Archive for the ‘Arts & Crafts’ Category

In the midst of end-of-term busy-ness and much freelance work (which is a good thing, I’m not complaining!) last week, I dug out my mum’s good old recipe for homemade playdough, and Keats and I made some. He especially enjoyed dumping the flour into the big bowl and stirring it.

Play Dough Recipe:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food colouring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will soon form a clump.  Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food colouring during kneading process.

Next time I want to experiment with natural dyes/colorings (boiling onions and cabbage and such – let’s see if I actually do that), but this time I just used regular old food colouring, which Keats found utterly fascinating.

I read somewhere about adding essential oils to it as you’re kneading it, so I did (lavender and mint), but I wish I hadn’t, because that trademark smell of homemade playdough is one of the best things ever. And tasting that salt on your fingers after you’ve played with it? Just awesome.

Needless to say, it was a hit.


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Okay, so needless to say I’ve been away for a while. A long while. More than six weeks, in fact.

While I’ve been away, and life has carried on, a few notable things have happened that I would like to share with you. In the last few weeks I’ve:

– Started another baby quilt, for my new nephew Kieren. In my last post I was still embroidering the patches. In the meantime I ordered a charm pack (oh, I do love a charm pack!) of Moda Hideaway fabric, which is covered in clocks and alpine-looking motifs, perfect for a little part-Swiss boy. The other night I put on Woody Allen’s Alice (oh William Hurt, my love for you has not waned) and sewed the whole quilt top together. So it’s almost done…

– Witnessed the birth of my aforementioned new nephew. A beautiful home birth. It was amazing, and transformative, and very moving. Keaton was totally freaked out by the whole thing and bawled all night, but that’s another story.

– Had some major thoughts about my creative process. When it comes to crafting, writing, or anything else in the creative realm, I am a binger. I’m not the type of person to sew a few stitches one day and a few the next, or write a page or two a day, slowly working toward my goal. That’s not me, even though I sometimes beat myself up for not working on my projects more consistently. Nope, I’m a work-on-something-for-many-hours-late-into-the-night-for-three-days-straight and then put it away for a while type of person. So, bingeing it is, if that’s the way I get sh*t done!

– Realized that I should probably tame my potty mouth in front of Keaton, now that he’s parroting everything I say.

– Gotten very stuck with both the creative writing projects I’ve been working on. But now slightly less stuck with one of them, which may in turn lead to some binge-writing. Fingers crossed.

– Been working with a web designer on a new website for my freelance copywriting/consulting business, Creative Cat Communications. It’s still under construction, but stay tuned for a link.

As I write this, a huge flash of lightning and a big clap of thunder boomed just outside my kitchen window. I think I shall go cuddle up under the covers with Josh and listen to the rain pouring down outside. Ahhhh.

Life is good.

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For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I’ve got the perfect amount of busy going on in my life. A balance between activity and rest, nights out and nights in. It’s the amount of busy that I’ve been hoping for and trying for for so long, but just never achieved. And it’s been years, too, too many years. My too-busy-ness before was entirely self-wrought, I do realise, but still. It’s temporary, I also realise, and all too soon I’ll be right back to too busy again. But for now I’m savouring it. Last semester was crazy, and I barely had time to sleep, but this semester’s workload totally makes up for it. (Funny, now that I’m an instructor I’m like a student again – thinking about the year in terms of semesters.)

So, fortunately, lately I’ve had time lately to:

– Finish that patchwork baby quilt I showed you last post, and now I’ve started on the embroidery for another baby quilt, this time for my sister-in-law’s soon-to-be-released wee one. It’ll be another patchwork quilt, using the most darling charm pack fabric from Moda.

Listen to me: I actually sound like I know what I’m talking about. Really, everything I know about quilting (which is very, very little) so far I’ve learned from the Missouri Star Quilt Company’s online tutorials. Jenny’s my favourite – she’s hilarious and I love her gel nails.

– Take a one-day drawing class on ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ with the Vancouver School Board. Just for fun, of course. I have absolutely no dreams of actually being a good artist – I still draw like I’m twelve, as I’ve mentioned. But it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years, so I was glad to finally do it. But it definitely confirmed the fact that I still draw like I did when I was twelve. My favourite things to draw then were hamsters and gymnasts.

And the class was in a high school science lab, so that was cool.

– Write a new picture book manuscript. Not sure exactly what I’ll do with it, but it’s an idea I’d had for a while, and I sure was glad that I found the time to write it. And last week I put Keaton in daycare for a few hours and worked on the edits for my new novel that’s coming out in the fall. That’s been my dream for a long time, too, to work on creative writing in a coffee shop.

So yeah, I’m enjoying all this extra creative time while it lasts. ‘Cause I know that pretty soon Too Busy will come along and kick me in the ass again. But, for now, it’s all good.

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So, the baby quilt that I’ve been telling you about for, oh, about three months now is finally finished, in all its imperfect, uneven, slightly tattered glory. I may look slightly bleary-eyed here because because I pressed it, topstitched it, pinned it and then tied it all in one sitting (quite a bit to handle for this incredibly novice quilter). The tying happened during an episode of Top Gear, so at least I was able to giggle at James May being taught to drive fast by an old Scottish racing driver while I tied knot after knot with embroidery thread. Actually, the tying went remarkably fast and I am grateful to my friend Robin for suggesting it, rather than actually quilting it. Phew!

I have many friends and family members who could do this sort of thing in their sleep, but it’s one of those personal victory things. Yeah, it’s just a bunch of squares sewn together, but I’m impressed with myself because a) I actually finished the darn thing, and b) it didn’t turn out as horrendously horrible as I thought it might. I expected a total mess, with wrong seams everywhere and absolutely nothing matching up. Okay, so some of the squares do not match up at all, but that adds character, non?

Who knows, maybe next time I’ll sew together some actual quilting squares. Hmmmm…

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I really don’t know why I attempted a lame Phil Collins reference there. Oh well.

Moving right along, you can see what falls off of my productivity chart once I start trying to go to bed at a decent hour. Yes indeed, clearly blog posts were something that was part of my late-night creative output regime. I’m still trying to figure out how to still have a decent level of aforementioned creative output while still aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Midnight – 2am used to be my golden hours, people!

That said, there has been some making of things going on in the background since my last, long-ago post. As my post title suggests, I have moved my messy pile of crafty crap from what is now Keaton’s room (also our dining room), and into a corner of our living room. My crafty crap pile was languishing in the dining room, mainly because now that Keaton goes to bed at about 6:30 or 7pm (bless him), well, I couldn’t exactly be in there with the light on, chonking away on my sewing machine.

So, I moved my little table and sewing machine into the living room by the window, and put my fabrics and notions and stuff into a stack of vintage suitcases (two of them picked up at the Fort Langley Antiques Mall on a recent Sunday outing), thereby creating a slightly less messy pile of crafty crap that I will now dub my “studio.” I say “studio” with the quotes around it so as not to water down the term – as studios should really be for artists and crafters who are actually good at making stuff. But maybe I’ll get there one day.

My “studio”

The day I did that, I felt so inspired that I got right back to work on the baby quilt for my black-lovin’, bird-lovin’ friend that I wrote about a couple of months back (yep, not much progress), and started laying it out on the floor. Since this photo I have sewn three of the rows together, and they seem to be coming together fairly well. (It’s true – dining room/baby sleeping excuse aside, I do not work quickly!). I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing – I’m just guessing at basic quilting and doing 1/4″ seam allowances, ironing as I go along, etc. My greatest fear is that when I go to sew all of the rows together, it’ll be a wonky, unmatched thing that will look totally ridiculous. I’ve always had a hard time sewing a straight seam.

Baby quilt layout in progress

I shall continue to post quilty updates as they come. Wish me luck!

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My First Baby Quilt

Well, it’s my first quilt, period. Actually, I think my grandma may helped me make a doll quilt when I was about eight, but the details are a bit fuzzy.  It’s for a dear friend, whose baby was (key word: was – about to be explained in the next paragraph) due December 22nd. It’s inspired by the Country Quilt in Alicia Paulson’s Embroidery Companion, except that instead of embroidered farmyard animals and calico fabric, I’m doing blackbirds with green polka-dotted, deep blue and black fabric squares. Kinda like a goth baby quilt, I guess. My friend is inspired by all things dark and fantastical, like demons and raven lore and bats. I’m embroidering six white squares with blackbirds, first (five of those, and one with the baby’s name, not yet known), and then I’ll tackle cutting and sewing and quilting all the rest. Good thing I bought a rotary cutter on supersale at Fabricland!

Today, I got a text message that my friend was in the hospital, having the baby more than five weeks early. Mom and baby are fine, but this early arrival is a big surprise! Throughout the day I received more texts reporting on her progress (last I heard, she was well into active labour), so in the morning I’m expecting to hear the exciting news. This evening, I felt it perfectly fitting to pick up the embroidery after a few days’ busy-related hiatus, and do some stitchin’. The whole time I thought about my friend going through this amazing process of birth, breathing through those contractions. With every stitch I thought of her in her hospital room, surrounded by her midwife and husband and all that support. I just kept thinking, this baby quilt is being made for someone who’s in the hospital right now, right this minute, having her baby. How thrilling, how exciting!

I guess I’d better get crack-a-lackin’ on the rest of the quilt! Wish me luck!

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Okay, so let’s get back to basics. I originally started this blog to chart my progress as I learn how to do various crafty things while I’m on maternity leave. I’ve veered off from that somewhat (I’ve never been very good at sticking to one thing), but for today’s post I’m going to bring it back to the start. After much difficulty and swearing over a Burda pattern marked “Very Easy,” I finally accomplished my very first major sewing project – a pair of pants. Okay yes, so they are very small baby pants that didn’t even use a full metre of fabric, but they are pants nonetheless. I even added a contrasting cuff to them, which took me about a million years to figure out, and even then I did it wrong, with a raw edge of the turned-up cuff showing on the inside. Whatever. I found the cute stripey blue fabric at the MCC Thrift Store in Chilliwack, and the contrasting cuff fabric is from fresh squeezed fabrics. Seriously, Burda patterns are a bitch – the pants sat there sad and unfinished for more than two weeks because I could not, not figure out what it meant to “turn one leg and sew inner crease.” That’s all it said. WTF? Finally I just sat down and played with it until it worked. After that, it was actually semi-smooth sailing – even doing the elastic casing wasn’t too bad. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll make another pair from the incredibly cute fabric I just bought at Spool of Thread

And then I embroidered an old t-shirt (which Keaton promptly peed on) and that white hoodie that I showed you a few posts back. Pretty pleased with the results. I used fusible interfacing for the hoodie as a stabilizer for the embroidery (big mistake), and even after substantial trimming it still looks like I have nipple shields behind the birds. Maybe after I wash it it’ll look a bit better. Here’s hoping.

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