Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who, me?

Tweed Owl Purse

Whenever I see that Anne Frank quotation, you know, the one that says,  "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart," I wonder at the mind that can be exposed to the worst in humankind and still see only the best.

We decide to believe, or doubt, every time we talk to someone. I tend to believe in everyone. Someone cuts in line, and looks to be in a hurry. I cut them some slack. Someone tells me that they are sick, or lost their job, or have a sick kid or a bad marriage so they can't do something that was promised. I always believe them. Someone is driving erratically. I say, "They must be taking their wife to the hospital to deliver a baby." My husband says, "There is no hospital around here."

In order to participate in swapping, I think you need to have some version of my Pollyanna world view. If you assume the worst, you won't want to trade with others for fear of receiving worse than what you got. But I have been trading books online for about two years and recently started trading a few crafts. I enjoy sending things to people. I like to imagine them opening the package and being surprised with the condition of the book or the quality of the craft. When I saw this owl purse on Craftster, I knew that it would be perfect for my partner in a crafting swap I had joined. My daughter and I stopped at a thrift store to pick up a wool jacket, then I washed it with lots of soap, in HOT water. I made a pattern for myself based on the original pictures, then I cut out the pieces and got to work sewing it together. I used a super stiff interfacing and was pleased with the results. But because the purse was so stiff, after the turning process I found that the lining had stretched, leaving extra material to deal with during the final top stitch. Once the project was completed, there was some bunching along the inside edge of the lining, so I included a little apology with the package.

When my partner received the purse, she sent me a generous response and said that she hadn't even seen the flaws. She thought that the bunching was on purpose. A sort of pleat, I suppose.

I choose to believe in people. It is a conscious choice; I am not stupid enough to believe that every crazy driver is on their way to become a new parent. But I always give people the benefit of the doubt. In my life, this kind of way of looking at life has led me to make new friends. It has helped me to stay optimistic during hard times. But it has also led me to trust people who perhaps do not deserve my trust. It has led me to forgive and forget things that would be best left remembered. And it has landed me in a tough situation or two. But here I am, nearly forty, fighting the prospect of becoming jaded. Seeking light is a worldview worth striving for; I want to be the kind of person who looks at bunched up top stitching and sees pleats instead of flaws.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Iylie's Birthday Eggs

My youngest niece turned one recently and her mom asked me to make her some kind of balls. "She loves to play with balls, and throw them. And chew on them." So with those directions in mind I came up with the idea to make her a carton of eggs. I had a Simplicity pattern for felt food, so I used that. I also decided to personalize the carton by adding a 'label'. And of course I could not resist adding some faces to the eggs. (I know, safety eyes are a choking hazard for a girl who likes to chew on things. I gave her mom a heads up and the baby will only play with the eggs while supervised.)  Each egg roughly represents one of her cousins or sisters. On one egg I left out a panel to make it super skinny; another got gorgeous thick lips; a third is always sleeping. Of course, when I asked the kids which egg they thought was them, they ALL said that they were the vampire egg. Go figure. I guess kids are as suggestible to vampire mania as the slightly disturbing Twilight Moms. Or maybe the vampire egg is just the cutest of the bunch.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fabric Postcard

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Today is one of those days that we look forward to and enjoy here in Arizona. This morning our usual expanse of blue sky was hung instead with marvelous, heavy, dark clouds. On the way to the kids' tennis lessons, humidity in the air pulled a sort of homesickness into my brain, so that while I knew I was driving in the Southwest, I was breathing the thick childhood air of my Midwest, inhaling the promise of rain. When we arrived, I heard a boy tell his mother "It smells like rain." It did. Arizona children learn to recognize the smell early on; it is so rare for them that it reeks of the exotic. Rain, when water falls from the sky! Imagine.

Later, as we drove home, a dust storm began to blow around us. A tumbleweed bounced across the road. As I pointed it out to the kids, an oncoming car struck the tumbleweed. We laughed as the car passed us with the massive tumbleweed stuck to its front end. A moment later, we nearly hit one ourselves. My daughter remarked, "I love when the sky looks like this. Everything looks prettier." I agree, although prettier is not the exact word I would use. In the light of an approaching dust storm, the sky changes and objects look grittier, and at the same time much clearer than usual. If you have ever experienced a solar eclipse, and the surreal light that shines at that time, you have an idea what dust storm light looks like.

Finally, this afternoon, the rainstorm began. In my family, we all love this rare desert rain, the kind that knocks the dirt and pollen out of the air. My son, with his plethora of allergies, gets a temporary reprieve. What marvelous air. Clean air! The humidity is gone, the water remains on the ground. In an hour or so it will be dry again and the sky blue. The evidence of the rain leaves so quickly it seems we've only dreamed it.

This fabric postcard was made for someone who is going through some big changes in her life, leaving her partner after many years together. She likes fabric postcards so I decided to make one for her. It seemed to me that the ones I saw online were symbolism heavy, so I went with that same theme. The postcard comes with a butterfly envelope, symbolizing metamorphosis. The postcard itself shows a figure performing the yoga tree pose. (The recipient practices yoga.) The figure is stretching, balanced  in the outdoors, to show liberation and fresh beginnings. I hope that when she looks at this postcard, she can feel the freedom of rain fresh air.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweet Valentines...Amigurumi Cupcake

Happy Valentines Day!
It is so easy to get tied up in questions about love and commercialism, and normally I'd jump all over the chance to be cynical. But today I am going to ignore those questions and admit--I do love Valentines Day and all the fun that goes with it. Growing up, Valentines Day was less about romantic love and more about finding fun little gifts for the members of our family. When we came to the breakfast table on Valentines Day, there would be a small gift or two in our place. My mom would always make us a heart shaped 'hole in one'--toasted bread with a hole cut in the middle and a fried egg cooked into it. Now, I do the same thing with my children.
The girls asked for cupcakes, so they each got an amigurumi cupcake. And all three kiddos received Pokemon dolls. The store-bought kind. Because whether or not Valentines Day inspires them to love their family a little more, Pokemon are the current crush.

This little cupcake was made for a 'One Tiny Thing' swap.
As a Valentine gift to you, I am going to explain how I made him.

R1:Create magic circle, sc6 (6)
R2: 2sc in each sc (12)
R3: *(1sc in first sc, 2sc in next sc) repeat five more times (18)
R4: *(1sc in next two sc, 2sc in next sc) repeat five more times (24)
R5-8: 1sc in each sc around (24)
R9: *(slst in first sc, 1hdc, 1dc,1hdc in next sc) repeat 11 more times around.
Tie off yarn and weave in stitches.
If the cupcake is not going to be given to a small child, use thread to sew on glass bugle bead 'sprinkles'. If the cupcake is going to a child, no sprinkles are necessary.

R1: Create a magic circle, sc6 (6)
R2: 2sc in each sc (12)
R3: *(1sc in first sc, 2sc in next sc) repeat five more times (18)
R4: *(1sc in next two sc, 2sc in next sc) repeat five more times (24)
R5: In back loops only, 1sc in each sc around (24)
R6-14: 1sc in each sc around (24) (You may do more or less rows, depending on how tall you'd like your cupcake to be.)
Tie off yarn, leaving a long tail for sewing to frosting.

If adding a face, position safety eyes and secure them in place. Use embroidery floss to sew on mouth.
Begin to sew the base to the frosting, sewing through each sc in the base and the loops from the sc in R8 of the frosting. (Or just sew it in however it makes sense to you.)
When you have gone 3/4 of the way around, stuff the cupcake. Finish sewing. To tie off the yarn, run the needle into the cupcake near your last stitch, then down through the base near your original magic circle. Go back up through the top of the frosting. Being careful not to let the contrasting stitch show, go back down through the cup cake, tie off and hide stitches. This last step will help the cupcake keep its shape.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section and I will do my best to clarify.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tea for Two...or Three.

I have been making tea wallets lately. Like the chapstick cozy in my last post, tea wallets use up small scraps from my crafty stash. Only in this case they use up fabric scraps instead of yarn. There are lots of different patterns online for tea wallets, but the one I used is here. I really think that this tutorial is the best one out there--the author has included lots of pictures and very clear instructions. I experimented with some different closures with these wallets. The first one I made had the ribbon closure as in the tutorial. That one was nice; I didn't take a picture before I gifted it. Then I decided to try using hair bands. You can see how that turned out in the picture of the bunny tea wallet. Finally, I tried creating a flap out of matching fabric and putting a button hole in it. In the end, I did not like any of the closures more than the others. I know that I will make more of these, as they are quick and easy to make, and are great gifts, but I will decide which closure to use based on the fabric and button I am using.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sealed With A Kiss!

I don't know about you, but in my family, we tend to get dry lips during the winter.

And my children are prone to losing their chapsticks. In fact, this year one of the chapsticks took a disaterous spin through the laundry room, melting in the dryer and staining a whole load of children's clothing. I needed a solution, and thought that a chapstick cozy might do the trick.

I had seen sewn cozies, but I was looking for something different. Like crochet. I looked online for cozy patterns and learned that the crochet cozy was not as original an idea as I had thought! There are lots of free patterns for cozies, but I did not find one that was just right, so I started crocheting the picture I had in my mind.

I'm really happy with how they turned out. They are great. They use up small bits of yarn, they don't take too long to make, and best of all, they keep my washer and dryer from getting 'moisturized'. The only bad thing is that I am using up all my cutest buttons.

I just completed a really neat swap. Each person had three partners and sent two homemade Valentine items to each partner. I decided to send each person one personalized gift and one crocheted chapstick holder. I made box-envelopes out of cardstock and sealed them shut, then wrote "Pucker Up, Valentine!" My oldest was a little dismayed that her mom was telling some other ladies to pucker up, but I told her I was pretty sure no one would get the wrong idea.
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