Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Lull

The frantic pace of the holidays is almost over. There are still friends to visit with, new year's parties to enjoy and resolutions to make. But the bulk of my creative energy has been spent and I am in a period of rest and renewal.

I never did finish that second sock for my SIL, so I am slowly working my way towards that goal. I also have to re-make one handmade gift as it was too small (more on that in another post). I am also going around the house and doing little things, like making proper hanging pockets for some pieces of wall art.

I received many, many kind knitting-related gifts and I am just enjoying them in their packages for the moment: dreaming of their potential and future projects to be enjoyed. I received my first set of 5-inch dpn's. They are impossibly small looking and remind me of trying to knit with toothpicks.

One special gift from my mother-in-law was a gift certificate to the Prairie Arts and Fibers store in Grayslake, IL. Since we were at Sandhill Organics for the holiday I was able to leave the kids with my relatives for a few hours and head over there for some rest and relaxation. I came away with my first skein of cotton-nylon blend sock yarn and a beautiful dish. I think that I enjoyed the time browsing as much as my purchases. From the moment I walked into the store I felt welcomed and encouraged to touch, try and relax. I was offered tea and brownies and told to stay and little or as long as I liked. I would have stayed all day, but reality has a funny way of setting in: there were kids to clothe/feed and a drive home to make.

Now that we are home I am using my spare moments to enjoy the great books I received. I am taking my time with the pages and photos. No need to rush through these. Did you spy that one on the top of the pile? DH and I are headed there for a mini-vacation in a week. Any suggestions for not-to-be-missed textile-related things?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last-minute gifts

Getting a few more in under the wire. I made up four sets of these coasters, inspired by a pattern I took from Pretty Little Patchwork (which also inspired my mom's present, but more on that in a later post). The pattern called for hand embroidery around the house design, and for a quilted (i.e. patchwork) center, but who has time for that?! I quickly did these with the machine and went with a solid background. Perfect gifts for my Mother-in-law, a neighbor, and whoever might be in need of some extra-special gifts this holiday season.

The other last-minute sewing has been more tote bags. There is a set for my cousin, one for a sister-in-law and one for a friend. There are two in there for me too. I loved one too much to give it away, and the other you ask? Well, let's just say that DH noted, "Now there's a bag I'd be happy to carry to the woodworking store." A bag my husband will gladly carry around?! How could I give that one away? If you want, you can see them all in the flickr group.

As for the knitting, the cowl and second sock for my sister-in-law still need to come off the needles. Time to stop blogging and start knitting! But, really, who has the time now with all the baking to be enjoyed, presents to wrap and laughs to make?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade holidays Check-in

So I took the handmade holiday pledge awhile back. While I desperately wanted to stick with the pledge, I have come to realize that at times I may need to honor it as much in spirit as in practice.

I won't go on to provide you with a list of excuses why I can't manage getting everything handmade, but let's just say that at the top of the list a little 3 y.o. girl who built up a massive amount of courage to ask Santa for a magnifying glass. Now, I could go to etsy and get her a gorgeous one like this one or this one. But, I don't think that gift would make for a happy child: mama would follow her around to ensure she didn't a) break it, b) lose it, or c) bury it in the dirt - all of which are perfectly acceptable kid things to do. So I find myself searching for an alternative philosophy that will permit me to buy a magnifying glass (that can get broken, lost of buried), but also allow me to put my money where my values are.

My solution? Buy local. When I can't go for handmade, I'll go for supporting locally-owned business. It also helps that our county has an initiative aimed at this very thing!

As for my own list of handmade items, I'm staying on track!

1) Personalized tote bags for twin nieces: done

2) Quilt for soon-to-be-born niece: done

3) Knit socks for sister-in-law 1: done

4) Knit socks for sister-in-law 2: in process

5) Knit cowl (similar to one pictured) for friend: in process

6) Present for my mom: done (here's just a sneak peak since I know she reads this blog!)

7) Block set for soon-be-born niece: on the honey-do list

8) Block set for nephew: on the honey-do list

9) Something special for girlfriend-in-law: on the honey-do list (can't divulge too much as she might read this blog)

10) Baked goods, such as sweet breads - inspiration from Project Quick-Bread - and biscotti, for the many others that touch our lives on a daily basis, like teachers, neighbors, etc: on the list for next week.

There are, of course, a bunch of other gifts that will be given this year - some that include traditional gifts that have been given every year since I can remember; I give a subscription to National Geographic Magazine to my Uncle every year - but this year there will be something new. Many of the gifts we're giving will be handmade. This is more true today than over years past and is something that we will begin to actively incorporate into our annual giving rituals. It may mean that I begin my holiday knitting in July, but it feels really good to be able to give of myself this holiday.

However, all this work hasn't kept me from treating myself. I even managed to squeeze in a quick project for myself. The cowl pictured above is actually for me. St. Nicholas brought me the softest yarn, that was begging to be turned into something to keep me warm this winter. I only used 1 skein for the cowl...so what to do with the other? Maybe a pair of these sucky thumb mitts for my littlest?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Calendar

The advent calendar is complete! (I'm only, what, 7 days late?) In the end I decided to not put numbers on the socks as it might be too distracting - I added more detail in the socks than I originally thought. Maybe I'll just add numbers to the clips instead? For now the girls will just have to count each morning until they find their surprise; sort of like a Sesame Street-Christmas-number-of-the-day thing. The photo below is of the socks along the fireplace, but they will have to be moved back to the window when the stockings come out later this month.

This project was time consuming (maybe 36 hours total), but loads of fun. I had enough colors that I never really got bored coming up with a combination, and the sheer volume of yarn I had laying around meant that the girls got into the design aspects too - more then a few of their color combination picks are represented here. The best part, however, was never needing to make a companion sock. I just kept moving from one new design to another!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Bows!

The older girls received a package in the mail yesterday. Inside were to two sets of handmade holiday bows direct from my sister-in-law. What a sweet gift. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that she has others, just like these, available at Colibri Crafts. Happy (handmade) Holidays!

Colibri refers to hummingbird, the green variety of which is found in abundance in my sister-in-laws native Panama.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mauda Woodworks

My husband is an amazing woodworker. He has recently decided to sell sets of his heirloom-quality, all-natural children's blocks at Mauda Woodworks. I'm here to support him - shamelessly.
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edited on 12/7 with new photos!
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I've also added a photo of a recent gift from him to me; one that he made for me. A beautiful cedar-lined blanket chest. Contrary to it's stated purpose, the first occupants of this piece are some skeins of yarn and other knitting supplies. For now it's tucked into the corner of the living room. DH says that he didn't make it to be a downstairs piece of furniture - it's supposed to go in a bedroom - but I think it's too beautiful to squirrel away up there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fall Quilt

Finished just in time for winter! This was the biggest, most massive project I've ever worked on. I felt like I was wrestling with a crocodile to get the darn thing through my machine. I knew I was working with something big when I had to move the living room rug out of the way just to make the sandwich. Boy, was that an ordeal! The girls were wonderful, however, and very respectful: always careful to step around the quilt and not run all over it.

Now that it is finished and I am taking pictures of it I am coming to fully appreciate how bit it actually is. The photos are taken with the quilt on our queen-size bed. And it still spills over the bottom of the bed. I can't believe it. I wanted to make a twin-size quilt, I started out making a twin-size, and am pretty sure that I followed the directions for a twin size, but it came out more like a full or queen. (Note to self: I won't EVER undertake anything this big again - too difficult for a beginner like me to handle. Lap quilts are perfect.) I thought this might go in our living room as an extra blanket for the winter, but maybe this will become a guest blanket. It really is too big and heavy to manage in the living room. Oh well, more excuses to quilt and sew? I can't complain. But any new projects are on hold until after the holidays.

In the meantime I have to quickly learn about piping and putting in a zipper. My mom's handmade holiday gift depends on it!! Yikes!