Monthly Archives: December 2021

Home makeover beginning and counting my blessings

Sometimes life smacks you in the face several times in a row and reminds you to put your circumstances in perspective. I own a house that I am working on fixing up. There are several things I’m considering doing with it once it’s done. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy DIY projects and perhaps planning some bigger projects for it that I’ll need to hire some help to complete. This is a diverting and enjoyable task, even though the events behind me getting this house to work on are quite sad. It’s therapeutic to try to turn the sadness into something even more beautiful and useful than this cute house already is.

I have been frustrated because of breaking my foot in October and having to halt my work for awhile. I had a second fall later next to our workbench and landed on my miter saw! I was lucky that I only got a superficial sawtooth scratch down my arm from that. I might have a scar but who cares considering how serious it COULD have been. Now my foot has improved enough for me to do a little more and I did some cleaning and organizing in the kitchen earlier this week while I churned ideas in my head. I’ve made a Pinterest board to help me brainstorm and plan – Bungalow Project.

Today at my desk taking a lunch break, I brainstormed and fantasized about home decor topics, such as collectibles and furniture I want to get out of storage when the house is ready to stage and display, paint schemes, tile ideas, etc. No I’m not a real estate professional but I am a design professional (not specifically in home decor) so hopefully I can grow creatively while I work. I am blessed to have the luxury of being able to tackle this kind of project rather than worrying about whether I am even going to have a home to live in this winter, like a friend of mine is doing right now.

An old friend of mine from the Route 66 Association of Missouri sent me an invite to his GoFundMe drive which he initiated to try to collect enough rent money to avoid being evicted from his apartment. With his permission, I’m including a link here in case anyone wants to contribute, share ideas, or spread the word – Fundraiser by Gary Adkins.

Because I know how fortunate I am, I have made contributions to this and other causes this holiday season as I do each year. I can’t help everybody who needs it and deserves it, no one person can. With so many people in distress, it can get overwhelming and seem hopeless. Maybe helping prevent homelessness for one person would be extra satisfying because I can find out the outcome later and see concrete results. If my injury was as serious as this friend’s injuries, and my situation was different, what state would I be in? I have been blessed to go over five decades without ever having an injury as serious as my recent one, and I don’t even need surgery to fix it. I just have to be patient and wait and try to stay healthy in the meantime. How much would it take for any one of us to be in the position of having to ask for help? Temporarily I have had to ask for help with things like driving and shopping while my foot heals. I’m not used to that and it’s sobering. I am grateful for what I can do and for everyone who is helping someone in need, whoever it is.

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.

Invitations with tags to decorate. Sometimes I include a little packet of paper ephemera to help people get ideas or inspiration, if they need it. If you want an invitation and did not get one in the mail, you can download one at this link – #12daysoftomsbeard tag invite.

These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.

Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.

WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.

Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.

Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.

HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.

I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!

Drawing

Coloring

Stenciling

Stickers

Hole punches

Design tape – also known as Washi tape or Paper tape

Collage

Rubber Stamping

Image Transfers

?????????? – What other techniques could be used?

Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!

Slide show of photos from IUOMA

One of my best ever Christmas memories isn’t even from Christmas day…

…it’s from St. Nicholas Day! The stocking in this picture is from the 1970s. My Mom made a pair of these one year to put St. Nicholas Day treats in for my brother and I when we were kids. If my memory is correct, we each had a bag of white chocolate covered pretzels and a bag of little plastic toys. Larry had cowboys and Indians (that’s what we called them then!), and I had dinosaurs. I loved the insanely bright colors my dinosaurs came in – loud grass green, super yellow and hot red. Propped up near the stockings was a Chipmunks Christmas album. It’s hard to describe how much fun we had with these items! We played the album to death and I know we had fun with the toys. Decades later some of them would be unearthed from the soil under potted plants that used to stand in for “the jungle” during “adventures”. For some reason that St. Nicholas Day stands out more vividly than almost any other Christmas memory.

I’ve been trying to get my act together to make some new St. Nicholas Day crafts to bring back some of these memories and make new happy memories but I didn’t get on it in time. Like last year, I looked for some Dutch shoe patterns and looked at a Christmas and Winter Crafts Pinterest board I’ve been using to collect ideas for a few years but that’s as far as I got. The meaning of St. Nicholas Day is worth knowing and contemplating.

Tom knows how special these stockings and St. Nicholas Day are for me and he had a treat ready for me in one of them this morning. So now I have a big smile on my face! Thank you Tom! I love you!

Christmas Trees from scrap fabric

I made another item for my Woodland Animals and Accessories retail display project. There are several versions of this project floating around out there, but I got the idea for this tree from a blog called Crafting Cheerfully. The Crafting Cheerfully version is on the left and my version is on the right. I made mine with a hanging loop instead of putting it on a garland because I don’t know how many I’m going to end up making. I do want to make more though, after trying the acorn pattern next.

Trees made of fabric scraps
I’ve finished three stockings so far and I have more in progress. On the right are a couple of samples of paper flowers I made a few years ago that go well with the look I’m going for in this group, so I got them out to add to my display.

Here is a link to my Pinterest “Mood Board” where I’m posting finished items and inspirations.

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

Christmas craft bender 2021 edition

Woodland animals sewn from a commercial pattern using upcycled and leftover fabrics.

Even though I have a great deal to be thankful for, due to recent bereavement and a frustrating injury that is still a problem I was in a pretty bad mood for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Sewing has been keeping me from feeling a lot worse. Fortunately I’ve been really excited about making craft items to hopefully be used in a retail display someday. If all the parts aren’t done for this year I’m aiming for the next. One of the things I’m learning to get better at as I work on my Master’s degree is merchandising and displays. I wrote a paper in 2020 about some ideas I want to try and this project is an attempt at realizing some of what I wrote about. The professor wanted me to write the project as if it was a company with 50 employees, so I made it pretty ambitious and one person can’t do it overnight! So while some people have asked me if I want to sell these stuffed animals I just made, for now that is not the plan. They are inspiration for a “collection” that is going to have a lot of parts. I did find a person on Etsy who is selling some of the animals from this pattern for a very reasonable price.

I’ve wanted to try the pattern shown in the image above, Simplicity 1549, for awhile so this seemed like a good time. Sometimes I like to design my own patterns but this one was so cute I could not resist! I used all upcycled or leftover fabric for my versions. I didn’t make the owl yet because I think it’s kind of out of scale and I have another owl pattern I like better that I might enlarge a bit and use later. I do have some bird patterns for adding some woodland songbirds eventually as well.

The deer and the fox are harder to sew than the raccoon and the bunny because of their small size. I did make it harder for myself with some of my fabric choices – because I was using upcycled fabric and was initially making my choices based on color and pattern and texture, I didn’t consider the fabric thickness that much and I ended up using upcycled khaki shorts and upholstery fabric for the deer which were thick enough that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn all the parts inside out! But somehow I did it. If I ever sew the deer again I’ll enlarge the pattern AND use thinner fabrics so it’s not so difficult.

I’m continuing with my interpretation of a woodland/lodge theme as I make more items. Here are a couple of stockings I made with a pattern that my Mom used circa the late ’70s or early ’80s.

I altered the stocking ornament to make it a bit bigger, and I changed where the top piece was placed to make them a little longer. I used a scrapbooking stencil that my friend Julie gave me a long time ago to trace the leaves out of felt for the fronts. There are going to be more of these, and they will have a hanging loop.

I remember Mom making the tree skirt from this pattern, the ornaments, and I think the wreath. I’m not sure if she made the large stockings or not. I don’t remember seeing them if so. I know Dad still has the tree skirt and ornaments. She also made a matching table runner which Dad still has.

The memories this pattern brings back are intense. It was more exciting than I can say to be a young crafter watching my Mom make all these items (and much more!). And it’s difficult to describe the bittersweet feeling of finding those fabric scraps you see there in the envelope when I was getting out the pattern pieces. There are tears falling and drying on my keyboard as I write this. Mom probably put those scraps in there so she’d know what fabric to get more of if she ran out. They were probably in there for at least 40 years. The awareness of what has happened to our family between then and now is pretty shocking, and I know we are not alone. It’s part of the human condition, and crafting and the arts are great gifts from our creator that are powerful aids in helping us cope.

Each holiday season involves both the past and the future. To turn my thoughts back to the future for now, here is a Pinterest board as I made as kind of a “mood board” for this project. If you find the theme I’m working with inspiring you might want to check it out!

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

I finished Experimental Art Quilts #2 and #3

I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.

I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!

Experimental Art Quilt #2
Originally this was going to be a sample for a JoAnn class for beginners I was interested in teaching. It was supposed to be four 6 inch squares with embroidery on them. Then I got inspired and started adding and adding and adding parts…
I wanted to get the embroidered parts right so I plotted some of them out on the computer first by using Adobe Illustrator to draw lines over a picture of the quilt to see how it might look. The final step was to outline it with blanket edging that I bought at JoAnn. I also bought the rick-rack, tulle, and yellow sheer ribbon there. I bought the batting online from my wholesaler and all the other fabrics were upcycled or leftovers. There are a few scraps in there that I printed with rubber stamps, a few scraps from my Mom’s stash, a few pieces from a dress I wore in 1985 and a piece of curtains that my Mom made for my room in the early 1980s!
Finished Experimental Art Quilt #3
I assembled strips from scraps and used the reverse applique technique to insert then between strips taken from upcycled bed sheets and pillow cases. The large scale black and white Aztec-looking print was taken from my favorite shirt in the 80s. These are remnants of the sleeves and collar that I cut off when I made a vest out of it a couple of years ago. The color scheme is a result of having some fun with one colorful strip among all neutrals to make a focal point.
I added a border made of tubes of leftover fabric, then decided the piece needed a bit more color and to draw attention to the focal point a little more. I added a strip of leftover brighter colored fabric and started on the embroidery. I used tracings inspired by a shirt I’m still working on that was inspired by my old shirt from the 80s. Then I embroidered through the tracing paper and tore away the paper after I stitched it.

Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.

My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.

Experimental Art Quilt #1

Experimental Art Quilt #2

Experimental Art Quilt #3