Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, and as an adult I've continued that gypsy existence. Over the 42 years of my life I've averaged a move every 3.8 years. There is certainly sadness that comes with moving away from a familiar home and with saying goodbye to friends, but with each move I've adapted fairly quickly, settling my stuff into unfamiliar rooms to make a new home and being open to making new friends.
I think the best part of each move has been the sensation of waking up, of shedding the dullness from my eyes that comes from familiarity with a certain landscape and experiencing unfamiliar surroundings with wide-open eyes. In every place I've been, I've formed a complex attachment to the particular mix of trees that surrounded me. Their height, shape, pattern of leaf and flower through the seasons, the birds they attract, the distinctive sound of the wind sighing through their leaves--all of these characteristics have helped me form a spiritual connection to each place I've lived and a sense of being at home.
The trees of Southern California especially hold a powerful association for me. They remind me of nursing my children while being lulled by the swaying fronds of the twin palms in our back yard. Of sitting under the towering eucalyptus trees in a shaded park by the ocean while my children played nearby. Of picking fistfuls of delicate loquats with my daughter and carrying them inside, our hands sticky with their juice. Of planting miniature fruit trees in our back yard and seeing them bear fruit. Of the magnolia tree in front of each house in our 50's-era neighborhood. Of the delicate red bristles of the bottle brush tree's flowers. The trees around me formed a lush, almost tropical paradise, a fitting setting for my days of young motherhood.
Since I have moved away from the irrigated faux paradise of California to the Northeast, I have an even richer connection with the trees that spring naturally from the region's well-watered soil. Each season brings an incredible change to the maple, oak, honey locust, black walnut, chestnut, and crabapple trees in our yard. During the summer, the sheer weight of the green around us almost dulls the senses. But then the fall with its brilliant colors wakes me up to the individual beauty of each tree. And now that winter is here, the skeleton of each deciduous tree raises its exposed branches in startling fragility against the gray sky.
I've started exploring the symbolism of trees in my crafting lately, especially the ideas of growth and stability that they embody. A "Tree of Life" motif was an obvious choice for a journal cover I made for my sister for Christmas. She has experienced a number of major transitions in the last two years--back surgery, a new job, selling a house, moving into a new home, becoming involved in a new church--that have challenged her to uproot herself and her family and settle in more fertile soil. She is doing great, and I wanted to celebrate her successes with a lush tree teeming with life and growth.
I used Resurrection Fern's idea of printing text on ribbon to weave a poem I wrote into the branches of the tree. Here's my wish for my sister, and for all of you in this new year:
Tree of Life
Its seeking roots
support a wide trunk.
whose circles of growth ripple outward,
Makes a strong column.
This column holds up outstretched branches
That carry your yearnings skyward.
sprout leaves with veins of sweet sap;
Bear fruit like my wishes for you.
Happy New Year!
Friday, December 19, 2008
"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." by Anne Bradstreet
Yesterday the afternoon sun struck one of our star ornaments in just the right spot, and the sunlight streamed through the star's center. It reminded me that the winter solstice is near, marking the beginning of the sunlight's return. It gives me hope that I can last through the remaining months of winter!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I just got back from the post office and I'm so in the Christmas spirit now. I got to the P.O. five minutes before it closed, and there was no line, and the speedy postal clerk processed my seven packages in about five minutes! Thank you, postal gods, and thank you, sweet postal clerk, who I'm sure was eager to get home after a busy day!
In the mail were sweetly scented sachets that keep the moths away from wool items. I sewed these up last night, along with the felted sweater pouches to hold the sachets. I stuffed the sachets with a combination of cedar, cinnamon, and cloves for the linen pouches and lavender, rosemary, wormwood, and cinnamon for the organza pouches. You can imagine that my sewing room smells heavenly!
The tutorial for the organza pouches is from Martha Stewart and can be found here. Apart from a morning hunting down the various fillings, this project was quick and very easy. However, next year I'll start my handmade Christmas goodies earlier (I say that every year!!) and add a freezer-paper stencil to the linen, ala maya*made.
Hope your handmade holiday bears the scent of cedar and cinnamon!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I seem to be a serial monogamist when it comes to books, and my latest love affair is with Show Me How: 500 Things You Should Know; Instructions for Life from the Everyday to the Exotic," by Derek Fagerstrom, Lauren Smith, and the Show Me Team.
You may recognize the lead authors as derek & lauren of the "diy wednesday" feature on design*sponge. If it weren't an oxymoron, "professional DIYers" would be the term I'd use to describe this couple. They live in San Francisco and run the beautifully curated online store, The Curiosity Shoppe. They are frequent contributors to a host of design and living magazines, and Derek is an editor for ReadyMade Magazine.
(For more information about Derek and Lauren, check out this podcast interview from Make:Grow:Gather.)
Show Me How is brilliantly conceived, designed, and illustrated. Simple graphic tutorials with a minimum of words show you how to do a truly mind-numbing range of things from the mundane to the quirky. Always wanted to know how to open a wine bottle with a saber? It's in the book. Turn your boring head of hair into a Rastafarian 'do? Check. Roll sushi, knit and purl, make a lamp from anything (my nine-year-old's favorite so far), build a treehouse, dance like a robot--you've been shown how, so there's no need to be intimidated about trying something new.
I would tell you more details about the book, such as how it's divided into sections for the home, playing, cooking, etc., but the book is now in use, as it has been since we got it on Thursday. You can find at least one of us bent over the book and laughing or calling out comments about a specific tutorial.
There's still time to use some of the holiday projects in the book. There's a simple tutorial for a snow globe that I'm going to make with my kids (check out the images on the Amazon link above for the holiday tutorials).
Yesterday I made the holiday wreath shown above from the "Make a Merry Wreath" tutorial. It was dead simple. I cut a few branches from our own evergreens and used floral wire (purchased for 75 cents from the grocery store's floral department) to wrap them around a clothes hanger bent into a circle. Using the hanger--an item everyone has--is the inspired part of the tutorial, and you'll find this practical approach to just about every project in the book. I added a ribbon I had left over from another project and some vintage pressed-cotton mushrooms from smallstump to disguise the wonk.
I don't often tell people to rush out and buy something I like, but I think you should in this case. It's a great reference to have on hand, and a book that I'll definitely pass on to my kids when they go off on their own (a long time away, I hope). I've already bought the book for my brother-in-law, who is a DIYer, and I think I'll send out the book as a gift for those folks on my Christmas list that I haven't been able to make handmade items for.
Happy handmade holiday! I'm off to "Dread My "do--pictures later!
Monday, December 8, 2008
1. My favorite Bay City Roller is Les (of course). Gotta love a man in tartan. (I think my teen crush on this Scottish pop band, and Les in particular, set me up to love the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon.)
That's solid gold!
2. I am (or was--last time I played was before kid #2) a champion Boggle player but suck at Scrabble. My Boggle skills impressed one genius boyfriend so much that he married me. Meanwhile, in Scrabble, I draw all vowels and routinely score 6 points, even on double word scores. I am great at Pictionary as long as I'm partnered with my sister, with whom I share telepathic powers.
3. I had to keep a weekly journal for a high school sophomore English class. My teacher commented that my journal entries veered crazily between the deep/sublime and the superficial/frivolous. I oscillated between wanting to be a Surrealist painter/poet and trying to be a romance novelist. (Love's Tender Fury, by Jennifer Wilde, was the first of many romance novels I read, beginning at around age 13.) Hey, granted, I was 16, but I still struggle with this dichotomy within myself. I can tell you about plate tectonics but can also score 100 percent on People Magazine's Guess the Celebrity Sibling.
4. As a kid I was bitten in the stomach by a horse in a church parking lot. Three decades later my intense fear of animals taller than myself was lessened somewhat when a sweet giraffe ate out of my hand with its velvety tongue. Really not as gross as it sounds.
This was my first editorial job, in a nutshell.
6. The biggest solo adventure of my life (so far) was the two months I spent in Mexico City after college. I walked for hours alone all over the city and daydreamed about living in Frida Kahlo's house, painting in Diego Rivera's studio, etc. I had some real-life adventures while there, but most paled in comparison to my daydreaming. Yeah, I live in my head A LOT.
OK, now I have to tag six people and ask them to play along. Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Exhausting, I know. Here are the six people I've tagged, but you're not compelled to play along unless you find this an interesting writing assignment:
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Five squares of fabric (I used a charm pack of coordinating fabrics)
Step 5: Fold bottom right corner up to center, iron to create a stiff crease, and then fold back down.
Step 10: Insert triangle on back into slot as well and fold at crease.
Step 11: Sew a straight seam to attach pieces.
Step 14: Sew on a short length of rickrack or ribbon to serve as the hanger for the ornament, and your star is ready to hang!
buttons (I used three vintage buttons)
short length of floral wire
Step 1: Cut all seams to deconstruct a burlap bag (I used the burlap from a bag of chestnuts), remove extra threads, and iron the burlap bag flat, using liberal amounts of spray starch.
Step 2: Cut out 5 five-inch squares of the burlap (any size square will do, of course, but that's the size I had enough burlap to make). My rotary cutter made very precise cuts on the burlap.
Step 3: Fold one of the squares in half, spray with spray starch, and iron flat, making sure the crease is sharp.
Step 4: Fold the strip in half again to make a square. Spray with starch and iron flat.
Step 6: Fold bottom right corner up, spray and iron to crease, and then fold flap back down.
Step 7: Fold entire center crease down and then spray and iron. Fold up left corner to center, spray and iron, and then fold down again. (I didn't get a shot of this step. See my origami star tutorial, steps 7 and 8.)
Step 10: Stitch a straight seam down each opened flap, catching all layers. (I had hoped that the pieces would stay together without stitching, but the star was too floppy without the seams.)
Step 11: Sew the larger button to the center hole in your star. I'm sure that this can be done by hand, but I used my sewing machine: Place the center of your star under the needle of your sewing machine. Place the larger button on top of the hole in the center of the star, making sure to gather enough burlap under the button for the thread to catch on. Sew button on with sewing machine by using a zigzag stitch with your sitch length set to "0."
Step 13: Cut out a thin strip of burlap for the loop. Fold in half lengthwise and position at top of star. Put a button on top of loop and sew on button to attach loop.
My next project is to try this with cotton or linen or that wonderful stiff mesh fabric that florists use. Let me know if you use the tutorial to create some origami fabric stars--I'd love to see your stellar efforts!
Many, many thanks to Cassi at The Crafty Crow, Rachel at OnePretty Thing (flanked by Betz White and Martha Stewart projects, oh my!!), and the fine editors at Craft: for linking to the origami star tutorial. My son, who inspired me to learn origami in the first place and is my tutorial helper and instructor in all things spatially related, is as thrilled as I am at all the interest!
Monday, December 1, 2008
Five sheets of Aitoh Origami Rice Paper in the Kimono and Folk Art design
Step 2: Fold the sheet in half again so that you have a small square.
Step 3: Open up the square, with right side down.
Steps 4 and 5: Fold down the top right corner and the bottom left corner.
Step 6: Fold up the bottom right corner, crease, and then unfold.
Step 7: Fold the whole square in half from the middle crease.
Follow steps 1 through 8 above for the four remaining squares.
Step 9: To form the star, place your first folded piece down horizontally. Place the second piece vertically, with the creased triangle right side up. Slide the creased corner of the second sheet into the triangular slot of the first piece.
Step 10: Fold the triangle on the back side of the bottom piece of paper into its slot as well.