30 January 2012

2011 CM12: Cathedral Window Quilt

And here it is.  The Christmas make to end all my other Christmas makes.  The Cathedral Window Quilt.

When we drew names back in July, I was really excited to get my dad.  He is generally im-poss-uh-bull to shop for because the kinds of things that he wants can only be found on ebay, and he's the only person who knows what they are, so he just buys them himself.  But two years ago for Christmas, I made him this cathedral window wall-hanging.  It's now hanging in my parents' living room, and on several occasions, my dad has mentioned how much he loves it.  So I figured that this Christmas, I would go for the gold and make a whole cathedral window quilt.

This is the project I wanted to start in August.  This is the one that had me moaning throughout the entire fall, "I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO!!"

Countless hours of ironing to make 120 blocks:

Then sewing them into strips...

And then I was so busy cutting and pinning in the colored windows and sewing around each one, sewing more strips together, pinning more windows, sewing them in, and repeating...that I forgot to take any more pictures until it was done.


Back (I love the trellis pattern that cathedral windows make.)
And here it is in its home, which gives you a little better idea of the scale.


Unfortunately, the pictures don't do it any justice in the slightest.  I've been putting off posting this for a few reasons.  The main ones are:
  • I just cannot think of sufficient words to describe this project.  The hours it took.  The strategic, systematic production mixed with the joy of creative sparks throughout.  How much I truly enjoyed seeing it grow and come together.  It was just so lovely, start to finish.  And I know that without really wonderful pictures, I have only my words to tell you about it.  And that makes me sad.
  • All those makes I wanted to do in January to put away with my Christmas decorations...didn't happen.  No huge surprise, but I was really excited about them.  Then I want back to work.  It's temporary but still vastly consuming (time, energy, lifeforce, etc.).  I really wanted to go full speed ahead posting 2011 Christmas makes right into 2012 Christmas decorations.  Oh well.  I'm done working in 2 weeks, and then Jason has promised to still take Judah one day a week so I can get my creating mojo back in orbit.

I did manage to make a project for Valentine's Day, which I will post soon.  For realzies.

26 January 2012

2011 CM11: Sadiebug

I don't know if little Sadie has a stocking or not, but I decided that she should have a handmade ornament for her first Christmas just the same.  She came up to visit me this fall (along with her parents, sister, and Gramby--the grandkids' name for my mom), and while she was here, Megan bought her Halloween costume so that come Halloween, she could be a little Sadiebug.

Get it?  It sounds like Ladybug.
So one night, after I had finished and packaged all of the presents to be sent to Jersey, I had a friend over for a little felting lesson.  After a long day of Christmas crafting, I just didn't have it in me to tackle one of my umpteen complex Christmas felting projects (documented here, here, here, here, and here).  So I decided to felt something simple: a little Sadiebug ornament to commemorate her name and her first visit to Boston and her very first Halloween adorableness.  And here it is:
Megan took these pictures for me because I forgot to document this little creature before she was shipped off to Jersey.

My favorite part is the little antennae.  Just 2 simple knots make all the difference.

Sadie with her Sadiebug

I think this means she likes it. :o)
Molly wanted to get in on the photo shoot, too.

So I have made it almost to the end of my Christmas crafting on this little space.  The final Christmas craft was certainly my biggest and most time consuming endeavor ever.  Get pumped.  It's pretty magnificent, if I do say so myself.

19 January 2012

2011 CM10: A Little Lion for My Little Lion Man

Another important part of the stocking is an ornament.  When I got married, I had a huge box of ornaments to take with me to decorate my own tree.  (Thank you, Santa.)  And now that Judah has a stocking of his own, I plan on continuing the tradition...because that's what I do.

So this year, I went out and bought the mandatory "Baby's First Christmas" ornament.  It is currently hanging on the tree--no, we have not yet taken down our Christmas tree, and yes, we will get around to it sooner or later, and yes, there are pine needles everywhere--with an empty little window waiting for Jason or me to fill it with an adorable picture of Judah on his first Christmas.  But I also wanted to make Judah a very special ornament, since this ornament would be his very first of all.  (I made sure he opened it before the generic hallmark one.)

Now, between his name being Judah and me wanting to decorate a Narnia-themed nursery (which I never actually did), Judah has more lions and lion-themed things than any baby could ever actually need.  But when you have something that works, you run with it.  So this is the little lion that I made to be Judah's first ornament:

It may be one of my favorite things that I have ever felted, both in the process and the result.  I especially love his mottled mane, which I did by teasing together yellow, orange, and brown wool.

Note: this picture makes Judah's head look bigger than it actually is.

Ever since he opened it, this little lion has been Judah's favorite ornament on the tree.  It has even displaced his former favorite, the Nutcracker.  Whenever I hold him up to the tree, he always reaches out for his lion as if to say, "This one is mine.  Mama made it especially for me, and I love it, and I love her, too."  I'm sure that if he could talk, that is exactly what he would say.  It gives me warm fuzzies every time and guarantees many handmade ornaments in Christmases yet to come.

15 January 2012

2011 CM9: A Tangerine in the Toe

Being the youngest of three, I never remember believing in Santa Claus.  Older sisters tend to do that for you.  They pave the way in school so your teachers love you before they know you.  They look out for you and give you hard-earned advice.  They take the brunt of your parents' discipline leaving you to coast through your adolescence.  But they also tend to ever so slightly tarnish the magic of make-believe.  I count myself among the fortunate youngest siblings of the world in that my sisters humored me more often than not.  And when they were being rotten, either by my blind faith in them or by their own convincing, I believed that we were just playing, and I loved every second.

When Christmas time came around, I still wrote letters to Santa asking for presents, but I knew my parents were behind it all.  Still, the tradition in my family somehow landed in this happy compromise between reality and deception: all the big presents wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper were from Mom and Dad.  But the stocking presents and everything wrapped in white tissue paper in neat piles under our stockings were from Santa.

Now, for those of you who didn't grow up with stockings or never welcomed the illusion of Santa into your home, let me tell you: there is a precise science to the way a stocking is filled:
  • There is always candy involved.  This includes candy inside the stocking and 2-3 candy canes hung over the edge.  There is also usually a toothbrush to compensate for all the sweets.
  • Presents are wrapped haphazardly with white tissue paper, closed with one piece of tape, and labeled with your first initial.  You can usually see through the wrapping to the present.  Because really, Santa has way too much to do to worry about pretty wrapping jobs for your stocking.
  • There's some saying that originated somewhere about having a "tangerine in the toe."  For some reason, in preparing and opening stockings, we always say it, and it's very important.  But we use clementines instead because they're better.  And we just pretend to not know or notice the difference because it's just tradition, and that's how it's done.

And all that preamble is leading up to the fact that this was Judah's first Christmas.  And if you hadn't noticed, I am very particular when it comes to tradition, especially at Christmas.  So there was no way Judah's first Christmas wouldn't include a stocking.  So I stayed up way too late on Christmas Eve finishing this for him:

The front is pieced using a technique called crazy quilting.  It's probably my favorite way to sew because it doesn't require precision in cutting, piecing or sewing.  It's kind of like putting together a puzzle or a collage.  Once the top was done, I embroidered Judah on it.

Then I sewed the top to the lining and a layer of batting and did the same with the backing, lining, and another layer of batting.  Then I stitched the front and back together by hand.  To finish, I stitched on the gold trim, also by hand.

When I was in Jersey for Thanksgiving, I raided my mom's fabric stash so that Judah's stocking would match Jason's and mine.
With our lack of mantle, we had to hang our stockings on the kitchen cart.

 And here's Judah opening his stocking on Christmas morning:

J is for Judah!!

Don't worry--the candy canes were wrapped, and we took them away promptly after we were done taking pictures.

While we were opening presents, Judah stopped every so often, gave us a look like "are you sure it's okay for me to do this?" and then went right back to the paper.  I guess all of those, "Judah! Stop eating that wrapping paper!"s of the preceding weeks sunk in enough to make him hesitant.

He did this totally on his own.  The boy was made for product placement.  We really need to cash in on that.
And of course, the tangerine in the toe.

Merry Christmas, Judah.  Welcome to the family!

13 January 2012

2011 CM8: Simple Nativity

Jason and I have a friend from church named Price who has been down on his luck the past few years.  Since we moved to the area four and a half years ago, he lost his job, was displaced from several apartments, and has had enough car trouble to fill a lifetime quota.  But through it all, he has continued to be one of the most compassionate, generous, encouraging, and optimistic people I know.  This past year, things finally started to turn around for him.  He found permanent housing, and the government came through with some back payments they owed him.  Acting according to his character, Price has been almost recklessly generous to his friends who saw him through some of his darkest times over the past few years.  Jason was one of these people.  But as Christmas drew near, Price slipped me an envelope with a very generous gift.  I was totally shocked.  Price and Jason are good friends, but I wouldn't say that he and I were ever particularly close, at least not close enough to warrant this.  I fumbled over the biggest "thank you" I could muster.  A few days later, Jason was getting together with Price, and I asked him to re-express my gratitude.  Jason told him how surprised I was to receive such a gift, and Price's answer was, "Jason, you are certainly the more visible one at church, but I want Robin to know that we all really appreciate everything that she does, too."

Jason passed this on to me, and I was floored...absolutely blown away by Price's kindness and thoughtfulness.  So I prayed about it, and I felt like God prompted me to make Price a nativity.  I'd been wanting to experiment with a simpler version of a felted nativity, something that didn't require pipe-cleaner forms or faces, and with that old Christmas clock was just ticking away with so much already on my to-do list, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out something simple.  And here is the result:

I know these pictures are pretty terrible, but this one lets you see the angel's little wings.  As I was making this, Jason said, "I don't think angels actually have wings."  And I said, "Well, bah humbug, Mr. Grinch.  Why don't you go steal Cindy Lu Who's Christmas tree?  Christmas angels ALWAYS have wings."
I think my favorite part of this set is how I still got Mary to kneel.  Looking back at it now, I have no idea how I did it.  I also like how she's a little chubby, 'cause come on, folks.  She just had a baby.

I think this is the first nativity that I actually enjoyed making start to finish.  There wasn't even much tweaking involved.  So if I ever decide to sell felted nativities, they will most likely be of this simplified variety.  (I can't imagine the nightmare of mass-producing the other kind.)  But this first little set was made especially for a very dear friend.  Merry Christmas, Price!

11 January 2012

2011 CM7: Nativity Starters x 2

This project has been in the works for three years.  The first year, I decided to do it, but it stopped at the decision.  The second year, I made pipe-cleaner forms but that's as far as it got.  The project was beginning to feel like Narnia in the reign of the White Witch: always winter and never Christmas...an everlasting advent with no baby Jesus to culminate the season.  But this year, I was determined to get it to a giveable form, come what may.

So in between every other project on my December to-do list, I added a felted figure for this happy little set, a nativity for my pastor, Tim; his wife, Rama; and their girls Thais and Iela.  When Jason and I first moved up to Boston as newlyweds, they took us in and made us a part of their family: having us over to dinner, inviting us to family events, and generally loving on us.  The bond was solidified when I tutored Thais in pre-calculus during her junior year of high school, something I did gladly because Thais is like the little sister I never had...and I just love pre-calculus.

Over this past year, I haven't been able to see Rama and the girls as much as I have in the past.  Between taking care of Judah and all of the traveling we've done since he made his grand arrival, it's been hard to connect.  But I just love this family.  So I wanted to make them something really special this year.  And here it is:

Baby Jesus, tightly swaddled, and his little manger complete with hay
Mary...she looks slightly less freaky in real life.
Joseph.  I love his big nose and the look of surprise he's sporting.  I figure Joseph would have been in a state of shock throughout the whole Christmas ordeal.
Angel and the star.  I think this little star on its own little stand is a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.  The star is such an important part of the story, but I just don't have the resources or tools to build my own little creche to hold it up.  So wooden spool + dowel + cookie-cutter felted star = problem solved.  Also, this angel looks exactly that freaky in real life, which I'm okay with because I figure angels probably are pretty freaky.
I originally intended on just giving the set above.  But when it came time to wrap it up, the pretty box I had gotten for the purpose was too big.  So with half an hour before we were going over to their house for dinner, I added this little guy:

So this is the finished set, ready for an addition or two next Christmas.  I'm intending to felt a few figures throughout the year since I know I will need them come December.  But I also intended to have this set finished three years ago, so we'll see if that actually happens.

As a catch-up from last year, I wanted to share this set, which I made for Jason's mom last year and never blogged about.  I intended to add to her nativity this year, but I ran out of steam.  It turned out to be okay because she forgot to set it up this year, which I was fine with because it released me from the guilt of not felting something for it.  But I think I'll pick it up again for next year.  At least, I intend to.

I can't decide if I like wool or wire better for the wings, but the wool was WAY easier.
I also did baby Jesus differently, using actual cloth to swaddle him.  Again, the way I did it this year (sculpting the swaddling clothes out of wool) was MUCH easier, and it allowed me to incorporate my new-found, mama-earned knowledge of a good swaddle.
The straw here is not as detailed, but it does look cozier.

Overall, I think my felting skills have improved, which is encouraging.  What is discouraging is that I now have 3 floating nativities residing with my 3 families, all with promises of additions for Christmases yet to come.  And truth be told, I really don't enjoy making these little critters.  The figures have too many details, too much symmetry, too many bits to mess up and tweak and tweak again.  But the unfortunate reality is that I think they are just so cool.  As soon as they are finished, I fall in love with them and forget the labor pains.  So they continue to be a present I love giving, even if it takes three years of labor...