If you haven't done any PC assambly before, I recommend watching this video, Joining Two Pieces Together.)

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Stitch all the pieces together using Color #3. Place two of the "gem" pieces together with wrong sides facing, and sew a seam between their longest edges. Start at the corner where Color #1 is stitched, and sew your way to the tip.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…Then, open up the two pieces you've just sewn together. Add a third one, again placing it wrong sides together. Continue your seam on down toward Color #1 again. When you get to that end, fasten off the raffia.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…And then sew the fourth piece on in the same manner. You'll end up with a pyramid shape. Make two sections like this.

A Little Cautionary Note: This is a good moment to mention that these PC triangles are a fair amount more delicate than their square-holed cousins. If you pull your raffia too hard here along the edges of your canvas, it's easy to break it. So, remind yourself to tug the raffia through these edge-holes gently, and pull the stitches snug, but not too tight. This is especially important when you're stitching at the tips of the gem pieces.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Now, take one of those pyramids and stitch the four little squares to it, nesting them into the openings at the corners.

It's easiest to start by placing a square as you see in the top photo above – inside the pyramid, wrong sides facing. Then sew the seam, and then open out the little square. From there, you can line up the next two edges an sew them.

As you do these little seams, the triangle holes and the square holes should pretty much match up. Don't worry too much about that - stitch wherever you can get your needle through both edges, and all shall be well.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

Sew on all four of the little squares. You'll be surprised how much sturdiness this adds to your ornament-in-progress.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

…And now, see how the two pieces of your ornament will nest together? We're going to sew a meandering seam all around the middle to join the two pieces.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

If you haven't done any PC construction before, you might want to watch this video on How to Construct a Lidded Box. Many of the techniques in that video will help you out here.

Some Tips For This Step:

• I recommend starting with about a 30" strand of raffia, so you don't have to stop in the middle and reload your needle. That said, this is a seam that will tend to wear out your raffia as you go, so be prepared for some minor shredding along the way. It won't hurt anything as long as you're still getting coverage.

• Take your time and don't worry too much about the canvas-holes lining up. In some spots, they will, and in others, not so much. Again, just place your stitches wherever you can get your needle through both edges of the canvas.

• The whole thing will feel a bit fiddly until you get the first few segments of that seam done, and then the shape will start to solidify and become much easier to handle.

• And lastly, you'll need to repeatedly pause and un-twist your raffia, so you can get good coverage throughout the seam. Once it twists up, you'll see too much canvas between your stitches.

Plastic Canvas Gem Ornament

To add a hanger, just thread a piece of raffia through the very tip of the finished ornament. Cut it to the length you want, and tie the ends in a tight double-knot.

Plastic Canvas Gm Ornament

And that's that! I really love how different color combinations change the look of this ornament, and I love how substantial-yet-lightweight they are.

I hope you have a blast making one. And, on the better-than-average chance that this is my last blog post before Christmas, let me also wish you and yours a peaceful holiday!


"I'm busy watching something else right now."

You're likely in the Vortex Of Holiday Making these days, so here are some excellent things to help while away the hours.

Becoming Santa

It's a great time of year to seek out this documentary, in which an ordinary guy goes on a quest to be a Santa for one holiday season, and how the experience transforms him. Keep some tissues next to your coffee mug.

Becoming Santa doesn't appear to be on Netflix anymore, but you can see it on Hulu with a free trial, or rent it on Amazon Prime and Google Play.

The Magic Windows

This documentary goes behind the scenes at Spaeth Design, which produces those elaborate, amazing Christmas window displays for the major New York department stores (Bergdorfs, Macys, and such). It's great fun watching all these different kinds of making happen in one space, and savoring the beautiful result.

Follow that link to their website for a metric ton of eye candy, too.

Johnny Carson's YouTube Channel

Now, some of you kids won't remember him, but I'm betting many of you will. And some bright soul out there has taken a whole bunch of full episodes and clips from the king of late-night talk shows and set them up in a nice channel on YouTube. It's so fun to see big stars when they were just starting out, and to watch the amazing parade of fashions through the decades. (Watch Johnny's lapels, tie, and sideburns balloon out and shrink down!)

I'm hopelessly addicted to this stuff right now – a comforting reminder of simpler times.

Kids Reacting to Old Technology

…Speaking of simpler times. This series of videos, in which small children are bamboozled by tools most of us used to use all the time, is pretty dang funny. When you think about it, most of us have been through a staggering array of tech in our lifetimes.

The video above has the kids wrestling with a typewriter, but there are also videos of them trying to use a rotary phone, film camera, old-school computer, Walkman, and a Gameboy.

Happy Watching, and Happy Stitching!

Time to Make Book Review

I'm excited to share this book with you for several reasons. Ginger Hendrix runs a fun blog, Wienerdog Tricks. I love her honest and irreverent brand of creativity. She self-published Time to Make under her own imprint, American Rookie Books. (Best self-publishing imprint name ever!)

It's a book of ruminations and creative exercises to help anyone who struggles with creating to get past those blocks and make spaces in even the busiest life for pure acts of making.

(As Ginger so aptly puts it in the video below, "My creative life saves my bacon every day."

You should absolutely watch this "commercial," in which Ginger talks about why and how she made the book. She's hilarious – any author who says about her own book, "It can't be any worse than the books you get at the grocery store, anyway." is my hero.

Throughout the book, Ginger's voice is encouraging and human and warm. It's tempting to think of Time to Make as a creative self-help book, but to me, it's more like inviting Ginger over to your house for afternoon coffee, and having her lay out a tempting banqiet of creative possibilities and then ever-so-gently kick you in the patootie.

I felt like my saying things about this book wouldn't really get across its unique energy, so I asked Ginger if I could share an excerpt. And she graciously agreed! So here it is, illustrated with some random Instagram shots of my making-times…


I've Got Too Many Unfinished Projects

By Ginger Hendrix

I talked with a mom's group not long ago about the worth of maintaining your Creative Life while you're up to your neck in Mom Life. They all nodded, but I could tell that they thought I was batty. They all had that You have no idea look in their eye. And then I asked them to share about the state of their own creative lives. And this one woman said, "I have so many unfinished projects." But she said it like she was saying, "I have so many moles on my A," or "I have so many unplucked whiskers on my chin." You know – with some sort of Lady Shame.

And it led to this discussion (well, that's not true because it was just me jumping up and down and talking excitedly) about how a creative life worth having isn't measured by final products. The goal of a life making things isn't supposed to be about what we make – it's supposed to be about making something. And a life spent making is a good life: it's a life where we learn about how screwing things up is inevitable. And that seeing pieces and turning them into whole things is incredibly gratifying. And that any life that includes doing something that we lose time to is a good life. And that when our souls slow down and stop hovering above ourselves to analyze our worth (or the size of our butts), that's time well spent.

Some of them got what I was talking about. Some of the others looked at me like they thought I was a really friendly nut job.

One of them asked me, "Do you finish any of them?"


And then I told her that sometimes I don't, but that I usually have upwards of 10 projects in play at a time. I do finish them, but not all of them. What I never do is wait to finish one thing before starting the next.

Then she looked at me like she wondered if I let the dishes stay in my sink for three or four days at a time too.

It's easy to believe that in order to allow ourselves to go forward, we need to finish what we haven't. This seems the most true, I notice, for people whose projects have been sitting for a long time.

Often, stuck projects are stuck for a really good reason, though. We may believe that we're the problem, but really the problem is with the project itself.

One of the reasons that I have unfinished projects is that I am likely trying to turn the project into something that it doesn't want to be. Sometimes projects just don't want to be what I want them to be. And when this happens, I am generally stubborn.

When the western shirt that I tried to remake out of pink cotton and an awkwardly-cute, pink skunk print did not come together as I'd imagined it would, I set it aside. I think I even put it in a baggie and marked it with a sharpie – shoved it in a closet. When I did this, I believed that the difficulty with the project was just that I am not good at following patterns. I figured I'd set it aside until I was better at making shirts.


When I pulled the thing out of the baggie a year later [*cough* idon'talwayscleanoutmyclosetsthatoften *cough*], the pink skunk shirt and I were at exactly the same stand off we'd been at when I shoved it into the bag.

This wasn't because I'm no good at sewing with a pattern, though. I'm sure of it now.

What I really think is that two hours into staring at that skunk fabric – which I'd hoped to be somehow ironic in its use for a western shirt – I realized that I didn't like it. It would've been perfect for dental scrubs. But not on a shirt that I'd actually end up wearing.

My insides had a tiny revolt that I didn't pay attention to.

The agitation wasn't from the tedious nature of the work: it was from my annoyance that I didn't actually like the fabric I'd chosen. But rather than listen to it talking to me, …I told myself I was no good at working with patterns.

Sometimes this is the case: our unfinished projects are often unfinished for a really good reason that we just really don't want to hear because we've spent so much time on them already.


I've found that it's much more likely that I will take the time to finish a project that actually wants to be what I want it to be. Said another way, if I'd let the shirt turn into a ditty bag – which it would have been a really great combo of colors and textures and weird patterns for – then I probably would have been willing to learn the difficult-for-me-to-follow instructions for making the bag.

There's always a good reason a project is unfinished. Better to get honest about the reason and either backtrack the project to a spot where you do want to go forward or let it turn itself into something it actually wants to be. Don't wait for stuck projects to magically resolve themselves. I think you might be wasting a lot of the time you could be spending making something.


If you know someone who'd benefit from more creativity in their lives, I highly recommend laying a copy of Time to Make on them.


Just raising my head for a moment to share three things you might enjoy…

First, this cute video the folks at CreativeLIVE made to promote my upcoming t-shirt quilting class. In it, I offer my five most beginner-friendly tips for embarking on quilt-making. If that craft has ever made you feel intimidated, watch this video, OK?

My 5 Favorite Books for Beginning Quilters

I also told the CreativeLIVE blog about my five favorite books for beginning quilters. You can learn more about those over here.

My class is coming right up, so I hope you'll consider RSVP-ing so they can remind you when the free broadcast happens.

I'm on the While She Naps Podcast

…And lastly, I was a guest on the While She Naps Podcast, hosted by Abby Glassenberg. Haley Pierson-Cox and I talked about what it's like to be a freelance crafter, and shared our current favorite cratfy things.

Enjoy! (And RSVP, please!)


(I'm posting this to both my blog and my Mom's.)

Life is woven from both beauty and tragedy. Two weeks back, tragedy struck my family when Mom's husband of 25 years passed away suddenly from a heart attack. We both loved him dearly, as did so many people. He had one of those twinkling spirits that always made people brighten around him.

It's a terrible time, as you can imagine. I'm doing my best to take care of Mom as we pick through a daunting amount of details. It's sobering and scary, but at the same time, family and friends are coming to our aid in ways that are truly beautiful.

Neither of us knows when we'll be back to normal blogging, although blogging is solace for both of us and we'll be back as soon as we can. (Here on my blog, you'll see some posts related to my upcoming class in the near future.)

If you know and love my Mom and feel like doing something to help, I set up this donation page for her. Every little bit helps her hugely right now, and of course, your thoughts and prayers do, too.

We may not be that quick to moderate comments or respond to emails for a while, but we're thinking of our internet buddies fondly and reading your blogs for comfort. See you when we can.