29 December 2009

Unfinished Business

I tried very, very hard to get everything done in time for Christmas. And I had some big plans. And almost everything got finished or substituted so that I was on top of everything come Christmas morning. The exception was an apron for my mom. It's true that this is the 4th apron I've made for my mom this year. (A Mother's Day gardening apron and two utility aprons account for the other three.) But it is the first kitchen apron. Back in October, she came with me to my church's women's retreat at a convent in Maine. And one of the nuns had an apron with an appliqued sheep on the front. My mom mentioned that she really liked it and that she wanted one like it, which I stashed away in my little Christmas brain.

So I started making an apron for her from One-Piece Wearables, which contains a ton of patterns that I love and would wear. This apron was one that I've been excited about for some time, and I figured that my mom's sheep apron was the perfect opportunity to try it out. But of course, I can't follow a simple pattern, and I changed it because the pattern had three large gathered pockets on the front, which are really just unnecessary in a kitchen apron. So I got rid of the pockets, made it a little longer, flared the bottom a bit, and added my own ideas for decoration. The basic shape of the apron came together pretty easily, even with my modifications. I edged the entire thing in bias tape I made using this handy-dandy tool, which I love love love. And I added straps that cross in the back and are strung through little loops on the sides. So the basic construction was a huge success despite the late-night/early-morning hours at which it came together. If I had to do it over again, I would choose fabric that is a little more my mom. But these choices seemed appropriately sheepy, and I had them on hand the night I was inspired to start. So there you have it.

So the apron was complete except for the sheep, which were the whole point of the thing. And I mean sheep plural rather than sheep singular. I decided to have three sheep on the top (representing her three girls) jumping over a flower and a mama sheep pocket on the bottom. And this is where I got hung up. Because the shape of a sheep is nearly impossible to applique. It's true. It's just not possible to turn the fabric under where the little woolly bumps come in. And I still haven't figured it out. So my mom's sheep apron remains unfinished. I gave it to her on Christmas morning with the sheep pinned to the top so she could envision what it would look like when someday it is finished. Which hasn't happened yet because 1) Christmas making did burn me out quite a bit, 2) the deadline has passed, which means that all my adrenaline energy is gone, and 3) I still can't figure out how to do it. I think that the solution probably has something to do with fusible webbing, which I have never used and know nothing about. I'm hoping that someday soon, inspiration will strike and I will schlep the 700 miles to Joann fabrics, buy some webbing, figure it out, and finish the little sheepies so my mom can have her Christmas present back. In the mean time, it is sitting under my adorable, newly acquired (free, found by the dumpster) ironing table. Here it the apron in its still unfinished state:
Amy's and Megan's birthday presents are also on my unfinished business list. Megan's birthday was in November. She's getting a little felted gnome sitting in a little copper beer stein. I've already felted his head. He just needs a hat and a body, and he's done. And Amy's birthday was in December. I crocheted a bag for her that is nearly completed except for the fabric lining and two simple seams to assemble it. I don't know what's holding me back aside from the aforementioned Christmas making burnout. But again, I'm hoping someday soon, inspiration (or a sugar high) will strike at just the right moment, and I'll finish those, too.

28 December 2009

From Head to Toe

For my sisters this year, in addition to a few other little odds and ends presents (pencil supplies for Megan, vintage buttons and crocheted doilies for Amy, gLee soundtracks for both), I made each of them a headband and a pair of slippers.

I'm pretty excited about these headbands I've learned to make. They are reversible, comfortable, and in all other ways awesome. And I have them down to a pretty streamlined process. At least, I would have if I hadn't been making them post-2 o'clock in the morning. That's probably why it took me so long to pick out fabrics for Amy and Megan, who I usually have an easy time spotting in fabrics. I'm still not sure I got them right. But the headbands were finished before Christmas, and they liked them, so all [seam-ripping, wrong cutting, remeasuring, furrowed brow, indecision, etc.] is right with the world.
And I liked the headbands so much that I made myself one as well to keep my hair out of my face in my flurry of Christmas crafting. Merry Christmas to me.
And then there were the slippers. A few confessions about these slippers:
1) I really wanted to make them. This was definitely one of those instances where I gave presents that I wanted to make more so than what I thought they would really want or need or use. But I knew that they would like them, and really...who doesn't need a pair of crocheted slippers? Answer: no one. Everyone needs a pair of crocheted slippers. It's a fact. And I would have made a pair for everyone on my list if I hadn't run out of time, which brings me to confession number 2:

2) I gave Megan a bundle of unconnected granny squares on Christmas morning. And a slipper that I had messed up the colors on. So she didn't get her slippers until after Christmas. And Amy's were finished post-Christmas, also, which is what delayed her and Jared's presents.

3) Because of the color mistake on that one slipper, I ended up with an extra odd slipper. I told Jason I'd make the second slipper and give the pair to him, but then he went out and bought a really nice pair of sheepskin slippers with rubber souls. So I don't know if those slippers will ever get finished for him. We'll see.

Here's Megan modeling her slippers (and her black lab Duncan in the background):And Amy's slippers, waiting to be shipped off to South Carolina:

And with that, we are just about caught up with my Christmas makes. Consider the next 2 posts (Handmade Goodness and Unfinished Business) the "deleted scenes."

20 December 2009

A Camel and a Cookie

Last year, my sisters and I collaborated on a present for my mom. I can't remember if Amy or Megan initiated it, but they decided to felt a nativity scene for her. Amy is the best felter of the three of us, so she got "the big show," (Mary, Joseph, and Jesus). Megan did the shepherds. And I did the wise men. This year, we added to the set. Well, I think my mom is still waiting on a sheep or two from Megan, but Amy felted a donkey, and I made a camel. Meet Humphrey:
Ha ha ha! get it? Hump-hrey. Cause he's a camel. I'm hilarious.

Humphrey is loosly based on Joshua from The Little Drummer Boy Christmas claymation. I don't know why I thought it was necessary to make Humphrey so emaciated. But I think it adds to his charm. Here he is happily united with the wise men I made last year.
Another little felting project was this cookie ornament:This takes a bit of explanation. Umm...maybe a lot of explanation. Here goes: I don't really ever remember believing in Santa Claus. It's one of the results of being the youngest of three with two older sisters who find it necessary to explain the ways of the world to you before you really need the magic destroyed. So I knew that all of the presents under the tree came from my parents. But the stockings were still "Santa's" responsibility, and they were one of my favorite parts of the whole Christmas hoopla. Stocking presents were always wrapped in white tissue paper, which you could usually see through because Santa didn't have a lot of time to spare for wrapping. The stockings would always be bursting with little white presents and there would be a pile of white tissue-paper-wrapped presents under each of our stockings, which would always include a calendar and usually a few movies, books, and other such goodies. And inside the stocking would be a toothbrush, a pair or two of socks, candy, some kind of jewelry, other little knickknacks, a clementine in the toe--it was supposed to be a tangerine, but clementines are just so much better--2 candy canes hanging on the side, and--I promise I'm making my way back to the cookie--an ornament. So when Jason and I got married, I had a full collection of ornaments to decorate our tree, courtesy of Santa Claus.

And here, our story takes a dark turn. Jason never grew up with the illusion of Santa Claus, and he never had a stocking!! He said that it was because they didn't have a fire place. (Let it be known that I think this is a poor excuse. Before we finished our family room, my family hung our stockings on a cabinet.) So I believe it was the Christmas following our engagement that I made Jason a stocking. Because if he was going to be a part of my family, that was one bit of Christmas tradition whose absence I would not tolerate. And every year since then, I have included an ornament in his stocking. Because that's what you do. It's tradition.

But man oh man, ornaments are expensive! And Jason and I set budgets for each other for Christmas so we don't go crazy, and these past two years, I've budgeted for ornaments only to not have the wiggle room when it came time to go ornament shopping. But thankfully, I'm so crafty. So last year I felted him a penguin. This year, I put a lot of thought into it, knowing that I would be felting him another ornament. I thought and thought and thought about what Jason likes best, and the answer was "chocolate chip cookies." When I am unhappy, having my hair in two french braids is guaranteed to make my day better. And for Jason, french braids are chocolate chip cookies. Sadly, Jason refuses to learn how to french braid, and my arms are too weak to do it myself. And I am rarely in the mood to make chocolate chip cookies. So we're both kinda outta luck. But I told him that his cookie ornament was also a coupon for him to redeem at any time that he wants chocolate chip cookies and I don't feel like making them. When he redeems the coupon (which he will do by saying, "I would like to redeem my coupon," and singing "C is for Cookie"--hey, I make the coupon and the cookies, so I also get to make the rules, right?), I will make him cookies whether I feel like it or not, no matter what time of day or night it is. Merry Christmas to Jason.

That was a very long story for such a very small ornament.

And now we are finally making some headway in the great Christmas catch-up.

19 December 2009

Rusted Window

So remember how I said I wouldn't be making any more cathedral window projects in December because I could not be easily convinced to part with something so awesome? Well, here's the thing. My dad really likes cathedral window quilts. And he is particularly difficult to shop for. And I knew he would appreciate the work that went into this, so, I made him a cathedral window wall-hanging for Christmas.This one is completely machine-sewn. And if I was doubting my sewing skills after Molly's bird, this restored my confidence. I hit a few snags sewing around the outside, but I sewed around all of the rust-colored diamonds without stopping or ripping out any seams. Woohoo!

Fun little extra fact: here's how many pins it took to keep this together while I was sewing.
Good pinning is essential to good sewing, folks. Essential.

I was originally going to put aside my distain for the number 4 and put this together in a 4 block x 4 block formation. But it annoyed me that I couldn't pattern my window squares in a symmetrical way using that set-up, and really, who needs sleep in December anyway? So instead I did 3 blocks x 6 blocks so it could be more of a panoramic or tall and skinny shape. That probably doesn't make much sense if you don't know how cathedral window quilts are constructed, so I've put this together to show you where the blocks are.(Of course this shows you how very imperfect and un-squared this is, but my ego can take the hit in order to aid comprehension.) It's such a beautifully mathematical, geometric process. It just warms my little heart. And my dad really liked it, too. Check plus!

18 December 2009

The Little Ones

In the daunting task of catching you up on my Christmas makings, I thought I would start with presents for the little ones. First of all, I need to offer up the confession that I did not make a present for Jesse. I labored over many very good ideas but nothing that was quite perfect. I was also a little stretched because I wanted to make sure he got to open his present on Christmas morning (even though his parents didn't get their presents from Jason and me until well after). So I settled on an astronaut outfit because the boy just loves to play dress up. We also sent him some stick-on mustaches. Jesse LOVES mustaches. He says that when he grows up, he's going to have a watch and a mustache and gum. Man, I love that kid!! So...even though I didn't make anything for that lovable little munchkin who has just about everything, I think he made out pretty well.

The other 2 little ones of the family did get handmades from me this year. They're both infants, so it's a little easier. For Josiah, I made my first ever complete crochet project. It's a hat loosely based on a pattern in The Happy Hooker. The pattern was for an infant head, so that's where I started, but Josiah's got quite the noggin on him so I added a few extra rows to the top, increasing stitches until the hat was about the size of a cantaloupe. I added a little gray stripe for interest. It fits him really well, but it doesn't quite cover his ears. So I'm planning on making a few granny square ear flaps, which look unspeakably adorable in my head.Isn't he cute in his little Christmas pajamas?!?

And for little miss Molly Grace, I made a little bird friend based on a pattern in Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts. The pattern is for a bird ornament, but I wanted it to be a little bigger so she wouldn't swallow it or something. At first I tried to enlarge the pattern freehand. Bad idea. The lines wouldn't match up. So instead I took a picture and enlarged it on the computer and printed it out. Presto. Instant conversion from ornament to toy. I used fabric that was left over from the bedding I made for Molly back before she was born. Just about the time I was sewing this, I was feeling very confidant in how my sewing skills had progressed over the past year. Then I remembered that I've never sewn anything really 3-dimensional or rounded before. It was a bit of a challenge and quite humbling, but it turned out all right in the end.
I'm not sure why this picture is so blurry. :o/

(Disclaimer: yes, it is absolutely and unabashedly my goal to be the favorite aunt of all of my nieces and nephews. But I did not intentionally make this look like a robin. I'm not quite so narcissistic as to try to subliminally condition Molly to like me best via a stuffed animal. I was planning on putting green wings on it, but they looked dorky, so I left them off, which made this bird quite robin-like.)

So there we have it. 2 Christmas makes posted, many more to go...

17 December 2009

December Special Orders

Man oh man, do I have a lot to tell you! I'm a little miffed that my archives will only show 2 posts for December 2009 when that was my busiest making month yet. I'm tempted to fix the posting dates of these next few posts to put them where they belong, but that feels a little like cheating since it's taken me so long to post them. Maybe I'll do it retroactively when I'm not concerned about this post coming up on RSS feeds. Sneaky, huh? :o) [edit: done and done]

Anyway, on to the old news. In December, I had several special orders to complete. The first was a commission from the professor who asked me to participate in the North Shore Bazaar. She gave each of her kids a little stuffed animal mouse for Christmas. (They're big fans of Stuart Little.) She was making all sorts of accessories for the little mice, and she wanted me to make little felted teddy bears. So I felted two teddy bears, each 2 1/2 inches tall by 1 1/2 inches wide. I gave them each a little heart because I couldn't resist adding a little color. I realized when I finally finished them and brought them into work that I had forgotten to take a picture for you. So I took one with my phone. But I don't know how to get pictures from my phone to my
computer, so I took a picture of the picture on my phone.
It's probably good that this picture is a terrible quality because the bears came out a little on the scary-looking side. I'm not very good at felting eyes (and it probably doesn't help that the one on the right's eyes are yellow). There are just too many little detailed steps that annoy me. (Aside: it's difficult to get two things looking exactly the same when you're sculpting them out of fiber with a needle. I found this to be true for the eyes, the ears, the arms, and the legs, and I decided that I really don't enjoy felting as much as I feel like I should. I like making big shapes, but when it comes to things like faces and getting two legs to match, I'm just not a fan. End aside.) But after much hard work and questions to Jason like, "What kind of animal does this look like?" and "Will those eyes freak out the children?" I finally got the bears into respectable shape. And my client said they were perfect and paid me for them, so all is well.

My second special order came from the Christmas bazaar at the seminary. A friend of mine (Rachel) was trying to pick out an acorn ornament and didn't know what colors to choose. So I told her I could make her a red and green one. I made her a perfect little ornament from my grouped acorns, and I brought it to church, and somehow between the truck and the church, I stepped on it. Poor little acorn caps did not survive. So I went home and tried again. And in the process of felting or gluing or tying on ribbons, I somehow managed to break apart every single little acorn cap pairing that I had. Humph. So I specially designed this little number for Rachel:
This one is more durable than the grouped acorn ornaments, and there are more options for ways to display them, so I'm happy with how it turned out. I still haven't delivered it to her (which is ridiculous considering that we live in the same building), and she's probably already packed away all of her Christmas decorations. Sigh.

My third special order also came at the Christmas bazaar. One of the other vendors at the show (Amanda) saw my apron straps on my table from afar and asked it I could make headbands that looked like that. I told her that I never had but that I was sure I could figure it out. She sent me fabric that matched a dress she would be wearing on a Caribbean Christmas cruise, and I turned the fabric into headbands. I used the headscarf pattern from Weekend Sewing--which is a fabulous book, by the way--altering it slightly (of course) to be more headbandish. Here's how they turned out:

Pretty cute, huh? I think so. It's so hard to find a nicely fitting headband that doesn't give one a headache, but these work quite well. And I got to sew with elastic for the first time ever, so that was pretty exciting.

So...once I finished all of those little lovelies, I could finally get started on the handmade Christmas presents I've been so excited about. Luckily, Jason had 2 major papers to finish out his semester, so I had someone to stay up late with me while I worked into the wee hours of the morning making messes...and a few Christmas presents, too. More about those in my next post.

In the mean time, I thought I'd give you all a little update on the great jam giveaway. I have delivered 2 of my 5 strawberry jams! Woohoo! Only 3 to go, 2 of which also live in my building, so again, this shouldn't be too difficult. But for some reason it is. ::Facepalm:: My goal was to have these all delivered by Christmas. My new goal is before Valentine's Day. Wouldn't a little Valentine's Day Strawberry Jam make the world a better place? I think it would. Thankfully, the shelf-life of these little babies is pretty much forever. So never fear, giveaway winners. Your jam is still good, and I have not forgotten you.

So coming up we have:
1) Handmade Christmas Presents Galore
2) An announcement that all of the jam has been delivered
3) Some very exciting business announcements. Get pumped.
Grand things await us in the very near future.

14 December 2009


The due date came and went for another issue of Kalos. In my preparations for the Christmas bazaar, I completely missed it. Thankfully, the editors are gracious, and they gave me a little extension, so I was able to submit something for possible inclusion in the journal.

The theme for this issue is "Light," which I was really excited about. I'm a big fan of light in all its forms: sunshine, bonfires, candles, well lit rooms, Christmas lights. I love me some light. It's one of my very most favorite things along with warmth, South Jersey, soft things, mathematical patterns, back rubs, hand-made things, adolescent escapist literature, and dark chocolate.

For the past several years, I've been in kind of a difficult place, unable to find myself in the transition from rock star dreaming to being a wife of a seminary student. It's been a surprisingly dark and lonely place for me. But I'm beginning to see now how God has shown up in little places, how He's given me moments here and there that let me know that He's here and that just because I feel lost doesn't mean that He doesn't know where I am or where I'm going. In other words, He's given me windows...little windows to shed just enough light to allow me to keep moving forward.

I was inspired by this idea of windows of light shining through the darkness. And I had an idea for another wall-hanging, this one would be more of a mini-quilt, based on the traditional quilting style called "cathedral window." I had no idea how to go about making a cathedral window quilt, but I found this very helpful tutorial and thought it looked "simple enough." I took an old gray sheet that I bought at a yard sale (behind the golf clubs), and I set to work. (That's right. Check me out. Re-purposing fabric, being all green and whatnot.) I was pleasantly surprised by how mathematical the process was. It includes a lot of folding and ironing, kinda like making those paper cootie-catcher, fortune teller things you make in 3rd grade to confirm by handmade fortune-telling means that you'll marry Marty Halldorson when you grow up. Sorry...rabbit trail...

Anyway, I ironed 9 blocks and decided I needed 3 more. Then I sewed the blocks together and decided I needed to go shopping for more fabric because I wanted a variety of yellows and patterns for my windows. So I got more fabric and then decided that I needed to hand-sew all of the blocks in place. Because I'm insane. Who cares about special orders and Christmas presents and a wretchedly dirty apartment, all of which really need to be taken care of right now, when you have an extra project that would just be so cool if you sewed it all by hand completely unnecessarily?!? Not me. So I proceeded with my insanity and hand-sewed around each of the 17 blocks, which might not sound like very many. It didn't sound like very many when I decided to do it. Trust me. Seventeen is a fair few. Once I finally finished all that, I decided I had put my fingers through enough thoroughly superfluous torture and machine-sewed the triangles around the edges of the mini-quilt.

I just realized that you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Here's a picture of the final project to aid comprehension. (If you click on the picture, you'll be able to see all of my hand-stitching.)
I absolutely LOVE this. If it's not my very most favorite thing I've ever made, it's definitely up there and maybe only doesn't claim the top spot because I didn't have enough gray fabric to make a full quilt...which I likely would have done. Because I'm crazy, and it's December 14th, so obviously, I should be making something for myself. Foolish. But as I was saying, I love this thing. It's so soft. And I love the color combination. And it was just so fun to make. So you can be sure there will be more of these in the future. But they will not be hand-sewn. And they will not be made in December unless I actually plan on giving them away. Not likely. Because seriously, something handmade and soft and warm and mathematical and reminiscent of light that can be cozied up in while eating dark chocolate in South Jersey, having my back rubbed, and reading Twilight...you just can't expect a girl to part with something like that.

13 December 2009

Show #4

Those of you who know me well will know that I am not happy that show #4 is my final show of the year. I hate the number 4. I don't eat things in 4s. I don't arrange things in 4s. And if 4 is forced upon me, I usually find some way to rationalize it another way, as in: 2 + 2 or 3 + 1 or 25 cents (the last one is instead of 1/4). There you have it. All that to say, I had my 4th show (3 craft shows + 1 exhibit...ahh, that feels better) last weekend. It was a Christmas Bazaar held at the seminary for anyone and everyone who is part of the seminary community to sell whatever they had to sell in the hopes of spreading some Christmas cheer.

In preparation for the show, I decided that I needed to have more Christmas wares. At my last bazaar, I had a lot of fall stuff, and that just would not do for a Christmas bazaar on December 5th. I had all sorts of ideas of felted ornaments I could make, cute little bags, crazy-quilt stockings...all relatively simple and manageable ideas. But not quite manageable enough. I ended up making 13 sheep ornaments with pipe-cleaners and wool and ribbons and little bells and had to abandon the rest of my equally adorable but not quite equally simple ideas. (If you click on the pictures below, you can see the sheep better.)

I replaced my tree branch display from my last show with a little Christmas tree that Jason picked up at CVS on Saturday morning while I was setting up my table. Thanks, Jason. I also used my bread box to display the jam and apple butter to raise the jars closer to eye-level, and I had samples out, both of which combined to greatly improve my preserves sales. Here's my display:
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by my sales at the show. I didn't sell as many big items as last time, but I sold more little items, which all together made it a more profitable venture than the North Shore Bazaar, which surprised me, being that this show was for the seminary community, and nobody at the seminary has cash to burn.

I picked up a few little treasures myself. I got several adorable prints from my friend, Heather. (Check out her blog and etsy page. So talented!) She traded me prints for an apron, which worked out quite nicely since I've been wanting a few of her pieces for months now. Hooray for craft shows bringing people together! And I got the most delicious peanut butter fudge I have ever tasted. Ever. Unfortunately, it's one of those "secret family recipes from grandma," and the girl who made it is leaving at the end of this semester, so I don't have time to become her friend in order to weasel the recipe out of her. The thought of going the rest of my life without this fudge is thoroughly depressing. Quite a bleak picture of this fudge-less future. :o( (Seriously, this fudge is life-changing.)

In addition to the lovely little surprise of bringing in some money, and the excitement of finally getting some of Heather's prints, and the yummy-ness of the life altering/wrecking fudge, it was quite an enjoyable show. There was live music, which was lovely, and I even got to sing a few of my songs. My guitar playing was absurdly sloppy, but it was mostly just background noise, so I'm hoping people didn't notice too much that I was playing the wrong chords and changing the tempo all over the place. Gross.

Now I'm looking forward to starting on all those lovely Christmas present ideas I have. And yes, I do realize that I have only 12 days to make oodles (literally oodles) of presents. But if I start tonight, and I make 2 presents a day--or maybe 3 or 5 (obviously not 4)-- I just might manage. But let's be honest. What's more likely to happen is that I will plan and re-plan and over-plan until about the 20th and then kick it into high gear, pulling a few late-nighters or all-nighters and getting everything together just in the St. Nick of time. So I will be sleep-deprived, but by golly, I will craft those handmade Christmas goodies!

24 November 2009


Two weekends ago, Jason's parents came for a short weekend visit. It was lovely to get to spend some good, quality time with them, relaxing and reconnecting before we go to visit for Christmas. Coming down from the crafting craziness leading up to the Bazaar and a bit tired from the thorough scrub down of my apartment, I resigned myself to taking a week off from crafting and catching up the following week. But the weather was on my side, raining all day on Saturday and keeping the four of us bound indoors. Jason and his dad camped out in the living room to watch some sports, and Jason's mom and I set up at the kitchen table for some crafting.

A wee bit of history is required here. Bear with me as we travel back to Fall 2005, when I was at rock'n'roll camp, and I had a friend named Aria. The two of us discovered that we had complimentary talents in many areas: I play guitar, and she plays piano; she has excellent melodic sensibilities, and I can string together a mean harmony line; I'm a brunette, and she's a blond; and, most relevant here, I knit, and she crochets. We decided to take advantage of the abundant coffee and beautiful stone fireplaces available to us and to share our talents with one another. I had my mom send us some yarn, and I taught Aria how to knit while she taught me how to crochet. While my semester at rock'n'roll camp on Martha's Vineyard holds numerous happy [and a few very difficult] memories, those knitting/crocheting sessions by the fire were some of my most relaxing and favorite times. I was happy and warm, spending time with good friends and being creative in a way that was not quite so deeply soul-stretching or challenging as music was. It was wonderful to be able to make something new without having to question my talents or struggle through existential despair for the perfect way to communicate the depths of my emotions. We simply sat by the fire and worked our yarn and needles into new creations.

Over the past few years, time and distance have made keeping up those relationships difficult to say the very least. And in all the constant changes from finishing college to moving several times across the country to getting married and becoming an adult, I lost touch also with crochet. Of course, the loss of that skill-set was not as deeply felt as the loss of the time to pursue music, the support of the creative community, my dear friends, or my rock star dreams. But it was a small token of something I knew once, and I had to once again come to grips with the fact that "I don't know much of anything anymore" (quote from "Christmas in September," a song I wrote that semester, which you can hear on my myspace page).

Over the past few years, I have now and then come back to my crochet hook with the hope of some magical reawakening of my skills. But even with the help of The Happy Hooker, a wonderful and helpful book on crochet, I could not figure out how to even get started. Some sort of mental block kept me from understanding the clear instructions and simple diagrams in the book. I would spend about half an hour fiddling with my yarn and my hook until I would get frustrated, throw my hook across the room, shove my yarn back into its cubby, and give up in a huff.

So you can imagine...when Jason's mom came to visit with yarn and crochet hook in tow, I had a mixture of emotions. She had asked Jason if I knew how to crochet, and he said that he didn't think so. But she was determined to learn and said the two of us would figure it out together. So I prepared myself to drink an emotional smoothie of frustration and stubbornness, and between the chopping and stirring of preparing some delicious cheesy chicken chowder, we soldiered through the chain stitch, the single crochet stitch, the half-double, the double, the triple, and even crocheting in a circle! Thankfully, Ann (that's Jason's mom) had persevered through the chain, single, and half-double before she arrived, so she was able to teach me where to begin, and we learned the rest together.

Now that I understand it, it seems ridiculous that I couldn't grasp it before, but there's something about having a real, live, 3-dimensional teacher to patiently guide you, check your work, and encourage you to keep going when you get all tangled up, and your yarn starts unraveling, and your chain stitch is too tight, so as to prevent you from inserting your hook, etc. Throughout our several hour expedition into the world of crochet, she continually reminded me that we were just practicing to master the technique, and there was no reason to be frustrated or concerned with perfection at this point. And with that mindset in place, it was such a lovely time crafting alongside my mother-in-law and learning from her and with her a skill that I had lost along the way.
To return the favor, I taught her how to needle felt a pumpkin. She caught on very quickly and enjoyed it so much that she bought one of the felting kits I had left over from the bazaar. I wasn't sure if her needles would get confiscated at the airport, so I told her I would send it to her. (Does anyone know if felting needles are allowed on airplanes?)

It was a full weekend of eating and crafting and eating some more, and it went by very quickly, leaving Jason and I in a state of physical exhaustion but relational and emotional refreshment. In a place where we still feel very much like new-comers, and where we can't really sink our roots in because we don't know where we will be in 18 months, family is such a welcome reminder of constancy and unconditional love and support.

They flew back to Chicago that Sunday night, departing for the airport just a few minutes before Jason had to go to youth group, leaving the previously full apartment quite empty except for me and my hook and yarn. So I turned on pbs for some Antiques Roadshow and made a lovely granny square, which I am determined to master so I can make these slippers, which are just about the most awesome footwear I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, these just might have to wait until after Christmas because I have another show on December 5th and some really grand and impossible intentions to make loads of Christmas gifts this year, which my mom so helpfully informed me that I should have started in August. Oops. Well, impossible has never stopped me before, and I am an expert in the deadly combination of procrastination and perfectionism, so I fully intend to make great plans for crafting and to scramble down to the final seconds before unwrapping commences. Happy holidays, everybody! :o)

11 November 2009

Show #3

Finally...the North Shore Bazaar.

I spent just about every free moment from Halloween to November 8th making inventory for this, my first ever craft show where I would be the main event of my own table. This past weekend, I kicked it into high gear. Jason and I were up until about 3:00 am on Friday night/Saturday morning felting pumpkins and acorns. Then I woke up at 8:00 on Saturday morning and couldn't get back to sleep, so I started working.

I set up my display in the middle of my craft room and added to it bit by bit as the day progressed. Inventory, price tags, display pieces, business cards, signage, a tree branch, skeins of wool, and so on until I was finally satisfied enough to say I was ready. I put in 16 hours of work (which doesn't include breaks for food, talking to my mom about pricing, and watching a little Antiques Roadshow on PBS) before I finally fell into bed at 3:30 in the morning.

I knew I was going to have a round table at the bazaar, so I used a clothesline display for my aprons to visually break the table into two sections. This is my display as staged in my craft room:

You may notice the little pedestal mirror from blogs past, which has now become my logo and sign. I finally settled on the business name "A Happy Little Sparrow" with the tagline: Creations for Nest and Flight, because I felt like "Every Cool Thing" was just too broad and not picturesque enough. So I started an etsy seller's account at www.ahappylittlesparrow.etsy.com, a business email address at ahappylittlesparrow@gmail.com, printed up some business cards, and appliqued/embroidered myself a little business sign, which I am in love with and quite impressed by, if I do say so myself, especially considering that I stitched it well after midnight the night before my show. Way to go, Robin. Here's a close-up of the sign:

So Sunday morning finally came. I unintentionally slept right through church and woke up at 11:26 (34 minutes before I was supposed to be at the bazaar, which was 25 minutes away), because I foolishly forgot to set an alarm for myself. So I jumped out of bed, jumped in the shower, and feverishly started getting ready for the day. Thankfully, my late o'clock preparations included packing everything up, so I was able to get everything ready and loaded up and out the door by 12:17, and Jason and I got to the show with just enough time to set-up and finish creating a few pricing signs before it started at 1:00. Phew. It was quite the whirlwind morning.

Here is my display all set up at the bazaar (and me in my cute little rooster utility apron):

My total inventory included 4 wet-felted pincushions ($12/each), 73 acorns ($2/each or 3 for $5), 21 pumpkins ($8/each), 5 owls (ranging from $15-$25), 11 aprons ($25/each), 4 felting kits ($30-$45), and about 45 jars of apple butter, strawberry jam, and strawberry lemon marmalade ($3 for a small jar, $6 for a large jar).

There were about 20 vendors at the show selling all sorts of local and fair trade goodies ranging from pottery to produce and blankets to bags. It was pretty well-attended, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. And after only 3 hours of standing by my table, I brought in a total of 128 dollars!! I was so excited. On the way to the show, Jason asked me how much I wanted to sell. I told him that the show had really already fulfilled its purpose. I was ready. I had created a load of inventory. I knew now that I could do it. And that was worth all of the work I had put into it. I said it would be pretty demoralizing to not sell a single thing, but if all I sold was one acorn, I would feel adequately affirmed. So to sell that much at my very first show, I was over the moon. And on top of all that, I handed out a ton of business cards, received so many affirming comments, and even had a person sign up on my email list! So all in all, the North Shore Bazaar was a major success for A Happy Little Sparrow and made me quite a happy little Robin.

I did learn few things that I will take with me into future shows:
1) I only sold one jar of marmalade and one jar of apple butter, which was strange because my mom's jam is always such a guaranteed good seller. So next time, I'm going to try to elevate the jars to eye-level so people can see what it is and realize how much they would love some homemade preserves for themselves and to give away as gifts to everyone they know.

2) I need to wear sneakers to my next show. As adorable and comfortable as my boots are, they do not hold up to multiple hours on my feet, and my back did not thank me for my vanity.

3) My utility aprons are awesome. My rooster apron worked out SO well. It kept my money separated and organized by currency. My business cards were nice and handy in my cute little pocket. And it held a pen and notepad, with which I kept track of everything I sold. Check plus!

4) As much as I loved my display, I think I need to go with a simpler, solid table cloth next time so it allows my products to stand out more. I also need to type out my signs and use black ink so they don't blend into the colors of my products and display.

5) After Halloween, I need to gear my products more towards Christmas and less towards fall.

6) It is very helpful to have a second person along so I can check out other vendors, get something to eat, and have someone to talk to when things are slow. Jason was vital and instrumental to the whole process of preparing and helping me with every aspect of the show. He helped me with felting. He offered loads of helpful opinions. He helped me load and unload and set up and tear town, following my scattered instructions perfectly. He manned the table while I scoped out the other tables. He made sure I ate and drank something and sat down occasionally. He was so encouraging throughout the whole process. And he even felted a pumpkin during the show to demonstrate the technique:
7) And finally, one of the most important things I learned from the show was: I can do this! I can make enough stuff that people like and want to buy. I can create a visually appealing display. And I can talk to people about my products and sell them things that they like. And the crazy thing is: I enjoyed every single part of it, from design to production to display to interaction to taking their money to have a nice day. I really thoroughly enjoyed it all!

So there you have it. My 3rd 1st show. I have one more show lined up for this year: the Christmas Bazaar at the seminary on Saturday, December 5th from 9:00-2:00. If you live on the North Shore, you should definitely come. It's a show for students, spouses, faculty, and staff of the seminary to sell their wares, and I will be there with my aprons, preserves, acorns, owls, and lots of other little goodies that are yet to be made. So here we go again. Back to the ol' grind stone! :o)

10 November 2009


Wow. Today is November 10th, and I have barely just begun telling you about all of the makings of October! Prepare for an onslaught of creativity here because I have been making like crazy to get ready for the North Shore Bazaar (which was kinda my first show, even though it was my 3rd. Does that make sense?). So here is the past month in pictures, documenting all of my preparations:

Jason and I made another 2 batches of apple butter. We actually picked the apples ourselves this time around and had an excellent time doing it. We even made some new chicken friends.We used Macintosh apples, which didn't change the taste or texture too much from our Gravenstein batch, but their pulp was a beautiful pinkish color that I forgot to take a picture of, but here are the finished 24 jars!
I spun some of the softest (and consequently most difficult to spin) wool I've ever encountered. This wasn't ready for my show cause I still need to ply it. Unfortunately, the tension on my spinning wheel has been off, and I haven't been able to fix it. So that little project is on hold until I can get my wheel to my mom to bale me out of trouble. (Sorry no picture. It looks like yarn.)

The rest of October and the first week of November were spent felting like a crazy person!! I was originally invited to do the North Shore Bazaar because one of the professors who was organizing it saw Charlie and Amadeus in my office. So I felt like I should have some felted products to sell at the show.
So I made three more owls:Henry, Horacio, and Bernie (respectively)

I felted 9 nine pumpkins, and Jason made another 12!!

And I felted 73 acorns. Yup. 73.

My mom and I collected acorn tops on a little excursion to Old Sturbridge Village back on October 23rd. I met her down there and we spent a few hours gathering inspiration and acorn tops before driving up to Maine together for my church's women's retreat. We looked around the grounds of the retreat center and didn't find a single acorn until we took a little walk along the beach and found 2 acorns that had washed up on the shore just for us. How cool is that? We also gathered a fair amount of rose-hips that my mom made into rose-hip jelly. Again, how cool is that?

After all of the rummaging and scouring we did to find the acorn tops buried under the leaves at Sturbridge and providentially sent to us across the ocean, I found a huge crop of gigantic acorn tops right next to my church. Go figure. So I set out needle felting acorn bottoms in all sorts of fall colors to fit into the tops.
I made single acorns that can be displayed in little groupings,
pair acorns that can be ornaments, napkin rings, or a lovely addition to gift wrap,
and acorns on stem wire that can be added to wreathes and floral arrangements.All so lovely and fall-ish.

And after all that, I was satisfied that I had enough inventory for my own table at the North Shore Bazaar, which you will finally get to hear about in my next post. Get excited. :o)

09 November 2009

Show #2

First of all, a little note... remember that Kalos journal that I submitted my tree wall-hanging to? Here's a link to the online version in case you want to see it. And now, I return you to our regularly scheduled programming:

A few weekends ago, Jason and I headed down to Jersey to hang with the fam for a bit and to take part in the Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth with my mom and Amy, who came up from South Carolina (with my darling little nephew Jesse) for the show. I packed up my aprons and headed south, excited about the day of crafty exhibition to come.

By an advantageous connection with its owner, we were supposed to set up on the porch of Buzby's General Store, which is THE prime spot in all of Chatsworth. Seriously, crafters would literally kill to get that spot at the Cranberry Festival, which turns little Chatsworth from a quaint town of cranberry bogs nestled in the Jersey Pine Barrens into a crazy, bustling cornucopia of activity like unto Times Square. Seriously...it's craziness. Every square foot of Chatsworth property is covered with vendors. People rent out their driveways and front yards and backyards and porches and rooftops--okay, maybe not rooftops--for vendors to come and sell their wares. (Here are pictures from the 2007 cranberry festival. If you scroll towards the bottom, you'll see my mom set up on the porch of Buzby's.)

So we were all set to go. I had my aprons. Amy brought dozens of adorable felted owls and birds and flowers and leaves. My mom had her jeep full to the brim with baskets and jams and tables and displays. And then the sky opened up. And Jersey was hit with a nasty nor-easter, which lasted the entirety of the weekend. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is basically a big scary storm that hits the east coast and dumps precipitation everywhere and is so called because it includes strong winds from the north east. Consider yourself educated.)

My mom and I still drove to Chatsworth on Saturday morning to survey the damage. Buzby's porch is very narrow, and with the curse of the wind added to the annoyance of the rain, it was thoroughly wet with no place where we could set up our inventory without it getting all soaked and ruined. So after all that, we didn't do the show. Which was very sad. I was really excited to be able to do a show apprenticed under my mom before I was the lead dog on November 8th for show #3, learning from the master how to handle transactions, how to deal with difficult people, and how to sell without being too pushy. But the North Shore Bazaar is only a 3 hour show, and I think it will provide me with some experience without being too overwhelmingly scary. And not selling anything in Chatsworth means I'll have more inventory for that show. Plus, the rain meant that almost the whole family--we were missing Jared--got to spend a relaxing weekend together, talking over displays and pricing plans and general creative ventures and also holding Megan and Justin's babies and playing cowboy with Jesse. So all in all, it was still a very satisfying weekend despite the storm.

Looking ahead from behind, the North Shore Bazaar was on Sunday, November 8th. It's an annual show that is all fair trade and local made with live music, local foods, and the work of quality artisans, including yours truly. More about that when I am all caught up, which will hopefully be by the end of this week. Hang in there. I've got so much excitement to tell you about!!

08 November 2009


1) The state or quality of being useful; usefulness.
2) Something useful; a useful thing.

I have been such a busy little bee.

In previous posts, I lamented having just about nothing to sell at the craft show in Chatsworth back in October. (Yes, this is yet another catch-up post in an upcoming string of catch-up posts. Bear with me.) The panic did eventually turn to productivity, and I cracked down and figured out what to do with bunches of fat quarters I bought for $1 a piece from a woman I found on craigslist. I finally figured out a design for a utility apron that I can make out of fat quarters, which significantly reduces the cutting and measuring that is so irksome and time-consuming. Hooray!!

So I made a prototype. Then I made a 2nd to make sure I could duplicate it. Then I ironed and cut out fabric for 11 more. Finally, after many hours of sewing and ironing and only several moments with a seam ripper, I had 13 completed aprons! One is an overdue birthday present for my mom, and then I had an even dozen aprons to sell. :o)

Here's one of my favorites that just might be mine forever:I've been into roosters lately, and I just can't seem to kick them. I just love how roostery this one came out.

I spent a long time agonizing over how to arrange and photograph 13 aprons and put them together in a way that was not visually overwhelming. I finally gave up and instead took pictures of nine of them folded up so you could see (and I could document) the color/fabric combinations, trusting you can imagine the structure, which is the same as my happy little rooster apron.
(Disclaimer: I promise none of them are sewn crooked. They're just folded crooked. I took this picture very late at night. :o/)
They all have three main front pockets, an interior pen pocket, and a little pocket on the outside just cause little pockets are cute and fun. It might be able to hold a tiny cell phone, but it was mainly designed as a business card pocket for those who will use the apron as a vendor apron. (Nice, huh?) The seams are all reinforced and there are no exposed fabric edges, so they will wash and wear well without any unsightly unraveling. The straps are also reinforced and stitched all the way around so they won't be a wrinkled mess when they come out of the dryer. They are extra long so they can be tied in the front with a short square knot or in the back with a long streaming bow.

I have to admit, I am quite proud of myself. No matter how many of the aprons I sell, and no matter how much I charge for them, the important thing is that I'm making things. I've moved past the point of staring at my fabric, arranging it in groupings for complicated projects I'll never make, and bemoaning my lack of time, skill, or resources. I'm actually doing it!! And I can actually say that making these was just as fun as designing them!! I really enjoyed every single step of the process. And they came out really well. Seriously, these are some high quality aprons. So there will definitely be more of these coming out in the future. Three cheers for utility!!

20 October 2009

Yard Saling

Boy am I one lucky duck!
A few weekends ago, Jason and I sang a couple of songs for a wedding of a girl whose parents go to our church. The wedding was held on Crane Beach and had about 20 people in attendance. It was a gorgeous day, perfect for a beach wedding...not too hot, not too cold, a gentle breeze blowing in the right direction for the bride's and bridemaids' hair, the whole beach to ourselves (besides a few seagulls here and there). So lovely. Jason and I sang "Come Thou Fount," "Fairest Lord Jesus," "Take My Life," and "Be Thou My Vision." And in addition to having free entrance to a lovely morning at the beach, Jason and I got paid for our little gig! So we decided to celebrate the supplementary income and the glorious weather with a little yard saling. We went to 6 different yard sales and spent $107, and we came home with the biggest, most amazing pile of loot ever:Metal Fish: $2
Child's Rocking Chair: $15
Random Assorted Fabric: $33
5 Country Living books: $5
5 other assorted books: $5
4 casserole dishes: $2
Pineapple hooks: $1
Antique needle book: $1
Copper cannister set: $6
Frame, Green Glass Juicer, Silver Fondue Pot, Cookbook, Embroidery Hoop, Set of vintage lady's golf clubs, Large Trunk (not pictured because it's in storage): Free!!
(You can click on the pictures for a better view.)

The big find of the day was a nearly full set of China including 6 dinner plates, 9 salad plates, 11 bread plates, 4 soup bowls, 7 dessert bowls, 10 teacups, 14 saucers, 1 teapot, 1 serving platter, 1 lidded vegetable server, 1 sugar bowl, and 1 mini teacup: $45
Buying a new set of china kinda came out of nowhere. I was originally taken in by it because it came with a teapot. (It is so hard to find a set of china that comes with a matching teapot!) Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the teapot was a different pattern than the rest of the set, but by that time, I was in love with the bright colors and bold patterns, and the lady at the sale knocked $5 off the price for me. Jason said that he liked it too, and it was a done deal. The lady selling it to us mentioned that it was a reputable name, so we did a little research when we got home and discovered that in order to assemble our set on replacements.com, it would cost over $1000! Antique Roadshow, here we come!! (Except that I am far too intoxicated by the set--and our awesome find--to ever sell it. Go figure.)
Normally, Jason and I would not go out and spend $100 on things we didn't need. We're just not big spenders, and we're not stuff people. And after all, Jason is in seminary. But we had the extra income, and I just love yard saling. I love love love it. I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt, out to find wonderful bits of happiness that others may have overlooked. I love going out with a purpose and finding things that I need for way less than I would spend if I bought them brand new. I love obtaining little lasting treasures that already have a rich history of use, their own little story as they are passed from one owner to the next. I love finding a good deal, and I rarely haggle over prices because I generally cannot mask my obvious excitement when I find something I really want. So we treated ourselves to a little treasure hunt and found some things that I've been wanting to buy anyway (a juicer, a fondue pot, a set of golf clubs for myself, and a casserole dish..or 4) and got them for for a total of $2.00!

The original intention of our little excursion was to find fabric that I could turn into something else and embroidery hoops for more fabric collages. I am ridiculously excited about the fabric I found, especially the bright yellow curtains which are going to be some sweet aprons!! I was also on the lookout for shutters to make into craft show displays, but I have some good ideas for the frame--the free frame, I should say--which I'm really excited about making into a place to hang my embroidery hoops.

So there you have it...some very fun finds to welcome fall (which is too quickly turning to winter). They spent 4 days crowding our living room before we set them up for some pictures and finally packed most of them up to take down to storage. Alas. That's what happens when you have 3 fulls sets (and a few more partial sets) of dishes and no china cabinet to house them in...and no dining room to house a china cabinet. :o/ But someday, I will have those things, and when that day comes, I will be well equipped to fill them with beautiful dishes!

11 October 2009

Apple Butter and Mango Salsa

Two weeks ago, I tried my hand at another preserving venture. This time on the menu: apple butter. I love love love apple butter. It makes me very happy. So Jason and I went to Russell Orchards, picked up some Gravenstein apples (a very good variety for sauces), found a tasty-looking recipe online, went out and bought a foley mill, and got down to work. Here are the lovely apples at the beginning:and at the end:(Pictures of apple butter in progress are not very beautiful. But here is a picture of Jason swirling the foley mill, which he enjoyed a lot more than squishing strawberries between his fingers.)I found the recipe here and altered it slightly. Next time, I probably won't use quite as much lemon.

I'm planning on selling my apple butter at show #3 in Peabody alongside the strawberry jam and strawberry lemon marmalade that isn't claimed from my giveaway back in July. For those of you who won, it has not left my mind. I'm making it too complicated, wanting to be all cute and crafty about packaging. But it has a shelf life of one year, so it's still good, and it's still coming your way. I just need to simplify. Surprise surprise. :o)

As a little unrelated bonus, I also made some delicious mango salsa:
I think I got the recipe here, but I'm not exactly sure. It looks awful familiar, but I used red onion instead of green onion. And I made a double batch. And I don't think I followed these amounts exactly. But that's the basic gist. You should definitely make this salsa. It is so very tasty. You won't be disappointed. (Also, a great big thanks to Jason, who spent a very long time cutting up the mangoes into tiny little corn/bean-sized bits.)

10 October 2009

Show #1

And the updates keep on coming...
2 Fridays ago, I had the Kalos coffee house. I brought my tree wall-hanging and a few embroidery hoop fabric collages (a name which I made up and am quite proud of because that's exactly what they are). Here is a picture of the hoops:
You'll probably recognize the big one as the crazy quilt square I made a few weeks back. I'm planning to sell this set and more like it at the upcoming Cranberry Fest in Chatsworth, NJ.

For the most part, my little creations were well received, especially my tree wall-hanging. I don't know if people really understood my fabric collages because they're meant to be wall art, but they were placed on a table...which kind of made them look a little silly, as if they weren't really finished.The event itself was really fun. We got to hear some really good music and some...other music. :o) There were some really amazing pieces on display (my favorites belonged to Jen and Chris Anderson, who displayed prints from linoleum and copper etchings, respectively). The Kalos journal turned out beautifully. And there was an excellent turn out, probably about 300 people. By the time I got to play during the open mic portion, that number had dwindled quite a bit. For those of you who are familiar with my music, I played "Ebony" and "Don't Mess with Me." My guitar playing was a little sloppy, but it had probably been about a year since I'd done that sort of thing, so on the whole, I was sufficiently satisfied with the performance, and I'm glad I did it. You can hear "Don't Mess with Me" here. For some reason, my myspace page looks all funky, but the music player still works.

The show was a little bitter sweet for me. I had a bit of a "fan base" from my friends from the seminary--you guys rock! thanks for your support!!--but for the most part, the people who got the best reactions during the "open mic" section of music were the people who were...on the other side of awesome, and I think it's a shame that people find it so necessary to rave over the courage of minimally talented people and end up encouraging mediocre performances. Maybe that makes me a bad person. It probably makes me selfish. I just want people to listen to my music, to really hear it and appreciate it. But the truth is that for the most part, people don't really listen unless they already have an invested interest in me. And that's hard to come to grips with because I never know if my stuff is any good or if people are just complimenting my music because they're my friends and that's why they like it.

Oh well. I saw the remake of Fame a few weeks back with a friend of mine. It basically comes down to this depressing moral: you can have either fame or a meaningful personal life. You have to throw away all your relationships in order to be successful in performing arts. You can't have both.

A part of me still wonders what would have happened if I would have been brave enough to pursue music and songwriting. My life would have been drastically different, and it's easy to fantasize that I would have been so much happier to be living my dream, even unsuccessfully. But I know I would have had to sacrifice in other areas...big areas that are really important to me. So even though the movie made me all sad and nostalgic for my days being part of a lively and challenging artistic community, it was comforting to see other people (albeit fictional people) fail because they chose relationships over success, rather than some big romanticizing, fairy tale portrayal of the performing arts (which is what I expected it to be).

Wow...this post got all depressing. I just wanted to show you all my fabric collages and give you an update on the coffee house. Sorry for the existential despair. :o/ More lively and chipper crafting posts coming soon, documenting the results of the nothing-to-sell-at-upcoming-craft-shows panic. :o)