Friday, February 26, 2010

Photo Friday: Cake Love

I admit to having a serious need to bake as of late, and while I don't typically bake anything quite this fancy, seeing them inspires me to consider it. Until then, I'll get my fix flipping through more moody images of baked goods on Nikole's flickr page and via the product images for her store, Herriot Grace.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Granny Squares, Gone Magical

I'm not sure I needed any more motivation to improve my crocheting skills, but this certainly is a whopping dollop of icing on that particular cake. This granny square blanket rivals Alicia Paulson's design that all of blogland has been swooning over, which just means that I am learning how infinitely open to interpretation my new craft is. This blanket is by Sandra Juto, who also knits lovely multi-tone scarves and wrist warmers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baked Clay Impressions by Brooke Schmidt

Brooke sent me the link to her etsy shop a few days ago and I am pretty taken with her clay pieces, particularly these magnets. I like the combination of the imprinted images and the typography, plus her use of deep natural tones. Brooke makes each one by hand and while I haven't held one in my hand, I can imagine that they have a fantastic texture to them. 

From Brooke:
I live, work and play in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. I am inspired by being outside, soaking in the sun, hiking in the woods, enjoying my garden, and reading all night long. A few times a week I stop by my favorite thrift shops, where I can always find something fantastic for real cheap that just makes me grin, thrill or say a prayer. I love the serendipitous nature of thrift shops: their recycling and reusing natures, and the people who both work and shop there. I donate to them and, like karma, it comes back to me. I often find something I didn't consciously know I was looking for or needing. My art-making runs along those lines too: discover the flow, put it out there, and see what follows.
She also makes sewn works on paper, paintings, altered books and such, all of which you can see at her etsy shop.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Instant Heirloom: Weaving with April of April's World

Name: April Gramolini
Location: Warren RI
Sites:, facebook

How did you first learn to weave?

I first learned how to weave in 5th grade. We wove on a piece of cardboard with slits on either end. I didn't  weave again until I was around 19 or so when I remembered that project and how fun it was. Sometime in middle school I was taught to sew. The first thing I did start to finish was a tote bag. From there sewing became a need when I found all of my pants much too long. As I am 5'2" hemming pants was the first thing I stitched.  Besides those two classes in middle school I am pretty much self taught. I learned a lot just through trial and error, the types of things like" I will never do that again".

Describe the process of making a bag- where do you get your design/color inspiration and how do you do the actual weaving?
I don't like store bought patterns or thinking about the design to much. I like for something to form very naturally and with relative ease. Pieces of cardboard progressed to wooden boards with nails (shown below). I start by stringing yarn around nails then weaving across with a long needle. It is a long and limiting process but a relaxing one. Board weaving is limiting because of the size constraints and spacing of yarn but freeing because I don't spend as much time planning the weave design out, like you would have to if using a  heddle in other table looms. When I start to weave a bag or wallet I really don't think about it too much, the process of weaving is fun for me no matter the outcome. I pick out 3 (or more )colors and go from there. Being self taught has seemed to work for me as I don't worry about the rules and regulations of weaving, I just do what feels right to me.

What kind of material are you typically using?
I love sharp color contrasts, bright and funky colors, and stripes. I use mostly acrylic yarns from thrift stores, yard sales and places of that nature.  I love fat quarters in the quilting section of fabric stores. I don't  usually enjoy using the same fabrics over and over, so the quarters help things stay fresh.

Is this your full time work?
I worked for a tailor when I was 19, and learned a lot about alterations. When I was 21, I worked sewing roman shades and pillows and cushions. Now I work part-time sewing bags for Resails out of Newport RI. Although I love to learn about bag making, coming home from sewing all day to sew in my sewing  room can be tiring. I cannot wait to quit my day job and make this my full time gig. I recently started making tote bags from reused coffee bean bags that are getting a ton of love, so I will see where this all takes me!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekend Projects: Quilting, Polishing and Baking

This weekend feels like it went by in a bit of a blur, but I thought I'd share a few moments of it with you. Above is part of the quilt that I've been working on for just about a year. I'm in the final quarter of quilting and while I haven't posted many pictures of it since it's a wedding/first anniversary present, I think I need a little extra motivation to finish it up. Seeing it both spread out in person and here in a photo is highly rewarding, so thank you for indulging me!

I also polished more of my grandmothers silverware since I had friends over for a Sunday night potluck and knew I didn't have enough forks to go around. I love how shiny it is and the floral details.

I baked Josh and I a berry crisp (essentially the same as the Apple Crisp from last weekend but with a pound each of frozen blackberries and raspberries). The bright flavors from the berries was kind of astounding and definitely made me appreciate that I'd picked up the berries on a whim two weeks ago.

For the potluck, I made pizza with caramelized onions, a quick tomato sauce (canned diced tomatoes added to a clove of garlic that I sauteed in olive oil, let cook a bit and then pureed) and rehydrated sundried tomatoes from my CSA that had been tucked away in my freezer. I also made these cookies, though with walnuts and a mixture of cherries and cranberries, using the brick of Scharffen Berger dark chocolate that I had been saving for just an occassion. Sometimes there's nothing quite like a cruchy, yet slightly chewy, chocolatey cookie.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Photo Friday: Lemon Pasta with a Side of Inspiration

 It's been a busy week at work as we hustle to get the next issue to the printer, and I've been needing to draw energy from all sorts of places. Some things that have proven to be helpful on the motivation front included wearing a dress every single day this week (mostly spring dresses over long sleeve tops with tights and boots), eating a slice of cornbread with honey with lunch, and planning a trip to see some friends next weekend. But, the burst of energy that was unexpectedly helpful was stumbling across Rachel Eats, a most fantastic blog from Rachel who lives (and cooks!) in Rome. I am currently obsessed with her pasta photographs and am planning to eat this Pasta with Lemon and Parmesan as soon as I possibly can.

And on that note, have a happy weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Instant Heirloom: Tatting by Jessica Spaulding of Snap Dragon Lace

After last week's tatting post, I decided that I need to share another post on the same topic to show you another tatter's style. This is one craft that I haven't seen done in person, but I am just fascinated by the description of the shuttle that I think I need to find a local person to give me a demo!

Jessica Spaulding
San Diego, CA

How did you first learn about tatting?
I first learned about tatting because my grandmother did it. I tried, but never got the hang of it and stuck with crocheting.  In college a friend and I decided we would figure it out. A few books later and a couple weeks later I finally figured out the infamous "flip" of the tatting stitch. Been doing it ever since.

Why did it become your craft of choice?
I used to crochet and bead a lot, but tatting became my craft of choice largely because it's so portable. Also, I travel a lot beading is hard to take with and yarn is a lot more bulky than thread. I'm excited that I've started using more beads in my tatting, haven't really felt a desire to go back to crocheting.  I've converted over completely!

What are people most surprised about when you tell them about tatting?
People seem to be most surprised to know that anyone even does it anymore.  If they do recognize it, it's usually because their mom or grandmother did it. People often call it a "lost art" or "dying art" but I often get asked if I'm crocheting or doing a cat's cradle. Once I had someone say "Oh, so that's what tatting is!" Apparently "tat" is a common word in crossword puzzles, but he had never seen it done.

Is this your full time work?
Well, sometimes I spend enough of the day thinking about tatting that you would expect it must be my fulltime job, but no it's not. I work part of the year for KJazz, a public radio jazz station in Los Angeles and the other part I take off and travel as much as possible. I've always sold my tatting sporadically but this year I'm taking it more seriously with the Etsy shop and marketing. Of all the laces out there tatting might be one of the slowest, so it's not a good candidate if you're interested in making a living out of crafts.  But I'm addicted and figure it'd be nice to have a self-sustaining hobby. 


How does the history of tatting influence you- do you look at old patterns? Just rely on the basic technique but reinterpret it in your own way?
I do a lot of adapting of patterns, both older vintage patterns and then of those adaptions.  I like looking at a pattern for an edging and seeing how it can be turn into a bracelet or large cuff or even a tablecloth.  Then I'll look at that adaptation and see how that can be changed into a motif or necklace.  I don't usually create a pattern from scratch, but often the starting pattern and the finished pattern look nothing like each other.

How long does it take you to make something like, say, a bracelet?
The time it takes to make a bracelet depends even more on the size of the thread used than on the pattern.  Smaller thread means more motifs to get all the way around the wrist. Some patterns that take 2 hours with a larger thread can take over five with a smaller one. I think most of the ones in my shop now are in the 3 hour range.  I have a couple bracelets in the 1 hour range that will be posted soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Instant Heirloom: Stitched and Stenciled Pillows by Liane of Enhabiten

I have been a fan of Liane's work for a while now, particularly her embroidered pillows, and I'm delighted to share this Q&A with you today.

Name: Liane Tyrrel
Website/Blog and
Location: New Hampshire

Tell me a little bit about what you make. 
For my shop I make pillows mostly. I use organic hemp and vintage fabrics and organic kapok stuffing. I'm using folk art inspired stencils and some embroidery. I'm also working on some vintage beaded necklaces for the shop. My plan is to offer a wider variety of things in the future, including art.

How did you decide to start the line?  It was a fluke. I was running a farmers' market in my town and had previously sold handmade soap there. I was just testing out some other things and sold pillows a couple times. A fellow friend/vendor mentioned etsy. I tried it without any expectations and it took off.

Did you have any teachers who became mentors along the way? 
There are a couple women I know who run successful handmade businesses.  They haven't been my teachers directly but their tenacity and creativity and self-sufficiency affected me indirectly a lot.  I saw them doing it and thought I'd like to have those qualities and do what they do.  I taught myself to sew and any other process I use I figure out through trial and error. My background is a degree in art/painting and I just like to experiment and make things.


Where do you find your inspiration?  
Old things, books and stories, early american folk art, other artists

What's the best part of your day? 
I don't know that I have a favorite, but I do just really really enjoy being able to create my own flow to the day and having the freedom that comes with running your own gig. Every day is different.


What's a favorite item that you've made?
Pillow wise, I really don't know if I can answer that—each new thing is a favorite until the next one. I like making myself clothes and I have a series of small paintings I made back a few years. They have sold but 2 of them are still particular favorites.

Why do you enjoy doing this type of craft, which takes a lot of time and manual effort?

 I love working with textiles and I'm fascinated by interiors and the perfect one in my mind's eye. I suppose the things I make are working toward getting to that perfect interior space.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blog it Forward: What Inspires Me?

I'm thrilled to be participating in the Blog it Forward mash-up that was coordinated by Victoria of SFgirlbybay. If you haven't heard about it, some of my favorite bloggers are sharing their sources of inspiration throughout this month—check out the full mash-up schedule for more details. And with that, here's where I've been finding a lot of inspiration lately.

My new home state of Iowa and the fantastic relationships that I've built over the past 8 months. 
(photo via Girl's Eye View)

Farm fresh veggies from my CSA and having relationships with the people who are growing the produce I eat for more than half of the year.
(photo via Girl's Eye View)

Baking and being inspired to enjoy the process and try new recipes.
(photo via Seven Spoons)


Italian food, particularly a custard tart made and eaten with friends in Italy.

 Pink flowers for their floral pink-ness.
(photo via IreneS)

Colorful fabric in glorious patterns by Anna Maria Horner.

 Timeless and serene quilts by Denyse Schmidt.

Alicia Paulson's ever-impressive handiwork that made me leap at the chance to learn to crochet.

My own quilts, which teach me the value of patience and show me the enormous payoff of working on something slowly for more than a year.

NYC, where flowers like this one grow and thrive, and are as life affirming as good friendships.
(photo via Sloe Gin Fizz)

Check out the post from The Yellow House in the U, who shared yesterday, and Thompson Family Life who's up tomorrow. I'm part of the group being hosted by Smile and Wave, so hop on over there for a peek too!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cross-Stitched Accessories by Erin of Treefox- Updated!

Note: After I originally posted this, I reached out to Erin to learn more about her work—which is something I usually do before posting, but not if I get too antsy and need to share immediately. Check out some of the info from Erin on the story behind her work.

I was reading our RM fashion blog yesterday and saw Erin's work for the first time. I've never really been a big one for Valentine's Day, but I can't help feel like there is something to be said for more hearts (and chocolate) in all of our lives. Above is a delightful little pin.

Here is a sweet bobby pin that would look quite nice to set off a loose bun or to pull a sweep of hair to the side. And below is a bigger piece that shows more of Erin's style. Here's a bit from Erin:
I started cross stitching in college when I was just exploring every medium I could. I was interested in crafts but I'm too impatient to knit or crochet (even though I plan on buckling down to learn crochet soon) so I started cross stitching. There isn't really a learning curve so I just got going! I love the instant gratification I get from cross stitching and I've never spent more than a few hours on one. I also love the size. Each one is so precious & delicate. I can just put in a movie, kick back & cross stitch all day. It's very relaxing.

I like to keep my designs modern and simplistic while having a rustic, old timey vibe. (I'm terrible at explaining this kind of thing.) I keep with the same colours like gold, navy, black, maroon because I think there is something rich and noble about them that appeals to me. I look though a lot of books about the history of cross stitch. There are so many old samplers to pull ideas and patterns from. I love thinking about the little girls in the 1800s cross stitching away in their poofy dresses. I also scour the internet for book scans. They are hard to find and they're often in other languages but it's so interesting to see what other cultures would stitch.

On her etsy page, she says that she makes things partly because she needs to keep her hands busy, which is very similar to my reasoning, especially lately when the busier I seem to get, the more I need to be making something. Which I think is my way of saying don't be surprised if you see some cross stitching or embroidery on here soon—though I am going to try my best to contain myself to granny squares and quilting if I can!

Apple Crisp for Breakfast, Gnocchi for Dinner and Granny Squares In Between

I spent a lot of Saturday morning cooking, which seems to be what I need to do every other week—I find that having homemade foods to eat over the weekend, with leftovers to carry me through the week just makes me feel better. (And it's handy to have food ready to eat when I get home from work and am hungry.) But this means that I tend to cook a lot of things at once, creating a bit of an activity storm. This weekend I made lentil soup, cornbread, pizza dough (which we had for dinner Saturday night, piled high with tomato sauce, red and green peppers, mushrooms, olives and cheese), gnocchi (see below) and this apple crisp. I made it for dessert, but I specifically made it with a lower amount of sugar and butter because I knew I'd want to also eat it for breakfast with yogurt. And I did. And it was good.

Apple Crisp
adapted from Everyday Food and 101cookbooks
1 c rolled oats
1 c white whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/3 c butter, melted
1/3 c yogurt

2-3 lbs apples, thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 and set aside an 8x8 baking dish (or something similar to that size)
2. Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Add to your baking dish and press down lightly.
3. Combine your topping ingredients (it will be pretty wet) and dollop it on top of the fruit, spreading it as evenly across the top as you can.
4. Bake for about 50 minutes, placing a piece of foil over the top if it appears to be browning too quickly. (I did that after about 30 minutes because I knew I wanted the apples to cook more and it turned out deliciously). Let cool slightly and serve on its own, with vanilla ice cream, or reheated in the morning with a big dollop of yogurt.


As I mentioned on Friday, Josh and I made gnocchi yesterday for dinner. For those of you unfamiliar with them, gnocchi are an Italian potato dumpling that are usually with a very simple sauce. Somehow, I'd got it into my head that Josh loved gnocchi, which wasn't actually true since he insisted that he'd only had them once, maybe, and hadn't even heard of them until we met. No matter (though I realized that it would have been helpful had I given him more information as to what they were meant to look like during the process) because it was a fun thing to do together yesterday and they were totally delicious. You can see the recipe here for the potato gnocchi with butter, sage and bread crumb sauce.

I also made a few more granny squares, which I am loving, though I realize that making an actual afghan will take quite a while and will require lots of yarn. That said, I do love that each one gives me a nice sense of accomplishment, so I'm going to take one at a time and see where I wind up! Hope you all enjoyed your weekend. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Photo Friday: Chocolate Treats from Sprouted Kitchen

These pretty packages are filled with Chocolate and Puffed Grain Morsels from the Sprouted Kitchen—which are dark chocolate, puffed grain cereal (like millet, rice or kamut), dried cranberries, toasted pecans and a touch of sea salt. Yum! I love that they are so simple and yet, I can only imagine, quite tasty. Plus, using a jar as a package is a great idea I think we all often overlook. I saw this image yesterday and it really stuck with me because I've been thinking a lot lately about how it's really the little things each day that are the most meaningful. So with that, I wish you all a very loved-filled weekend, with bites of chocolate here and there and hugs a plenty.

Josh and I are going to make gnocchi—I have sworn to him that I will actually let him help, rather than my usual taking command of everything in the kitchen—which I am very much looking forward to. I imagine there will also be some baking, possibly a little quilting, and definitely another granny square or too. Until Monday!

Image via sprouted kitchen, where you can also find the full recipe.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My First Granny Square!

It's not perfect, but it is one! It took a lot of fussing last night in class (and then when I got home and then some more this morning) but I think I finally understand how to do this! Nothing like a little creative crafting challenge to get the juices flowing! Now I just need to figure out how to make my holes smaller and get my tension more even, but I am sure all of that will come in time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Instant Heirloom: Tatting by Kersti Anear

I've been really interested in tatting lately and love that I am seeing more and more people reviving this lace making technique. After we posted this video on how to tat over at ReadyMade and what a shuttle, which Kersti mentions below, looks like), I found my way to Kersti's work and just had to share.

Name: Kersti Anear
Location: Dublin, Ireland (by way of Australia)

How did you first learn to tat?
Way back in 1989 when I was 16

Why do you think it became your craft of choice?
I loved how unusual it was, no one I had ever met knew how to do this, also loved the portability and I adore the actual lace that I make, it's a very distinctive look.

What are people most surprised to learn about when you explain the process involved in tatting?
Tatting is essentially one stitch. Once you get "the flip" it's very easy - it took me two days and 6 different sets of written instructions to get the flip.

How does the history of tatting influence you- do you look at old patterns?
Always. When I started tatting the only patterns available were old ones. Lately with the boom in this craft more and more patterns are available which is brilliant. My own patterns are spring boarded off old ones, generally.

Is this your fulltime work?
Not at all, although my partner says I spend so much time on the website that it might as well be.

Just rely on the basic technique but reinterpret it in your own way?
It's not a technique that is open to interpretation, but the patterns certainly are. I'll often take a section of an old pattern and expand it into something else.

How long does it take you to make, say, a bracelet?
I've just started needle tatting, which is quicker than shuttle. A bracelet would take about 2 hours, although I'd easily spend double that picking the right pattern and choosing which yarn and beads I want to use!

Tell us about In Tatters.
It started as a mailing list 17 years ago and over the years I've grown it into the forum site that it is today. Most of my tatting time is spent on upgrading and maintaining the site. I'm not the best tatter myself, but I'm so proud to be able to say that I've helped others to find inspiration and help to become better tatters through the website. I've got great plans for it, now if only someone would pay me not to go to the office I could spend all my days on it :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekend Project: Learning to Crochet

In addition to making the second pot of my veggie chili within a week and making another skillet of cornbread (as perfect a winter time meal as any, I can assure you), I set about teaching myself to crochet. It's not something I've ever consciously wanted to do until I started seeing granny squares everywhere—like the image above which is from the Granny A Day Craft Challenge from Meet Me At Mikes, and fell head over heels in love with Alicia Paulson's Sunshine Day Baby Afghan.

So a few weeks ago I signed myself up for a two session class at Ephemera to make my own granny squares blanket fully knowing that I'd need to know how to crochet first. I used this tutorial and after a few rows of not increasing the side chain stitches enough, and watching the videos each a few times, I can do a single crochet (I believe that's what it's called). Check out my somewhat uneven swatch!

My tension isn't exactly even but I'm pretty proud of myself and I love that it's fairly easy—at least so far! I'll keep you updated once my class, and blanket, get underway.

Friday, February 5, 2010

And the Winner of the Wear Spring on Your Finger Giveaway is...

Jessinader who said:
I live in MN, which is a frozen mess. I absolutely can't wait for the smell of grass, flowers and the sound of birds chirping as I bike to work in the morning.
Thank you all for sharing such lovely thoughts of spring, they were a pleasure to read. Enjoy the weekend and Jess, send me your mailing info so Katherine can get the ring to you!

February Mini Print of the Month: Let Love In by Cori Kindred

I actually bought this month's miniprint in January, but I'm not going to be a stickler since I was just preparing for Valentines Day! Cori Kindred had a collection of sweet postcards perfect for the 14th (that Cori just added more of to her shop!) that I am very much looking forward to send. Well, all but this one, which is staying home with me. Check out her etsy shop—there is a darling Sparkly Vintage Heart print that is calling out for a good home.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Impressions of NYC, Prints by Rebecca Sherman

As many of you know, I used to live in NYC—which means that while I don't actively miss the city (really, I don't) I do miss aspects of it, so I'm often taken with visual references to the place I called home for nearly 6 years. Rebecca Sherman of Brooklyn is behind these prints, which are inspired by the light, energy and architecture of the city. I just love how evocative they are and her use of bold colors.

Rebecca I graduated from NYU with a BFA in Studio Art and she actively exhibits her artwork in the city. She recently started printing her designs onto tote bags to be able to share a version of her art that's more functional.