Paper circle garlands

Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree - click for link

Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree – click for link

I’d been eying these paper circle garlands on pinterest for a while. So, this weekend, when we welcomed one of our sons home from sleep away camp, I decided to use some to decorate.

They were super simple to make: cut circles from paper, then stitch. (Look here for a really great tutorial.) Or, if you’d rather just buy some handmade paper circle garlands on etsy, look here or here.

jumbled garland

Since I spaced the circles a bit too far apart, I did struggle a bit with keeping the garlands from getting tangled up in themselves. So, when I discovered that my husband had taken the garlands down without my supervision, I gasped in horror, imagining a heap of tangled thread and paper circles. What I discovered instead, was his very simple solution to the problem: a clip. Bravo, dear husband!

stacked garland

I know I could do better if I did it again (less thread, more circles) but it was altogether a fun and easy project.

P.S. If you’re a pinterest user, I’d love to connect with you there! Here’s where you can find me. 

Hello, new blog graphics!

design your own graphics

I have a new header on my blog! I am obscenely thrilled by this. The pleasure I feel with this infinitesimal change is completely out of proportion with the change itself. Why? Because I made this new header myself.

I know what you’re thinking: It looks almost the same as the old one. Or, maybe you’re thinking: I can’t remember what the old one looked like. Or maybe you’re just wondering what a header is.

Rather than repost the old half-baked header, let’s just say my new header is cleaner and more professional than the old one I cobbled together using powerpoint. My new header is the real deal. And, did I mention I made it myself?

I made it using Canva. Canva?! What is Canva? Canva is a graphic design hack’s dream. It allows those of us with poor graphic design software skills to make graphics that look, well, pretty darn professional. (I learned about it from Abby Glassenberg at While She Naps and I’m hoping to try out some of her many other great tips of graphic design sometime soon.)

On the Canva website, you can assemble graphics using their templates and design elements. You can upload your own photos. You can drag elements around and tweak sizes and colors to your heart’s content. DIY for the digital world.

My first project was to make myself a business card. Why a business card? I have no idea. Who actually uses business cards these days? But here’s what I made:

I only wish I had been able to make the project photos into circles instead of squares. Circle photos are trendy, plus they would have looked better with my circle logo on the front. (Psst! Hey, Canva peeps, did you hear that?!)

I even printed some of my cards up at moo.com I just couldn’t resist seeing how the photo part would print. The answer: beautifully. Now I have 47 business cards I need to dispose of. If any of you readers want one, just say the word.

canva created card

My next project was to make my new header. For this, I created a custom size graphic (885pixels by 252pixels, as recommended by WordPress for this theme). I tried many photos, backgrounds, text boxes, but in the end, I uploaded my own photo of linen, added simple text and viola! New header:

cropped-bottle-branch-header-simple.png

The resulting header is worlds better than the old one. I know if I took the time to develop real skills and use real software, I could make even more customized and special graphics. I could definitely make circular photos. But for now I’m pretty happy to have Canva – it offers the thrill of creating something in the digital world without the frustration of learning new software.

Disclaimer: No, I did not receive any thing for this post (or for anything) from Canva or from Moo.com. I’m just enthusiastic.

July is the month for blueberries

beetsandcarrots

I haven’t been posting much about my garden this summer. In truth, its been a little disappointing. In June, rabbits chewed my zinnias down to twigs, munched my dahlias, and decapitated my yarrow. The spinach bolted before it had any leaves to harvest. I even managed to sow carrots over beets. I just didn’t have the heart to pull them out, so there they are, growing together.

And yet, I’m still making plans and planting. I’m still scheming and dreaming about what I’ll do next in my yard. Just this week, we’ve planted a blueberry patch with a few high bush and low bush blueberry plants, both native to New England.

When I worked as a biologist, I sometimes worked in a wetland* which was filled with blueberries during the month of July. On breaks, my co-workers and I would stand in our rubber boots, calf-deep in water and muck, and devour blueberries. We used to collect, bring home and freeze buckets of blueberries. We used to move noisily through the bog* lest we startle the black bear known to loiter and gobble blueberries by the pawful.

I’m not expecting any black bears to show up in my own little blueberry patch, but I am thrilled to be creating a naturalized thicket in my yard. I’m looking forward to puttering and tending these new shrubs. I hoping to enjoy some berries straight off the plant. That is, assuming the rabbits don’t get them first.

high bush blueberry

not quite ripe yet!

 

*technically it was a fen, a specific type of wetland, but I didn’t want to go all biology geek on you. Thats a side of me better left out of the blogosphere.

 

Beets, beets, and more beets

beet print

Print by Haley Polinsky – click to see etsy listing

It seems I am not the only person who uses beets as a motif/inspiration/subject matter. My recent etsy search revealed beet linocut prints (see above), beet napkins, beet notebooks, beet onsies, and even other beet inspired tea towels.

notebook by burdock and bramble - click to see their etsy shop

notebook by burdock and bramble – click to see etsy listing

root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose - click for etsy listing

root vegetable tea towel by Jenna Rose – click for etsy listing

Nor am I the only person who loves beets. Many thanks to all of you beet lovers and blog friends who left comments on and thus entered the drawing for last week’s beet tea towel giveaway. Its truly a delight to receive each comment – thank you, thank you, thank you! I hate having to choose only one winner! But I did (using a random number generator as in my last giveaway) and entry #6, Britt, is the winner! Congratulations, Britt, this little scrap of linen is coming your way.

beets tea towel

Printed beets tea towel giveaway.

photo 1-7

Last summer, I was obsessed with beets: Growing them, photographing them and eating them. So, its no shock that I used them as an inspiration for one of my summer printing projects.

To make these tea towels, I carved a couple of beet stamps out of  “speedy carve” material, cut the “leaves” off from the beet part, and then used water soluble fabric inks to stamp each section separately.  I printed golden beets, beet colored beets and a few beets with twisty trailing roots.

all.beets.folded

Like my other printing projects from the summer of 2013, I gave most of them away, so it was a surprise when I found this “bonus” tea towel, left over from last summer’s printing spree, and stashed in with my printing supplies.

photo 2-8

I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this project in the next few months, or try something new, but I’m thrilled to have found this ‘bonus’ tea towel and thrilled to be giving it away! I’ll send this last beet- stamped tea towel to a randomly drawn winner. To enter to win this 100% linen, hand printed tea towel, please leave a comment below. Since there’s a holiday weekend coming up (in the USA atleast) I’ll randomly select a winner next Friday, July 11. If I don’t actually know you in person or Facebook, please make sure you include your email address in the comment form so I can contact you. (It won’t appear online.) I’m pretty sure the competition will be sparse so give it a try!  I can promise you it’s really fun to win a giveaway, no matter what the stakes.

 

P.S. Looking at this now, makes me dream of the beets of last summer. Sigh.

IMG_6857

White line wood cuts

 

1st.print.2.finished

Despite living in a city with an exceptionally high concentration of institutions of higher learning, I never mange to squeeze in any type of continuing education class. Usually, school schedules, family life, and general inertia get in the way. So it was a treat when, earlier this week, I attended a workshop on white line wood cuts offered through the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

What is a white line wood cut? As I quickly learned, the white line wood cut is a visual arts chimera – part print, part painting. A woodcut printed with hand-painted watercolors, the white line woodcut was invented by Blanche Lazzell in the early 1900’s and it remains the only printing technique invented in the United States.

Led by the talented Lisa Houck, a painter, mosaic maker, white line woodcut artist and maker of many beautiful things. (visit her blog here), my classmates and I learned the basic steps of the white line wood cut.

Since I am hardly an expert, I will refrain from offering specific instructions. The basic steps can be found here, though if you get the chance to take a class, do! (Especially if you can take a class with Lisa.)

Instead, I’ll say my white line wood cut workshop was a delight. Not only did I learn a new technique, I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and uninterrupted creative time. Most of all I learned that I clearly need to get out and make things more often.

Below are the two prints I created during the workshop. Its still a bit hard for me to look at them and not think of all the things I could have or should have done differently… the expression “an hour to learn a lifetime to master” comes to mind. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach a level of mastery, but I hope I’ll find the time to make some more white line wood cuts.

white line prints

 

Inspiring embroidery on an antique petticoat

photo 1-7

Hello there! I’ve missed you!

I haven’t been doing much in the way of making things, but I’ve been travelling. Specifically, I’ve been visiting an old family home in Maryland.

An 1830’s structure with green shutters and a mottled stucco exterior, the house has been handed down for several generations, becoming a repository for forsaken objects. Dusty books molder in shelves and boxes; odd candlesticks share shelf space with 1970’s antiques magazines, and creaky cabinets harbor old porcelain pitchers, webbed with thin spidery cracks.

IMG_2994 copy

And old photo of the house, taken in wintertime

When I was a child I liked to linger over traces and fragments left by the ladies of long ago. There was a dresser overstuffed with feminine artifacts: tiny crystal perfume bottles with silver tops, hand-edged handkerchiefs, kid gloves, and a tiny envelope of golden brown curls, labeled “Adeline” in a looping and faded script. I don’t know what happened to these items, but on my most recent visit, I came across an embroidered petticoat, shown here.

photo 2-8

Though the fabric is rumpled and yellowed with age, the embroidery is very much intact, with French knots, satin stitch and other elegant stitches I can’t name. The finely wrought flowers work their way up from a delicate scalloped hemline. White embroidery on the white linen, it is lovely and timeless work.

 

And it inspires me. Time to dust off my own embroidery supplies and try my hand at a new project. I’m thrilled to be back on this blog and look forward to connecting with you soon, dear readers.

Taking a break… be back soon!

be.back.soon

 

My dear blog friends,

I will be taking a break until June.

Sadly, I am suffering from tennis elbow in my right arm, despite the fact that I am left-handed.

I’ve given up tennis, but it seems that is not enough. So, I’ll also be giving up (temporarily) using a computer mouse with my right hand, needlework, and pretty much any extraneous activity that involves my right arm.

Hopefully this break will allow me time to draw, paint, or unlock my left-handed inner artist with a Cat Bennet book.  More likely, I’ll fritter it away watching House of Cards, goofing off on instagram, and trying to garden with only my left hand.

I look forward to re-connecting in a few weeks.

Happy spring, everyone!

Elizabeth

Friday Photo: travel ahead

arizona

I’m packing today for a trip to warmer lands, specifically, Arizona.

I spent a week in Arizona last March, when I took this photo. Springtime is when Sonoran desert plants bloom – before the hot and dry summer. What a thrill it was to see so many blooms in the desert. I’m hoping to see more this trip.

I’m not sure if I’ll be blogging next week or not, but I’ll definitely be posting photos on instagram, and I would love have you join me there!

Also, I’m linking up with Martha at Weekend Doings for a picture… a moment and Catherine at Knotted Cotton for a mid-month Slow Bloggers Linky.

How to organize your bed sheets, the crafty way

harry potter glasses embroidery

I’m not even close to being a super organized mother, as in, the kind of mother who maintains a color-coded family calendar, impeccably organized pantry, and foolproof system for managing the constant stream of children’s artwork coming home from school. But I do have my moments.

One thing I can’t stand is a jumble of bed sheets, mixed up sizes (twin? full?) in unmatched sets. (A pillow case from 2008 with a brand new top sheet?! the horror!) When my children where younger, I solved this problem by buying printed sheets: sheets with trucks, robots, airplanes. I would buy whatever it took to get them to love their beds, with the added bonus of easily organized sets.

white sheets, laundry basket

Now that they are older, my sons are ready for unadorned sheets. Even my 7 year old requested plain white sheets after having slept on hand-me down robots, trucks, airplanes for his entire life. With a sigh of resignation, I imagined lots and lots of undistinguishable white sheets heaped in a laundry basket and waiting to be folded and organized into sets for each bed.

Then, it dawned on me: this is a crafty opportunity! This is a chance to put my newfound craft of embroidery to practical use.

all.sheets 2

To distinguish among identical sets of sheets, I embroidered a symbol in the corner of each sheet/pillowcase, one symbol per set. Since this was more funcational than decorative, I stuck with a single color motif in a tucked away location – just inside the pillowcase, at the upper hemmed edge of the topsheet and at a single corner of the flat sheet.

I started with a set of sheets for my 7 year old who is currently obsessed with Harry Potter. We dithered about how to reduce the whole Harry Potter saga to a single essential motif – a lightning bolt scar? wand? Hogwarts crest? In the end, we settled on the pair of spectacles you see here.

Transferring the motif was as satisfying as ever and stitching was a breeze. (I used back stitch this time.) In the end, this was a speedy and satisfying project, though I’m not sure if it qualifies as a craft project, or merely clever housekeeping.

P.S. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I do love this sheet organization idea from her website.  Even more clever housekeeping!