Monday, November 29, 2010

Into the Holiday Spirit

As this is the first year we're celebrating the holiday season in our house, it seemed only right that we do a little decorating—in between the hiking, eating, reading and movie watching—over the long weekend. We decided to start small for our first year and stick with mini trees on the mantle (they were a bargain at $12.99 a piece!) and we hope that we can keep them alive until early spring and plant them outside.

After we brought home two of the little guys, I scavenged the rest of the materials in the house. I wrapped their bases in voile fabric from Anna Maria Horner (I happened to have two pieces that fit really well). I secured them in back with straight pins and wrapped a length of twine around each with a bow in front.

The mason jars are for the wedding, on loan from Virginia. And the "open me" tags and the two tiny jars of sparkliness are from a kit I brought home from work. The garland, which is made from old music sheets, is from Tabitha Designs scored at Ephemera.

We're living with our display for now and will decide how to dress up the trees in the coming weeks. The branches are so tiny that it's a challenge to hang or drape anything on them, but maybe we'll find something else hiding in the basement to use! All in all, I like how subtle it is, and how it is both festive and calm. It's in the corner of our living room, which means I have an excellent view from the spot on the couch where I do my sewing.

Oh, and as a little bonus, I hung two of these wreath ornaments on our French doors that go out to the screened-in porch (which we will use again come spring, thank you very much Iowa winter) that my Grandmom P made many years ago. Love!

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Gratitude

 As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on what I'm grateful for. And then I'm going to take the rest of the week off from blogging as a reward- but before I do that, please chime in and add something that you are especially thankful for this year in the comments. I think this will be a great way to start off the holiday season—all positive and reflective like!

I am grateful for...
The health of my family, and progress towards health for two members who have recently had some challenges.
A comfortable, warm, and loving home.
A creative circle of girlfriends who continually inspire me, both near and far.
Healthy babies being born to good friends.
Strengthening my back to a point that enables me to run again.
The experience of stitching my wedding dress, and having the time to reflect on that enormous step while sewing something very pretty.
Rewarding and engaging work.
Having someone to cook for.
Our local farmers who are helping to add health to the Iowa landscape, and who provide us with delicious organic vegetables.
Lazy Sunday afternoons.
The best partner in life and in love that I could ever imagine.

The image above is by one of the creative friends I mentioned- check out more of Bethany's work right here.

Your turn. What are you grateful for?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet Giftable: English Muffin Shop Veggie Calendar

I've decided to use my Fridays between now and Christmas to share some sweet gift ideas. I am really going to just share things that I come across and love, so that's how my standards are working here! Today's giftable is the 2011 Calendar from the English Muffin Shop, which is a delightful little shop filled with the sweetest illustrated goodies.
 Many of their items are for kids—like these name prints (!)—but the calendar seems to me to be a perfect gift for the person on your life who loves to spend hours in the kitchen. Sweet, right?

P.S. I am still a devoted fan of Flora Douville's illustrated little calendars, but I have decided that since I live in more than one room, it's okay for me to swear my allegiance to two this year!

P.P.S. I am nearing the end of stitching panel #4 of the wedding dress and you can bet that me and HGTV will get through some of the 5th this coming weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Map Maker, Map Maker...

 When I received a note from Lauren telling me about her map creations—"As a child there are some things that have stuck with me through to adulthood: maps, sewing, and thinking about color"—I knew I had to learn more because that was a combination of interests that I had never heard before. Lauren says that she "removes maps from their original contexts to reinvent them, creating aerial landscapes with wax, ink, watercolor and tea. Often times, my maps are made through free association. Other times I use antique maps as an inspiration, rediscovering places that were then, newly explored." So with that as our introduction for the day, let's here more from Lauren herself.

Name: Lauren Montanaro Norster

Why do you find maps so interesting to recreate?
Maps and globes are something I've been able to stare at and become lost in since I was quite small.  I find them to be beautiful and intriguing, and recreating them or inventing my own allows me to travel somewhere while in the drawing process, creating my own world.  I also like to incorporate pieces of my day into maps, making them a way of recording time and memories.

Is this your full time work? If not, what do you do during the day and how does this work help you balance that?
No, although I've been spending a lot of time creating art - I've challenged myself to draw at least 50 pieces for the month of November!  I went to school for Elementary Education, and right now I'm working one-on-one with a 12 year old home schooler.  Teaching is definitely another creative outlet for me, and she's an artist too -- so we have that in common.

Explain the process of making one of your prints so we can get a sense of what goes into them.
Usually I'll start off by looking through one of my many map books, searching for a line or some topography that catches my eye.  Then, I put layers of paint down, and start to mix my own lines with the lines of the map. Sometimes I'll use multiple maps as references, sometimes only one, or sometimes none, working just with whatever strikes me. I like to work small, with lots of detail, so even though the pieces are small, a lot of time and thought goes into them.   

Where do you find your inspiration?
Aside from other maps, I find that a lot of inspiration comes when I least expect it -- I'll notice a shape I like in rocks while I'm taking a walk, or be inspired to draw maps involving stars while watching a show that takes place in space.  Whenever I'm stuck, checking out new posts on my blog reader is always inspiring -- seeing new work and creativity always helps!

What's one item on your holiday wish list?
I live in Maine, and really could use a new pair of snow boots!

Lauren has been so kind to offer free shipping to anyone who mentions "Things We Make" in the etsy check out, so hop on over and see what else she's made. Also, for the month of November she's challenging herself to make 2 drawings a day, so definitely stay tuned to see what she's creating!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Late Fall Garden Goodness

Earlier this fall (or perhaps it was late summer) we planted another round of cold hearty veggies in the hopes that we'd have some backyard goodies to take us through November. We planted carrots, broccoli, beets, and turnips and then hoped. As this was my first year as a co-gardener (though really it's Josh's domain) I have been constantly amazed that seeds actually turn into food. I know that makes me sound like a 4th grader, but I think it's hard to remember that when you aren't doing it yourself.

We patiently watched as the turnips, who had enormous, dark leafy green tops that were downright showy in their abundance, grew and the beets timidly started their journey towards our table. After two nights below 30, we decided we'd give the turnip greens a break and pull them—they wilted overnight but kept rallying back to life once the sun came out, but still, it seemed like a lot of work. Josh also pulled some of the beets while he was at it.

The carrots are still out there, but we enjoyed the green tops of the rest sauteed with olive oil, lots of garlic, salt and raisins (that's Tuscan style for you) last night with a slow cooker pot roast. Somehow, enjoying that burst of our backyard made me feel better about the earlier snow shower and coming winter.

P.S. I finished the third panel of the dress and am about 1/3 into the fourth as I take advantage of free time before the holidays arrive. Loving the feeling of progress!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Making of My Wedding Dress, Update #1

Hello! Well, it has been quite the journey since I last wrote—back and forth to Alabama, countless (well, actually about 20 or so) hours of stitching, and a weekend well spent sewing with lovely ladies from all over the country.

My mom and I went to Florence, Alabama to attend a weekend workshop with the incredibly talented folks behind Alabama Chanin. I have known of Natalie Chanin's work for years and when I learned that they had a bridal line, I instantly knew that's the direction I would go. It did not occur to me, immediately, that I would have an interest in actually making the dress with them—that happened over the course of a few weeks. So we drove down (12 hours!) and spent last Friday trying on samples, choosing a pattern and getting the pieces of the dress ready (which involved cutting the pattern, painting on the pattern, and pinning the two layered panels together). We had a very in depth sewing lesson which was priceless and we got to work.

Above you can see the pattern that the dress will be. It's apparently a design that was found in multiple places around the world, at the same time, and is rumored to be magical (I mean I'll take it!). I love that the detail of the stitching, the reverse applique and the beading transform organic jersey cotton into something rather spectacular.

My mom and I have 8 panels to sew and it's relatively straight forward. The thing that takes the most time is that you have to tie off after each petal to allow the dress to stretch—if you did one continuous thread like you do in quilting, you'd bust the seams when you tried to put it on since there are no zippers. My goal is to do all of the stitching, then go back and cut, then bead, so that things are orderly and I don't get ahead of myself beading the heck out of one panel and not finishing stitching another.

We have until the end of February to send the dress back to them—they, the women with much more experience dress making than me—are putting the garment together and adding trim, so there should be plenty of time to complete our work. And if not? We'll send it back to them and they'll finish. Win!

Over the weekend, I was surprised by how different the idea of making the dress felt from the reality of making the dress. You know what? It's scary as heck—I've never done something like this before. I've never actually seen my dress (because it doesn't exist yet!) on my body. What if I spill something on it? What if I'm unhappy with the result?

But then I think about how I didn't really plan this on purpose. I never said "I Want to Make My Dress!" I just did it because it felt right and I knew that it would make me happy. I set out to have an experience with my mom, sew with other women, and participate in the dress. The diy aspect was sort of just a bonus. Plus,  the dress is washable. And the design of it is forgiving and flattering and comfortable. And seriously, I am betting that once the thing is beaded up, it will be so sparkly and delicious that it would be a crime if I didn't love it. So I am working on having faith and enjoying this process because really, it's quite remarkable to get to do this.

To which I say, happy Friday! I have two panels stitched, so I'll periodically give some updates on my progress.

P.S. Thanks for helping mom!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gone Stitching

I'm in Florence, AL where I'll be working on my wedding dress this weekend. Fingers crossed all goes well and that the dress in my head turns out as well in person as it looks in my head!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Warm and Cozy Knitwear from Branda

I am entirely obsessed with these knit bucket hats—I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like them, but I am definitely adding one to my holiday wish list this year. I think one would be just the thing to keep my head warm through a long Iowa winter. Let's here from the ladies behind the darling hat, which is just one type of knitwear that they make. Read on!

Tell me a little bit about yourselves.
We are Mariana and Paula, two sisters who work together and love to do it. We live in Buenos Aires, Argentina and we make hand knitted accessories we sell in our store Branda. There you can find different kind of scarves (from thin to wide, simple to aran cabled), neck warmers, bucket hats and berets, laced cuff and funny fingerless gloves.

Is there significance to the name of your shop?
We called our store Branda as a tribute to our grandmother who taught us how to knit 2 needles when we were just two little kids.

Is this your full time work?
Yes, we dedicate all the time to making crafts, specially knitting.

  What do you think makes your work unique?
Well, at first because it was made for us, not for other person, and we dedicate to do it a time, where we can be feeling and living different situations. Every person leave in a craft a different seal, a different way which is unique.

What do you love about knitting?
We love the variety. Just with a thread and a pair of nails it can be done infinite patterns and garments. Stitch by stitch, just with a different gesture or movement you can create things totally different. Something that is nothing more than a skein of thread becomes a fabric just with a flick of the needles.

 How does knitting make you feel, or what is it about the craft that inspires you so?
We feel we are producing something valuable. All the time we are using garments mass produced, so when we are making or finish a scarf we feel we have produce something special that will be part of the live of someone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Ode to Macaroons

Okay, I made an enormous discovery this weekend- coconut macaroons are CRAZY easy to make. No letting butter come to room temperature (no butter at all, in fact), no beating, whipping, or measuring a long list of ingredients. Just coconut, egg whites, sugar and a dash of salt, mixed and scooped onto a lined baking sheet. 15-20 minutes in the oven later you have HEAVEN.

I would like to come back as a macaroon in my next life.

I'm always incredibly amused (and vocal) when I make something at home for the first time and it's way easier than I thought. I have known I love macaroons for maybe my entire life but I just assumed they were hard to make. They are definitely my new go-to baked good because I just can't think of a single other item that delivers such whopping rewards for such little work.

And for all of you who believe that dessert is not dessert without chocolate, dip these suckers into melted chocolate chips and call it a day.

Speaking of all things sweet, I also made two loaves of pumpkin raisin whole wheat bread (with coconut because I can't help myself) and have been eating thick slices with butter all weekend long. I made a concerted effort to stock the fridge over the weekend because my momma is coming to visit tomorrow—so there is veggie chili for dinner and bread for snacking because it's the first time she'll be staying in our house and I want to make sure that she is warmly welcomed. And, apparently, well fed.

The other big weekend development is that my new fabric came from Purl and it goes with the vintage block quilt splendidly. I'm glad I took the time to get the right backing fabric—especially since I already know this quilt will spend a lot of time in use in the living room and being able to really enjoy both sides will come in very handy.

P.S. A big happy birthday to my sweet sis Katie and my friend Cara!