Stella’s first grade teacher, Ms. Rice, taught the class how to knit, both with fingers and needles. Every morning when the kids arrived in the classroom, they would take up where they left off the day before, often changing yarns. Unlike a few of her classmates, Stella never did complete the hat she started. Instead, she created yards and yards of finger-knitting as well as short multi-colored knit pieces. The purpose was not as important as the process for her.
When she presented me with her very first multi-colored knit piece, we talked about how we could make something out of it; because although the knitting was beautiful as it was, adding purpose meant it would be used and appreciated even more. We came up with the idea of creating a mug cozy. Using two buttons selected by Stella, I wrapped a mug and handstitched the buttons and holes. The uneven width made for an unique fold-over flap.
This mug cozy was a simple and fun way to celebrate Stella’s knitting success.
It has been on my To Do List for quite some time to make some felted wool slippers. They are the perfect solution for cold winters and concrete floors. My 7 yr old daughter was eager to do some making with me, so we decided to create the slippers for her. Stella chose a purple-dyed alpaca roving, adding strands of teal and pink for added flair. Never having made slippers before, I had to guess what the shrinkage of the fibers would be. Unlike the decorative wall hangings I often make, these slippers need to be durable; the fibers have to be felted and fulled for much longer, which means more shrinkage.
We created a form from two layers of thick socks and duct tape that was two sizes larger than Stella’s normal shoe size. Our plan was to create a bootie slipper that we could trim as desired. As you can guess from the photos above, our bootie shrunk down to a mule slipper that barely fit Stella’s foot. These ‘Oops moments’ are always good opportunities to learn about expectations, flexibility, and opportunity. No doubt, we were both disappointed at first. But I reframed the mistake as a new design challenge, and we came up with the solution of adding a heel piece. The result is a slipper that not only fits snuggly, but is unique and boldy colored as well.
I almost let this month go by without sharing some of my seasonal creative projects. This time of year is particularly busy and rich with making. Several years ago, I committed to making ornaments and holiday cards for my family. And every year I have more ideas than I can possibly pursue within the time and budget constraints. Although I admit to getting more stressed than I would like, I actually really enjoy my tradition of a handmade holiday.
The card itself was simple this year – a family photo taken on our property by Else Kerkmann. I printed and mounted the photo onto heavyweight cardstock, trimmed the corners round, and punched holes so I could attach the ornament with ribbon. The ornament was made from polymer clay cut into an evergreen tree shape. Sage and juniper sprigs were pressed into the soft clay before baking and then also tied to the final gold metallic-glazed piece. My 7 yr old loved working with the polymer clay and so I helped her make some heart ornaments adorned with red ribbon and a bell for her teachers.
In addition to a holiday card and ornaments, I often make a few seasonal decor items. This year included an outdoor “Joy” sign made from sage and juniper twigs tied with copper floral wire, as well as indoor lights strung up to express the same sentiment. I also made a little “Tomten” (Scandinavian gnome) with a body handsewn from t-shirt scraps, a faux fur beard, and wet-felted wool hat and booties.
I hope your holiday is a joyous, handmade one.
The wedding of a dear friend prompted a collaboration with three others in our women’s circle. One took luminous photos of the ranchland that is the literal grounding force for the newlyweds. The second hand painted a complementary layer of floral and textural patterns in rich metallics and natural hues. The third created a unique essential oil for the couple. My role was to create the book and protective sleeve. When I received the painted photographs, already folded in half, I had no idea what I was going to do. I have never made a book before. But I knew I only had one shot at getting the design right, so I decided to create some mock-ups. My experiments (not pictured) turned out to be crucial in finding the right design solution. A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting; Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and might create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.
A traditional codex binding would put stitching down the center of each painting. Simply gluing the paintings front to back seemed risky and would likely create warped pages. Searching for ideas in books and on the internet, I happened upon the star fold binding technique. Nested, folded pages in varying lengths are put together to create a book that fans into a star pattern; each painting can open fully without any binding stitches down the center. The added bonus is that the book itself is a sculptural piece.
Watercolor paper was cut to a size a couple inches longer than the paintings, folded in half, and stitched into a traditional codex. The paintings were then glued to the forward edges of pages. I used museum board and metallic scrapbook paper for the cover and stitched the cover to the pages using copper wire. The heart charms represent the bride, groom, and the bride’s two children from a previous marriage.
For the sleeve, I wet felted natural brown and beige alpaca roving, incorporating a small pouch for the essential oil.
I am so happy with the outcome. It is as uniquely beautiful as the couple who received it.
There are certain materials that are my comfort zone – my star materials. You’ve seen them here. Felt. Paper. I even own the domain paperandfelt.com just in case I ever choose to focus and create exclusively with those two materials. I do love them. They are stars that I reference and return to over and over in my creative making.
This geometric star is inspired by traditional Finnish straw ornaments called Himmeli. (The root word “himmel” means sky or heaven in German, Swedish or Norwegian.) The foundation of the Himmeli is the triangle. Tying varying lengths of straws into triangles, and then combining the triangles into 3-dimensional structures, you can create all sorts of beautiful sculptures. Made of tightly rolled magazine paper threaded on silver floral wire, this unique wall decoration is light enough to hang on a pin. I have used it to display tillandsia (air plants) and it even was the star topper to our tree last Christmas.
Look around the internet and you’ll see a variety of traditional Himmeli made from natural straw, and contemporary Himmeli made from metal tubes or colorful, plastic straws. May you find the inspiration you need to create your own.
This summer seems unusually hot here in Central Oregon. The weather has been monotonous; intense sun in cloudless skies and dry heat in the 90s for weeks without end. Sun protection is mandatory for me since I suffer from vitiligo. Striking the right balance between comfort, protection, and style can be a challenge. When I could not find just the right thing to wear for a day relaxing at a friend’s ranch, I created a full-length cover-up in under 30 minutes. Using a beige, twin-size, fitted jersey sheet, I cut off the elastic and the corner seams, folded it in half, cut a neckline, then stitched two straight lines a few inches from the top to create sleeves. Since knit fabrics are stretchy and do not fray, I left all the edges raw for simplicity. This cover-up is light, fluid, and comfortable. Have a jersey knit sheet you can spare? I bet you can make a cover-up for yourself too.
I have been neglecting my blog recently; not for lack of making, but for a lack of focus on what to say about what I make. Writing meaningful posts does not come as easily to me as making. I am more prolific than profound as a maker. And I have sat with that pronouncement and procrastinated too long because of it. So today I write – not because I have anything really important to say, but because I want to model to those dear to me that faced with a challenge, I do not settle. I change “I can’t” into “I can and I will.” Because it is not easy. Because it is challenging. Because that is the stuff that makes us grow.
We recently adopted a two-year-old cat from the local shelter. And since cats need to scratch things, I decided to make a scratching post – because why buy, when you can make? So I simply wrapped the base of an 8 ft long cedar (untreated) wood post with a couple spools of sisal rope. Since sisal is a natural material, the spools were slightly different colors, which I only noticed when I started wrapping with the second one. I used poultry wire staples to secure the rope. A locking wheel is attached at the base of the post to make it easily portable to different locations in the house. Both the wood and the sisal are great scratching surfaces. But unfortunately, we have since discovered that our cat prefers to scratch leather – in particular, my husband’s antique club chairs. So this scratching post will soon be redesigned and wrapped in leather.
An 8 ft long post is taller than necessary for a cat scratcher, so I sawed 30″ off. I used this piece to make a lawn dice game and a couple candlestick holders. Thanks to a local maker space called DIYCave, I had access to all the tools I needed to cut, sand, and drill to make the dice and candlestick holders.
How often do you find yourself at one of those paint-your-own-pottery stores? If you have young kids like me, it is at least once a year. You would think a creative person like me would love such an opportunity. But I don’t for various reasons, including dissatisfaction with the finished piece. So I usually sit and watch my kids while they happily paint another bowl, mug, jewel box, or figurine. But when I went with an extended family group, it seemed inappropriate to not participate. So I chose a simple plate, a small brush, and black paint and just started to doodle.
The act of doodling is freeing. No form or figure is required. It does not have to BE anything. And the black/white format freed me from any color clashes (because we all know those powdery paints never look the same as the vivid samples after firing.) Mindful doodling is slightly different than just random doodling. I am watching lineweight and balancing the patterns as I go. There are no rules, yet I am following my instinct for what feels right; just enough marks to fill the plate. And for the first time ever, I actually really like the finished piece.