Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Felt Fortune Cookies

I'm getting really into felt food. I am planning to make a nice set for the kids at my school to play with, but these fortune cookies are for an adult.

I learned to make them from a good video lesson by Hilary Seabolt. Seabolt is one of many designing and selling felt food. She owns Lily Bean Market, a small business that sells felt food and kits, patterns and material to make felt food. Lily Bean employs a few Amish seamstresses to do hand sewing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wooden Doll on display

Yesterday I visited the East Tennessee History Center and looked at the "Voices of the Land" exhibit. In the collection of handicrafts is a wooden doll made by Polly Page. You can see an example of Page's work here.

Page taught Jane Fonda about whittling for Fonda's role as Gertie Nevels in The Dollmaker (read my review of the book). It's a shame this movie is only available on VHS. Levon Helm, from the Band plays Clovis, the handy husband.

The Crafty Sitcom Character

Iola from the syndicated sitcom, Mama's Family came up in conversation recently. She was the next door neighbor who was always visiting the family, taking care of her parents or making silly crafts. I remember a toothbrush fashioned to look like the tooth fairy, lots of cozies, and that she liked felt. What else did she make?

Friday, December 26, 2008

More Handmade Christmas

My friend Yumiko in Japan made this pop-up Christmas card for me.

My best friend Sarah made me a pouch to carry tea bags in.

My Aunt Peggy made these beautiful Christmas cakes.

She also made homemade candy for everyone in the family.

Peggy's mother, Janie gave me Pear Honey and Strawberry Fig Preserves.

I made this birdie on a ribbon for baby Maddie's carrier (find the pattern to make your own here.)

I bought these recipe cards from Kiss + Tell's etsy shop for Mrs. Goddard (who made me a wonderful coffee cake I should have photographed before I ate.)

I ordered this pair of birdie notebooks from Story by Mia for my after care staff, but I ended up keeping one for myself.

These earrings were made by HModine. I gave them to Sarah, who made the cute tea pouch above.

This article
says that more people gave handmade gifts this year. If you gave or received a handmade gift this year, share it by posting a comment below.

All Natural Handmade Heating Pads and Hand-Warmers

For Christmas gifts for co-workers, family and friends I made hand-warmers and heating pads. They were so simple - just a cotton cloth bag filled with rice and sewn shut.

For hand-warmers cut two 4 1/2" squares of 100% cotton. Fold them in half with the pretty sides touching each other and sew the long edge and one of the short edges. Then turn the pouch inside out so that the pretty sides show and fill half full with rice. To close the pouch tuck in the edges of the open end and sew along the edge. Then microwave until warm (about 45 seconds in a new microwave) and put inside your pockets or gloves.

To make a heating pad start with one 14" x 14" piece of cotton and follow the directions above. Microwave for about two minutes then put on any aching body part or use to keep a covered dish warm.

Readers: Please share what gifts you made in the comment section.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Purple Polyester Find

I love this dress. The sheer sleaves, the pleated ruffle - could I be any luckier? I found it last week when I ran into Goodwill on my lunch break (in the same trip I found a vintage pop-up book that I will post about later). I wore it to my work Christmas party and had so much fun.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Visions of Sugar

Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. with the vision of this candy cane in my head. Then I couldn't get back to sleep, so I whipped it up. It'll be a cute decorative stocking stuffer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Creative Baby Gift

I love the idea of making up a little story and illustrating it. With these blank board books, homemade can still be sturdy enough for a baby.

I'm picturing a book of collage pictures. Or maybe a simple contrast of stamped or doodled images in one primary color.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

Harriette Arnow’s The Dollmaker tells the story of a woman’s struggle to take care of her family in unfamiliar surroundings. Her story is sad, but honest. I feel like I am better for having read it.

Set in Detroit during World War II against a background of union picket lines and the threat of closing factories, it’s a novel that speaks out against the industrial revolution and voices the complaints of someone who never spoke very loudly.

Though readers meet protagonist Gertie Nevels as a strong heroine, they soon find out that a strong woman today and a strong woman in rural Appalachia in the 1940s have a different level of obstacles.

Gertie packs up her children and the life she loved to trudge alongside husband Clovis in his chase of the American Dream. Gertie only finds peace in her cramped housing project when whittling. She makes dolls and toys for children whenever her hands have nothing else to busy themselves with. When people begin admiring her woodcraft, she starts earning money for her family with a little whittling business. That makes me hope that in difficult economic times, more people will find the drive and the time to make things.

Gertie’s life is filled with struggle, yet she is a character that I missed after I finished it the book. At 599 pages, I had enjoyed spending time with her.

Avon Books published The Dollmaker in 1954. It got good reviews, became a bestseller and was even first runner up to one of William Faulkner’s books for the National Book Award. The current economic climate could inspire another wave of interest in the book.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tutorials Galore

I've just made an amazing internet find. Kymy, who writes the Everything Your Mama Made blog, has compiled an amazing list of tutorials. It's basically having access to the fruits of an internet-savvy, organized and experienced crafter's search for good how-to articles.

She calls it a bookmark clean-up. The number of tutorials is nearing 500, and they are organized into categories.

You could make a gift for everyone on your list from this list. There are links to quality tutorials on everything from a fabric dollhouse to a plastic bag dispenser to quilting techniques.


I always feel like gift-giving is so telling of the giver and reciever's relationship. Giving someone something that they don't like means that 1) The giver doesn't know the reciever well enough to get them something that suits them or 2) The giver didn't care enough to search out something that would. Giver just wanted the task to be done.

With that in mind, holiday shopping is so hard.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Applique circles

Who knew aluminum foil is the secret ingredient to a better circle? I like this trick I found on Anna Maria Horner's blog.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buy Handmade

I Took The Handmade Pledge!
Going to the mall makes me disapointed in humanity. I will enjoy the holidays so much more if I just don't do it. I'm buying and making handmade gifts instead. The things I find on and at craft fairs are unique and interesting. It's satisfying to buy something from the person who made it.

Buying something handmade is benefitting society so much more than buying something mass produced.
If you aren't convinced, read more here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Handmade Thread Earrings

I bought these earrings for my sister for her cosmetology school graduation. They were made by SincearJewlery out of Atlanta. They are made of thread handwoven around what looks like a spring from a pen. This pair was designed to look like a sunset, but there are a lot of different color combinations available in SincearJewlery's etsy shop.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

World Class Chef in a Strip Mall

I wrote this article for the Knoxville News Sentinel after reading tons of praise for Chef Chang on foodie networks like Chowhound, Don Rockwell , and Atlanta Cuisine . The food is awesome.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Gloves, Happy Girl

My mom gave me a craft book for my birthday that I love. Happy Gloves by Miyako Kanamori has instructions on how to make cute little creatures from gloves. I have been wanting to make toys but haven't ever gotten into crochet. Kanamori's technique uses a cheap and readily available material to make quick and easy stuffed toys.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Functional Handmade Gift

Reusable grocery totes are pretty prevalent these days. I made one for my mom and one for my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law's was made from one of the tablecloths from her wedding rehearsal dinner. She seemed to enjoy the sentiment.

I used a basic folded method to make theirs. They work just fine, but I wanted a roomer bag with a flat bottom. I found this pattern that I plan to try out sometime. If anyone beats me to it, let me know how it works or post a picture.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fabric Stash Spectrum

I am making this quilt for my own bed. The idea was to make it out of the stash of fabric I have been collecting for so long. Today I finished sewing the blue section. I am keeping it up on my living room wall until the entire top piece is finished.

The fabric sticks to the flannel sheet I thumb-tacked up on the wall. (Fabric sticks to flannel magically...unless you have a fan on high). Ideally the sheet would be plain white, but I improvised.

It is helpful to see the entirety of what you are working on at one time. Another benefit is that when my quilter-friend Felicia comes to my house she can see exactly what I am doing and has donated many pieces from her stash to this project.

I recommend a fabric wall for every quilt designer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Crafty Podcast

Hello Craft has started a weekly podcast of crafter's stories. I liked the first two episodes and plan to keep listening. They are requesting contributors.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Assignment: Smoking Ban

I had another article in the Knoxville News Sentinel last week. It's a look at how restaurant business has been since the smoking ban began.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long-anticipated Article

I tried to get this story in a different newspaper this time last year, but it didn't work out.

Writing about something that you wrote about earlier is an interesting experience. You see how your perspective changes and your writing does too.

Writing Routine Tips

I’m reading a memoir by Haruki Murakami called “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running.”
Through journal entry-like writing, Murakami reveals the routines and methods he has used to become a stellar novelist and athlete.
I’m trying to let the book teach me how to be a better writer.
He says that to be a good writer one must have talent, focus and endurance.
“You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point.”
I have made it my goal to spend two hours a day every day at my desk (actually a sewing table) writing. I need to learn to focus and endure. I’m an hour and twenty minutes in right now.
Earlier in the book, Murakami wrote that he stops every day when he feels that he could write more so that the next day’s work goes more smoothly. He sets a pace and keeps rhythm in writing just like in running.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall Photo

These dogs have accessories for every season and holiday. They live outside a barber shop in the Otamayashita neighborhood of Sendai, Japan (or at least they did until this time last year).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Evolution of the birdie

It took me three solid tries but I finally figured out how to make this bird. I got the pattern from for free. It is a simple project, but my sewing pattern naivete shown as I didn't interpret the fold instruction to mean that the fabric was folded in half at that place. If anyone wants to make a duck-headed penguin seahorse, just ignore that fold instruction and cut the body half the size of the bird's.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Handmade Envelopes

Today was a rainy day. The children had to stay inside. We showed them how to make envelopes from old magazine pages. I used this template available on etsy.

I just printed it out on card stock, then reduced the image to 85% on the copy machine so that it would fit National Geographic size pages. The children flipped through the magazines until they found a picture they wanted to make an envelope from. Then they outlined the template, cut it out, folded and glued their own envelopes.

Rainy days are good for crafting.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Stitch of Inspiration

I just stumbled into a good tutorial on machine sewing on paper. It was written by Julia Stainton, a mother of five and the apparent queen of paper crafts, on her blog Belle Papier {pretty paper}.

I made a Valentine this year with some stitching, but I hand-sewed it. I would have never imagined that I could have used the machine. I think I needed the entirety of the detailed tutorial, packed with basic sewing tips, to convince myself that sewing on paper might not damage my machine. But I think I will still wait until I have a needle too dull for fabric to attempt this.

I have an idea for a Christmas card that I will post when I make.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Podcasts for Sewing Sessions

I listen to podcasts while I sew. I would love if I got comments posted recommending other good podcasts.
Here is what I listen to now:

This American Life: Random people telling their best stories hosted by a smart, charismatic man with a slightly dirty voice. I recommend this to people who like talking to strangers.

Annie's Quilting Stash: A podcast about quilting...and some about the podcaster's family life. Annie pretty much covers the West Coast quilting scene and hands out lots of fun knowledge for quilters. This podcast is absolutely NOT for someone who doesn't love to quilt.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fabric from the Forest

Some quilt artists will only use fabrics that they have dyed themselves.
I won't give up fabric shopping, but dyeing a few pieces is certainly appealing.
This page is all about natural dyes made from ingredients harvested from the backyard.
I am probably going to make some dye with the children for our forest ecology-themed fall festival.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Friendship Quilt

This quilt was made for my great grandmother (with some prompting) by her daughter and friends who lived nearby. The blocks were pieced and embroidered with names in the winter of 1941.

My dad remembers going to visit his grandmother before going to Vietnam and saying the things that elderly grandmothers and nervous soldiers say at such a time. He said she was working on quilting the friendship quilt that day.

Two years later, both had survived and my great grandmother gave my dad the finished quilt. He picked up on my interest and gave the quilt to me this year.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DIY guide to quilt history interviews

Earlier in the summer, I spent some time trying to interview people that knew about the quilts I have inherited. I have found the perfect guide for the next time.

The Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories Manual is a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. It addresses everything from quilt photography to interview questions to etiquette. A guide to mp3 making would make a good update.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Linking Etiquette

There are so many interesting things to read online. Before providing any other links , here is a post that explains the legality and etiquette of linking to other sites:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recommended Reading

The American Quilter's Society has a list of the program course books and the recommended bibliography for their appraiser certification. Too bad I don't have more time for reading.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Intellectual Property

I have been looking into whether I should apply for the copyright for my quilts before I display them on my blog. I am finding that it isn't really necessary if you can prove that you made the image.

The thing is that could take some work. I have only saved some of my receipts from fabric purchases (only because I thought I might one day sell a quilt and need them for tax purposes) and I haven't always taken pictures of work in progress (lately I'm doing that because it helps to see color tones by looking at the image in black and white).

I would not want to have to get involved in a court case. It would take away all of the time I have for creating. So I attempt to use the U.S. Copyright Service's electronic office to copyright a quilt.

Reading the official questions and treating my work so formally is exciting, like I am taking myself seriously. I have technical problems and cannot complete the form that day.

Then I hear that my friend (a musician who has one year left of law school) sends all his songs and poems together as a collection of his work and gets everything copyrighted at once for one fee. I was told this is legit even if the songs and poems won't be published together.

That means that I should just keep creating things until I have enough for one big economical copyright claim.

I would welcome any comments from someone who knows above the hearsay.