Monday, November 30, 2009

For Nancy

I knew I couldn't get away with mentioning Lancaster without photographing the fabric. I was lazy and didn't want to set it all up, but how did I think Nancy would be satisfied with just reading about my purchases?! My bad.

Here's what I picked up, all fat quarters:

I went to Old Country Store because that's where I always go. I try to be quick because I'm always there with other companions who don't necessarily derive the same joy that I do from sitting on the floor and staring at bolts and bolts of fabric. So, I haven't really ventured out beyond this store, but it doesn't matter because I love it there. They have incredible quilts for inspiration (and purchase) and a nice supply of reproduction prints. Last year they had really incredible hand-dyed felt, but I couldn't find any this time around. No matter, because I just grabbed a bunch of FQs to get my fabric fix: quick and easy. They have a ton of assembled FQ packs there, it's super-easy for me to stock up without wearing anyone else out. Someday I'll spend a whole day there and visit all of the fabric stores and the knitting store across the street from OCS. I think it's best that that day be next year when I am actually working again:) Of course, I could manage to do some cyber-damage to my credit card as OCS is now selling online. I highly recommend checking it out but truly, if you live anywhere near the area, go to the b&m. It's very cozy and you are in Lancaster, which is a very good place to be.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hot Off the Gocco Presses...

Preparations are underway for a craft show next weekend. I wish I could say that I had more new stuff to show for it, but the crafting here is happening at a snail's pace. So, with slooooooow on my brain lately, I made up a new stationery set featuring our friend, l'escargot. I used the same vintage record book paper as I did for the poultry paper stationery, but made a much smaller run or only four sets (as was determined by my envelope supply). This time I also printed on the envelopes: and I tried to keep with the retro postal theme by using red, blue, and gold ink. I know that Gocco is expensive to run and I know that the screens are hard to reuse, but man oh man, do I love using it. It is quite satisfying to produce a quantity of exactly the same thing.

I was originally intending to make this a much more elaborate project by creating felt pouches (inspired by Kata Golda) to hold the stationery, stamps, and pens, but I just didn't have enough of the right kind of felt. And felt's expensive! Felt will be on the list of things to get when I am again working and rolling in the dough (relatively). So, for now they all got wrapped up nice and neat with some simple stamping.These will go to the craft fair this weekend and then up in the shop if they aren't sold!

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Got My Martha On.

This Thanksgiving, I set out to make pumpkin pie from scratch. Like, starting with a real pumpkin kind of scratch. We bought pumpkins before Halloween to spruce up the front steps, and I also purchased two sugar pumpkins. I left them on the stoop through Halloween (a big thank you to the squirrels for choosing the non-pie pumpkins to devour) and then found this method of preparing pumpkin puree and cooked them up the day before Thanksgiving. It turned out to be a total pain in the arse to cut these open so never, ever try to carve one of these suckers. With Andrew's help, triumph was ours and into the oven they went. I was met with a happy surprise when, after cooling, scooping out the cooked flesh revealed that the pumpkin shells had hardened into fantastic little bowls with lids. I washed the insides to get the last of the flesh off, let them dry overnight, and then stuffed them with flowers as the Thanksgiving centerpiece. I wasted no part of the pumpkins: the seeds were toasted and the strings that were scooped out where given to our very grateful chickens. Martha (and her chickens) would be proud. I used that green floral foam stuff, moistened it with water, and stuck some purchased flowers along with greens and dried flowers from the garden into it. Since table space is prime real estate during Thanksgiving, I would also consider putting the stuffing or mashed potatoes into the pumpkin bowls as they didn't leak or get soggy throughout the dinner. And the other moral of the story is that making pumpkin pie from scratch is really quite easy. You just need time to let the puree drain, so plan ahead...but this will probably be the last time I ever buy a store-bought pumpkin pie.

In other news, we luckily have a friend of the family who luckily lives in Lancaster who luckily needed to be driven home today. It was a beautiful drive and I got to fondle some lovely fabric. I bought a few fat quarters and re-fell in love with vintage reproduction fabrics. Also, seeing so many farms and horses and buggies moving around on them (rather than tractors and trucks) did my little heart good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Upcycle or Not To Upcycle.

Dang, that's a hard question. Here is a sweet vintage christening gown that Meg gave me a long, long time ago with the directive: just make something out of it, OK? Or maybe not - - it was a long, long time ago. She could have said: I have foreseen that you would have a lovely daughter one day and you should save this for her dolls. Or maybe: here, could you hold this for me while I organize my vintage christening gown collection and safeguard it with your life as it is my great, great, great grandmother's? This is one of the many problems that can arise when, like me, you hoard stuff in your crafty stash, only to be struck with inspiration to use it months or years later.

OK, I'm pretty sure she wanted me to do something with it (but then again, I thought I was supposed to cut up the corduroy backpack, but really I said I was going to try to make a pattern off of it) and I've found some inspiration here. But I can't bring myself to do it.

I think it's The Bean's fault. Before I had a baby I was way less sentimental. I mean, I was pretty sentimental, but now it's off the charts. Thank goodness I know someone who is pregnant now because I'm just trying to give away as much as I can before I get too attached to every sock she ever wore and then have to buy a bigger house to house Stella's baby hosiery. But when I look at this gown, I wonder who made it? Meg, do you know? It doesn't matter really because I love whoever it was for putting their baby in red polka dots for her christening. And for using the sweet, sweet buttons. And for sewing little puff sleeves. Sigh.
So, for now, it's hanging around the house and I'm waiting for it to whisper the answer to me. Hey, little sweet christening gown, do you want a new life or do you want to hang around like you are for a while longer? The fact that I talk to inanimate objects is also The Bean's fault. That's where eleven weeks of bedrest will get you.

Of course, this indecision is only prolonged by the fact that I've reached one of those do-or-die points where I have to clean the craft room up. Most work (except for some knitting) has stopped up there until I can get everything under control, which better happen soon because I have a craft fair coming up and I need to get some things done. Today Stella and I relocated the sewing and knitting books to their own shelves (thank you, Baby Bjorn). I have enough sewing and knitting books to fill an IKEA bookshelf. And there are still more titles in my wish list. Hello, my name is Kristina and I have a craft book problem.

And since any good organization project must be thwarted with equally satisfying procrastination, here is what I've found recently that is making me happy:

- I think I'm starting to understand the meaning of Twitter. As soon as I can sum it up in one hundred and forty characters or less, I'll share it with you.

- There is a website here that helps you source local farms, restaurants, and markets that have pastured meats. Restaurants! Yay!! I can be an omnivore in public again! I found this site through Twitter (see above).

- Haba toys rock my world and I wish I had a hundred million dollars to buy everything they make. Our most recent purchases are this and this. Love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Coloring Inside the Lines.

Here is a quickie project (which these days means I get it done in one week) that involved my New Favorite Craft: gold leafing.

I had a print from Art Ghost which I received in a Sampler a million years ago. As soon as I got it, I knew that I wanted to color it, but it got shuffled under papers in the craft room and I didn't see it for months and months. The real issue for this blog post should be that my craft room is such a disaster I can hardly get anything done in there, but I'll try to keep it positive (!)

Here is the print before coloring. I think it's a perfect image to hang in my daughter's room but of course I needed it to be extra-special, so I used gold(en) leaf on the horn and the scales. I must say, I doubted myself for a moment as I was dabbing the sizing adhesive for the leaf on. I have gilded a bunch of our chicken eggs and didn't have any full sized leaf sheets left, just little bits and pieces that I've saved. I thought about how I was going to have to wait a while for the sizing to dry/Stella to take a nap again, how I'd have to delicately pick through little shreds of leaf to get it onto the image, and how I didn't really know how it would all turn out in the end. I haven't sprung for the real deal gold leaf yet, so maybe this fake stuff just wouldn't look right. And maybe it would prove to be too much of a pain to deal with the little shreds and it wouldn't look even and smooth in the end. I had a what-would-Martha-do moment where I mentally kicked myself for not having just gone the glitter route, but once I started the actual leafing process, it all went quickly and smoothly and I'm quite pleased with the results.
All of this serves as a reminder that: a) even though I am a grown up, it is still fun to spend time coloring, and b) buying and hoarding those disposable foam brushes whenever they go on sale is a terrible, terrible thing to do for the environment, but they are so dang handy. In this case, I used one to brush off the excess leaf and it was muy effective, and c) that ex-boyfriend I had in high school who remarked that I liked anything as long as it was shiny was right on the money (though I remember really being surprised by that revelation...I thought I was more of a muted/matte, down to Earth kind of girl). One of these days I am going to drop the dough and buy a pack of real gold leaf and then look out...I shall turn everything golden.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Electric!...or not...

Much of today was spent watching my Dad rewire this fantastic salvaged chandelier for me. I love, love, love it. It was a little tricky to rewire as it used a small gauge that is difficult to find (my Dad ended up using some bell wire for one part) and it also was apparently protesting being hooked up again as it blew a few fuses and there were definitely some sparks flying once or twice. Luckily, my Dad is a trained electrician, so nobody died or burned a house down. Thanks Dad (for the chandelier and the non-burned-down-house!) I now need to throw a dinner party in honor of our new dining room lighting.

In other news, I finished up the bead board for the bean (that's a mouthful). They are totally wonky and handmade, but it makes me love them more. There are un-centered holds, shapes that go a little askew, and a dye job that is less than perfect. I used these veggie dyes from Whole Foods (thank you WF for stocking more and more decorating supplies that aren't filled with creepy chemicals) and just diluted them a bit (maybe 50/50, but I totally didn't measure). I rolled the shapes around in the dyes and let them dry for a few days. The yellow, red, and blue are straight from the bottle. The orange was made with yellow and red in a ratio of 10:1. I left the final set natural, but only after trying to get a good green or purple from the set, to no avail. Truthfully, I didn't spend too much time tinkering, so it probably can be done...or maybe the colors just didn't look right on the wood but they'd come out fine in a white frosting.

After the dye dried, I sanded it a bit which was an important step because it evened out the color a lot. It also pulled some extra color off of the edges of each piece which gave a sweet vintage feel to them. I applied two coats of shallac (sanded lightly in between each coat) and then glued the thin shapes down to the board.

Oh, and before all of the shallac-ing, I used my wood burner to write a message to the Bean. I used some of the dyes to color it in a little bit, too. This is my second try with the woodburner and this time I had better control because I went sloooooowly. In addition, a light sanding helped to make the burned lines more sharp.
Making these took me a while because I am a total newbie woodworker. If I were more proficient with power tools, these could be easily done in a weekend; though finishing takes a little time with drying, so it's not a completely immediate craft. Making these made me wonder why we (as a society) are currently so far removed from making things for our children. I'm kind of tweaky about plastic, so maybe it's just me, but it seems odd to consider going to the store to purchase a toy (which will most certainly be chewed on but was made with toxic materials and will not biodegrade) when creating these was simple and fun. I think it's somehow connected to this pressure I feel as a new parent to have something entertaining at the tips of my baby's fingers at all times...on the stroller, in the car seat, in the bathtub, in the crib...when it seems to me that looking at the world going by from the stroller, or in the car seat, or just playing with the water in the tub will help a child learn to be engaged by simple things and to use his or her imagination to stay entertained. I don't know, maybe it's just an only-child thing but I remember lots of time spent staring out the window on long car trips and thinking up all kinds of stories and adventures, none of which involved stuffed animals dangling within inches of my face. So I feel that parents are getting these messages to buy all of this stuff when really, a good set of blocks can take the place of probably 10 toys with electronic bips and boops because of the imaginary play they will spark. And plus, we won't have to poo all over the environment in order to keep our kids entertained. Alright! End rant. Make more toys!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hats for Wee Heads.

I finished the trio of baby hats I was embroidering. A few visits the chiropractor, a fair dose of Tylenol, some icing and my back was in good enough shape to continue with this highly athletic craft. Sheesh. They feature a little snippet of Heather Ross fabric (oh, how I love) and some grass and leaves and french-knotted flowers. I kept it simple, but carried the embroidery around to the back (I think pieces never look complete unless you make the back look just as intentional as the front) and then used a simple running stitch to deal with the seam on the side of the hat. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I can't figure out a way to avoid having that seam show when the brim is turned up so I figured drawing a little embroidered attention to it couldn't hurt.These are a ton of fun to make because they go quickly and I think the sky's the limit in terms of embellishing them. You could print on them, or sew them out of funky fabrics, or bedazzle them (in a non-choking-hazard sort of way). Or, as I mentioned before, just leave them as-is. My poor child is still wandering around with the un-embroidered/seam sticking out prototype and she still gets compliments (got one today!) on the little hat.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Dangers of Needlepoint

Dear reader, what would you think would be common injuries for your average needle pointer? A prick of the finger, perhaps. Even the prick of a toe, if a needle was dropped and accidentally stepped on. Maybe a little mini rug-burn type injury from pulling threads too quickly? Well, in what certainly must be the most bizarre crafting accident ever, I seem to have thrown my back out while needle pointing. That's right. I was sitting up in bed, happily french-knotting it up, when I felt a slight shifting or settling in my lower back. I hadn't moved, coughed, sneezed, or hiccuped. I'd just pulled a needle in and out of a piece of fabric, when suddenly I was in pain. I thought that it was just a little thing, it would pass, blah blah, but today I am unable to bend forward or back more than a millimeter without some serious pain. Who knew that needlepoint was such an aggressive sport? I have an appointment with the chiropractor tomorrow in what might be his first-ever hand sewing accident. Oy.Backache aside, this is what I was working on. It is the brim of a little baby hat, like the one I made for the Halloween bee costume. I'm making up a few of these because they are so fun to make. I took the pipe cleaner antenna off of Stella's hat and she's been wearing it out (sans any embroidery or applique) and she gets all kinds of compliments on it. Really, a simple little black hat with cutie-patootie ears and every Grandma in the area is swooning. Hence, I imagine the spiffed up version will be well received.

And with that, my sitting-up at the computer time must come to a close as my back is not cooperating. I will be working on my needle-pointing-whilst-reclined skills for the rest of the day!

made. by k.d.