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!