Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thanks for my presents!

This is a present for my friend Amanda, who once coveted this little wire bird cage. I made a Tilda bird, posed it on a vintage spool, and added a wreath made of spools around it. Best of all, it can all come apart, and she can put a candle in the middle of the bird cage and enjoy it in her garden gazebo this summer.

We had a wonderful Christmas here at Handmaid headquarters...it was full of a lot of laughter, family, friends and good times.
There were some wonderful presents, too. I got some books, some lovely lavender things, and from my stitching buddy Sandra, useful gifts like GIANT ziplock bags for kitting up projects (wonderful and not available in Canada for some odd reason). There were also some Color Catchers -- fantastic product we need, but cannot buy in this country -- and buttons, beautiful dotty spotty red and white fabric, and a gorgeous composition book covered by Sandra in lovely candy fabric. All of this was wrapped up in many little fabric Christmasy pouches sewn by Sandra from fabric gifted to her by my Aunt Rita.
Delicious treats for all my creative pursuits!
I hit the post-Christmas sales and found an organizer module for patterns. There is also a space for jars and spools of thread. It was already half price, but the store offered an additional 25 per cent off the entire purchase -- even on sale items. Fabulous! This will be a companion piece for a great module from the same line. I received it from my cousin Stella. It has two drawers and a special drawer for ribbons and trims.
Every year, I buy myself one present, post Christmas. This year, it was a book by Lotta Jansdottor, called Handmade Living. Pure eye candy-- but calorie free! It was on special offer for 30 per cent off, so even better. I also got my date book for 2011. It features Retro Moms and quirky, saucy comments. At 50 per cent off, it was a steal and will make me smile every week.
That is what I wish for everyone in 2011 -- a smile every week!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

...and one for me...

I was making Christmas presents, and I found the perfect scrap of white fabric to make this little bird from Tone Finnager's book, Sew Sunny Homestyle.
In the book, the birds are posed in wire bird cage, but I put mine on top of a vintage wooden spool.
I even used my little electric hand drill to bore two holes at the the top of the spool for the wire legs. The wings are made from a favourite scrap of Fig Tree and Co. fabric (I worked really had to make that fat quarter last and last) The spool is finished off with a frayed bit of the wing fabric.
I was really happy with the way it turned out. I made another bird on spool for a friend's gift, and yet another for a little wire cage I have in the hallway.
These birds are yet another example of how lovely Ms Finnager's projects are. They require few special materials or advanced sewing skills, very little little fabric, and yet, they really dress up little spaces around the house. If only we could easily obtain her fabrics and notions in this country.
Please, please, please Santa, bring Tilda to Canada...I mean, don't you live near Norway? Couldn't you pick up a few things on the way by...just asking...

Monday, December 20, 2010

The miracle of connectivity

My Aunt Rita, who taught me to love and appreciate home made things, and also taught me my first lessons in sewing and crafting, was at our place on Sunday for Christmas dinner.
While we waited for the turkey to be carved, she visited with the newest member of our family via Skype.
My cousin is a chef who lives in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with her husband (also a chef), and new baby.
She called in we had a visit around the laptop. This experience was very moving for my aunt, who was born in pre-Confederation Newfoundland more than 80 years ago.
She didn't have electricity until she was in her early 20s, and virtually everything in her life involved making do and mending. She has always had a sharp and creative mind, coupled with a resourcefulness that is to this day astounding.
" This is a miracle to me," she said, admiring little Liam. "There was a time when a letter from someone far away was saved until the family was all together and then it would be read out. I can't believe this. It seems like a dream to me. If I never had another bite of turkey, or another present, this would be Christmas enough for me."
So much of what we see and do every day we take for granted. I felt so glad to be part of my aunt's miracle.
It was a blessing to give back to her for all the things she has taught and shared with me all these years.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas bling....

The bling is on here at the house that just LOVES Christmas!
My collection of Vantastics dancing ladies by Van Craig are gracing the stairs.
And the tree went up yesterday! You can just make out its lovely skirt. I made it two years ago, when I finally found the perfect piece of burgundy plaid taffeta. It features all my favourite elements -- yoyos, vintage buttons and bobble trim.
Our tree is quite wonderful this year. Made more so by the ornaments we have collected over the years. It takes me a while to decide where everyone's very favourite ones will go on this year's tree.
I made the Peace On Earth ornament from a ribbon embroidery kit long ago. It is framed in a little hoop painted red. I just love it.
When I put it on the tree, I am reminded of the year I worked on it -- I can even hear the wind howl against the windows. The children were just little, the winter storms started early and kept coming. We were often housebound for long days at a stretch. It was a little bit like Little House on the Prairie.
It was the last year my dad was alive, and he really admired this ornament when he saw it on our tree. I remember my dad remarking that I had become quite a needleworker. My Dad never gave out lavish praise, so this piece will always be my favourite.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making new friends

I managed to sell all my little snow angels this year, thanks to a couple of Secret Santa shoppers I know and love.
I was actually sorry to see them go. I managed to save one for me, and he is keeping my tomte company in the kitchen.
Yesterday, I spent the day just cutting out projects which I will be putting together Monday and Tuesday. I loathe cutting out things, however, it is a necessary evil.
I am making several of Tilda's party bags, featured in Sew Sunny Homestyle. I have enlarged the pattern to create small, medium and large sizes. They are really easy, but I have managed to use up almost every scrap of my stash of Christmasy prints, so I took the opportunity to go to the quilt store early this morning before the crowds were out and about.
I was up and out by 8 a.m. to get some Christmasy errands done. I was heading home from my errands as the masses where heading out! I figured I could have a nap in the afternoon when others were waiting in lines at the stores...
No such luck! There is yet more decorating to do around the house.
Yesterday morning, we found the family Christmas tree. It was a wonderful morning, snowing and a little cold. Just the kind of day for finding a tree.
So, this morning, the boys hauled it in from the garage and we began the day-long process of decorating it. This year's spruce tree is truly wonderful and really fills the living room. I will post photos as soon as it is done.
I hope everyone is enjoying the process of preparing for this wonderful season!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The memory tree

Back in July 2001, the kids and I collected up all their little Kinder Surprise toys, the little things found in Christmas crackers, doll accessories, gumball machines toys and doll house furnishings to create this Memory Tree. The instructions were in an old Michaels magazine. It uses about 160 alphabet blocks. Some of these were actually from the kids, but I had to buy a few more to get all the letters we needed. We spelled out Christmas words, like Angels, Jesus,Candy Canes, Bells, Joy, Peace, Snow, and Merry Christmas.
The whole tree is built on a wooden plate. There is a foam cone in the centre for stability. You have the angle the blocks a bit to provide platforms upon which to glue the bits and bobs.
It was a lot of fun to do with the kids. We had more fun finding the little things to put on the tree. Their friends got involved and donated things from their collections. To this day, they can remember who gave them them what for the tree, and how special their contributions where. As we were building it, we each printed a little message and sealed them into the body of the tree.
It is displayed on a lazy susan that I found at Value Village, so that people can spin it around and see everything on it.
When we moved six years ago, the tree got smashed, so we had to redo the whole thing. No big deal, and we were able to add a little more to it -- and of course another note.
Now that the kids are older, they have begun discussions about which one of them will one day get the Memory Tree. I have suggested that they begin collecting more stuff to make their own trees. I might happen -- and then I will get to keep this most special of decorations even when the kids have moved on.

One of a Kind experiences...

On Friday, Dec. 3, my cousin Stella and I went to Toronto's One of Kind Craft Show and Sale. This is a huge crafts market, featuring artisans from across Canada. There are a myriad of vendors and it is held in a vast exhibition hall on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition.
There was a huge array of goods for sale -- including jams and jellies, shortbreads, various fruits covered in chocolate, jewellery, pillows, clothing in silks, woolens, furniture, almost anything you can think of -- and then some. I got some ideas for new projects in the new year -- and some lovely examples of talented artists who make things that are not only beautiful, but affordable.
From Grace Lee of eikam, a Vancouver-based handmade ceramics studio, I found these pretty buttons. I don't know what they are for yet, but I love them. I also bought a little bird ornament, one of hundreds she made for the show. By the time I got there, she had three left. (You will see the bird in the post about the memory tree)
Her website is http://www.etsy.com/shop/eikcam Check out her lovely designs!
Jenna Rose, a Hamilton Ontario-based textile artist, made wonderful some screen-printed soft furnishings and bags. She also created some clever pins. I (heart) handmade caught my eye and came home with me. Her website is www.jennarose.ca She has an appealing range of fun and functional goods that are right on the modern linen trend, which she has drawn and screen printed by hand. Making my own fabric would be really appealing -- if I had any drawing talent whatsoever...
This talented artist is also a very friendly person. We had a nice chat while I was buying my much-loved pin.
The beads were a surprise. I found them at a booth called Tasci, which had some very fun and funky jewellery designs. Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw the beads which just screamed 'bring me home.." so I did.
All in all, it was a wonderful chance to get out and get some new ideas, and meet some really talented artists.


On November 28, the Beade Faerie Collective had a very successful sale of our handmade jewellery. The Faeries are friends who get together to create and have a great time doing it. We also try and support charity. This year, the proceeds of our Christmas sale went to Plan Canada's Because I Am a Girl campaign, which helps to improve the lives of girls and women around the world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Creating Tomtes with crafty friends

On Friday night, my crafty friends and I got together to have a nice dinner and make Tomtes. These little elves are Swedish and they help Santa check up on little boys and girls in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Mind you, the girls gathered around my kitchen table are in some serious trouble with Santa. We had a lot of laughs at some very naughty jokes!
These Tomte are featured in Scandinavian Stitches by Kajsa Wikman. They are deceptively easy. The pattern isn't difficult, but one has to be aware of the difficulty in working in tight spaces. At one point, legs and arms are tucked into the body cavity AND you have to figure out how to sew it all together.
The stuffing process is also critical to the success of the Tomte. If they don't have enough stuffing, they simply can't sit up and take notice for Santa.
I am a slow and steady kind of Tomte maker. I was last to the finish line.

It was all a lot of pre-Christmas fun!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Here are a couple of things I've done recently to celebrate some milestones. The pink bag was for my friend Amanda's birthday. The little sack is a commissioned piece for a friend who wanted a fabric bag for her grandson's baptism present.
I love making things to help people celebrate!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful day -- and celebrating everything for no particular reason...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Found a new setting on my camera!

You know how you almost never take the time to read the manuals that come with things like computers and cameras? Okay, maybe that's me.
Anyhoo, I was noodling around trying to send a photo of a sewing machine foot to Sandra Sews and I found MACRO focus on my camera. Suddenly, I can take way better close ups for this blog!
Cool huh?
More photos tomorrow -- now that I know how amazing my camera can be.
In the meantime, I will be pouring over Kajsa Wikman's new book Scandinavian Stitches. I love the way the book is laid out, and the projects are simple and fun.
Have a wonderful day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

...here are a couple of things on offer

Here are some lavender sachets. Filled with lavender grown in my garden.
Also, some snow angels made from silk noile with looks a lot like snow.

Hand crafted from the heart...

On the weekend, some of my friends and I did a Christmas Craft sale featuring beaded creations and some hand sewn creations.
Sales were not impressive.
We had a few customers that appreciated and bought our work. Several passersby remarked about the quality of our work, and yet thought it was expensive. A number of booths at the sale featured resellers of commercial products, and so it was impossible to comparison shop.
I sometimes wonder if people really appreciate handmade things. Then, there is the problem of working out what to charge for the things we make.
Having said that, our work ranged in price from $30 for a very complicated bead design, to $5 for a beaded bookmark.
I'm not whining here, I am just saying that working from the heart, with one's hands, is highly personal. It's hard not to take it personally when people say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
However, onwards and upwards. We are doing another sale on November 28. Hopefully, with a better reception.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where have I been?

All summer long we struggled with computer issues. It was one thing after another. So, what with all the technical difficulties I had lots of time to create stuff.
I found a nice piece of waffle cotton in our local fabric store's remnant bin. So, I collected up some bits and pieces and did a band from Tone Finnager's Sew Pretty Homestyle. Her project is a full quilt, but I did all the piecing of the band by machine and some of the bits and pieces. Then I took the whole thing up to the cottage and did the hand applique and embroidery sitting by the lake. When I got back, I attached it to the blanket. The top has a co-ordinating band at the top. This is my blanket for watching Gray's Anatomy, Parenthood and Mad Men when they all start up this fall.

Later that same summer...
There was a special project which can't be photographed yet, since the gift has yet to be given. However, when it is, I will post the photos. I learned a lot of new things about fabric, quilting and the like. And, there was a great deal of love in every stitch.

I also did a little quilt card for my sister-in-law's wedding recently. We included a gift of money, so the little quilt had a pocket at the back. The applique came from Jenny Ryan's new book Sew Darned Cute. Everything in the book is truly darned cute.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

In honour of national pride and all things red and white, I offer the Strawberry Torte of Awesome.
It is made using the recipe for the Apple Torte, shared in an earlier post. However, I used strawberries for the topping.
First bake the crust, then the filling in the crust. Cool. Then arrange the strawberries on the cooled torte.
To prepare the strawberries:
Use about 1 1/4 cups of berries. Cut them in half, then dose in a couple of tablespoons of Lemoncello liqueur. Toss the berries with with four tablespoons of sugar. Let stand for about an hour at room temp.
Arrange the berries in concentric circles on the top of the torte. Pour juice into a small saucepan and boil until thick and reduced to half its volume. Spoon juice over the torte.
Refridgerate the whole thing for about four hours.
Sing O Canada, and serve cold.
Here's a link to Heike Blohm's new website: heikeblohmdesigns.com
I have taken a figure making workshop from her and she's a talented artist with an imaginative eye for colour. I have learned a great deal from her about various decorative sewing techniques -- and she shares my fondness for vintage homey decorations -- especially for Christmas. She has an impressive collection of vintage Christmas decor. Heike always has something on the creative burner -- and art doll parts in her purse.
So, if you get a chance, go check out what she has on the go now.
Cheers everyone!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Birthday gifts!

The sock monkeys and puffins bring happy birthday wishes to Miss B!

The number one child is 21 today. Impossible. I am so very young myself...
Here are a couple of gifts I made for her. Once is a beach bag/shopping tote made from Erin Micheals' Malibu Monkeys fabric. The other is a puffin doorstop, made from a pattern in Sew Sunny Homestyle by Tone Finnager. I made a little fabric beak for him, since the book had instructions to paint the beak on. Instead, I combined some yellow fabric with some orange, stuffed it lightly and then sewed on the little "mask" to the existing beak. Fiddly yes, but well worth it for the overall effect.
In order to make the little tin pail heavy enough to stop a door, I filled it with stepping stone cement and decorated the top with decorative glass stones. (Three cheers for 40 per cent off Michael's coupons!)
Why puffins?
Miss Bee celebrated her 8th birthday in Newfoundland while we were visiting our beloved family there. We went on a whale tour and saw not only whales, but hundreds of puffins -- her favourites -- and since then, she has been amassing an impressive collection of these sea going clowns. In real life, they are hilarious to watch, especially when they are taking off from the water. They sort of run along the surface until they get airborne.
This is the first puffin I have made for her, but she has other handmade treasures in her puffin collection. My uncle made her a wonderful set of bookends and a coin bank.
She had a great birthday, and I had a wonderful time creating these presents for her.
Hope everyone's day is going well!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Under construction!

The Beade Faeries, the jewellery artists' collective that allows me to sell some of my creative ventures, has launched a web page that is currently under construction. In the coming weeks, we will go live and you admire -- and shop -- from our impressive body of work.
Here is the link:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ready for the ball

Ah June! Time for all kinds of lovely events -- including the Grade 12 prom.
Here is a necklace I made for my son to give to his girlfriend. Apparently, it is lame to give a corsage.
So, after a recent trip to Queen St.'s bead stores, I found all I needed to create this set-- and now it is all ready for the ball.
It features mauve fresh water pearls, sterling silver plated wire, and a real Swarovski starfish. I had a great time making it -- now let's hope they have a wonderful time at the party this coming weekend.
I am also working on a couple of secret projects for a special birthday. More on that later.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ready for his close up

Tilda lamb and beach bag

These are presents for a special baby who will live in Turks and Caicos -- hence the beach theme.
The lamb is from Tilda's Crafting Easter Gifts and the bag is from Sew Sunny Homestyle.
The bibs are from Stitch magazine's current issue -- only with a tropical beat. The magazine features fruits and veggies on the bibs.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Working on a new Tilda project

You would think that after a two dozen Tilda hats this past Christmas, I wouldn't be so fond of working through the book. And, yet, I am. I am becoming quite fond of these projects. I have even pre-ordered the new book, due out at the end of February.
Sadly, I can't find any Canadian source for the fabrics, but I am finding reasonable facsimiles in my local quilting store's remnant bin.
What is it about the bits and pieces no one else wanted to use? Why do I love them so? I just received a bag of old wooden sewing spools, some with lovely threads attached. Again, what bliss! Why did they ever go to those ugly plastic spools?
Well, I am off to press and cut out a Tilda jewellery mannequin. I will post a photo when I am finished.
In the meantime, here is some eye candy from Ireland. I found a lovely blog of someone who is equally fond of Tilda projects:


I love the photos.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Tilda is a lot of fun!

In October, my friends Suddenly and Amanda were puzzling over a project in Suddenly's Studio of Adventure. I was not in on the tutorial, so I decided to snoop in the bookcase.
There I found Sew Pretty Homestyle Christmas. It is by Tone Finnager, and published under the Tilda brand.
I love all the projects in the book.
For Christmas this year, I made about 20 or so hats featured in the book. They are easy to sew and are a great way to use up bits of polar fleece and cottons or flannel.
I have collected three other of the Tilda books, and I have one on pre-order from Chapters. It is not due out until February of this year.
There are a few blogs out there devoted to those who love Tilda, including this one by a Finnish crafter and author who is also a devoted and talented creator of doll house miniatures.
Here is a link:


The photos are wonderful, and she has very kindly included an English translation. The crafty world is really talented and sort of small, when you think about it...
Today, my daughter and I went out for breakfast and then came home to tackle the task I like least -- undecking the halls. With her help, we were all finished by early afternoon. We had a celebratory cup of tea. She goes back to school on Sunday which makes me :-{, but we have had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
I hope everyone out there has a great 2010!