Monday, April 30, 2007

April, come she will...May, she will stay...

I just walked out the recycling for tomorrow's 4 am pickup, and was wide-eyed for the 10th, 18th time today with the profoundity of spring. Amazed at the mildness of the evening. Air drifting with lilac. Seeing clouds drift across a nearly full moon through the branches of our 70 year old sycamores, which suddenly have leaves. Our whole yard seems to know that tomorrow (today!) it's May.

Back aching with today's wool washing. If I wasn't so crazy-busy (self-imposed), then I'd write about the idyllic farm we visited on Saturday to "help" with sheep shearing. I took lots of pictures that I'm hoping will at least hint at the glory of the setting. We were gifted 3 fleeces and, after a crash internet-course on wool processing, have begun work. Never thought I'd have so much fun picking out poop! My long-suffering husband didn't even raise an eyebrow when I moved the whole production inside after dark and sorted on a tablecloth while we watched American Experience's documentary on the Mormons (I thought Kathleen was great). I have lovely mind-pictures of the girls and I carding and spinning and knitting our summer away... bids on carding combs in on eBay...their enthusiasm is already waning.

and oh, man, is just 1 fleece a lot of wool...

Friday, April 27, 2007


a glorious thing
to eat a perfect pear
from a small bowl made by my hands
at a solid pine table made by my lover's


we have a hamster
her name is fleur

because I love small things?

completely (and unexpectedly) charmed by this one, a coercion purchase. Look at what she can cram in her cheeks!

the girls' adoration--and cheerful pet care--helps (note the cage portrait by marian in the top photo).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

nature babies

Remember the little leaf baby I wrote about? I've gone gangbusters with the idea of stitching up sets of nature babies. I tried to bring part to the hospital to work on while I waited around yesterday, but (1) can hardly concentrate there, and (2) I really need to work on my French knots. Today's serendipity was a referral to this thorough French knot tutorial on Primrose Design from How About Orange (a simply lovely list of tutorials she's found are listed here). More blogs to bookmark! Anyway, French knots & The Office tonight...oh, and that laundry...
The sets I'm starting with, to try out in the shop: (from top L, clockwise) spring, summer, fall, winter, vegetables, fruits, leaves. I think I'll make some sold individually, too. I want them, anyway! even though I'm feeling a little angst about not using natural materials...fleece just has some great properties!

another detail

Another detail of great joy, another quilt made with love. My youngest daughter, Marian, had a series of procedures yesterday, minor surgeries and a series of GI scopes. She's medically complicated, so nothing especially new for us, but still an agonizing day. We are brave and cheerful and extol the virtues of the procedures so her attitude is great. Then our darling child is wheeled away on a guerney, just coming off a rather nasty Versed trip, and we have the luxury of panicked tears or hyper busy-ness, keep-it-away-from-my-heart-ness. Procedures went well, she came out of anesthesia great, and after a very long day (hospital of choice is best in the world, but 3 hours away), all fall asleep. Marian won't usually sleep with a blanket, but when I came upstairs to hook up her feeding tube for the night, she had tucked herself under this bright quilt-of-love the post-op nurses passed along. God bless kind and competent doctors, God bless nurses who notice, God bless ladies who piece quilts for the children's hospital (quilts for kids), God bless perfect wee souls who in turn bless our home.

lovely details

I want to write about the lovely details of life, and these photos capture so many of them. My exquisite daughter, cross-legged on the couch, reading. Sunlight filtering through bamboo shades. A quilt made by her grandmother. Audrey's reading a book we reserved at the library after I realized that the artist from whom I bought these lovely new prints (on a shelf in my studio, waiting to be framed) is a children's book illlustrator. Mandy Sutcliffe, aka millymollymandy (her etsy store where I made my purchases).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Off to the post office to mail this sweet batch to photographer & internet friend Jaci Sue, who raised a whole bunch of $ for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in a baby photo contest this spring. She saw some of the Christmas gifts I sewed up for young cousins & nephews & nieces, and gave me the honor of making some of her prizes this year. My youngest daughter has a complicated medical life, so this is a cause dear to my heart and worth every stitch to be able to contribute to.

The bunnies are a sewing stars pattern, but versions of the others will drift in and out of my shop. The little blue guy, "April Showers" (bring May flowers, except in this case it was for a boy, so I just did a leaf baby for his pocket) has a twin that will be posted this afternoon. My daughters and I are loving the leaf baby, so I think I'll do a whole series of little nature babies for the shop, sold individually & in sets. Can't you just picture a cloud, rain drop, flower, bud, seed, grass blade...? tres fun!

Monday, April 16, 2007

oh so healthy

I, like most of you, am trying to "eat healthy". For me, this means I carefully whip up tofu shakes, drive way out of my way to get organic stuff at Trader Joes, grind my own wheat, and then eat a load of hydrogenated, sugar-filled CRAP. Awesome.

My job requires a lot of driving, and lately some longer trips (I'm in Philly--a 3+ hr drive--every week this month). I cannot seem to stay awake on a drive any distance over 10 miles or so without eating constantly. In an effort to avoid the guckies, I decided to bring healthier foodstuffs this last trip. I ate enough of Trader Joe's rather awesome antioxidant trail mix to get a super-sore mouth (walnuts...), and then a whole pound of grape tomatoes. Except one rather withered one that I didn't quite trust. I think it was overkill. I wonder what I will choose for Friday's trip...
keen blue carpet on my back porch, eh?

"oh, what's Valerie's new job?" those of you who know me may be asking yourselves. I'm still mom-ing it (though the purplepetunia biz is invading a bit). which does mean a whole lot of driving these days; my youngest's doctors are at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and we're busy there! Just thinking I'm funny...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

St. Jude's toys: sneak peak

Yesterday afternoon, good progress on the girls' prizes:
A moderately late night finished those. Today's soccer & school fundraiser interrupted my boys' toys sewing, but I'm still holding to a Monday mail.

The lovely photographer for whose fundraiser I am stitching:
Jaci Sollars

Friday, April 13, 2007

it will happen...

Inspired lately by lovely craft studios I've seen (and the weariness of my family with having no where to eat as the gorgeous table my husband made is strewn with wool and fabric and packing materials), I've made renewed efforts at setting up mine. When taxes and a batch of toys for a St. Jude's fundraiser are finished this weekend, I can then clean out the file cabinet, clear the studio table of new paperwork and such and FINALLY finish what I started. Part of that needs to be refinishing this found cabinet (my question on the topic "made" design mom a few weeks back...still no progress...) to house my prettiest fabrics. Any beautiful or practical studio ideas you've seen lately?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

for the cuties I was supposed to be visiting...

My Midwest Easter travel plans were thwarted by a spring break cut by snow days, so I missed visiting my cutie-tootie nephews and nieces in Iowa and Nebraska. I sent them these already-planned little egg people, adapted from one of crafting rock star Hillary Lang's wee pattern (available as a free pdf here). They were super-fun, with great adapting possibilities (there is a wee group on Flickr she links to from her site-I-love, wee wonderfuls). Thought I'd share.

Since their back panels have such great fabric, another view:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

good mail!

Wow. I am so feeling the sibling love this morning. I just spied the postwoman putting a package behind the storm door and happily waited (why am I nervous to interact?) for her to leave before snatching my happy mail, finding to my delight not one but TWO packs of love from siblings. We have a happy tradition in our family of birthday gifts stringing along for a month or two after the fact, which is frankly nice. Avoids the birthday crash, 'cause you know more is still coming ;). Both packages contained a crafty delight and a childhood flashback of marvelous potency: my two favorites!

Today's treasures come from Iowa (Devn, Abby, and Miss Ellee Rae) and Provo (Camie).
Cam's pack was part birthday love and part trade: I saw an accordion book I loved and asked her to use her considerable bookbinding skills to whip me up a calendar/pocketed/paged purse wonder & she outdid herself. Brown and green, which I love, so many handcrafted details (even a hand-drawn calendar) which I Love, and made by my project-pal sis, which I LOVE. My part of the bargain is still pending her final decision (needle-felted special order).

Camie's childhood flashback is a laminated color-copy (out of print, so that's what we can do...) of an old family staple: If I Obey, I'll be Happy All Day. I guess it is great testament to our parent's brainwashing acumen that we all love this thing. Plus, Popsicles.

These beads were a delightful little surprise, too. Polymer beads of green & silver & black, handcrafted in her signature funky way. I promptly popped them over my head (handily, they match today's outfit...okay, no surprise--green!).

Devn and Abby demonstrated their usual thoughtfulness in a package that included the first two issues of Craft: transforming traditional crafts (which just happens to be what I encouraged my mom to get me for my birthday: a subscription to the same. BUT--missing the premiere issue, so de-light-ed!). And THIS. I actually screamed out loud when I tore open the wrapping. All alone. And rather prolonged for something so spontaneous. I have been wanting this for all of my adult life. A copy of a tape of this album was (along with Power Tunes, Kenny Rogers, and the Beach Boys) one of the Frandsen Family Trip Tapes. It went missing a decade ago, and I've made a couple of searches for it. Abby noted in the enclosed note "Devn picked this out all by himself" and I'VE NO DOUBT! HE KNOWS HOW PERFECT IT IS!! Presenting:

Oh, sing it with me: "I want some brown bread and Boston baked beans and a bunch of bananas and some bits of blue cheese..." We have an awesome old video in our family library of our cool-young-Uncle Rick doing an inspired sneaky black market street-dealer rendition of "Oh, would you like to buy an O?....shh...right...". I've been backspacing for minutes now trying to think of a worthy praise.

Today is bliss. I love you, family!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter gifts

We had a lovely Easter visit with friends in Asheville, NC (go south & get snow. go figure!), sandwiched between two miracle car trips: I didn't quite fall asleep. Though I'm a Mama who delights in childhood's secrets, the Easter bunny has never been more than a fleeting presence. But the baskets? always. And one is always hidden in the dryer, as I remember in Frandsen celebrations. I wonder if they'll catch onto that... This year, I even let the girls choose their basket goods.

Although they're very supportive of my shop, and sweet little helpers, I think it's a bit disappointing to them that what I make, before always for them, now disappears into the bright blue box down the street. So I promised to make each a little playset, "whatever you want." Orders were quick and specific. Audrey: A camping playset, with a root baby and fairy, both about 2 1/2" (she really included that). A leaf sleeping bag for the fairy and a brown blanket and needle-felted nest for the root baby. I added a box of pebbles for fire rings and such, a basket, and a couple of pottery bits. And this lovely surprise: the deciduous tree from sewing stars that I've been drooling over ever since Teresa Levy gave a sneak peek of it in her blog. The pattern is still available in her Woodlands: small toys to sew vol. 2 booklet. Audrey kindly took a break from composing "The Princess's Official Contract" (I couldn't make these things up) to set it up for a photo op this afternoon. Awesome is the fall foliage as fire and the "gum bush" (there's bubble pink Extra under the spring topper).

Marian wanted "a mama and a baby caterpillar and a leaf with holes that they are eating." Science and lifecycles and such, push aside! My sweetie gets what my sweetie wants (the kid honestly thinks that another word for "daughter" is "little darling").Lucky me, I have a holiday-lovin' Mama myself, and got this perfect Easter treat in the mail for me! (I've been heavily hinting for more knitted dishcloths, and this apple-green one is cheering my soul. I might have to start doing wash every day so I can always have it fresh!). How perfect is that strawberry applique? My mom always does everything so neatly. Even her cooking has this lovely roundness to it.
Baskets were rounded out with the usual candy (peeps and chocolate are musts) and generous little bits from our sweet visitee. Plus Crocs (we love 'em). Plus a handful of buttons from millymollymandy, whose artwork I adore. This was my favorite set:
I've heard since from my sister that she bought the tree hugger print for her own little darling's bedroom. Lucky Amari! Very soon I will have the My Favorite Spot print set for mine...

**edit: purchase finding the pic above, I was reminding that mandy is heading back to the UK after an extended US visit in 3 days, and ordering now "saves" me something like $5....oh man, they're so, I really had a tree when I was a wee Washington girl....

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Oh, blessed day!

I had my first great thrift store find yesterday: a lovely handmade blue apron with amazing floral appliques. I'm going to carefully resize it to fit my 5-year-old, who is both my great kitchen helper and a lover of both sky blue and all things beautiful. all of the binding is hand-stitched, and the tiniest blanket stitches ever on the delicate appliques. Also embroidery. I LOVE the fabric the flowers are cut from: it looks hand-dyed, with gorgeous variations of color. The things people give away...hooray! $1.50.

wee Easter gift

wee needle-felted chick

wee origami box
a wee gift I loved to give!