the aprons

a close friend of mine asked me to make match-y aprons for four of her dear, far-flung friends and I jumped at the chance.  the great thing about taking on a commission like this is that I got to hear all about the challenges and joys these women have had in the past year and carried all those stories in my mind as I was sewing away.

 

 

my friend chose ty pennington’s block print style fabric for the aprons, which is so homey but at the same time still looks fresh.  I got it here.  the apron is a pattern I made by mixing the bottom of an Anna Maria Horner apron pattern and the top part of one from Lotta Jansdotter….and a few other personal alterations and tweaks.  I just love an elegant neckline and prominent waistline with a full apron bottom so I threw them together.

  

 

each apron got it’s own drawstring bag…in case they ever get together for some serious baking.  I love aprons because there is hardly a milestone in this life that doesn’t involve food in some way.  may these aprons be the hardworking splatter-catchers for a whole host of future joys and challenges!

handmade holidays :: kool-aid play silks

these were the one mama-made gift the boys found in their stockings Christmas morning.  they are play silks, simple scarf-sized pieces of silk dyed in different colors. as a toy, they have limitless potential—so far in our house they have been a way to carry cars, a cape, an umbrella in a fake rainstorm, water under a boat adventure, something to float in the air while you are dancing and on and on.  we had these growing up in a shiny, metallic fabric and we must have used them for everything.  probably the hardest working toy in our house back then.  in a boutique kid’s shop these can get expensive.  so, I was thrilled when I came across this tutorial that goes step by step through how to make them with the food safe dye available in every grocery store in the country–kool-aid.  yup.  it dyes more than just tongues.  I didn’t read the directions closely on first read so I didn’t grab enough packets of kool-aid when I was at the store. as a result, the colors came out a bit week and mottled as you can see:

  

I was especially worried that the yellow would become almost a cream color so I scoured the internet for natural dyes (once I get going on an activity I really don’t have the patience to stop and pick up missing supplies, it leads down lots of interesting roads).  I discovered that turmeric is a great natural dye and we have tons of it.  so, I boiled a big pot of turmeric water for 30 minutes or so before adding the kool-aid and the silk scarf.  the color turned out fantastically vibrant, I am thrilled with the amazing sunshine look. I was less excited about the smell that resulted from combining turmeric and lemonade flavored kool-aid.  in fact, I was fairly certain I had managed to somehow poison myself and rushed around opening windows.

  

{the silk goes into a pot of boiling water with the dye}

but, it was worth it, don’t you think? look at that color! I got my white silk scarves from dharma trading company, which has everything dyeable under the sun. for anyone interested in doing your own color dying, they are incredible.

well, I’m finally at the end of all my handmade holidays.  from here on out it’s all about looking forward onto the horizon of 2012! which, quite frankly, is looking awfully bright and involves lots of sewing.  I do still do that every once in a while!

handmade holidays :: the silly putty game

the boys and I worked together to make a gift for some of their little friends.  we made silly putty and then bagged up a few plastic critters and I printed out instructions for an easy ‘hide and seek’ game…hide the plastic things in the putty for someone else to find (it passes as a game in our house despite its simplicity). 

the silly putty went into—what else!—jars!  (between snow-globe making and the mason jar sewing kits I’ve become something of a jar enthusiast. I can hardly bear to recycle them anymore because all I see is potential.)

as a result of this gift I’ve made a lot of silly putty.  it is so simple.  basically, just mix together equal parts liquid starch and regular glue.  now, after making four different batches I have learned a few things that might be helpful about how exactly to mix it.  for starters, I pour the glue in first and then have a big serving fork ready to sort stir while I pour in the liquid starch second.  the two bind together really quickly but they don’t completely cohere.  so, I mix them together with my hands as much as I can (I find that the starch seems to have a harder time mixing).  after I mix with my hands it basically looks like this:

 that’s when I let it sit for 30-40 minutes.  then, I mix it with my hands again and if it it coming together a bit I try to stretch it out as I’m doing below:

 if it’s not able to pull into a thin membrane like this, let it sit for longer.  I stretch the whole batch out and that seems to help it really come together so that when it sits it becomes one big glump.  it smells a bit but it really works.  I have encouraged everyone to wash their hands after playing with it because it leaves a starch residue on hands and fingers.  but if you can get past that, it fits the category of fun, cheap and easy.

handmade holidays :: mason jar sewing kit

I snuck in a little crafty making this past holiday…a mason jar sewing kit.  yup! pretty amazing.  as soon as I saw this fantastic tutorial from momtastic  I was obsessed and had to make one.

I fell in love with the oh-so-sweet idea of a portable sewing kit. because despite how modern and hip sewing becomes it still carries with it the legacy of mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great grandmothers and a handful of fathers and grandfathers, too.  there is no denying.  in my sewing classes (when we are not sewing, or course) we are exchanging information, discussing kids, gossiping, or looking to each other for support and advice.  as a friend pointed out, that is probably exactly what the age-old sewing circles were all about. she also believes old school sewing circles might have just formed the foundation for early feminism.  perhaps, it’s true. either way,  sewing connects people and has for generations.  all of that is a long way of saying, it might be a good idea to have a sewing kit that is handy and ready to travel.

the only real making involved in this gift was transforming the jar top into a pincushion, which the tutorial illustrates beautifully. then I stuck fun semi-retro sewing supplies into the jar–a diaper pin for pulling elastic through casing, hand-sewing needles, plastic flower buttons, flat head pins, a tape measure, and I made the sewing weight. it all fits in a jar….and that is ridiculously cute if you ask me.

        

handmade holidays :: gifts for family

this was my surprise gift for family members (and one friend, too). rice packs, sprinkled with a bit of lavender oil.  the rice itself is in its own separate sack.  the linen shell is to make it all look nice.  it closes neatly with velcro.  in the microwave for half a minute or so and they transform into an aromatic, cozy heat source. imagine one of these in the bed before you crawl in…mmm, warm toes! now that is what winter is about.  i got the idea from this tutorial at the ever-inspiring sew mama sew.

I have been crazy about linen lately. I love, love, love the way it feels and how it creases so easily…makes it easy to work with. it’s got such fluidity and softness. also, it’s made from flax. and, that is just neat. check out this incredible site with one of a kind linens. oh, so hard to steer clear from needless fabric shopping!

I will admit it was a little hard to let these go because, of course, I didn’t get around to making one for our family.  but, that is one of the best things about January.  it’s a big strip of time, energy and efficiency stretching out in front of me. so much that can be done! and, it will be done well! and cleanly!  and I will be fitter! I promise to keep you abreast of how that all works out.

in the meantime, watch for more handmade holiday gifts to come. and, happy new year!

advent and adios

our advent calendar was a raging success. both of our boys love a predictable routine anyway and the morning draw of the day’s advent only added to their joy.  it was really fun to have an activity each day even when it was a simple one.  we did lots of ‘making’ and they loved knowing that an activity was coming in the afternoon, it made everything run smoother.  no lie.  I’m trying to figure out how to keep up something like that during the rest of the year…maybe a really big family calendar of some sort. anyway, her is the run down on some of our favorite activities:

*two kinds of snowflakes…one made of paper (a major success!!) and the other from a way-too-fussy Martha Stewart thing that was mostly a disaster.

     

* decorating really big snowmen to hang up on the wall. this activity was actually an on-the-fly response to having an advent activity that read “build a snowman” on one of the many warm weather days we have had in these parts.  (it’s getting really old.  I’m starting to shake my fists and rant “we need snow!” to no one in particular).

 

* we built a ‘snow castle’ from white christmas lights  in a cardboard box. i got the idea here, which incidentally is a fantastic site full of great kid-craft ideas.  in fact, I think most of my ideas might have actually originated here.

* a door wreath out of a wooden wreath with pom-poms glued onto it. we used clear glue, which is really impressing me these days.  it honestly dries clear.  I got the inspiration for this from here, even though ours is nothing like that, it is what sparked the idea.

  *and shrinky dink ornaments! I am pretty sure that I let out a little squeal when I saw shrinky dinks in an art supply store. and, they are just as much fun as I remember. both boys loved how they shrink and they were able to color on them the way they would like to and still have the final product turn out small like a real ornament.  word! next year might be the ‘year of the shrinky dink filled Christmas tree’.  we will see.

  

but, this year is nearly done and all remaining energy is now being diverted to the cooking and kitchen fussing…it must be done. so, we are unplugging (mostly), grabbing the cookbooks and the wine.  it’s Christmas time! have a beautiful and relaxing holiday friends!

music to sew by

I realized today that I do not remember a Christmas season that didn’t involve making things by hand.  I just simply cannot think of a time that needle didn’t meet thread in the name of Christmas.  I know it happened because I didn’t really start sewing in earnest until after college but I just don’t remember what the lead up to Christmas was like then maybe instead of sewing I was baking or making something out of paper (I’ve had lots of weird phases).  maybe I just went shopping…and that was that. maybe it just wasn’t very memorable…so I don’t remember it.

{scraps}

but, in the years since then they have become memorable…I mean who could forget the year I was wrestling blue flannel or decided at the last minute to make a quilt.  making is now ingrained in the tradition for me and the hum of the sewing machine is ingrained in Christmas for my family.  this week got busy on me…I thought it was all under control and then it just wasn’t.   I got a few commissions and decided to join an arts market this coming friday and KAZAAM! there went the calm and collected and in blew a frenzy.  but the good kind of frenzy.  and good music has made it even better.  so, since I can’t share what I’m making (I want surprises, damn it!) I thought I would share what has me shaking my head in my swivel sewing chair.  enjoy!!

Thao Nyugen–Bag of Hammers

Stornaway–I Saw You Blink

The Decemberists–This is Why We Fight 

Basia Bulat–In the Night 

and, if you are in town pop by and see me on friday at the artisan market off main street!!

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