Monday, February 15, 2016

What I Love (not just on Valentine's Day)

Notice I didn't bother saying who I love, because that's pretty widespread, there being an awful lot of truly remarkable people in my life now and over the last 5 decades. And of course, Mr. True Love and my two kids are the primary recipients of my emotional ardor.

But in my private brain space of the whats, I'd always have to come back to reading and stitching. These are the two of my favorite things. 

And spaghetti. So three favorite things.

But only two make sense in the context of "what would you do if you were a millionaire" or "what work would you do if you could choose."

I've probably said this before, but I get bored easily. I don't enjoy producing the same thing over and over again. I enjoy new vistas even though I'm a hermit by nature (and choice). 

Reading gets me out of the house both literally and figuratively. I go to the library every week. And at night when I read, my mind travels endlessly and without bounds to all worlds, all times, all people. If a person can read, she could never be bored.

Hand sewing and embroidery, on the other hand, give me a place for all the stories in my head to spill out. The words make pictures in there and they have to go somewhere. Art is like brain-breathing.

This week, a lot of embroidery has been happening. Some of those are becoming patterns for sale. These last couple of weeks have been a delight. Each stitch a breath, a sigh, a word, a dream, a wish, a prayer, a love.

May you spend all your days not only with whom you love but also with the whats.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hidden Kisses of the Heart Couple - Embroidery Pattern and Tutorial

In honor of lovers worldwide, I've taken a cue from my grandmother's era of youthful frivolity and freedom and embroidered a little boudior mini-pillow.

The embroidery is done here on red linen, upcycled from a women's shirt, and stitched using backstitch, stab stitch, and open lazy daisy in black and white embroidery floss.

The design lends itself to being cut as a heart shape and made into a Valentine's Day present or wedding or anniversary keepsake.

Rather than use a pom pom edging, I lightly rolled bits of wool into soft balls and tucked them inside a strip of chiffon handkerchief which is whipstitched along the edge between the balls. 

The embroidery pattern is for sale here in my Etsy shop.

The file for sale is just the embroidery pattern. The full-size pattern fits into a 6" hoop, but it can be enlarged or reduced.

Here's how I made the mini-pillow:

Stack the pillow-to-be fabric in this order: backing right side up then embroidered heart wrong side up.

In this case I used a vintage handkerchief which is very thin fabric so I have an extra layer of white calico muslin behind that.

Stitch around the heart shape, leaving a small opening along one side. Turn right side out and push the edges out with a chopstick. Press gently on the back side with a warm iron.

Using cotton balls or wool fleece, make enough little balls to edge the heart.

Using a strip of fabric 1 1/2 times the circumference of the heart, stitch around the heart, capturing a little fluffy ball inside. Use a whip stitch around the ball edges and the edging will start to look like fabric beads.

Monday, February 1, 2016

5 Reasons Why Moms Should Stay Creative

I decided to share some ideas I've had lately about fledgling-home-business-mums and knitting grannies and friendship-bracelet-making-aunties and professional women who secretly glitter and waitresses who are really artists leading to the all important:

Why it's important to stay creative.

 (photo: simple living workshop - learning to crochet)

These days, creative hungers are easily fed. Our desires to put two disparate objects in our hands and watch one lovely thing emerge are fulfilled via Pinterest and blogs dedicated to every form of visual art - name it, dream it, it's there to learn and explore.

As Phoebe Buffay, quirky gal from the TV show Friends, said about Monica's catering, "It’s hard to believe that just a little while ago this was nothing but ingredients." There are shops with classes, local crafternoons, markets and fairs galore. We can try anything.

But if being creative doesn't necessarily mean honing one's skills as an artist, are there any redeeming results from ironing toxic plastic grocery bags into a solid fabric and crocheting a granny square?

Absolutely! Not only do moms (and all creative people) embody the following qualities, we also teach them to our children by example and by mentoring.
  1.     creative thinkers are problem solvers
  2.     creative thinkers pay attention
  3.     creative thinkers have rhythm
  4.     creative thinkers are more spontaneous
  5.     creative thinkers are industry trailblazers

1 - Problem solving 

You want to embroider and the tutorial calls for a lightbox or transfer carbon paper or iron-on pencils, and you have none of these. A pencil and a window later, you're on your way. 

You want to print a craft pattern at a slight reduction. Your printer ink seems to have become a solid block of chalk (which you WILL find a use for later). You don't know how to reduce something to print anyway. You open the document and use the two-finger trackpad maneuver to reduce the size. You carefully trace this onto paper.  

Bonus round: Your child needs to be a cow at morning assembly at 830 am. It's 745 am. You throw your husband's tan cashmere sweater over your child, cut and safety pin (from the inside) a few white felt spots, and gently attach four barely inflated condoms whose nipples have been gently rouged with your lipstick. Moo.

(kid craft at the CWA Beerwah markets)

2 - Paying attention

You may be able to use a sewing machine easily, but four year old daughter won't leave you alone while you sew up that grrl superhero cape for her. So you show her how to stitch a piece of burlap using a large tapestry needle and a length of colorful yarn. Look who can suddenly embroider a flower! Oh, that's a dinosaur? Another creative mind is born. And two can create where only one did before.

Buying craft supplies can become an expensive proposition. But for every loop band bag, every Play Doh tub, every artist's grade charcoal pencil, every bottle of Mod Podge, there is a homemade or frugal alternative. Recipes abound for homemade supplies. Remember that dried up printer ink? Anyone up for an adventure in charcoal drawing? Cleaning out the garage? Make a box of potential craft supplies. Don't store them. USE them. Take some old crayons and leaves and do the old leaf rubbing activity. Make reuse a visible part of your family's life. Teach your children they don't have to be consumers to create. What's hanging around your house just waiting to be reinvented?

3 - You got rhythm

Time ticks on relentlessly, but the time we spend on meaningful pursuits, the ones that bring us joy, is the time we remember without regret, with fondness, and with gratitude. Time spent loving, making, giving, sharing, exploring is the time you want to be sure to engage in every single day. 
The rhythms of the day, the week, and the seasons is something we can offer to children to show them, they too, have choice in how they spend their precious moments in this life. 

Bonus round: You don't schedule creative time. It just becomes part of your life and your mothering.

Extra credit bonus round: You take a dance break every single day. Often while cooking dinner and the kids need some loud music to let off steam and generate some joy before settling down to a nice family meal.

4 - Being more spontaneous

The gauntlet was thrown down. You have somehow been volunteered to head up the decorating committee for the school dance. It's a closet glitter-addict's dream and you've decided to design the best decorative atmosphere EVER. And then you meet all your helpers, some of whom are so much better at the actual crafts than you are and some of whom seem to be able to glue themselves to the chair by just being in the same room as a glue gun. Being spontaneous may mean jumping in unexpectedly and suddenly, but it also means being able to think on your feet cooperatively, being flexible, being gracious, and being open to change. My husband often says: There is no Sergio in TEAM. (Of course, he means he doesn't join teams so sod off and leave him alone, but I think the sentiment can also mean, there is no such thing as a team of one.) Children need to know being spontaneous can mean taking risks and trying new things on a whim, but it can also mean taking the risk to not have to have everything our own way, to share and to compromise for a larger creative win.

(children's dharma class - Three Jewels Tucson)
5 - Industry trailblazing

There's a decided frustration at having a small business creating products and designs from the heart only to see them copied like mad by other Etsy sellers. And it's even more frustrating to see no less than ten tutorials for making the thing you designed first. But wait until you see what you made being imported from overseas and sold in high end shops. It might seem flattering but industry trailblazing is as full of highs as it is lows. Creative moms take the high road, sometimes the cease-and-desist-letter road, and always the remain-creative-and-keep-going road. Because letting a few small hurdles get in our way sets a bad tone to our business and breaks our spirits. Lewis and Clark probably sat and rubbed aching feet and even cursed a storm when faced with Rocky Mountains that seemed unscalable, but yet they persevered and they made it to the Pacific Ocean and a Disney animated movie. It doesn't get better than that. 

Look, I have this thing about crafting and calling oneself a "Creative" in business. You know, gluing glitter to a die cut paper shape and sticking it on the end of a toothpick and calling it a cake topper. This is obviously not high art. I'm not even sure it's low art. But it makes the day brighter. It adds an otherwise missing dimension of celebration and frivolity to a morning bran muffin. And it can be all that is needed to start a creative business.

Creativity makes us smile in a world seemingly working against us with its self-agrandizing politicians and radiation spilling across the Pacific Ocean and animal neglect videos and crazy wars fought so conveniently over someone else's heads half a world away from the source of the violence. We need creatives. Very much.

Being creative can take just about any form in any aspect of our lives. Being creative simply means going down the road from A to B that I have not taken before. Until I found you, I never thought a glitter paper crown in my bran muffin would delight me. But it does. Until I read your blog, I hadn't understood how to attach bias tape to my cool vintage tea towel potholder gift without the bulky corners. Until I downloaded your Ravelry pattern, I had never made my own cozy rustic knitted shawl before. In fact, until I watched your knitting You Tube, I couldn't even get the yarn to stay on the needles. 

It's important to stay creative because it not only feeds something in us, it nourishes the whole human community. It strengthens basic values we all hold dear and it make a space for relating in some way other than simply about the tasks and to-dos of ordinary life.

Stay creative! And sitting at my messy worktable, I say - Happy Stitching!