Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dreamy Hand Felted Goodness

I am telling you right now, if I were getting married in the fall, winter or early spring, I would SO be buying these flowers for the women of honor (my mom, mother in law to be, sister, bff's) to wear at the ceremony.

Suzanna and Lily are the ladies behind these hand felted creations all the way from Dublin. Their signature seems to be these big, dreamy flowers used in headbands, brooches, bracelets and on bags. There's something about them that makes me want to go walk through the woods in a long flowy dress.

Here's a bit about their work:
We are textile artists, working primarily in feltmaking. Felted wool fabric is one of the most ancient textiles. Our entire collection is created using the highest quality of natural and sustainable materials.Wool comes from an annually renewable source. Each year, the wool on an animal grows back, and each spring the coat is shorn once again ready for summer. We use a variety of raw wools which are selected for their felting characteristics, texture and wearability.They are hand-dyed and hand carded by us to provide a wide palette range, and then hand-felted by layering and building up color and texture to achieve a soft and flexible felted item. Our accessories are created to work across all seasons, and last for many seasons – a counterpoint to disposable consumerism.

I'm actually thinking that these might be the perfect accessories to bring happiness on this spring-straddling-winter season that we seem to be in. Happy sigh to ethereal flowers we can wear on our person.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Highlights: Potato Pie and Pancakes

The chilly temps over the weekend called for some serious comfort foods—ones that were experiments in continuing to learn how to use gluten free flours and to rely on herbs and spices for more flavor in place of richness from cheese or milk. Above is a savory pie that I made for Sunday dinner, along with broiled chicken, and it's made with layers of thinly sliced red skinned potatoes, two layers of a mixture of sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, arugula, thyme and rosemary, and a mixture of 4 eggs and plain almond milk. And salt and pepper of course! On top is a savory crumb topping with a gluten free flour mixture, almonds, thyme, salt, pepper and a bit of butter to hold it together. The flavor was really wonderful though I need to work on my ratio since I didn't have quite enough liquid to hold it all together. I'll share a real recipe when I nail it!

And here's a look at my stack of Gluten free blueberry pancakes, which I made from this fantastic recipe (I used vanilla in place of almond extract and added about a cup of frozen blueberries to the batter). I was so amazed that they tasted exactly like whole grain pancakes and that you really couldn't tell that they were gf. If anything, they are an excellent way to increase the diversity of grains that we all eat and to have a delicious excuse to experiment with alternative flours. It was so great to make one breakfast that Josh and I could enjoy together and that didn't cause me to worry about getting a throbbing headache after. Thanks so much for the great recipe Shauna!

P.S. Please know that I'm not bashing wheat or gluten—this is me still adjusting to the wonders of a headache-free life, which hasn't been my reality since before college over a decade ago. So you can see why I'm excited to be able to eat some of my favorite foods and feel good:)

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Choosing a Tie

When thinking about what Josh would wear for our wedding, and considering that my dress is handmade, my sister's dress is handmade, I really wanted to incorporate a bit of that same fabric goodness into his attire. The easiest place to do that—because custom suits are $$$—was with his tie, so that's what we're trying to do with a handmade tie to match his navy blue suit.
Above you can see the two fabrics that we're having the lovely Anabela of Field Guided make into ties for us. They are both Liberty of London prints from Purl and they both complement what my sister and I are wearing. Since the colors that I chose for the wedding really only have to do with invitations and my sister's dress, we had a bit more flexibility which was fun. And while this project will involve a decent amount of mailing packages back and forth, the cost for two custom ties is still less than one fancy one in a store that we likely wouldn't love as much—which seems like a win in the DIY wedding category to me!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Q&A with Melissa of Everything Blooms

I love today's post because of Melissa's enthusiasm for her crafty side, which is something that I think we all need to pay more attention to. Pay particular attention to the part where she explains how she fits that in with her full time job and also to her husband's advice to her when she was first starting out. He sounds like a good man to have around! And now, here's Melissa, maker of the sweetest shoe and hair clips that I've seen in a long while.

Name: Melissa Moran

Where do you live?
I live in Boynton Beach, FL (South Florida)
Do you think that influences the style of your work? Yes - to some degree. We're so lucky to have such amazing weather here in Florida year round that I do have a tendency to work with bright color fabrics!

Is this your full time work? If not, what do you do?

Unfortunately, no During the day, I work as a market research analyst primarily focused on new product development for food service disposables.

Do you have a partner/husband/family? How do they factor into the way that you show your creativity?

Yes - I have a wonderful, loving husband and a sweet little Beagle named Milly!! I owe the start of my Etsy shop to my husband - he bought me a sewing machine as a Christmas gift - it was a total surprise!! I had mentioned to him that I wanted to start sewing and there is was - my sewing machine on Christmas morning.  Tom is very supportive of all my projects and he really inspires me to continue pursuing my craft ( :

How did you learn to make or decide upon your designs?

For my Fabric Blooms, I first starting making flowers using a Kanzashi method (Japanese art form).  Really like the intricacy of the art, but I wasn't completely happy with the finished product for my hairclips and shoeclips.  I began researching a few different fabric flower methods and began piecing different designing methods here and there and finally came to something that I felt represented my sense of style.

Have you always made things?
I've always had a pretty crafty side, but I didn't start sewing and making accessories until 2 years ago - when Tom bought me the sewing machine!  Now I am completely obsessed!! I continue doing it because the work not only relaxes me but I truly enjoy exercising my creativity by creating designs that people will enjoy. There is nothing like making a Fabric Bloom Hairclip and receiving a picture of a smiling little girl wearing it.  Every time I make something, I think about it as a gift - and there is no better feeling that giving people surprise gifts and seeing their happy expressions when they open it!!

 How do you balance your need to do creative work with the demands of busy daily life?
I make it a point to schedule it into my day. I must admit that I've been up until 2 am before - trying to get "one more done!", but overall it works well. Sometimes I'll have a craft night with my sister and mom - I just love making it fun. I never want my creative work to become "work".

What do you think sets your work apart?
I like designing products that are practical and useful in different ways. I want the products to accommodate and adapt to the people that buy them. For example, my shoe clips are very diverse in that you can wear them to work on cute heels or clip on them on your flip flops for a fun day out.  I've even clipped on them on my dog's collar!! I also must admit that my day job tends to creep up into my creative world here and there, and from work— I've learned that packaging is everything! So, I also wanted to have unique packaging for my products - something that would stand out and claim that it was from Everything Blooms. I decided to make "stems" for my Fabric Blooms. The stems are perfect because it really finishes off the flower look. They're so fun and unique. I've never seen fabric flowers displayed this way and I'm hoping that this will be my trademark!

Do you have any advice for other aspiring designers?

JUST GO FOR IT!! That's what my husband told me. He said to me, "Stop reading that sewing manual and just go for it," and I did and I haven't stopped. At times, I thought that maybe no one would like my work, but I was wrong. If you put your heart into it - people will see that and that's what they'll really learn to appreciate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend Highlights: Early Spring Delights

We were gifted with weather that was warm enough to open up our house for the first time yesterday and even enjoy dinner on the screened in porch. We moved into the house a year ago later this April, so I am really looking forward to sitting on the porch throughout the spring, watching the yard get progressively greener and greener. Our volunteer spinach has grown like crazy and we will likely pick the bigger leaves today or tomorrow. I'm still amazed that it's been able to grow in the frigid weather that's been with us up until now, but it's making us realize that we might as well plant a bit more spinach (and maybe get around to cleaning the leaves and pine needles out of the bed!) and take advantage of a bit of backyard produce before it's time to plant more delicate plants.

Our seedlings continue to grow, and it's so lovely having them right in sight in the kitchen where I spent some time over the weekend.

We had a lot of leftover skillet cornbread, so I had the—if I do say so myself—brilliant idea of turning it into French Toast for Sunday breakfast. It was super easy and quick, and it took the batter really nicely. This idea is definitely a keeper!

I also made my first batch of Gluten-Free Whole Grain Muffins (I'm not eating gluten because I discovered that it gives me migraines) and they are So delicious! I think it's the brown sugar that gives them their lovely texture as they are a bit crunchy, and I look forward to experimenting with other flavors. These are cranberry walnut with a little added cinnamon. I'm really enjoying Shauna's recipes, especially for baked goods, and especially now that I have a kitchen scale.

The other highlight was a Sunday sewing session with friends. It was so lovely to get a good amount of stitching done on my sisters dress with a side of conversation and friendship. Makes being productive much more enjoyable!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Japan With Love

It goes without saying that Japan needs as much help from all of us right now...donations, good thoughts, clean up, supplies, faith, hope...

So tomorrow, I'm participating in the Blogger Day of Silence—along with nearly 400 other bloggers—tomorrow to help raise awareness of a simply way to help. Here's the information:
For Japan With Love has a direct link on the website to the fundraising page for ShelterBox. ShelterBox was one of THE first organizations asked by Japan to help and were on hand on the Saturday after the quake. Each large, green ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.
So go, donate, and take some extra time to be grateful for all that we each have in our daily lives.

Thank you to and for organizing this.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sprouts of Spring

We've officially begun thinking of our garden and yard work in earnest, as you can see by the tiniest of all sprouts in the spots marked "basil". It's still a little too soon to start much else, but we figured that we'd give our herbs a head start as we practiced using our new seed trays (that come with a handy plastic lid to create a bit of a greenhouse) and our warming mat. We put this set up on a shelf in the kitchen by the sunniest window in the house, where we hope that much of our produce will get a good start for the season.
We plan to double how much we're growing in our yard this year with two more raised beds in the hopes that we not only have more space, but also that we have more leftovers to can, freeze, and enjoy through winter. And after living through one season of gardening—which was the first time I've ever helped to tend a garden in my life—I have to say that I'm much more excited for it this year because I understand it first hand. I now know how lovely it is to go outside and pick lettuce for dinner. And to make enormous batches of pesto with basil leaves that are still warm. I loved the enormous tomatoes that we grew last year and look forward to the romas that will be added to the other heirlooms because I have a feeling that they will make superb sauce.

It's still very chilly around these parts, but starting seeds, hearing birds singing in the morning, and seeing the first of the perennials starting to put out green buds is making me feel rather hopeful that the warmer weather is about to return.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Sister's Dress, Update #1

Partly because I've fallen in love with stitching in this style, and partly because I wanted my sister to have a dress that was in the same family, aesthetically speaking, as mine, we decided to get her a dress from Alabama Chanin too. It's the same length as mine and a similar cut that is very flattering on everyone I've seen it on. It arrived with my dress and is just the loveliest shade of pink (it doesn't really come through in these photos, so trust me on that one. It's interesting because this time, I'm stitching onto a dress that is all put together, so I know what it is  looking like as I go along.

I'm doing free style eyelets in two shades of pink and with some in beading along the bottom third and while it's a tad intimidating (not surprising!), I think it will be really pretty when it's finished. Plus, it's significantly less work than my dress was, so that in itself is rather exciting.

Here's a look at what I've done this week. I will most likely finish the panel that I'm on over the weekend and I'll update you as I go. I also plan to add some beading to the stitching on the neckline to give it a little sparkle.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jersey Cotton Bags from Maslinda

While working on my dress and now having just started the embroidery on my sister's dress for the wedding (which I'll show you on Friday!), I've gained an enormous new respect for jersey cotton. If you would have told me a year or two ago that I'd be wearing that material on my wedding day, I probably would have laughed (though if you had told me that I'd be getting married at all two years ago, there's also no way I would have believed you so maybe that's not such a good comparison!). Anyway, my point here is that I think the material gets short changed because we usually only associate it with t shirts. Or more recently, sheets. 
But, and this is a big but, the fabric has so much more going for it. As I've shown you, it can be made formal with the addition of stitching and beading, and as you see today, it can also be turned into gorgeous handmade bags.

Fani Vogiatzi, a designer based in Greece makes her kilim bags out of cotton jersey fabric scraps. "Maslinda just like the name says (literally means “prettier” in Portuegese ) aspires to make a woman feel more beautiful and at ease in her clothes," which I honestly can imagine—it's summer, I'm wearing a simple dress and sandals and am carrying this bag...and that makes me really happy already because I can tell that this is the sort of bag that would make you feel put together even without any other accessories.
Fani shares her time between Athens and the tiny island of Amorgos, and I think qualities of both of those places are reflected in her work. And I must admit, with the dusting of snow that we had here overnight, dreaming of Greece is really helping to start my day off on the right foot. Thanks Fani!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Dress Has Arrived

 I can hardly believe it, but yes, that is my dress, all put together and hanging in my house. After spending much of the fall and early winter stitching the 8 panels, I was calm about the final product, but since this dress didn't actually exist until it was put together, there was a small degree of uncertainty. 

Would it fit like I remembered the sample fitting? Would the decision to use a lower back neckline from a different dress work out? Would the length be okay? Would my knots, which will lay against my skin, be irritating? Would I love it as much when I put it on as when I was helping to make it?

By some miracle, the answer to all of those questions is yes. It fits nearly perfectly and is extremely flattering. I don't need to wear any special undergarments because the dress is so well made that it has just enough structure to give it a lovely shape. The back is very flattering and the overall effect of the beading is sparkles. Which I of course love.

The thing that's been so fascinating about this experience, in a strictly wedding context, is that I somehow (and not on purpose) skirted all of the dress fitting drama that comes attached to going to a bridal salon. The samples at Alabama Chanin come in XS, S, M, L and XL, but they are stretchy jersey cotton which means that probably two of those sizes could fit any one person. And that means that I never felt badly about myself due to a number on the dress. I just loved the dress. And it means that I don't really have anxiety about "fitting into" the dress come July 1 because I'm pretty confident that it will fit regardless. Which I have to say is downright awesome.

And, I will also tell you that as a person who in normal life has a great amount of clothing anxiety—I have been known to return many of the clothing that I've purchased because I tend to feel differently about it at home than I do when I'm in the store—the fact that I have no doubts or concerns about this dress is one of the best feelings. Maybe I subconsciously know that I put so much work into it that to question or doubt it would just be insulting. Or maybe the universe has gifted me with a break with a dress that will carry the most emotional weight of any I will ever wear. Either way, I am totally in love with it and am really happy to get to see it every day.

Happy sigh.

P.S. For any of you who are concerned that my fiance see my dress, he has seen it—I had to share my excitement of opening the box with someone and he was with me when I did much of the work so I thought it was only fair that he see what they became—but he won't see me in it until the big day, which I think is an important distinction.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Postcard from Palm Springs

Thank you all for the lovely comments on Friday. My dress actually didn't arrive as UPS promised, and while it's now waiting for me at my office (tucked safely away, thanks to a darling coworker), I'm enjoying this view at the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs. Posting this week will be spotty as I try to get everything I can out of being at the TEDActive conference, but I assure that I'll get back on track blogging about creative women who make things next week.
Thanks for your patience and I'll be back soon!