Archive for the ‘Handcrafts’ Category

Spinning around again

October 7, 2014 @ 8:41 am | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, Handcrafts

Rilla, as you know, is eight years old, which means it’s her turn for the family tradition called Daddy Reads Mommy’s Martha Books to You. Which for all four of my daughters now has meant, as sure as the sun will rise, a sudden burning need to learn how to spin. I understand; the passion gripped me, too, when I was writing those books. I never did score myself a spinning wheel (it’s on the Someday list) but I had to have a drop spindle so I could know what it felt like to fumble along like beginner Martha. She got good at it way faster than I did, though. In my defense, she had Auld Mary for a teacher, whereas I? Didn’t even have YouTube yet. It was 1997, which means the internet helpfully told me what books to read.

Now this ladyher I could have learned from.

How to Spin Yarn Using a Drop Spindle.

Needles and Pins

January 25, 2013 @ 4:38 pm | Filed under: Handcrafts

firstsewingproject

Rilla found a Winky Cherry beginner sewing kit on the shelf—one of those things I’ve had stashed for ages and forgot we owned. I used to feel pangs of guilt over forgotten acquisitions, but they so often seem to turn up at exactly the right moment, such a nice surprise. She’s busily stitching away and I look forward to a menagerie of felt critters in the days ahead. Felt is the nicest thing for a beginner, don’t you think? For both sewing or embroidery. No hemming required, overstitch looks lovely, it’s stiff enough not to need an embroidery hoop (for small pieces, at least), and no matter what you do it always looks cozy and cheerful. I love Felt Wee Folk and Doodle Stitching for ideas.

I had all sorts of little stitchery projects going before Huck was born (a mere four years ago), but I put everything aside when he came along and haven’t returned to it since. (To my chagrin: I still owe a couple of quilt blocks to certain VERY UNDERSTANDING members of my virtual sewing circle, and I never even sent out my own fabric for them to magic into something wonderful. IT’S STILL ON MY LIST OF THINGS TO DO, THOUGH.) (I’m shouting at myself.)

We had planned to go to the zoo today to celebrate Beanie’s 12th (TWELFTH!!!!) birthday, but the rain foiled our plans. Perhaps next week. Among all the other delights of the zoo, I want to give Rilla and Huck a chance to pet a real sheep, feel the lanolin in its wool, for a little sheep-to-yarn rabbit trail I’ve planned for Rilla, who got knitting needles for Christmas. With pink cats on the ends! And how’s this for incentive to pick up my own needles: I was sent a KnitCrate package to review for my subscription-box series at GeekMom—it’s loverly. The two yarns they included are to swoon for. I’ll let you know when that post goes up, probably next week.

If you know us at all…

October 7, 2011 @ 9:29 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Family, Handcrafts

…then you know that it was inevitable that this day should wind up here.

The doll formerly (and briefly) known as Susie K. has now been rechristened “Jennifer.”

Weekend Quilting Project: Snuggleblanket

August 23, 2009 @ 12:39 pm | Filed under: Handcrafts

Technically, this isn’t a quilting project at all because I didn’t do any quilting and didn’t use batting. It’s just a pieced quilt top backed with fleece.

We adore it.

snugglegirl

I had some Moda Objects of Desire charm packs and used everything except the prints with shoes on them. Found some green fleece that matches the green prints exactly: joy!

The charm pack pieces are 5″ square. I pieced them into nine-patches (the girls loved helping with that part) and assembled the blocks into a 4 block x 5 block rectangle. No binding, just sewed the quilt top and the fleece together right sides facing, turned it right-side-out, and sewed up the little opening. The whole project took me, let’s see, about four baby naps plus maybe another three hours in small chunks of time.

We wanted a light but snuggly blanket for the living-room couch. I didn’t want it to be as heavy as a real quilt, so that’s why I skipped the batting, and skipping the batting meant I didn’t have to fuss with quilting stitches. I was going to back it with flannel—I’ve done that for a few baby blankets here and there, and it’s a nice weight, but I wasn’t sure how it would work on a larger scale. But then at the fabric store, Rose and I stumbled upon this fleece in a sale rack, and it matched so perfectly we couldn’t resist. And the cotton quilt top plus the fleece backing turns out to be the PERFECT weight and loft to cuddle up under on our cool mornings and nights. The air trapped between the two layers makes it cushiony and cozy and completely irresistible.

Just ask Rilla. If you can find her.

hiding

Scribbles and Bits

August 10, 2009 @ 6:58 pm | Filed under: Art, Handcrafts

Has it really been a week since I posted? Just busy being busy, I guess. Lots of creative juices flowing here lately. Rose is hard at work on a novel inspired by Erin Hunter’s Warriors series. I haven’t been granted a peek at it yet, but her first effort, a twenty page tale filled with swash, buckle, and feline romance, was delightful. I’m eager to read this next installment.

Now that the baby is sitting and playing, and scooting around until he wears himself out and collapses for a two-hour nap, I’ve been able to grab some time for sewing again. I pulled a piecing marathon this weekend and completed three(!) blocks for my virtual quilting bee. Gosh I love piecing. Made two log cabin blocks on Saturday, my first sally at log cabin, and I am completely, utterly, head-over-heels in love with it. Log cabin is like the best parts of Legos, crayons, and yarn all in one.

Here is an excellent log cabin tutorial at Crazy Mom Quilts.

One of the best things about the quilting bee is finding a use for the little bundle of Japanese fabrics I got on sale last year. Like this one:

lionsquare Couldn’t you just die from the cute?

But as you can see, I’m still having trouble making my seams go where I want them to go. I am just not a straight-line kind of girl. Happily for me, wonky is in. (Making this the best time in history to take up quilting. Fabu deals on Japanese fabrics at a zillion Etsy shops, and crooked seams in vogue? I’m in!)

teacupAlthough I nicked the handle, this teacup makes me swoon.

Another thing we’ve been having great fun with is watercolor journaling, for which I must send Alice Cantrell a giant cyberkiss. A while back I blogged about our backyard art bag, which brainstorm transformed painting into a suddenly easy pursuit. A chief factor in its success was Jenn’s brilliant idea of cutting watercolor paper into postcard-sized pieces. GENIUS. Small paintings are less intimidating, are quickly finished, are easier to frame, mail, or store. Well, Alice Cantrell liked the art bag idea and carried it even farther, creating mini watercolor kits for her children. And then she shared a link to a Watercolor Journaling DVD, which I promptly ordered because I am completely in awe of Alice’s painting abilities and I not-so-secretly yearn to be able to create lovely pictures myself.

Well, we—my five oldest children and I, from the 3-year-old up—loved the DVD. It got us painting right away. Rilla insists upon my ‘making her a painty picture’ every day. Mind you, I still don’t know what I’m doing. Jane has taken a watercolor class and she is teaching me some techniques. Despite her instruction I have yet to manage a non-blotchy wash. But I’m learning. And the colors are so bright, so fresh, so cheerful, that I really don’t care how many mistakes I make.

journalpagesSay! If your blotchy wash is in blue, it looks like sky!

My kids have been watching old episodes of Magic School Bus on VHS. (That’s how old the episodes are.) And when I’m painting or sewing, I hear Ms. Frizzle shouting in her merry way: “Take chances! Make mistakes!” This is quite a comforting mantra to keep in mind when attempting to learn a new art or craft, I find.

Learning Something New

March 17, 2009 @ 12:28 pm | Filed under: Handcrafts

I’m in a little online quilting bee, and this month’s designer sent us a gorgeous batik vine print and the suggestion that our blocks should fit a nature study theme: things you might see on a nature hike. Too fun!

I saw this freezer-paper foundation piecing tutorial at Twiddletails and knew I had to give it a try. The tree shapes in the tutorial are perfect for Theresa’s theme. I am a total novice at this, but I gave it a try yesterday and I was tickled by the results, imperfect though they be. (I recklessly made alterations in the tutorial’s pattern, which would have been no problem if I’d known in what order to piece my pieces together. I messed that bit up, and consequently things aren’t lined up quite as well as I’d hoped. But you’ve got to expect a few scraped knees when you’re first learning to ride a bike, right?)

forestsquare

This is the first of four smaller squares I’ll be sewing together to make one big block. I finished the second square today (no pictures yet) and it came out better. I used this month’s free pattern for the “Geese in the Forest” block-of-the-month project, also at Twiddletails.

(The turquoise fabric at the top isn’t part of this quilt block. It belongs to a different project.)

I think I could really get into freezer-paper piecing. It spares you the part of sewing that stresses me out—the measuring—and makes the cutting part pretty much foolproof. There’s a bit of fabric waste, though. I imagine I’ll be able to cut down on the amount of waste as I get the hang of the process. Besides, when it’s fabric it isn’t really waste, is it? It’s scraps. You can do any number of things with scraps…

Another Birthday Present: Dear Jane

December 19, 2008 @ 8:36 am | Filed under: Books, Handcrafts, Sewing and Handwork

It is astonishing how much attention my hubby pays to my enthusiastic chatterings. Especially when the topic is something he has absolutely no interest in personally, like, say, quilting.

One of my birthday presents was a book I’ve been hankering after: Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt by Brenda Papadakis. I learned of this book, and of the incredible Jane Stickle quilt itself, from a link on Twiddletails, one of my favorite crafty blogs. Anina, the Twiddletails blogger, has a second blog called (for now, at least—yesterday a bit of a trademark dispute arose over the name) Dear Baby Jane, an amazing site on which Anina posts step-by-step photo tutorials for making every single block in the Jane Stickle quilt.

This is no mean feat. Jane’s quilt is a masterpiece. Every single block of this large quilt is pieced in a different geometrical pattern. Many of the patterns are traditional quilt blocks; many seem to be unique to Jane.

An autographed corner square tells us that Jane pieced the quilt “in wartime, 1863,” and that she used over five thousand separate bits of fabric. A farmer’s wife, she lived in the little village of Shaftsbury, Vermont. She was born in 1817, which makes her roughly a contemporary of Charlotte Tucker Quiner Holbrook, the maternal grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whom I wrote about in my Charlotte books. This is one of the many reasons the Jane Stickle quilt intrigued me when I first read about it at Dear Baby Jane. Charlotte was born in 1809 (along with Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Louis Braille, British statesman William Gladstone, Charles Darwin, and Felix Mendelssohn—some year, eh?) in Roxbury, Massachusetts. As a young woman, Charlotte worked as a seamstress, advertising her services in the local papers. By 1863, the year Jane finished her quilt—four years before Charlotte’s granddaughter Laura was born—Charlotte had been living in the “big woods” of Wisconsin for decades. Jane Stickle, meanwhile, lived her whole life in the Shaftsbury, VT, area, and instead of a storytelling granddaughter, the legacy she left us was her incredible wartime quilt.

Here’s a link to a good-sized image of the Jane Stickle quilt—dubbed the “Dear Jane” by Brenda Papadakis. (Contemporary versions of the quilt are nicknamed “Baby Janes.”) I don’t know if it’s kosher to post the image itself, so I’ll just stick with the link. The color scheme is what’s known as and “around the world” pattern: the blocks move through a range of shades in concentric circles (more or less) beginning in the middle of the quilt.

A whole Dear Jane subculture exists in the quilting world, both online and off. There are many gorgeous quilts modeled after or inspired by Jane Stickle’s masterpiece. On the Dear Baby Jane blog, Anina leads an online community of quilters who are piecing the quilt a block at a time, two blocks a week. (Marvel at the photos here.) Just reading Anina’s instructions has been a tremendous education for me. (I was sorry to read, yesterday, of the trademark stickiness and the possibility that Anina will take down the entire blog. I am hoping hard that this does not come to pass.)

My indulgent but wise husband will read this and fear that I am poised for a dive into the world of Dear Jane creators, but he need not worry. Having never completed so much as a simple block quilt (Rilla’s little quilt is still only half quilted, if you can call the mess I’m making “quilting”), my attempting a Baby Jane would be something like a starling chick trying to soar with the flock while it is still in the egg.

But oh how I love to look at the gorgeous variations others have created, and to read about the gradual progress of people attempting the ambitious project right now. And I can’t wait to dive into my new birthday book to learn more about Jane Stickle and her quilt.

Wee and Wonderful Indeed

November 25, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Filed under: Family Adventures, Handcrafts, Rilla

I took a leaf from Jenn’s book today and raided our scrap bin to make a spur-of-the-moment flannel quilt top for Rilla. We are in the process of transitioning her to her own bed in the girls’ room. (My three big girls share a room, and we’re adding a trundle for little sis.) This is something that’s always on the to-do list during a pregnancy, moving the toddler out of our room to make way for the newborn, but I admit I’ve been a bit lax with it this time around. Rilla still nurses a little at night; that’s part of it. And also, she’s very cuddly. Toddlerhood passes so quickly, and I like to savor every breathy little snore of it.

A month or two ago, we set up a (bedraggled old) child-sized futon next to our bed, and Rilla has been starting out her nights there. At some point in the night, she climbs into bed beside me. She’s like a cat, the way she sort of pours herself under the covers and curls up next to me with a contented sigh. She’s also like in a cat in the way she’ll turn on a dime and hiss and snarl at the blankets because they have offended her somehow, and she’s all flailing paws until the malevolent covers are no longer touching any part of her body. A mercurial little creature, is my Rilla.

Yesterday we moved the futon into the girls’ room. She thought this whole “sleeping with the big girls” thing was a pretty swell idea right up until bedtime, when suddenly it was The Most Offensive Idea Anyone Has Ever Had in All of Human History. But I snuggled up beside her in the dark, and her sisters whispered to her, and the devious plan I’d carried out earlier in the day—feeding her marshmallows at naptime instead of putting her down for a nap—paid off pretty quickly. She sighed, and sank, and slumbered, and when her limbs began lashing at the covers I knew it was safe for me to slip away. (Sob.)

Jane and I thought a special new blanket for her special new bedroom might help ease the transition. Rilla doesn’t have a blankie she’s attached to, though she does like the little patchwork baby quilt I made her before she was born. It’s way too small now, of course. So this morning Jane and I pieced together the remnants of the same cozy flannel plaids and prints I’d used for that baby blanket nearly three years ago and came up with a sort of wonky, large-patch quilt top. We’ve got a big piece of pink plaid-and-polka-dots to use for the backing. I’ve never actually quilted anything before, mind you—the baby quilts I’ve made are just patchwork tops with flannel backing, no batting in between. I need to go buy some batting tomorrow and we’ll see if we can pull this thing off.

In the meantime, the quilt top seems to have passed Miss Rilla’s muster.

The little embroidered kitty with flower umbrella at the bottom is a pattern from the Wee Wonderfuls “Tulip Fairy” Stitchette set, which I bought a while back and forgot about until today. That blank pink patch was just begging for a bit of embellishment. And I have to say, I am completely enchanted. The Stitchette pattern is a reusable iron-on which took all of ten seconds to transfer to our fabric. Suddenly everywhere I look are blank bits of fabric crying out for a little Wee Wonderfuls snail, or the mice pouring tea from that cunning acorn teapot, or that kite-flying ladybug, oh the cuteness of it all.

Special ’Livery

November 12, 2008 @ 8:20 am | Filed under: Books, Handcrafts

Have you ever pre-ordered a book and then forgotten you’ve done so? And then months later you get the shipping notice, and it’s like a little piece of Christmas in your in-box? That’s what happened to me the other day when a certain online book retailer notified me that my copy of Alicia Paulson’s long-awaited Stitched in Time: Memory Keeping Projects to Sew and Share was on its way. It’ll be here today. (You may know Alicia from her delightful blog, Posie Gets Cozy, which was the very first handcrafts blog I ever subscribed to.)

Hurry on over, Mr. UPS Man; we can’t wait to get cozy with this book! (Good thing I got all caught up on my Cybils reading yesterday. I can’t peruse any more nominees until the next batch of library holds comes in, or until another nice fat packet arrives from a publisher. Which may well be today. We’ve been keeping Mr. UPS Man hopping lately. And may I just say he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet? One day he brought us a bag of clementines from his neighbor’s tree—he said he’d been given so many he couldn’t eat them all and he thought maybe my kids would enjoy them. Don’t think I’m unaware this is all Rilla’s doing: she charms him daily with her warm reception as he jogs up our driveway with packages stacked high. “Hi dere! You ’liver dat for me?”)