Sunday, January 30, 2011

January: Part III

A little gratitude is an excellent trick for spirits-boosting.
from the etsy shop RozArt**

So, January is an excellent time to share this little grateful project:

I teach a bi-monthly little class/activity night for the 8-11 year old girls in our church congregation. November's evenings were dedicated to gratitude, and we made these little thank-you card holders. I was inspired by a gratitude wrap I saw a couple of years ago on Amanda Soule's blog.

(She has posted instructions for the project on her blog with a detailed pattern pdf here:

It is very pretty.
Mine were quick.

I had picked up a pile of yellow napkins as part of a bundle at an estate sale I went to a couple of years ago, and they weren't getting a lot of rotation, so I decided to start with them for a base. I marked what the front face of the finished product would be, and let the girls embroider a simple something. I used the opportunity for a simple sewing review: tying knots, threading needles, and working with an embroidery hoop. Rather than teach formal embroidery stitches, I passed around a water-soluble fabric marking pen, they drew their motif, and stitched along the lines. It was good sewing practice for the little wool animals we made the next meeting for gift-giving.

Marian's:I had recently acquired several jars of buttons from a rummage sale via a generous friend (thank you, Amanda!), so I graciously (I'm such a hoarder!) brought a big pile along for their browsing joy and allowed each to choose one for the fastening of their wrap. I'm sure it will surprise you that Marian chose a horse.
I took the embroidered napkins home to sew into the wraps and pass out at our next meeting. Already neatly hemmed, they were ready for a quick conversion. I folded the top and bottom edges in (I'd say roughly in thirds, but I guess it was more like 3/9, 4/9, and 2/9), so they overlapped in the center, and ironed them well. I then stitched 6 parallel vertical lines, making compartments for pens, envelopes, and cards as well as marking where the packet should be folded when closed. In one edge seam, I enclosed a loop of gold stretch elastic (rescued from around a long-ago-consumed chocolate box) to catch the button on the other side.
Marian's gratitude wrap got its first use with our Christmas thank you's. She didn't finish when we worked on them together at home (spend the whole time on mine, making it very sweet and extremely thorough), but was able to neatly carry her cards to work on at church the next day. That's her yellow sunshine journal, where mama made her record her gifts and givers on Christmas Day.

**I just spotted this grand oil painting on the "just listed" row on Etsy's home page. It's so joyful and wide-spirited, and spoke GRATEFUL! to me.

Peek here to see an exuberant collection of leapers available in her Etsy store, prints & originals both.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January: Part II

Some people are tempted by the summer's sticky heat to cut their long hair.
I am tempted by January.
It's the static that undoes me.

I usually combat my hair with a nice chignon (do you think I'm fancier because I used that word instead of "bun"?), using whichever straight and sharp object I can find to hold it in place. The top photograph is of a vase on my nightstand, holding what I pulled out of my hair before I went to sleep. I feel especially cool when I traipse to the school with a paintbrush in my hair.

Here's my current hair: combed when wet, air dried, no product. The second photo: slightly damp, not yet brushed. Do you think if it was shorter and a bit layered I could be curly?
And would that counteract January?

**You can partially see that the book on the top of the stack (this was a couple of weeks ago) is Richard Powers' Generosity: An Enhancement. It's a novel about a girl who is unusually happy and the response of self and those around her to the discovery that this is largely from her genetic good luck. It was our January bookclub book, my second reading, and flat out fascinating. Have any of you read it?

January: Part I

I really hate January.

On one level, I can look outside and admire the icy stillness and smile at the pattern made on the wall by moonlight shining through the paper snowflakes we taped to our windows and plan bookclub discussions and have crafternoons and talk myself through my own good fortune of time and space and friends and family.

But my soul screams for light and warmth and something other than here and now and static and my seretonin levels suffer and I hide in the bathroom to avoid putting the kids to bed and I barely make it through the month. Just like last year.

Back to that first level, then!
Creating color in January:

A friend is caught in medical drama and Reuben and I sent her some color. I did something similar a couple of years ago, but can't find the link. I made mine very tiny and on a bit of magnetic paper so it can be sunshine bright on her fridge, and I swear Reuben made this without prompting. He wouldn't make a copy for me, and it just shows how much I love said friend that I gave it away.I like layering two tones of tissue paper in the blossoms for visual interest, but only had one color of green to use for the leaves. I tried another sort of layering--double and triple thickness--and it was slick.Another January color effort was the purchase of this wee rainbow from the Container Store. I couldn't find a link in their online store, but they were a deal in the office area: $1.99 for 12.Marian stole a blue one, and we used the rest to work on the drawer you see there. I was gifted some great clearance glitter (maybe I'll stay on my blogging roll and you'll see some results next week!), and my glitter/weird tapes/sequins/miscellaneous shiny things drawer overflowed. Phew! Good thing I bought these.

Friday, January 28, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, we substituted a Friday morning thrifting for Friday crafternoon, and I had great little finds. We went to a thrift store at a retirement village/nursing home. I think most of the stock is either from a resident downsizing as they move from an apartment to a smaller care room, or after a death, so it has already been sort of pre-curated: the treasures that were chosen to keep for the move here.

This was a Marian treasure-trove. We wanted to get her some leather riding gloves (she received horseback riding lessons for Christmas), but weren't sure where to find tiny ones. This pair fits wee hands (though the fingers are long), and were just a quarter! Marian my fancy girl had also recently asked me to buy a set of small goblets. We have a pair of shallow little plastic ones, and huge heavy green glass ones from my childhood, and neither quite suit her. Welcome to the Goates home, 7/$1.50 clear glass goblets and 3/$0.75 blue flutes! She was dying dying with the greatness when she found them on the table after school.

Other treasures: $0.15 tin of watercolors, $0.25 jar of little wicks (perfect for acorn-cap wish candles--see Becci's version here and don't forget to peek at the photo of her beautiful-to-his-chagrin boy wishing), $0.30 for a bag full of sharpened dowels (clay and bun-holding uses--I actually do cut up and pencil-sharpen dowels for this purpose, including a pair the week before this great find), and Valentine gifts for mine: a star pin ($0.15) for celestial-loving Audrey, fancy clip-on earrings ($1.00) for Marian whose parents are non-pierce-allowing meanies so far, and a mustache brush for Nathan. It's the coolest little funny thing I've ever seen. The man doesn't even brush his hair, but his winter beard is getting out of control to our joint fascination--how would that be to have stiff stuff all over your face? Men are weird! I have the mirror side facing up in the photo; the other side has a tiny, very densely bristled, round brush. It neatly folds up into the wooden case, and was the big splurge of the day at $5.00. I ♥ it very much!

love advent

Thirteen years ago a friend pulled a very-pregnant-with-my-first me along to a crafty morning at her church while our husbands skiied and we made this:
It's a love advent: a simple banner of cheap red felt, with 14 calico hearts and cotton ties hot-glued on. Our love advent has become a regular tradition. We take an evening in late January and write a pile of wee notes to everyone in the family of the "I love this about you" variety. I roll together one note per person per day, and tie them on. Then each day from February 1st-14th we open one scroll bundle and read why we are loved.

I love a love advent. But this one has gotten rather bedraggled and I've become a felt and handsewing snob, so it has lost its enchantment to the point that last year we didn't do it. And probably had a lousy February as a result ;). Last spring as I fingered red wool blazers and pink cashmere sweaters during my grand BUY & FELT THEM ALL! thrift store stalking, I had a new love advent very much in mind.

This one.
I couldn't get a good photo. The light was not quite cooperating, and both felt and red are hard for me.

I decided to make heart pockets instead of ties, in case something sweet ever wants to be included. And I had 14 unique red-or-pink wools to choose from. The stash is that big, friends. I coerced Marian and Audrey into sewing two of them: the pink hearts on square pockets. The little pieces were easier for them to work with.

It took an insane amount of time. I'd glare at it, embarrassed that I was stitchstiching instead of cleaning, but have consoled myself that I only work on it when I would otherwise just be sitting there, not cleaning anyway: when I'm exhausted and TV-ing (I cannot just sit) or the baby wants me RIGHT THERE and I'm tired of having my finger yanked to dislocation as he drags me to his lair over and over again. He will let me sew. He just doesn't want me to make any sudden movements (she's escaping!).

edit: okay, this is really sneaky of me. I have blogger set up to auto e-mail my blog posts to my sweet mum because she likes it. I've noticed, though, that they considerately only send the original posting, not all edits, on to inboxes. I posted the above, which she'll read as the original, then have this to share with the rest of you: the advent above is on its way to Idaho! My mom's birthday is February 4th, so I thought a love advent would work out slick for a birthday gift. I sent out a plea to my sibs and kids to mail me little love notes to add to our family's contribution, so she'll have one or two to open each day and brighten February up a bit. I refolded and rolled some of the scrolls after I took this picture to make them fit a bit better.I'm nearly done with the second love advent: ours.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I spent a chunk of my Christmas pottery sales on these little honeys for mine.
Urban Cowgirl and Cassiopeia Spice. Aren't those perfect for my horse girl and star girl? Plus, almost the least expensive currently available--they just came out last fall so are more available, methinks--and I did pay less than 1/2 the Japanese retail price, though I also pulled the classic ebay trick of waiting for an auction to end instead of choosing the BIN option, for the honor of paying more. Hooray.

What might we be beginning?
I've been fascinated by the Blythe movement (subculture? crafty doll dressing and customizing delight?) before, but was finally entranced by this new blog introduction:
and her flickr set.

Just turned the corner.

I'm not sure why I'm so fired up about making Blythe clothes and have not yet made a single American Girl doll dress. I think I like the aesthetic more. It's very much fancy-tickling. I'm so excited to customize and much! Thinking that I'm waiting for Audrey's birthday. We'll see.

So excited. I told both girls "my secret!" (they've been really delighted as we checked them out together), and we've been bouncy about it.

Take that, January blues.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

more wool gifts

While most of my holiday giving was happily handmade, not much was really original, either, so I haven't been dying to share it. Plus, I switched photo editors (not by choice) and I'm kind of cranky about it. And didn't take grand-o photos anyway. So: not that motivated.

I tried to work through some of my wool stash (or is it a hoard? nope--I was willing to CUT and USE, so...hope for me? I'm very suspicious of self-as-hoarder lately and trying to be self aware), but used others' ideas to do so.

(1) Wool slipper socks for the kiddos. I intended these as solstice gifts, and they got them a couple of days later. I never took photos, so here is a weird nighttime photo (opening Christmas Eve jammies) I found that shows them sort of.I used the draft-your-own pattern instructions here:

and was happy with them...mostly. For the girls' slippers, I used light cashmere and cashmere-blend sweaters, and they were really too loose. Since they had so much stretch, I could have seamed 'em up much more. The sizing was better for Reuben's, for whom I used thicker sweaters. I think so, anyway; I've only forced them on his feet once (he is very--and mysteriously--opposed).

Recommended adjustments:
*I didn't want interior scratchy seams, so chose to machine zig-zag my pieces together, holding the cut edges just right next to each other and they turned out lovely and flat and quite secure, as long as I held them correctly.
* I did seam the soles in the usual way, and this made them too narrow when I used a straight foot-tracing, like I did for my oldest. Also, the sole kind of rolled up so she would be stepping on the seams. I widened the sole pieces for my littler ones, and added thick insoles (layers of heavy felted wool and a cotton or bamboo fleece for softness/absorbancy) to each of the slippers to make them more comfortable, and to keep the sole from curling up. They sort of stay in place. I stitched Marian's all around the edges, and that was also an improvement.

(2) A wool petal scarf for my sister-in-law. I used several reds and one very soft dark gray (which I imagined to be nicest against the skin), and found the idea on the lovely annekata's blog here:
The borrowed idea of stamping on lots of circles (from maya*made was really a better idea than I originally thought.Marian modeled it for me & it does look fine with her red beret :).
I hoped she liked it. She is very much more stylish than me, but also very polite :). Loves black and red, though, so maybe...

(3) Four pair of felted wool slippers for some of the older feet on my Christmas list, using a pattern from Martha described here:

There is a cuter felt slipper idea, but these looked warmer. I did all of the seams externally, which might not be the prettiest way, but it is very comfortable and nicely structured. I needle-felted in a few details, which turned out okay. The wild flowering on the green slippers owes full credit to the original sweater. I like them. I don't know if my recipients loved them or not (some people are really difficult to gift!), but I'm taking a lesson from my Grandma F (who still gives to 5 children and spouses, 20+ grandchildren and piles of greats each year with great grace), who wisely advised my mother once that she gives what she can and it is up to them to like it or not.

How's that for a cheery ending? I did love making with so much wool. It was very warm. I really should have made some for myself. We are not very good adults and ran out of heating oil this weekend. The girls are sleeping in front of the fire and Reuben's/our room has a space heater and it was really kind of fun to be forced to be in the same (one warm!) room together this weekend. But this lovely office this evening? Ay, the heels be a bit numb. To bed with me! I need a warm body to cuddle with.

PS: my favorite mom-crafted holiday gift is showcased here:
Do peek.