December 31, 2012

Sewn stocking craft-astrophe!

I will fess up here: Last year my poor youngest child did not have a homemade Christmas stocking. She was a baby. She didn't mind. I did mind but ran out of time.

I had all the supplies and a whole entire year to complete the stocking. What do you think I was doing on December 23, a mere two days before Christmas? Well, yes, I was sewing a stocking.

The challenge was that the first two stockings were sewn by a friend with a pattern I no longer own. The second was sewn by my mother-in-law with a different pattern that I only bought because one of the stockings had a similar twirling toe. After I read through the directions it was clear to me she really hadn't followed those. So I was on to a construction challenge!

I was so very proud of myself for figuring out how to put it all together so that when you flipped it right side out the little hook was in the correct spot and the cuff showed nicely inside and out and the seams were hidden. I held it up to admire. Then I held up my older daughter's stocking, the one I had been referencing for the construction and was struck with my shocking error.

The stocking of daughter two was nearly twice as wide and undeniably twice as long and I had not noticed until this very moment!

How is this possible? How did I not sense its extraordinary length as a sewed my afternoon away? How could I not have seen how large it was compared to the sample I had right there with me?!

After laughing until I cried I despaired of my craft failure. Then my dear husband suggested that since the goal was a homemade stocking that I had indeed succeeded. He doesn't even want me to replace it with a right-sized stocking and instead wants it to go down in family history as an annual joke!

December 28, 2012

beautiful sky

Oh, take my breath away and humble me so gently, beautiful winter sunset sky.

December 26, 2012

Christmas gifts from the kitchen: chai tea mix

I hope you had a lovely Christmas, dear readers!

My husband had the brilliant idea of gifting jars of chai tea mix last year and we have continued the "tradition" this year. We like to give these small, simple gifts to those who take care of us all year round: our mail carrier, the newspaper delivery family, our pastors, our teachers, and so on. It is a sweet and simple thank you.

Last year we bought some beautiful canning jars. We spent just as much on the jars as we did on ingredients. This year we saved and sterilized the glass jars from my peanut butter addiction, which conveniently have a red lid. Not only were we doing some earth-friendly upcycling, but people did end up with a little bit more chai tea. I am sure they are not complaining!

I stamped the tags at a Pinterest party, where we were experimenting with various crafts and recipes found on the famous website. The original idea was to use the base from celery to stamp roses. The snowflakes on these tags were stamped with a slice of okra. I made the tags themselves from a red paper bag from a store. I already had the glittery stars on wire, which worked especially nice because it could be twisted firmly around the neck of the jar (no ribbon slipping here!).

December 24, 2012

a few of my favorite things

On top of a shelf in the bathroom you'll find a few of my favorite things:

I enthused about them a few weeks ago. A simple and inexpensive item to incorporate into your seasonal decor.

Milk glass.
I really like the look and feel of those little bumps! In my experience, milk glass is abundant and inexpensive at antique stores. Think multiples on the mantle like I did here, especially if your house has white trim like mine.

Bright red against blue.
A color combination that seems to come up in my house again and again!

Little birdies.
Also – I love and adore the art of Genine, who also shares my adoration of our feathered friends. Check out her blog too if you have not before. I am quite sure I have mentioned her before on this blog.

Reused Christmas cards.
A clustered group sharing the red bird theme. As I have written about before, saving and reusing favorite cards is another easy-on-the-earth, easy-on-the-budget way to decorate.

December 21, 2012

beautiful seeds

One lovely autumn day we ventured out of the playground and off the beaten path into a puffy cloud of plant life, all gone to seed but oh-so-lovely to adventure through. The plants were taller than my children so you can imagine the excitement/fear of plunging into this jungle!

December 19, 2012

storing your natural treasures

This is not exactly a craft post and not exactly a home decorating post and I doubt the results are anyone's definition of "art" but I am so excited about this reuse of clementine boxes I just had to share it with you! Besides, all my posts detailing the Christmas gifts I have been crafting since summer cannot be published until they have actually been gifted!

As long-time readers will know, I am a big fan of nature. And this comes through in my home decorating. I think a bird's nest, a seashell, a rock, a piece of coral, some feathers, and some cool driftwood are equally as lovely as some antique milk glass, framed art, or great-grandmother's handiwork.

So, along with my observant and curious little ones, I am often collecting little bits of this and that and rotating which ones are on display. For a while I had things stored in some small plastic containers and stacked in my decor closet. This was a decent solution, especially considering the containers were clear. Then we collected a whole stack of awesome pinecones and I began running into some storage issues.

I know, I know, I could downsize my pinecone collection but look at this garland by Martha in her book Handmade Christmas: The Best of Martha Stewart Living. Pretty sweet, right?

Anyway, I had a stack of clementine boxes saved for unknown reasons, or perhaps my faith they might be useful. And then we had some fresh ones that I dumped out. And being that they are made to hold a mound of objects and stack on top of each other, well, they are perfectly suited for storing natural treasures! I still have the clear containers holding smaller items inside of some of these. But larger fragile things, like bird's nests, have found a perfect home in these boxes.

And while I know there are many cute ways to label (I am a graphic designer after all), I was just as happy to use an index card and a stapler. Job done.

December 17, 2012

love this logo

This logo for the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition was sent to me at work for use on a many-sponsored piece. I love it. I think it is really a great design, a beautiful and simple merging of letterforms and illustration. Very well-done. If anyone happens to know who designed it, please share in the comments. I would love to give credit where it is due.

Happy sigh – good design does make me smile!

December 14, 2012

in honor of crafters past: a garage sale find

Although I could be wrong, this nativity scene strikes me as homemade. I found it at a garage sale way off the beaten path up north. What good luck to happen upon something so unique! I perched it on a shelf next to our own family portrait.

December 12, 2012

here an evergreen, there an evergreen, everywhere an evergreen

Another little trick I have for filling my house with Christmas is to make full use of any and all available evergreen branches. Mine are leftovers from the wreath making process and scraps trimmed from our fresh tree. If you are lucky enough to have evergreens right in your yard, well, get out there with the clippers!

I like to arrange them in various vases and jars and tuck them in available corners.

This year I also had a fresh batch of pretty pine cones collected from the parking lot of a nearby elementary school. Seriously, can I go anywhere without seeing art or art supplies right before my very eyes? Combined with some branches and a piece of bark from an autumn walk and you get a very artful, minimal arrangement.

Even a small sprig can add a little holiday flair to a year-round item.

December 10, 2012

ornaments = window adornments

I spent a full 8-hour day – no joke – decorating my house for Christmas so you better believe I've got more blog posts to write about it!

One of my favorite things to do with Christmas tree ornaments is hang them in other, unexpected places like doorknobs, cabinet handles, and in windows. I use two tree ornaments in the narrow windows flanking my fireplace. This year I hung a star in the bathroom.

Then I took my favorite felt ornament by the artist Jenn Schaub of Pulled Print Press and hung it above the kitchen sink. My teal glass, an antique jar, and a freebie postcard from when I ordered a gift through Raw Art Letterpress keeps the blue theme going. There is also a repeat of hearts in the ornament, the snowman print, the pink play-doh, and the red glass. And let us not forget the minimalist nativity, a very inspirational craft from my sister-in-law's family. It too coordinates in shaded of red and blue.

A lovely little scene if I do say so myself!

December 7, 2012

December 5, 2012

Mirror, mirror, on the table

Let me show you something that did not work the way I expected it to. Since I am so in love with the mirror above my mantel (as seen here in full Halloween glory) I was inspired to leave it up for Christmas. After crafting my evergreen wreaths (check out this great post where I explain how I do it) I wanted to incorporate the small one above my mantel, like I usually do.

So I dug up some fun ribbons from the basement, tied it to the top, artfully wove the ends of the ribbons through the mirror's frame, stood back, and was, well, disappointed.

I left it up overnight before finally admitting the next day I really did not like it. Here's the problem, folks. The mirror and the wreath are pretty much the same size. So they are competing with each other in a seriously not flattering way. This could work better if the wreath was bigger, framing the full size of the mirror instead of laying on top it. Conversely, this could also work if the wreath was smaller – a miniature adorning the top or a few evergreen branches tucked into the mirror's frame.

In the end, I took down the mirror and laid it on the dining room table, which had become my temporary landing ground for decorations in transition. At the end of the day when I was clearing off the table, spreading out my Christmas tablecloth, and deciding on decorations I realized I really liked the look of the mirror right where it was. Add a glass bowl of antique ornaments and the last of my evergreen branches and the house was complete. Tah-dah!

December 3, 2012

Felt ornaments for kids of all ages!

For the second time, I prepared a Thanksgiving craft for our family gathering (anyone remember ornamental balls?). I was inspired by the book Holiday Crafting and Baking with Kids: Gifts, Sweets, and Treats for the Whole Family. Of course, our actual intention was to get the grown-ups crafting too!

Because this involves cutting felt with fabric scissors it is not the best craft for the littles. However, one of my nephews who is only 3 years old was happy to arrange scraps and even glued them himself. The 4-year-olds had mixed interest. The older kids actually really enjoyed it. On the second day of crafting, we even saw some out-of-the-box formats – large rectangles, fringe, tassels, and, eventually fake moustaches!

The premise is very simple – take a felt circle, cut out various felt shapes, and glue them on. The instructions suggest using a hole punch to create a spot to thread the ribbon through. We found it easier to just pinch the fabric and make a small snip with the scissors. The sparkly, fancy, beaded ribbons were a hit embellishment option.

November 30, 2012

a precious pretty given to me

A very special friend gave me a quilt top she made so that I might complete it and use it. I am so very honored to be the recipient of her many hours of handiwork.

And how lovely this quilt shall be! The colors match my home so well. See the red and teal squares? My living room! See the purple and yellow? My sunroom!

The quilt is made up of satin squares. Should the bottom also be satin? I am imagining it sliding off laps? Would it be odd to just use a cotton on the bottom? Any suggestions from other quilters out there? I am thinking very minimalist for the actual quilting. Perhaps outlining the individual squares with a coordinating thread color? I am very open to suggestions so please let me know what you think!

November 28, 2012

favorite fabrics from ArtPrize

So I am going to keep the fabric theme going this week. I know ArtPrize was over and done with in October but the inspiration lives on people!

I loved, adored, gaped at this magnificent piece "Imperious Decorum" by artist Liz Miller. Have you ever seen felt look so wonderfully regal? It was truly amazing to see the lacy pieces suspended from the ceiling and pooled across the floor. This piece had some presence. It truly dominated the space.

I am showing a second image with my 4-year-old daughter to give you a better sense of scale.

"Plexus No. 18" by Gabriel Dawe is made up of overlapping thread. I think you had to have been there to have experienced how very beautiful it really is.

I am putting this one – "The Land Up North" by Jared Charzewski – out here on the blog in honor of my dear mother-in-law who did not appreciate it the way that I did. Over the course of a single weekend of family visits and meals we not once, not twice, but three times found ourselves talking about a piece of art that I thought was unique and she thought much less of! Fortunately, we get along great so we both laughed it off!

So – I just like the looks of this piece. I like the texture of the mounds of fabric. I like the way it is sorted by color. I like that it is made of thrift shop finds – there is some commentary here on the amazing amount of stuff we produce, consume, and discard in our country. And I especially like that it reminds me of a painted landscape, of rolling hills and patchworked fields.

These, dear readers, are hands-down the most amazing quilted art pieces I have ever seen. "Seasons" by Anne Loveless gets it realistic, beautiful, painted look from meticulously placed shreds of fabric. A mesh is sewn on top and then it is quilted. So amazing! The photo above does not do the piece justice. Please visit Anne Loveless' website to see more of her work.

November 26, 2012

my future fame as a fabric designer!

Hey, it is possible! :-)

Reading this book: Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design just renewed my excitement and passion for patterns and all the pretty places you can put them. Like on fabric and stationery and your walls and pillows and purses and other such lovelies! If you sew or quilt it is probably not a stretch of your imagination to design some fabric in your head. Websites like Spoonflower make it possible to print your very own. I have been tempted to do so but have not. Yet.

Kudos to the author for presenting such a thorough examination of the subject. After reading this you really could get started creating your own designs. The basics of pattern design – hello repeats – are covered along with in-depth Adobe Illustrator tutorials. Additonal chapters each detail various methods of printing fabric. There are loads of interviews with fabric designers, including their back stories. I personally find artists' stories to be hugely inspirational (a reason why I love the CraftSanity blog, podcast, and magazine by local writer and craft queen Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood).

A sampling of the fabric designers/illustrators/artists I have recently added to my blog reader:
A Stitch in Dye – Malka Dubrowsky
Heather Ross
Ink & Spindle – Lara Cameron and Tegan Rose
Jezze Prints –  Jesse Breytenbach
Skinny laMinx – Heather Moore (totally got distracted by her fabric catalog just now)

And another I have long enjoyed following:
Anna Maria Horner

Bonus kudos to the graphic designers and photograhers who so thoughtfully put together a beautiful book. The exterior feels like fabric. I love the subtle reference to ink behind the title. And that image on the cover is just beautiful.

November 21, 2012

happy new home!

My lovely sis-in-law recently moved into her first home – an amazing condo in an old furniture factory along the river. A lovely and simple cut paper card was in order. She really does live one floor beneath the top on the left side of the building too!

November 19, 2012

spray paint is my friend!

All you crafty home decorator blogging ladies already know this. I've read about it a zillion times. But now I have tried it and – wow! Spraypaint is not only amazingly transformative but super fun too! I have some super secret projects in the works for Christmas but while I was painting those I got busy with some other items dug out of the basement. And, as the very funny and entertaining Katy Wolk-Stanley, author of the blog The Non-Consumer Advocate will appreciate, I spray painted some unused frames black to match other frames already up on the wall!

This old, compartmented organizer garage sale treasure has long been waiting for some artistic goodness. I've owned it for years. I will admit it was already black. But an old dingy black. Now it is a shiny new black. I want to collage objects and cut out images and apply words. Around a singular theme. Perhaps birds. Perhaps inspired by the Psalms. Perhaps both. I have ideas but I am going to let it simmer until I have a more clear idea. In the meantime, those near and dear to me can keep me in mind if they come across interesting feathers or bird nests as I have an affinity for both!

This Art Prize wonder by Katherine Van Drie is made of old shoes. But look at how totally transformed it is to see them all spray painted the same color. Then they are reduced to line and shape. Think about multiple objects. Think about an awesome metallic spray paint. You too could create some funky art!

November 16, 2012

pretty purple seed pods

The hyacinth bean vine transitions to autumn. It is an annual but very easy to grow. I would highly recommend it.

November 14, 2012

Christmas card inspiration

My favorites from the Met Museums's catalog:

The colorful, free illustrations by Andy Warhol (he's more than soup cans!), the elegant ornamentation of Aubrey Beardsley's angels, and the adorable partridge by Eyvind Earle.

I won't be buying traditional cards this year because I'll be doing photo cards but if I were to buy some they might look like these. And I am very inspired by those angels. One of these days I am going to get back to doing some linocutting and that style seems to lend itself to that medium.

November 12, 2012

the beauty of Días de los Muertos

The Grand Rapids Public Library, where I work, annually hosts a community exhibit of altars in honor of Días de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday where people build beautiful altars in memory of loved ones who have passed away. Many times the altars contain photos of the person as well as objects they owned or loved. The altars are beautiful and touching and are truly works of art.

This particular altar by Sarah Sciba in honor of Martha Jane Peters was one of my very favorites.