Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crochet Compulsion

I received a "Teach Yourself to Knit" kit for Christmas which caused me to pull down the 2 huge plastic tubs of yarn I was storing in the garage. They had been in storage for almost 6 years - since my pregnancy with Aidan. I was a crocheting fool during that last trimester - everyone got blankets for Christmas. Not small baby blankets but full size afghans in rich colors and elaborate patterns. I averaged about a blanket a week - it kept my mind off of my discomfort - Aidan was a 10 lb baby, 21.5 inches long. I'm 5'6 and was only 120 when my pregnancy started so I needed a big distraction.
But I digress... So out came the yarn- then my mom started tinkered with the knitting needles trying to remember how to drop a stitch so she could teach me. So I grabbed a crochet needle just for sh@!s and giggles - long story longer - I crocheted this scarf and hat in 2 days. I can barely bend my right index finger.

Oh and as I mentioned in my previous entry, I dyed my hair dark brown. It is a semi perm color so it will wash out in a few weeks but i may re-do it or try yet another color. When i was younger, I re-invented myself all the time. I tried a zillion looks - glam, hippy, J crew preppy, San Francisco eclectic - it was so fun to go to the recycled clothes store with a big bag of clothes and leave with another. Since I've been a mommy, I haven't done much of that because most of the time I don't really consider what I look like - I mean, I do what I do to look presentable but I don't put a lot of thought into it. Last weekend, I just felt like a change and I am so glad I actually did something about it. It was liberating. Not everyone likes the new doo - it takes a little time to get used to, but I think it is fun. It is different and I feel younger. It is such a great way to start the NEW YEAR. Ready for change, ready to change. Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hand Made Christmas delights

I was so happy that the dollhouse came togther so nicely. I feel really good about giving Eva a gift that was straight from my heart. I also made abums for both mom and Aunt Pam which I forgot to photograph - I always do that.

It was a wonderful holiday - the pure joy, gratitude and wonder beaming from my children's eyes left an engraved imprint on my heart. They were so patient waiting all day long on Christmas eve to open some of their gifts. They even sat through a delicious prime rib meal with manners and all. Granma and Aunt pam were so impressed by their self control!

After dinner we gathered around the tree and exchanged family and friend's gifts. It was really low key and sweet. I mean the kids were super excited but we were all so relaxed and we weren't burdoned with expectations or time commitments as we've done in the past.

The kids were off to bed on schedule so Christmas morning could arrive without delay. Tim and I wrapped all of Santa's gifts in grocery bags, then stamped them with bright images. The packages were perfect.

When the kids came out early the next morning they were so excited to see the gifts and also delighted that Santa had thought they had been so good to leave so many treats. Eva was dazzled by her dollhouse. I beamed with pride.

The rest of the day included naps, reading by the fire, yatzee, a ride on our new scooters to the park and a lazy crafting whim - Grandma retaught herseld knitting and I sewed a little bed and pillow for the dollhouse. It was incredibly relaxing and utterly unfamiliar after the last few months.

We had cracked crab and raviolis in pesto sauce for dinner. It was a feast yet we finished almost everything. We tidied the house and went to bed early completely satisfied with the quiet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hand Made Christmas - Star Mobile

I made this 3-D star mobile for my 4 year old nephew for Christmas. The colors match his room perfectly. My camera is not functioning properly so the photos don't do it justice. Here is how to make one:
Tools and Materials:
Scotch Tape
2 Large sheets (18 X 18" or more) of bristol paper or cardstock
2 Large sheets of decorative print paper (wrapping paper or decopage sheets work well)
Several sheets of coordinating card stock for stars
Exacto knife and several fresh blades
Self Healing cutting mat
metal ruler or large C-thru triangle
Double sided tape
Spray mount adhesive
push pin
sring or wire
embellishments (optional)
pop dots (optional)
  1. Click here to go to Lost Button Studios to download a template for the star. I opened the template in Photoshop and cropped off everything but the star, then saved it again as a PDF. The reason for doing this is because in Adobe Acrobat Professional, you can print in tiles. I don't know if regular Acrobat lets you do this. If not you can go to the Adobe site and download a free 30 day trial. To print tiles in acrobat, go to the file menu and select print.
  2. On the Page Scaling drop down menu, select "tile all pages" and increase the size to 165 %, then hit print
  3. The template will print on 4 sheets of paper. Line up the edges of the diagram and tape the pages together to make a large template.
  4. Now draw flaps off of each edge of the star so that it looks like the diagram below (the blue sections are flaps). You will need the flaps to attach the front and back piece together. You will score on the lines that were the original boarders so that the flaps will fold in.:
  5. Remove some of the adhesive off of strips of masking tape by sticking it to your clothes and peeling off, then use it to tape the template over 2 sheets of 18 x 24" Bristol paper or card stock (Martha Stewart sells large sheets of 18 x 18" by the page). Make sure your paper sandwich is stacked in this order and direction: Top- Template - drawing face up; 2nd sheet - card stock- Outside facing up; 3rd sheet- outside facing down, inside facing up. When stacked correctly, tape down all 4 sides of the template to the paper underneath by wrapping the tape.
  6. Place your template/ paper "sandwich" onto a cutting mat and put a new blade into your exacto knife. Line an "exacto knife friendly" straight edge (metal ruler, large C-thru triangle) up with the edges of the star template with your hand drawn flaps and cut. DO NOT CUT ON THE STAR EDGES - CUT AROUND THE FLAP EDGES. You may need to do each cut 2 or three times to get through all of your layers.
  7. Once the star is completely cut out, paper clip the sandwich together so that it is perfectly lined up. Then use a stylus and your straight edge to trace all the lines on the template including the original edges of the star. These are your fold lines.
  8. Most likely, the stylus will not score through all the layers so use a push pin to poke a few holes along each score line. Then flip your sandwich over and use those small holes to line up your straight edge to score on the other side.
  9. When done, fold each section forward and backward along the score lines.
  10. Remove the template and excess paper and turn your star so that they are inside to inside. Make sure each edge matches perfectly.
  11. If you decide to use a patterned paper, spray it with spray mount and attch it to the outside of each star. - Put in a fresh blade and cut around the edges to remove the excess paper. Fold each scored area so the the patterned paper creases.
  12. Coat the top of each flap on both of your stars with double sided tape or strong adhesive.
  13. Line the edges of the star up by folding the flaps in and brayer the section until the flaps attach to one another. Do this for all of the edges.
  14. Puff your star by pushing the sides.
  15. Use coordinating card stock to cut out small stars to dangle underneath. Mount photos and embellish.
  16. Use a thumb tack or hole punch to put a hole at the top and several holes at the bottom for the small stars to hang from.
  17. Poke holes at the top of each small star and string ribbon or wire through. Attach other end to a hole at the bottom of the large star. Repeat for each small star.
  18. Attach string or wire to the top of the large star and you are done. Feel free to embellish to add extra pizazz.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hand Made Christmas - Bean Bag Giraffe

My nephew is just 18 months old and I wanted to give him a Christmas gift that he could play with. I've made blankets in the past and they are not very exciting for the kids. I decided to convert a pair of dreadful socks into a keepsake he can play with and perhaps treasure as a lovey later in life.

I cut the socks up into sections - one for the head, one for the body, 4 for the legs, one for the neck and one for the tail.

I used the top elastic portion for my head. I turned it inside out and sewed the just behind the elastic to create the mouth. Then I sewed 1/3 in on both sides so that I had a 1/3 hole in the center so I could turn the sock right side out. I filled the head with rice and pinned the opening closed. I set this part aside for later.

Next, I turned the end of the sock piece inside out and sewed 1/3 of it closed on both sides so that there was a 1/3 size opening in the center. I turned it right side out, filled it with rice and pinned the center hole closed.

Next I sewed the neck, tail, and four legs. so that I had 6 tubes total. Once they were turned right side out, I filled them with rice.

Since the holes were quite small, I made a funnel from a piece of paper to pour the rice in.

Once all six of the tubes were filled and sew up, I attached them to the head and body. For the neck, I inserted one end into the head and sewed the hole closed. I also sewed around the entire hole and limb so that the animal could withstand tugging, swinging and dragging.

Next I sewed the other end to the body in the same manner.Because the body was larger than theneck, I sewed some of the gathering tightly around the neck so that the animal became one piece rather than several pieces stitched together.

To attach the legs and tail, I cut tiny incisions into the bosy, inserted the end of the tubes and sewed them up tightly just as I did for the neck.

To create the face, I cut two small circles from white felt and sewed black buttons on top, then sewed the the eyes to the face. I used black thread to sew "X"'s for the nostrils. To create the eyelashes, I sewed folded embroidery floss into 1 inch sections and sewed it on top of the eyes. I cut the sections at their folds to make lashes.
I used this same technique in attaching the mane hair and the hair and the end of the tail. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'm excited to give it to him because it was made with love!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing Better than a HAPPY CUSTOMER


I received a wonderful email this morning from one of my Etsy customers. I shipped the "Cracker Jack" bracelet off to Australia last week and she received it yesterday as her note reads:
"Hi Jilliene,
Parcel arrived today and it is just stunning! I broke the bangle I always wear on the right hand recently and have been feeling naked without something there. Thank you very much for letting me take home this piece. I find everything about it makes me smile and I will certainly be back in the middle of 2009 to discuss a project with you. Thinking of requesting a couple of pieces to be made, if you have time. Anyhow if I don't speak to you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year. "
I am all smiles. My kids and I have been sick and it has taken a toll. This was the shot in the arm I needed. Poor Aidan had a 3 week virus turn into pneumonia last week and our little Eva has been home for the past 4 days with a fever, cough and congestion. Both kids have been glued to my side - there are just somethings in life that require mommy. I have been a full time nurse and part time patient (once my husband comes home, it is my turn to whine.) Unfortunately, my responsibilities at my part time job and as a part time student have been neglected which stresses me out. I also have a serious case of cabin fever. This email from my happy customer came at the perfect time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hand Made Christmas

As expected, December has been a flutter of activity but not in it's usual fashion. There have been a couple parties and lots of Christmas spirit but no shopping sprees, no fire drills about getting holiday cards out and no running around trying to "do it all."

With the state of the economy we have decided to have a Hand Made Christmas inspired by Melissa Goodsell at One Craft Mumma. We decided that our kids were young enough that we could create some new traditions without them objecting. We have always done hand made gifts, but this year we took it a step further and our house is exploding with Christmas Spirit.
Our cover story is this... We told the kids that Santa contacted all the parents and said that Christmas had become too much about toys that kids see on commercials rather than about love and the spirit of giving. He and the elves decided to give 3 gifts to each child - one of which would be hand made by Santa. Some kids may say they got 10, 20 or more gifts from Santa, but theose extra presents are really from parent's who are afraid their kids will get upset with just 3 presents from Santa. Santa also said that everyone should make gifts for the people they love so that their heart will be in each present.

My kids did not have an opinion one way or another at first, but once they started making gifts, they really got into it. We've made clay beads for jewelry, clay figures with magnets for the fridge. We have framed pictures they drew and we have used the bind it all to make journals and notebooks covered with their original artwork. We have decorated Christmas ornaments with glitter and we have a few more projects we are going to work on before the big day.

You might think that a hand made Christmas would take more time and cause more stress than the usual drill, but to our chagrin - this has not been the case. We have been working on the gifts after the kids are asleep. It has given us more quality face time and been the source of lots of laughter. I am making a popcycle stick dollhouse for Eva and the 2nd story has had a few structural issues that left us with a big case of the giggles.

We have supplimented the bulk under the tree by also purchasing recycled items which is great for the environment and very inepensive. We picked up 10 Disney videos from Savers for $1 each and I scored a old school tape recorder (just like the one I had as a kid - about the size of a shoe box) from the flea market for $2. The hunt for quality pre-owned gifts is quick, fun and there are very little crowds at Savers, goodwill and the flea market.

I am so happy that these tough times has resulted in a renewed Christmas spirit in our home. I am grateful that I have a family that feel the same way. I cannot help but wonder if there is a wonderful opportunity for Americans during this recession. Perhaps we needed to be cornered into conservation, minimalism and simplicity. Maybe the universe is helping us count our blessings by removing the things that keep us from seeing how good life is without the accessories.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Goodies on Etsy

I have added a few more fun things to my Etsy shop.

You know what cracks me up? Everything I list to Etsy is something I would buy. I completely indulge my own interests and obsessions by creating items that I want.. I just added two different Ephemera packs that include everything I love playing with these days. Then I priced it to what I would feel good about paying (I tried to make it a deal so it is extra exciting to buy). It really is so fun!