Inspiration: The Natural History Museum

This week I took Malcolm to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. My mom used to take me there when I was little. We called it The Dead Zoo. Malcolm learned to say “Arthropods” and “Japanese Macaque”. He was really into the dinosaurs and the New England Forests exhibit.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

I fell in love with the South American textiles.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

The stitching on this shirt is so precise and delicate. It reminded me of the mini quilts on display at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The colors and design are so gorgeous, I need to learn how to make this shirt!

I was also really inspired by the colors and patterns of the beetles.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Look at all the interesting shapes!

Harvard Museum of Natural History

I couldn’t help but think of these great little bug prints by Wide Eyed Tree.

I think we’re going to have to go back soon and check out the Peabody Museum. I am a super fan of Native American textiles.

Thoughts on Winter

My high school biology teacher had a small mummified dog in his classroom. He kept it on a high shelf where it creepily presided over his classes. One day he carefully took it down to show us. He enthusiastically explained to us about how the dog had crawled under a porch and died one winter and that the extremely cold and dry temperatures had perfectly preserved it. I think that’s about all I remember from high school biology, other than the stamens and pistons and whatnot of the flower of course.

I mention that crusty, contorted little dog because I’m pretty sure I’m being slowly mummified. This winter has been so cold and so dry and so gray. Everything feels brittle. I tried practicing intarsia and this is what came out:

UGH.

It’s time for some bright, cheerful projects.

How are you getting through this last rattling cough of winter?

DIY Cross Stitch Pattern

When I was in Waldorf School, we had this really sweet handwork project where all the kids got a piece of cross stitch fabric and stitched a pattern of our own design. Then we sewed it to a piece of blue linen with a zipper on one side and made a little pouch. I loved mine and used it for years until one day I dropped it in the H&M on 5th Avenue in New York and it was gone forever. All I can hope is that it is now somewhere having a Velveteen Rabbit-style new lease on life.

I decided it was time to try making another homemade cross stitch pouch, so I came up with this very simple DIY for making your own cross stitch pattern.

What you will need for this project:

  • Sketch paper
  • Graph paper (I prefer 10 squares/inch for all my design projects)
  • Colored pencils
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Needles
  • Cross stitch fabric
  • Fabric scissors
  • Measuring tool (ruler, tape measure)

1. With your paper and pencils, start by sketching out a rough draft of your pattern. I suggest something very simple to start.

Cross stitch sketch

2. Size: Make a few practice stitches on your cross stitch fabric to get a sense of gauge. Then chose the size you’d like and outline the project on your graph paper. Each colored square will represent one “X”.

3. Re-draw your pattern on the graph paper.

Cross stitch graph

4. Pick out embroidery floss to match the colors you’ve chosen.

Cross stitch colors

5. Start stitching! If you’re new to cross stitch, I recommend watching this tutorial.

Cross stitch stitching

When you’re done, if you’d like to make it into a pouch, my friend Kim over at Domestrocrat has a tutorial for making a lined bag. That’s my next step, as soon as my little spider monkey is old enough to be around a sewing machine!

Crafting with a Caffeinated Raccoon in the House

I have found that crafting with a toddler around can be almost impossible. They’re like raccoons after four Americanos: super high energy and into EVERYTHING. Now don’t get me wrong, I look forward to doing lots of fun crafty things with my boy as he gets older and even collaborate on projects together like this amazing mom. But 2 year olds are very limited in the tools and materials they can safely use so I came up with this very very simple solution to doing arts and crafts when you have a toddler. Are you ready? Here it is:

Mom's Craft Board

A really big cutting board.

Amazing right? Really cutting edge. A real slice of heaven. It has opened up a whole new chop-ter in my life. (Ok. Sorry. I’ll cut it out).

The great thing about this is that I can move it around. I can set up my project and work at the kitchen counter and if Malcolm starts to go “full spider monkey”, I can just put it away in another room or on a higher shelf, no cleanup required. Then it’s ready for me to work at again when I get a chance.

Mom's Craft Board

Not long after I came up with this mind-blowing invention, I read a post by Abby Glassenberg where she suggests using a tray. Genius! a large tray would keep little things like beads and pins from rolling off. I think I’ll look for a large serving tray at Goodwill as soon as this %$#@* snow melts.

Valentine Pockets

Valentine Pockets. I call the one on the top left The Riker. You know what I'm talking about nerd friends!

Valentine Pockets. I call the one on the top left “The Riker”. High five nerd friends!

Here is a fun little project I came up with for Valentine’s Day this year. I love the idea of slipping a treat into your loved one’s pocket to let them know you care, so I came up with this little Valentine pocket. It’s just big enough to hold a small chocolate or a wee love note or a “diamond-ass ring” (my husband is a very classy man). I put Ghirardelli chocolate squares in mine. The dark chocolate salted caramel flavor is amazing.

This pattern is for the pink and red Valentine Pocket.

What you’ll need for this project:

  • The Pattern (pdf)
  • Red felt
  • Pink felt
  • Light-colored fabric pencil
  • Sewing needles
  • Gold thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Optional: jewels, beads, ribbons, lace

1. Start by cutting out 2 large red hearts and 1 small pink heart. Cut a 2 1/2 inch slit into the back of one of the red hearts. This will be the back of your Valentine Pocket.

Trace the pattern onto the felt with a light-colored fabric pencil.

Trace the pattern onto the felt with a light-colored fabric pencil.

Cut out your pattern pieces.

Cut out your pattern pieces.

Cut a 2 1/2 inch slit into one of your red hearts.

Cut a 2 1/2 inch slit into one of your red hearts. This will be your back piece.

2. With your gold thread, stitch the small pink heart onto the center of the front piece and stitch a decorative stitch around the slit in the back piece. I used a blanket stitch for this project. There is a good tutorial for that here. But a whip stitch or a running stitch would work just as well.

Sew the pink heart onto the front piece.

Sew the pink heart onto the front piece.

Stitch around the slit in the back. Throw on some extra bling if you feel like it.

Stitch around the slit in the back. Throw on some extra bling if you’re feeling sassy.

3. Now all you have to do is sew your two pieces together and put a treat inside.

Sew the front and back together.

Sew the front and back together.

Put a wee treat or a love note inside.

Put a wee treat or a love note inside.

4. Next all you have to do is sneak your Valentine Pocket into your sweetie’s pocket or lunchbox or briefcase or mailbox or boots or…

Surprise!

Surprise!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Christmas Crafting

Acorn

Christmas crafting time is upon us and I’m trying to squeeze in some small projects when I can. Above is a peek at one of my little works in progress. I’ve also been thinking about the candle decorating I did last year:

Finished candle

Here are a few holiday projects that have really inspired me recently:

And how about you? What have you got in the works?

Crafting Entertainment

Crafting Entertainment

Last weekend I was working on my cardigan coat and catching up on my favorite podcast with my big cup of tea nearby and I started thinking about the things I do while I’m doing handwork. I like to have a really huge cup of tea. I like to listen to podcasts like The Ro-Co Review and The Moth. I love to listen to comedians like Maria Bamford and Patton Oswalt. And sometimes I’ll knit while my husband watches football (let’s go Tech!). It made me curious about what other people do when they’re crafting, so I asked a couple of friends to share their favorite crafting entertainment.

Nicole of KnitRunBakeRun:
“I tend to be one of those knitters who is always doing something else while knitting: talking on the phone with my sister, watching TV with the husband (while re-watching Twin Peaks, I finished the Schieffelin Point Shawl this week) or even while riding the bus. This isn’t my preference, but rather what tends to happen when I really want to finish something and am pressed for time. What I really love: to sit in my office on my favorite chair, with a cup of my current favorite tea (Bengal Spice) and some Antje Duvekot playing. With the west facing windows, there is a gorgeous flood of afternoon sunlight and a view of late autumn leaves. There is always a cat nearby and the smell of something baking downstairs. Soul restoring at its very best.”

Kim of Domestocrat:
“When I’m crafting the most important thing for me is to be in the zone. And I’ve found that different crafty activities dictate different types of entertainment for that reason. I love to listen to quiet, chill out music when I’m sewing or embroidering (Eisley, City & Colour, Best Coast, The Avett Brothers, Ingrid Michaelson). When I’m drawing or sketching I need complete silence so I can really concentrate. In my house we love crappy movies so sometimes I will queue up a bunch and put them on mute while I’m crafting. Last but not least, crafting always means hanging out with my best buddy, Reggie the cat. He’s into anything that means sitting for long periods of time and being quiet, so he loves crafty time.”

Dana of Punching Moments in the FACE:
“I find that when I knit I am totally immersed in my project. I can’t really entertain company or watch something on TV that requires any amount of my attention. It’s not a surprise to anyone, but I am a huge wrestling fan and I often work my crafting time around that. If I’m interested in the match, I take a break to watch. If I’m not interested, I just knit right through and listen to the commentary. I’ll sometimes put on ’30 Rock’ or ‘Arrested Development’ since I’ve seen them all already. I love background noise. Lately it’s been the sound of my roommate playing Skyrim. Crafting, especially knitting, keeps my hands busy and off the treats. It’s often my go to activity to avoid evening snacking. Since I tend to knit mostly in the winter, and as a way to relax, I’ll have a cup of tea. My favorite right now is Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Roobios. There’s also a lot of cat cuddling that happens while I’m knitting. I’m the oldest person in the world.”

And finally, my mom, the craftiest craftster of all time:
“I like to listen to audio books while doing handwork and drinking a cup of hot water. Yup, just boil the water! I think I have listened to the entire Harry Potter series 6,7 times. The reader, Jim Dale has a voice I could listen to over and over. Oh yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing! The Secret Life of Bees is another one I listen to often. I can tune into the stories or have them as background if I’m doing something that needs more attention. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is a great podcast on NPR if I am in the mood for a good laugh. Now all this is if I am not with other people, they are actually the best! Every Wednesday I have ‘Knit Night’ with a group of intelligent, fun, inspiring artists and there isn’t a single audio book that can take their place.”

I’d love to hear what you like to do while crafting!

Baby Banksy

Baby Banksy

We found some pink chalk at the playground yesterday. Malcolm insisted on coloring on every piece of playground equipment. I’m certain he is expressing some profound social and political insights here.

Wine Cork Printing

I started saving wine corks a year ago after I saw a few images on Pinterest of people using them as tiny stamps. And I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’ve got a lot of wine corks now. So when I was sending out my friendship bracelets, I thought I’d try making some wine cork stamped cards to go with them.

I started with an exacto knife and a bunch of corks. The synthetic wine corks turned out to be the easiest to carve.

Wine Cork Printing

I dipped them in some cheap-o art paints I had,

Wine Cork Printing

Wine Cork Printing

and started printing.

Wine Cork Printing

Wine Cork Printing

Wine Cork Printing

This was a lot of fun and an excellent excuse for buying more wine. IT’S FOR MY ART!