I’ve posted before about how I love instagram as a creative outlet – a forum to learn, practice photography, and glimpse faraway places. But I also love instagram as a place to be surprised and amazed by the creativity of others. The instagram posts of Pchyburrs and Chibichibin never disappoint. They go beyond photography and into the territory of illustration and story telling. Through careful staging, editing or both, they create images that are novel, thrilling, and clever. Narrative images that make me pause and think. Images that soar and delight.
Foxes are everywhere these days – on tea towels, infant booties, and tote bags. They are felted, illustrated and linocut. Perhaps it’s the influence if the 2009 Wes Anderson film Fantastic Mr. Fox, but as a decorative motif, an icon, a totem, the fox is popping up all over etsy.
Of course, the fox has also been cropping up at Target, Pottery Barn and Boden, which would lead me to believe that as a trend, the fox is reaching saturation, and that perhaps 2013 could be called the year of the fox. It was only when my children showed me the viral video “what does the fox say?” that I became certain: Yes, indeed, 2013 must be the year of the fox.
I’m not really much of a ‘fancy’ mom as my four-year-old would say. I spend many of my waking hours in yoga pants and Dansko clogs, yet when I first saw this tutorial on making a needlepoint clutch, I knew I had to make one.
I even bought new yarn, fancy yarn, made of silk and wool, rather than use the usual decades old wool I’ve inherited from my mother and a cousin. The beautiful feeling of the Silk and Ivory yarn inspired me to work slowly and carefully, to work to make something truly beautiful and finely made.
The stitching was quick, especially since I started with a long flat stitch (from this book) to form a lattice pattern. Then, the assembly took some time.
I contrived to install a magnetic snap closure and added a pocket for my phone in the lining. (The second time in recent months that I’ve made something special for my phone – what does this say about my relationship with that little device?)
I will probably only use it rarely, but since my usual bag is more of a bucket riddled with loose change, cracker crumbs, and a few wadded up receipts, it will be quite a thrill. No doubt, it will make me feel elegant, chic and, downright fancy.
I have always wanted an excuse to buy something from the adorable Ikea Torva series and last week I finally found one.
Last summer, I made an similar tent for my children, using a twin bed sheet and doing absolutely no sewing. By cutting, tying and scrunching, we made the sheet fit a frame copied from this helpful tutorial. Without sewing the sheet to fit, though, the resulting tent was not particularly present-worthy, photo-worthy, ikea-textile worthy. This time, I wanted to make a playful and pretty tent to thrill and delight my niece and her big sister.
Of course, it turned out to be a little more than the few quick seams I’d imagined, and at one point, I did have to stop and run out to the store for more ribbon. But it was worth the effort.
The resulting tent is sturdy and sweet and managed to shelter 6 children at once when we celebrated my niece’s birthday. It reverses to green and white gingham, breaks down quickly and can be rolled up and stored in a matching bag (made from the pillow cases that came with the duvets). Yes, this tent is present-worthy.
If you are reading this because you are a friend, family member, or because you are my mother, thank you for reading, you’ve probably seen enough of this project. If you think you might have the time/energy/love of Ikea textiles to want to try this, or are just curious about the nitty grittiy details, read on!
I’m not really much of a tutorial maker, but in this case, I feel the need to present the details in the (unlikely) event that I want to attempt this project again, or someone else does. Plus, I have a hankering to try out the wordpress slide show feature. Enjoy!
In addition to vegetables, my garden also produces flowers. Maybe it doesn’t produce the variety I might like (no dahlias, no roses, no aqueligia) but it still thrills me to cut and bring in home-grown flowers. I sometimes fuss and re-arrange the stems and take photos, but before long, I am tossing wilted brown stems into the compost bin.
Earlier this week, I gathered a final bouquet of the summer, wandering, snipping, reflecting, enjoying the garden as it heads toward dormancy. I was so delighted with the resulting bouquet, I posted it in on (you guessed it) instagram and facebook.
There is much handwringing these days about how we (collectively) over-document our lives, posting photos of our breakfasts, tweeting the splits of our latest run, sharing minutiae. It might be true that in the act of documenting our lives we miss out on living them. Yet, what about the pleasure we get from celebrating (and re-visiting the photos of) the simple and ephemeral moments in our lives?
For me, there is undeniable pleasure in documenting my garden. It is an act of joy and an act of creativity. Sometimes its hard not to share. Forgive me, dear readers, if I sometimes over-share. I may have posted excessively about my hydgrangeas this summer, but I have spared you the snapdragons, foxglove, and clematis, among others. For this year.
Over the weekend, I came across the story, “What a Messy Desk Says about You” in the Sunday New York Times. The article describes how working in a messier environment leads to greater creativity, at least, in the research reported. Honestly, this seemed a bit obvious. Aren’t designers and decorators known for keeping messy inspiration boards, crammed with photos, textiles, drawings and knick-knacks? Aren’t there coffee mugs featuring Einstein’s famous quote, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
More curious to me is the creative energy people put into organization and order. Hence, the elaborate and, yes, creative desk organizing projects popping up all over pinterest. I cannot help but admire some of the energy and fastidiousness that goes into these projects. But, I am not one of those people, at least when it comes to my desk.
I like my messy desk – yarns strewn, three books open at once, scribbled notes on scraps of paper – a desk like an inspiration board, filled with happy accidents, joyful juxtapositions, a riot of color, images and ideas. Yes, I like it just fine… until I can’t find the scribbled list, the piece of mail, the thread (literal or figurative) that I’m looking for. Frustrating, but not frustrating enough to incite me to organize. Now, with a science-based excuse, I expect my desk will remain in a state of chaos.
I have a pair of reading glasses that I never use. They’ve sat in a drawer of my nightstand, unloved, since I visited a vision therapist in an attempt to recover previously 20/20 vision. Though I don’t currently need reading glasses, I know, someday, I probably will: I see my future as an aging crafty lady in need of spectacles to thread her needles.
Thankfully, this is not what I saw when I last came across my reading glasses. Instead, I saw a project. I saw a needlepoint case for those negelcted beauties. A plastic canvas needlepoint case.
I cut a piece of #7 plastic canvas (7″ by 6.5″), and, using cotton Sugar and Cream yarn, stitched a simple geometric pattern, which is pretty much all you can stich into the large scale gid of this type of plastic canvas. I decided to line this case with some wool felt, cutting a slightly smaller piece and stitching it to the back side of the finished needlepoint with regular cotton thread.
The final step was to bind the edges and bottom together. Case closed.
I slipped my glasses in – its a tight fit for my tiny glasses, probably because I added a lining at the last minute. I’ll make any future glasses cases a little larger but all in all, an entirely satisfying and speedy little project. I placed the case, glasses inside, back in the drawer so my eyeglasses can wait, more stylishly, until I am actually forced to use them for my aging eyes.
Despite my self-proclaimed garden ennui, I have been spending a little time in the past few weeks tidying up around my yard, trying to tame some of the wild late summer growth. As part of those efforts, I cut back some of my Hydrangea “Annabelle’. (This variety can take heavy pruning, or not – for more info look here.)
Rather than throw these cut stems out, or put them in water, I decided to try drying them.
I took an old copper planter, taped a grid with floral tape to support the blooms. After stripping off the leaves, I dropped the stems in and stepped back, satistified, but uncertain of how they would look once dried.
Turns out, they look great, almost identical (see photo below). I’m not sure if this qualifies as a craft project, or a gardening project, but either way it was entirely satisfying.
Fresh cut hydrangeas, drying in the fireplace on the left. Three weeks later, fully dried, on the right.
Some of you, dear readers, know that I started my blogging life at Manners for Modern Mothers, focusing on manners, motherhood, and the modern world. Here, at Bottle Branch, my goal is to celebrate the creative and handmade life, in a well rounded, slow blogger kind of way.
Yet, it seems, I still have something to say about motherhood. So, last week, I wrote this review ( on ivillage parenting) of the book Masterminds and Wingmen, by Rosalind Wiseman. Parenting is a moving target and sometimes, a good book can help a mother focus her parenting efforts so she can get back to the business of making things.
* book cover image from the author Rosalind Wiseman’s website.
As the summer winds to a close, I have to confess to feeling a little weary of my vegetable garden. I am not quite ready to yank the gangly plants out of the ground. (Though the never-to-flower watermelon, the past prime green beans, the tomatoes threatening to tip over their cages, are kind of asking for it.) Yet, the thrill is gone. When I look at my garden, I see many things I can and should do in it, but my response is less excitement and more, meh, I’ll do it later. If I were a better gardener, I’d be working on fall crops. Instead, I’ll settle for a few more tomatoes, a bit of arugula in a few weeks, and of course, more kale.
It has been a good garden summer – mountains of kale, piles of beets, bowls full of tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and carrots, many of which have appeared in my instgram feed or facebook page. If there is a name for someone who posts way too many photos of their garden vegetables, I have earned it this year. And my garden, which has given me as much pleasure as produce, has earned its keep despite my current seasonal ennui.