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Christmas in July 2017

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Christmas Santa train felt kit, number 86365 by Bucilla

Pacing myself to finish a Christmas project worked so well last year, I’m doing it again this year with this cute felt kit by Bucilla.

Boringly named “Train—Wall Hanging,” Bucilla kit number 86365 features Santa driving a steam train engine decorated with toys, gifts and ornaments, with a snowman catching a ride.

The kit, which I bought at Herrschner’s, my favorite mail-order needlework company, has 147 pieces printed on felt. When you see a piece marked with a solid line, you consult the instructions to find out which stitch and floss color to embroider the line with. Dots show where to attach sequins and beads. Dotted lines show where other pieces are to be sewn.

Christmas Santa train felt kit, number 86365 by Bucilla

It’s such an indulgence to have everything marked and thought out ahead of time by someone else! Kits like this include the felt, floss, sequins, beads, and needles. You provide a small amount of stuffing and other bits. “Train” requires chenille stems and cardboard for stiffening certain pieces.

For the next sixteen weeks, I’ll be working on nine or 10 pieces a week. And I’ll report to you here and on Instagram, which help motivate me to keep up with the plan.

And here’s the first week’s work finished:

Week one. Christmas train felt kit, number 86365 by Bucilla, one week at a time

For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram @suzannthompson (see sidebar for link).

Christmas-in-July Project Done!

Friday, December 9th, 2016

The beauty of starting this 16-week Christmas felt kit project in July was the flexibility in the schedule. When I decided to enter a juried show with a new quilt, I was able to take a few weeks off of making the wreath to make the quilt.

When the quilt was finished, I still had plenty of leeway to finish the wreath in time to decorate for the Christmas season. Hmmm. Will I make a habit of starting projects early?

This is how the last four weeks went:

Week thirteen. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week fourteen. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week fifteen. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

These are the fourteen pieces that made up the Santa ornament. It seems like a lot, but you just work on one or two at a time and soon you have the piece done. The Santa took me about four and a half hours to complete.

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week sixteen. I sewed each ornament and toy onto the wreath base and added a hanging loop. Now the wreath is hanging up, and every time anyone opens and closes the door, the sequins sparkle beautifully!

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

When it was all done, I recycled the felt trimmings. I put them in a bag marked “SCRAPS” and dropped them into an American Textile Recycling Corporation collection bin. They take all kinds of used clothing and household textiles and of course, fabric scraps. To find a bin near you, please visit their website:

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, recycling the scraps

This was so fun, I’m going to do it again next year! I hope you’ll join me to make your choice of Christmas in July project in 2017. Maybe you’ll choose a gift or a decoration to make—maybe something to sew or knit or crochet. We’ll have project planning sheets and lots of support.

If you’d like me to email you about it next summer, please send an email to and type “Christmas in July 2017” on the subject line.

Christmas in July project 2017

Suzann’s Christmas in July project, 2017

Felt Christmas Wreath Almost Finished

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

The third four weeks of my twelve week Christmas in July project are done, and now I’m in the home stretch. Making the ornaments and toys to decorate the wreath is so fun. They turn out very cute and they always make me smile.

Week nine. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week ten. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week eleven. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week twelve. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

I have a few more ornaments to go, and then I’ll spend week sixteen putting it all together.

For more frequent updates, please follow me on Instagram @suzannthompson.

Here Before You Know It!

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Lately several people I know have said, “I can’t believe we’re already at the end of August,” shaking their heads in disbelief. Today, for the first time this year, I heard someone say: “The holidays will be here before we know it.”

Hearing that made me feel pretty happy with the progress I’ve made on the felt Christmas wreath kit by Bucilla. It’s my Christmas in July project.

The second four weeks are going according to schedule:

Week five. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week six. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

In Week seven, all the holly leaves for the wreath are finished, and I got to make a candy cane. Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Now I’m getting into the really fun stuff, with this toy train engine and a peppermint candy. At around 20 pieces, the train took a long time to put together. Totally worth it, though. It is very, very cute—so cute it tugs at my heartstrings.

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

And my sixteen week project is at the halfway point. Looking good so far! At this rate, it will definitely be finished in time to decorate for the Christmas holidays.

For more frequent updates, please follow me on Instagram @suzannthompson.

9/6/2016–Hi y’all. This poor post got tons of spam comments, so I’m closing comments. Email your comments to me at knitandcrochetwithsuzann at outlook dot com and I’ll post them here.

Pacing Myself for Christmas

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla

I just love sparkly felt Christmas decorations!

They are fun to make, too. Herrschner’s, my favorite mail-order needlework company, has an annual sale on Christmas kits. In a fit of optimism, I ordered two kits back in 2014, thinking I could just make them in my spare time. Ha ha ha hahahahahahaaaaa!

It’s been proven that by pacing myself, I can actually get a kit finished. Blogging and Instagramming about my plan keeps me accountable. So here goes.

The goal is to finish this cute felt wreath an ornaments in time to decorate for Christmas. The kit is by Bucilla. Each week for sixteen weeks, I’ll embroider, embellish, and sew a manageable portion of the project. I started in July, and it should be done in November.

Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

The wreath project fits nicely in a small totebag, along with scissors and a plastic container for the sequins and beads. Contrary to the instructions, which advise keeping the different colors of sequins separate, I put them all together into the container. The day I can’t pick out a green sequin from the container is the day I need to quit sewing felt kits.

I like being able to carry the project along, like I did a couple of Sundays ago. While waiting for my daughter, I lunched at Subway, ate a delicious sandwich, eavesdropped on conversations, and embroidered holly leaves. It’s amazing what you can get done between bites. A very pleasant time was had by me.

Here are the first four weeks’ work:

Week one.Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week two.Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week three.Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

Week four.Christmas wreath felt kit by Bucilla, one week at a time

For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram @suzannthompson (see sidebar for link).

Tallahassee Has Yarn!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

In the days of my youth, I heard actual people say in all seriousness, “It’s too hot in Texas to knit.” It’s true—that they said that, I mean.

a building in the railroad district, Tallahassee

I didn’t understand at the time how it could be too hot to knit. Now, at a much advanced age, I still don’t get it!

Yarn Therapy, Tallahassee

One might assume it was too hot and humid to knit in Florida as well, but the knitters of Tallahassee obviously don’t think so, because Tallahassee supports three yarn shops!

Charles and I visited the lovely, green, tree-ful city of Tallahassee in May, when the white crape myrtles and jasmine were in bloom. While he attended an archeology conference, I went yarn shop hopping.

Marianne at Yarn Therapy, Tallahassee

Yarn Therapy was my first stop, where Marianne (she’s in the photo) gave me a quick tour of her great sock yarns. She has several brands, including some that are custom-dyed for the shop. I had to buy Pagewood Farm Denali Hand Dyed Sock Yarn in the Watermelon colorway for some socks for myself. I love those colors together.

Denali Sock Yarn from Yarn Therapy, Tallahassee

I managed to slip in a mention of my crochet books. Marianne and Heather wanted to see them, and I happened (!) to have some copies in the car. We took pictures, and they posted the photos on the internet right away. Technology can be so much fun.

Really Knit Stuff, Tallahassee

After a delicious Thai lunch, I went to the Railroad District for more yarn shopping at Really Knit Stuff. Paula gave me a big Texas greeting when I walked in. She’s from Texas, but hasn’t lived there in a while. I can see why she wanted to settle in Tallahassee. I loved her hairstyle, which was a long braid with yarn as one third of the braid.

She stocked Classic Elite Yarns Liberty Wool, a long-repeat variegated yarn. She cleverly provided knitted-up samples, so customers could see the range of colors in a skein. I left with some Liberty Wool to make a flower-cloth scarf of Russian Picot Daisies from Crochet Garden. Here’s the beginning of it.

Liberty Wool from Really Knit Stuff, Tallahassee

Tallahassee, a dog-friendly place

The Railroad District has quirky and colorful shops and workshops, including the flower building above. Outside the bookstore there, I saw evidence of Tallahassee’s hospitality for dogs. Our hotel had a similar spread.

Tallahassee looks small from the air, because the many trees hide the buildings. It’s a good place. I would visit again.

Crafty Nautical Flags

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

nautical flag trinket box in Polymer Clay for Everyone

Nautical flags are happy and colorful, and I just love them. But not only that, they actually spell stuff! I mean that each flag represents a letter of the alphabet.

In Polymer Clay for Everyone (my first book—oh yes, I love polymer clay, too), nautical flags decorate the top of a marine trinket box (pages 70-71). And guess what!? They spell T-R-I-N-K-E-T-S.

nautical flags spell E-A-T at Long John Silver’s

Next time you are near a Long John Silver’s restaurant, look for nautical flags that spell:


Imagine that. “Eat” is on the tall sign, and “here” is split in half on the long sign across the front of the building.

nautical flags spell H-E-R-E at Long John Silver’s

nautical flags spell D-U-C-K at Disney World

When Eva and I were at Disney World with her schoolmates several years ago, we saw this float in a parade. It spells D-U-C-K. (The K is hidden in shadow at the bottom left-hand corner.) Whose float could that have been?

Someday I’m going to knit nautical flags into an afghan. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Garter stitch, I think. Then it will be up to you to unravel the hidden meaning.

P. S. The flags at the Krusty Krab restaurant in SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons don’t spell anything. They’re made up versions of nautical flags. Yay! It fits in with the theme of being able to have a campfire underwater!

The Price for Handwork: Money for Time or Time for Time

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

“The Price for Handwork” is copyright 2011 by Suzann Thompson. You are welcome to print this essay and keep it somewhere that it will lend you moral support, or give it to people who ask you to make things for them.

“You like to crochet.  Will you make me an afghan?” says a co-worker.  “Can you make me a quilt to match the new paint in my bedroom?” asks a relative.

You may be one of those rare people, who makes things for others out of pure love for the craft or love for your fellow beings.  That is great. Your friends are lucky.

However, when someone asks you to make something and you feel the slightest hesitation at spending your valuable time making a project for someone else, you really must charge for your time.  Otherwise, you will come to resent the person you’re making it for, and the project will become like a millstone around your neck.

After long experience, I respectfully decline casual requests to “knit me a sweater.”  I say something like, “I prefer to work on my own projects.” In other words: “No.”  “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer. 


Money for Time

Your potential client is persistent.  She really wants that afghan.  “Pleeeeeeeeease? I’ll pay for the yarn,” she offers.

You’re tempted to do the project, but how do you charge for handwork?

The client pays for materials.

No matter what, your client should buy all materials and patterns.  If necessary, give her advice about the quality of materials or where she can find the best prices.

You should charge by the hour for your labor, preferably at least minimum wage, which in the U. S. in 2011 is $7.25 per hour.  If you are highly-skilled and quick, you should charge more

I sense crafters thinking, “People won’t pay that kind of money for handwork.”  Maybe not, but do you really want to work for someone who thinks your time is worth less than the minimum legal wage paid in United States? 

For reasons of your own, you may decide to accept less than the minimum hourly wage.  That’s up to you.

Charge for the time it takes to make gauge swatches.

Whatever wage you settle on for yourself, you must estimate how long it will take you to make a certain project.  Remember to include swatching and finishing.

You tell your co-worker, “The afghan you want me to crochet will probably take me no more than 30 hours.  So 30 hours times my rate of $8 per hour will come to as much as $240.00 for the labor.  That’s in addition to the price of the yarn.”

Whoa, your co-worker thinks.  “I can get a really pretty afghan at Pottery Barn for less than that!” she says.

“You sure can,” you say, very kindly, as you smile and look your co-worker in the eye.  That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to defend your position.  After all she’s the one who’s asking.

Money for Time =

Your hourly wage × Estimated hours needed to complete the project

Client buys supplies and pattern.


Time for Time

Let’s pretend your potential client truly doesn’t realize the amount of time that goes into handwork. 

Finishing takes time. Include it in your charges.

When you tell him the cost of your time and how many hours you will be working on the project, he says, “Oh. I didn’t realize it took that long.  I can’t afford that kind of money.”

“We may be able to work something out,” you say, “but you’ll still have to buy the materials and the pattern.”

He brightens up.

You say, “How about trading time for time?”

Intrigued, your client says, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” you say, “when I’m crocheting, my yard work doesn’t get done.  Could we get together on the weekend, and I’ll crochet while you mow and rake my lawn?”

“You wouldn’t want me to do that,” he says.  “Lawnmowers have a habit of breaking whenever I’m around.”

“How about cleaning out my garage?” you say.  “Or running errands for me?  Do you have any ideas about how we could trade time for time?”

Your client may be glad to work in your yard or do 25 hours’ worth of cooking for you. Or he might have some other skill you would be glad to trade for, like house-painting or sewing or editing or installing bathroom tile. (Naturally, you should buy house-paint, fabric and patterns, or bathroom tile and supplies.)

The important thing is that the trade is exactly time for time.  If possible, the two of you should work at the same time, so your client sees what actually goes into the project.  Your duty is to work well and efficiently. Your client should do the same for you. Whatever you decide, write it down and make copies for yourself and your client.

Time for Time =

The hours you put into the project = The hours the client works for you

Client buys supplies and pattern.  You buy whatever supplies the client needs to complete the agreed-upon job for you.


You will run across people who insist that you should work cheap or free.  Their reasoning? “You LIKE to crochet!” (Or quilt or make stained-glass panels or whatever your craft is.)

You say with a smile, “Yes, I do.  So you can pay my hourly rate, or we can work for each other.  Which to you prefer?” 

While they’re thinking this over, remember:  however you decide to say it, you can always say… “No.”

Enjoy working together!

A Brain Vacation

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

 After finishing my book back in May, my brain needed a break. Luckily, about that time, the Herrschners catalog arrived. It’s one of my favorite things to find in the mailbox. Even more luckily, an embroidery kit I had admired was on sale!

The kit was the Garden Beauty Table Runner by Village Linens. It has shaded lavender roses and other flowers and leaves. All the correct colors of embroidery floss and even a needle were included in the kit. Ahhh. So easy on the brain.

I embroider while my girls are in their piano lessons. Some evenings I do a few lengths of floss for relaxation.

Eight-year-old Ella noticed how the same color floss looks like it has different shades when you see the work in a certain light. It’s the satin stitch that does that. I spend a lot of time admiring the effect. 

The table runner may be done by the end of the year, but there’s no real deadline. Yay!

Steel Silhouettes

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Hummingbird cut-out, by Custom Iron Works

In our part of Texas, people love metal cut-outs to decorate indoors and out. Blanton and Russell Jones, owners of Custom Iron Art, cut designs out of steel in their workshop near De Leon, Texas. We went to see a demonstration of the craft last weekend, and Blanton was kind enough to let me take pictures.

The father and son team work with customers and computers to come up with the perfect design, often combining ready-to-use artwork with images that customers bring in. Russell is the computer expert, scanning, composing, redesigning, and resizing designs until they meet with the customer’s approval.

The result is a computer graphic file that looks like a line drawing. Using specialized software, the Joneses place the design onto a screen that represents a sheet of steel, which is lying on a cutting table a few feet away.

At the press of a button, the laser cutter positions itself to make the first cut. The sparks fly!

knocking out the chads at Custom Iron Works

A few minutes later, the design is cut. Then the finishing work begins. With a home made tool, Blanton knocks steel bits out of all the holes in the design.

knocking off the slag at Custom Iron Works

The laser cutter leaves irregular lines of slag, which Blanton breaks off with his tool.

polishing at Custom Iron Works

He smooths the edges with a power polisher and touches it up by hand. Often, Blanton paints the finished cut-outs black to prevent rusting. We liked the plain steel finish of our hummingbird, and knowing that it will soon have a patina of rust on it, we proclaimed it finished.

You can find more of the Jones’s work at their website: Or drop by and see them, on your way through Texas—but call first!