Friday, December 31, 2010

Simplifying Christmas

This year we decided that we needed to simplify Christmas and get back to the fun rather than the stress.  So, last Christmas, when my family was at our house for the holidays, we decided we would draw names.  The person that got your name had to MAKE you a gift for Christmas.  There weren't any other specifications other than that....nothing was said  about cost or how much of it had to be made by you but you hand to have some part in creating that special something. 

It was really fun watching my two girls come up with ideas and work on their gifts.  I got to sit back and watch them think things through and to see how they were going to do this.  I can't really say anything about Rosie's present yet because she made for lil' Nat and she was in Columbia for Christmas so hasn't opened it yet. I also can't say anythings about DH gift to lil' Nat's mom....she was obviously in Columbia too.  Peanut practiced her drawing and watercolour painting and painted a beautiful Dragon for her cousin (he collects Dragons).  She also made him a decoupaged frame and framed a photo that we took just before our move from Ottawa to Halifax.  The photo was of Rosie, Peanut, Lil Nat and Q in the big tree in front of my parent's house.  She then stamped on the frame a tree with the words "Our Family Tree".  Silly me...I never thought to get a photo before she wrapped it all up to ship to Ontario.  Maybe Q will send me a photo of him with his presents.

I had my mom and struggled over what to make her.  In the end, I decided that since we were simplifying I would go back to the basics.  The first thing I ever made for my mom was a yellow calico apron...I think she still has it 20 some odd years later.  So, I decided it was time to make her a new apron.  She caters and has this nasty white apron that she wears when she is baking but I thought she should have something special for when she is serving meals.

My DH modelling Mom's Christmas present. 
I made the neck strap adjustable by having it all one piece with the waist ties.  If you pull on the ties the neck strap shortens that way I didn't have to worry about length for mom (she is a tad shorter than I am).  My girls kept asking why I didn't put pockets on it.  Well, simply because mom is brutal on pockets!

In the meantime, I was showing friends from church how to needle felt so I had a bunch of little felted gingerbread men that needed a home to love so I decided to put them together into a garland.
Gingerbread Garland with Rag "borders"
....and since I was waiting for everyone to finish little bits and pieces on their presents, I put together a jar of Gingersnap cookie mix for mom since this year we ccouldn't get together to bake this year.

Did she love it?  Yup!...even though we thought it would never get there.  We shipped it from NS to got a call from the companies office in Charlottetown, PEI telling her that they couldn't find her address so she needed to give them directions or come to the office to pick up the parcel! hahaha  Once they tracked the parcel they got it on the right truck to their house only to realize that it wouldn't get there in time SO they rerouted it along with my brother's parcel (that was en route to London) to my aunt and uncle's house (or so we thought)....they delivered them to the neighbours and left them on their porch! hahaha...Next year we are shipping with Canada Post and sending them in August to make sure they are there before Dec 24th!

Tomorrow I will post pics of the gifts that the rest of the family received.  The really cool part of the whole experiement (other than watching everyone come up with ideas) was on Christmas morning.  It wasn't the gifts from Santa that the girls were interested in opening first; it was the gift that was made that they wanted to open and that caused the most excitement.  |We did get them to do their Santa gifts and stockings first just to draw out the excitement and anticipation.  We had so much fun we picked names yesterday for next Christmas...the girls are already planning!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Boomerang Effect

I am not going all "social psycology" or marketing on you here.  My Boomerang Effect has nothing to do with the textbook definition of this phrase; my boomerang is clutter!  It keeps coming back no matter how hard I try and you know that I have been trying because some of you have been very happy recipients of some of my extra stuff from our other house.  First, let me say that I was very proud of myself.  I was actually creating order out of chaos in the basement.  I achieved a couple of my goals that I told you about early on in my blog; the main one was that I emptied the hallway and cleaned out a room in the basement before the end of October.  Now this is where my boomerang has come back and walloped me in the side of the head with one giant "thwunk"....weep with me friends....

We needed to have a heat recovery unit installed in our basement, so a couple of days ago the contractor came and told me that I was going to lose a chunk of my food storage space and that I needed to clear it all out so that he would have room to work.  I also needed to slide my loom a bit to the side.  Well, I guess they needed more space to work.  They just left and my basement now looks like this...pull out the kleenex box....

Okay, so I like my loom here....I may have to rethink my floor plan.
I can't really say anymore than what the pictures say other than I can't clean it up because they have to come back next week to do something.  Actually, I am tempted to ask my sweetie if he would paint the room for me before I put everything back.  Not sure how well that will go over...I am the painter in the family and I am going to be out of commission for a while.  I could use a more inspiring colour. 

Must go and pick up my chipmunks...they have dance and music tonight and then I must rush home to meet up with my sweetie...he is taking us out for dinner tonight. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...Gobble, Gobble

Some of my friends are celebrating Thanksgiving today (because they live in Canada and didn't have the day off on the actual day).  Yesterday I popped by to visit and to drop off a pie plate to one such friend.  She took part in the felting group last Saturday and loves it!  On Thursday night, I felt inspired to make her a little gift.  Often I feel inspired but don't usually follow through because I think about it so much that a) I run out of time b) I convince myself that it won't be as good as how I envision it because I am a pattern follower.  If there is no pattern...eek! or c) think that they would think it were rather crazy ... hahaha  Thursday, I just went with the inspiration and figured it out as I went pattern (and I lived!).  My friend already has this and has opened it so I can now post the pictures.

This is his coy cute look...If I look cute perhaps they won't eat me!!

Left side profile!  What a poser!

Backside profile...hehehe  Loving the red, white, and blue tail feathers!

Right side profile.  Maybe if I try to look like a buzzard they won't eat me!

Close up!  Loving the camera!

The little turkey ready to go to his new home!  Gobble, Gobble!
PS...received an email this morning.  She LOVED IT!  He will reside on their Thanksgiving Dinner table (not as food)

Needle Felting Tutorial

Last weekend I participated in our church's Super Saturday...see previous post.  I have had a lot of feedback and interest expressed to get together to do some more needlefelting and I love that.  Yesterday, my Peanut was home sick so we did some felting together.  Side note:  I have read a lot online about how needle felting is not a craft for children because the needles are so sharp; I also know that in some Montesorri schools this is taught to young children.  I say to use your best judgement.  I personally feel that my children are responsible enough (they are 7 and 9....I first showed them this in 2007 so they would have been 4 and 6).  I supervise when they are working with the needles, especially early on.  They had been sewing with needles when they were 4 so I guess I just didn't have any qualms about handing them another type of needle.  I do demonstrate for them how the needles should be handled and they know that if they try to poke each other then they are done for the day.  They may have stabbed themselves by accident but never have they aimed at each other.  Okay, that being said, here is Peanut demonstrating for you how we needlefelt our ornaments....

Tools needed:
felting needles (these are special needles with barbs that catch the wool fibres)
foam block (I started on a large sponge but they are hard to find now.  On Saturday, I used blocks cut from Upholstery pads that I purchased at Walmart.)  The block protects your needles and your worksurface.
Fleece to felt:  I love to work with Merino, Polworth, Corriedale

Step 1:

Select a cookie cutter shape to use as a template and place on your foam block.

 Step 2:

Prepare your fleece for felting.  Here she is separating the fibres.  If you find that they don't separate easily then move your hands further apart and try again.  It may be that your fleece has a longer staple (length of the fibre). 

 Step 3:

Place the fibres over the cookie cutter.  To get better coverage, lay the fibres so that they crisscross each other.  You do not need a lot a fibre to work with.  If you find, while you are felting that there are some thin spots you can easily add some more.

 Step 4:

Start felting!  I believe that here Peanut is using a 38 triangle.  Typically, I use a set that is colour coded.  For Merino, I use the cream needle.  When I am working with a cookie cutter template, I start by working around the outside edge and working into the middle.  I find this gives me a nicer edge and a bit of a  puff in the middle.  If I were working on fabric, I would start in the centre and work out to the edge as the felting process causes some shrinkage.  To felt, make stabbing motions with the needle...the needle does not need to disappear completely into the you get more confident you will find that you will be able to stab quicker. 

 Step 5:

When the felted piece starts looking rather smooth, carefully remove your template and then gently remove the felted piece from the block.  You will feel some resistance because you have been essentially felting the piece to your block.

 Step 6:

Flip over your felted piece and stuff it back into your template.  I find it works better to put it into the template before placing it on the pad.  If you just place the cutter over the felted piece, on the pad, then some of the edges don't get felted...they just get squashed and here you might end up with something that looks more like a zucchini rather than a stocking.  You may have to flip your piece a few times before it is fully felted.

 Step 7:  Safety Tip....

Do not look at your mother when she asks you a question while you are felting.  Remember, the needles are sharp and even a little poke can draw blood.  The template is a great way to learn while protecting little fingers but accidents still happen.  Good news:  She lived and is still an active in felting world!

Step 8:

The felted stocking.  To tell if the stocking is finished give it some gentle tugs.  If it is holding together then your piece is felted.  It also depends on how firm you would like the finished piece to be.  If it feels pretty flimsy then felt it some more adding some more fleece if needed.  You can stop here or you can embellish however you would like.  If the edges look a little rough you can go around with your needle.  I usually tuck the flyaways in with my fingers to create a finished edge then gently felt them in.

Step 9:

Peanut decided that she would like a white cuff on her stocking so she has added some white merino to the top to felt.  She is now deciding if she would like to add some beads or sequins to finish her stocking or perhaps do a blanket stitch around the outside.

I will post the finished piece once she decided what she wants to do (and once my camera is home again...right now it is out videotaping Rosie at dance.)

My Mom

Okay, so I am feeling a little frustrated.  I had a great post about my mom.  I had a little technical difficulties so I took it down to fix it and instead lost everything.  Maybe it wasn't meant to be!  So, I am going onto something else but never fear, you will likely hear about my mother, the blog-lurker (sorry mom, you will find no hints about your Christmas present in this post) many times because she pretty much got me started along this path.  Let me quickly introduce her then I am moving on and will come back and finish this post another time.
My mom....we are hiding from the cold winds at Peggy's Cove, Thanksgiving 2010.
Ah...the 70's!  I remember the colours, the curtains, the clothes....
This is me with my mommy.  The only picture that I have of the two of us together.
Mom was a stay-at-home mom.  To help out with the family budget she took in sewing....alterations, creating new outfits, and making beautiful wedding dresses.  She started to teach me how to sew when I was four...on those beautiful wedding dresses.  I would help her cut out the patterns and the fabric pieces then I would sit on her lap and guide the fabric under the needle as she stepped on the pedal.  As I grew up she took me to pioneer villages, craft sales, and for 6 yrs she drove me to Toronto to go to an open house at a Design School (and she doesn't even like driving to Toronto but once a year she did it because she knew that is what I wanted to do....that being said, it didn't happen...long story.  My one regret!)  To be Continued......

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting Back Into the Crafting Groove

With the upheaval of the move and trying to pick my way through the basement, my crafting life came to a complete halt until recently.  While trying to find my basement, I have been making the time to "make"...however, my mom has suddenly decided to learn how to use her computer and has found my blog.  This means that I can't write or post any pictures of what I have been doing because I have her name for Christmas and what I have been working on is for her gift!  She even admitted that she searched out my blog to try to get some hint as to what I was making her.  Sorry mom!  You won't find what you are looking for here...because I know you are looking!!!!

So, for now, I am going to pick through my archives of little projects that I have made over the years in hopes of finding more time to perfect rather than just dabble.  Today, we are going back in time to around the year 2007~ish and to when I first learned how to needle felt. 

Bookmouse ~ Needle felted Summer 2007
This is my Bookmouse...let's call him Norman.  Norman is a book mark.  He is the very first project I made and has now become a favourite for my children to give to their teachers for, if you are ever their teacher, there I have just given away what you will get for Christmas.

Needle felted Gnome Summer 2007
I made this little guy right after I finished my mouse.  He sits on my shelf and keeps me company.  I will have to make some friends for him one day.  After I made him, life got busy and I didn't make anything else other than all the Bookmice that have been given as gifts.  It wasn't until I found my needles and made the pumpkins that I realized how much I love to needle felt.  It is soooo relaxing!

Yesterday, I took my fibre addiction to church for our Christmas Super Saturday and taught an unsuspecting group of women how to felt.  I say unsuspecting because when they signed up for the workshop they believed that I was going to supply them with a piece of felt from a craft store and teach them how to make an ornament from that.  Hahahaha....little did they realize that they would be wielding sharp needles to create an ornament from merino fleece.    I wish I had remembered that I had my camera to show all the great work that they did...I did grab a few shots at the end.

Felted Snowman ~ the end result of a "Sure, why not...I'll give it a try".  One of her beautiful daughters popped by and made a wonderful snowflake.  Looking forward to seeing what else this family creates...a couple of blocks and needles went home with them.

One of my awesome friends that I met when I moved here...funny thing though...we actually grew up in the same hometown back in Ontario!

A couple more of my awesome crafty friends popping by to take some of their stress out on fleece.

We used cookie cutters as our templates (great way to save those little fingers especially when teaching young children).  I gave a quick demo and let them at it.  The biggest challenge was figuring out what shape they wanted to use...and what colour...and beads, sequins...Kids in a candy store!  It was a great day and so much fun sharing what I love to do with others.  My one session turned into two sessions as some came back for more and as some of the younger visitors came out to see what was going on.  We had some pretty little snowflakes coming from these young crafters.  I have had quite a few requests to have another felting get together so that means my addiction has been successfully been passed on to others.  Very cool!

When I got home I felt inspired to pick up my needles to try something a little different...inspired by some of the wives of the dental students here.  This is a quick first is too cute.  It needs a bit of work; I think the molar has a cavity!
Needle felted toothbrush with molar
I am going to post again on this topic with a little tutorial, some of my favourite places to order from, etc so drop by again. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Under The Clutter

Welcome to my "Studio"!  I have been asked how big my space is that I work in, what do I have...are you unpacked yet?  So, even though I am embarassed to actually post these pictures, I hope they answer some of your questions....

Question 1:  How big is my space?  Answer....Not big enough! but I will make do for now.

My space is in the basement.  I am not really sure what the previous owners used it for...maybe storage, their freezer, and the office.  I have tried various configurations and this seems to work best.  At first, the sewing machine was at the cutting table and the cutting table was against the wall, but I couldn't stand sitting and staring at a wall.  Now, I can look out the window with hopes of planting some flowers there to inspire me. (My sewing machine typically doesn't look that bad...I had to "erase" a Christmas project under construction)  Ian put a shelf up on the wall to give me some more space, last week.  The bins have my fat quarters and remnants ( all colour coordinated of course ).  The larger bins on the floor are full of raw fleece, rovings, etc....I have a lot more than I realized.  Maybe I need to wash it up, dye it and sell it!  Hmmmm...will work on that thought once I re-purchase pots for dyeing and an outdoor cooking stand.

My shelving unit from IKEA is saving me.  Until this arrived I had a tall narrow bookshelf and another shelf with doors...pretty; not practical.  Those shelves are now blessing the home of a friend while this new one is blessing me!  Yup, that is the extent of most of my fabric these days.  I gave away two large boxes before the move.  Now with the larger shelf the stash is looking rather bleak and there isn't much hope of it growing anytime soon.  The doorway is the furnace room...charming, I know.  I need to have a door placed there so I don't have to see it; it isn't very inspiring.  I need something to help with the smell too....I have a low tolerance for the smell of oil, machinery, chemicals...ick!

Question 2:  What do I have?  Answer....some would say "Too Much" but really I do use most of this...when I have time. 

That being said, I have gotten rid of a lot prior to our move and I am still getting rid of stuff (but it seems to be reproducing).  On the right sewing stuff; on the left, my loom.  There is another one dismantled on the floor; the third is still in Ottawa and I will probably sell that one.  It would take up most of this wall.  My cutting table is actually just a table top from IKEA that is sitting on four of those RubberMaid trolleys.  I used to have a table but I saw it as a complete waste of space.  At least with the trolleys, I have multiple drawers that I store fleece, spinning wheel bobbins and replacement parts, felting needles, scales, guages, etc, etc, etc.  They were my best addition to my sewing room a couple of years ago....wish I had done it sooner!  My rulers are in a stand that came with picture frames.  I tossed the frames; kept the stand!  Not the best way to store them as they can warp over time or fall and chip but my wall space is limited so again I need to make do with what I have.
My lovely tolleys!  As you can see, I am still sorting through things.  Typically I don't like stuff left out (although this seems to be the way that it has looked the past few years).  When I first set up the room I was staring at this wall...not inspiring so that is why my machine is where I can look out the window.  That wall has a future as my design wall....once the hallway is cleared out.

Question 3:  Am I unpacked yet?, NO! 

One of the perks of this move was the relocation company also provided unpackers on this end.  YAY!, I thought....that is until they started unpacking.  When they unpack they don't put away; they leave out on any poor unsuspecting surface.  This would be great if all your shelves had arrived with your stuff and IF you had as much cupboard, shelving, and built-ins that you had in your previous home AND IF the packers had packed only things from the sewing room in sewing room boxes.....sigh!  See below:
Yes, this is what I am still dealing with; the reason why I have done absolutely nothing creative all summer. Not just here but throughout my house.  I clean one area then the mess migrates to the clean is that possible?? This is the entrance to my sewing room and the hallway to the basement area where the kids practice their music.  Eek you say....yes, eek BUT this is a lot better than when we first moved in.  Now, we can actually see the floor in some spots.  What a nightmare!  Mind you, this is not all stuff from the sewing room.  We found in those boxes toiletries (I have the stain on my antique quilt to prove
it), oatmeal (because everyone stores oatmeal in their sewing room), dishes...the list goes on. 
MY GOAL:  To have this hallway cleared out by the end of the week THEN to have a drop ceiling with better lighting installed (the single bulb above the cutting table isn't quite doing it for me, a door on the furnace room, 10,000 room fresheners installed to get rid of oil smell, design wall up, a flowerbed outside the window, find someone that has a source of used wall cupboards, and some creativity taking place DAILY....okay, maybe every other day for now!   Will keep you posted! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome To Fibre Heaven

Last weekend I was feeling a bit blue.  There has been a lot going on this summer; the biggest of all was our move from Ontario to Nova Scotia.  There have been a lot of changes for my whole family.  Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE it here.  It feels like home and we have made many amazing friends this summer.  We did, however, give up on unpacking early in the summer so it is still lingering, festering, driving me crazy.  The whole moving experience was not one that we care to remember.  Many of you have heard my rant.  I thought it would get the frustration out of my system and yet, I am still amazed that packing liquids with art books and antique quilts would be considered okay; I am still picking oatmeal out of quilting fabric and spinning fleece.  I decided that I would enjoy the summer with my family then finish the unpacking once the girls went back to school.  I have made progress...very slow progress.  However, even with all that going on I have been riding the wave of our new move and discovering all the beautiful areas around us.  Our home is like a cottage in the middle of the woods (complete with bears, coyotes, deer, and a dwindling bunny population....due to the increasing coyote population)....we are permanent staycationers!!! 
As I wandered around the house I noticed that I was constantly drawn to my “Studio”.  I use the term Studio quite loosely at this is a work in progress.  As I dug through a box I discovered some felting needles and soon after some of my spinning fibres.  Soon I was in heaven.  Discovery....I have done absolutely nothing all summer that keeps me grounded; no spinning, no quilting....NOTHING!  This is not a healthy thing for me obviously!!!  A dear friend of mine gave me a quick tutorial in needle felting years ago....then life got in the way and I never had a chance to give it a go on my own.  As I felted, I thought of my friends and all their talents that they have shared with me over the years then, when my daughters got home, I sat and taught my children how to felt.  (My thumb was grazed only once by an errant needle strike...not bad!)  Things didn’t look so blue was more orange and green!

Peanut's pumpkin on the lt; Rosie's pumpkin rt front.

Then my DH walked in the door and stated, “You know how we keep talking about one day building an addition for a garage....when have we ever used a garage for our car?!?  We should build an addition with a wet studio downstairs where you can paint, dye, felt...whatever you and the girls want and a loft upstairs for your spinning wheels, looms, and quilting stuff!”  After 12 yrs of marriage we are finally figuring it out!!
Today, he took us on a road trip to Wolfville.  I absolutely love the drive there.  The colours are beautiful (and make me want to take up painting again).  We visited a shop called Gaspereau Valley Fibres.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I knew that they were at a spinning retreat in PEI with the bulk of their inventory, but let me tell you I was not disappointed.  Just pulling up to the shop brought me joy; stepping through the door was entering fibre heaven.  Thank goodness I have been blessed with a patient and loving (tolerant) family!  They curled up by the wood stove as I wandered and touched (and yes, occasionally hugged then rubbed a roving against my cheek).  I think I am going to be spending a lot of time in Wolfville.  Thank you Gaspereau Valley Fibres!!!!  If you have never been, then it must be added to your "To Visit" list...the inventory is amazing, the staff wonderful, and don't forget to say Hi to Kitty (the resident cat).
Just a few new friends that just had to come home with me! 
Beautiful 100% Merino (and a little tuft of Mohair)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Enter The 21st Century

I admire creative people; I have never thought of myself as being one of them.  My friends disagree and have been asking me, for quite some time, to blog about what I am working on.  I told them that I would never blog...I am not technologically inclined.  I have always felt that I was born in the wrong era.  When they were buying flat screen televisions or little phones with touch screens and apps, I was buying spinning wheels, looms, and sewing machines.  Today, I am entering the 21st century and trying to figure out how to set up a blog (and what gadgets are).     I am hoping that this will motivate me to make progress (rather than nemesis) and at the same time, maybe inspire someone to try something new.