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.