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Monday Inspiration #1

This week I’ve been nearly obsessed by patchwork and fabric dyeing. I can feel myself being sucked into new crafty pursuits!

  • Lisa Cogden’s quilty pillows. I especially love her use of patches; we have a lot of band patches laying around and I’d love to work them into something we can see everyday.
  • 6.5 stitches is another quilter that uses little unexpected touches like tags and untraditional textures.
  • Stitch in Dye is so inspiring, I woke up on Saturday thinking about the use of color and line in her fabric and quilts.
  • My (so far just theoretical) foray into patchwork has turned up a bunch of great fabrics like:

Sprout Designs
Auntie Cookie
Kristen Doran
Hollabee

What am I going to do with all this inspiration? I’ve been spending a good amount of time absorbing ‘input’ and I almost feel ready for some ‘output’ of the quilty variety. Wait and see.

Resolute

Andre resolves to spend more time with yarn

As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t do resolutions, but I do reassess every 6 months and think about the things I plan to work on. Some things are improvements, some are challenges and other things are just a continuation of last year’s good efforts. This year I’m breaking it down into different ‘areas’: business, creative, and personal; although, really, as I strive to live a more authentic life, I’m finding that everything is connected and that growth in one area requires/causes growth in another.

Business:

I’m writing a series of articles for Etsy’s Storque and writing regularly about business subjects with a bit of authority is a new challenge. It’ is also completely, overwhelmingly exciting!

This month I’m really organizing my files and processes for the business end of BCB. I’ll be using Google Docs to keep spreadsheets of orders, customers, suppliers and accounting. (if you have the same project, here's a great spreadsheet for pricing and here's one offered by Etsy for inventory)

I'm re-commiting myself to my marketing plan (I'll be posting about that soon) and to my weekly blogging (Inspiration Monday, Fiber Friday)

Creative:

I’m taking part in the Take it Further Challenge, hosted by Sharon B. I’m anticipating being stretched by the concepts each month and will be blogging my process on Tuesdays (TIF Tuesday).

I've joined the Greenies 2008 group (on Ravelry), which is a loose group of knitters who want to make sustainable yarn choices. While the business has always been committed to strictly eco-friendly sources, I have personally purchased mass-produced yarn for ease and economy. This year, however, I am not buying any yarn that isn't eco-friendly. I'm sure this will result, for the sake of economy, knitting mostly from my stash!

I've really been considering re-reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I read it a few years ago and was really struck by the changes it enacted in me.

I'm going to sew more! I had success making some Jedi Cloaks for my little brothers for Christmas (my first real sewing project) and now I have the confidence to make my own clothes.

Personally, my family will be eating more locally (once the growing season returns) and switching to more sustainable choices in all areas of our life.

And I think that about covers it!

Resolute?

I'm not big on resolutions. However, I love a project. I might get overwhelmed with all the things I should do, but having a list of things I want to do, puts it all in perspective. With my birthday in June, I like to stick with 6 month projects: short enough to finish and with the endpoint clearly in focus.
The key, for me, is listing each of the small steps it takes to get to the completed project. At my birthday, I reassess and come up with all new projects for the next 6 months (or, if I'm happy with the old projects, I stick with 'em)!
I'll post my lists tomorrow, but there's plenty of inspiration out there, whether you make resolutions or start on some projects:
Photojojo's 19 photography related resolutions
52 Projects
The Simple Dollar's Guide to making Resolutions

I'm also a fan of the seasonal wish-list. On the first day that it truly feels like a new season (no matter what the calendar say), I make a wish list of the seasonal things I want to do. I try to post this in the front or back of my current journal and then refer to it on lazy Saturdays or days when I don't feel like doing what I should be doing. My winter wish-list includes the following:

Knit a sweater and pair of socks, for myself.
Drink hot chocolate
Walk the pup in the snow with Hub
Take a successful picture of snow (which means figuring out my new camera)
Read a great novel, snuggled under a quilt

Sugar-Free Baking

Growing up, we gave Christmas cookies as gifts to anyone not closely related.

Starting at Thanksgiving, my mom and I would start making the longer-lasting cookies (or making sugar-cookie dough and freezing it for later rolling and baking). We'd go to church the Sunday before Christmas, loaded down with tins filled with a variety of cookies, wrapped in ribbons, tagged for everyone we knew (luckily, it was a small church). As I grew older and my younger brothers and cousins were born, we started holding annual Cookie Parties: days filled 4 little boys kept busy rolling, decorating, baking and sugar rushes for all. Most of cookies from these years were best given to parents who could appreciate the ‘skill' of the decorator.

Now that I live hours away from my family, I miss a house filled with cookie smells and countertops that are as piled with cookies as the sidewalks with snow. Last year Mom waited to have the Cookie Party until I was home to help, but this year the boys are older (7 & 8) and they wanted to have their friends over, so they're forging on without me.

I'm also feeling the tug to create my own memories, with my own little family. For the first time ever, Jay wanted to contribute to our Handmade gifts, so as we sat down for a ‘planning meeting' last weekend. I was overjoyed that he thought cookies would be a fantastic gift for his family that we're visiting next week! I immediately started jotting down all the cookies I wanted to make (chocolate chip, decorated sugar cookies, snowballs, brownies, 7-layer cookie bars…) and then it hit us: his family is diabetic. They can have a little sugar (they love my apple pie), but a whole tin of cookies? At least some of them need to be sugar-less. This is a test of our creativity, since, as Sister Diane writes, sugar does a lot more than just sweeten the cookies.

All of my Google-skillz are being tested as I search for sugar-free cookie recipes, but I'm not happy with the quality of the recipes I'm coming up with.
Any suggestions?

Monday Inspiration

This week promises to be full of Christmas making. My to-do list is long but exciting and this week it's my biggest inspiration:


Clapotis for Mom, out of Mati Hari Spinnery's Seasilk yarn, dyed by me.


The gorgeous fibers I got in from (again) Mati Hari Spinnery. Seasilk and merino; I dyed it last week and will spin it up and knit into something for Mom this week, probably handwarmers to match the scarf, or maybe a hat.

Me and Hub are sewing Star Wars Cloaks for my little brothers (like this). It's fun to have a project for both of us and it's good sewing practice.

Speaking of sewing practice, I'm loving the book Sew U.

I'm dyeing to make a neckwarmer like Grumperina's.

What's inspiring you?

Interview love

icicle swirl
I am honored to be interviewed by the Dharma Design blog, as a Featured Artist! You can read the article here. I found the blog and shop through an Etsy forum and am so glad to have discovered her beautiful jewelry. I really love the photographs of her work and her jewelry is really unique.
Wendy features different artists all the time, which is something I love in all forms: getting to know what makes other artists tick. I always flip to the interviews in magazines first (Mary Englebreit's Home Companion has great ones with pictures of their studios) and most of my favorite podcasts have an interview or essay section (CraftSanity – my favorite!, NPR's Fresh Air, CRL with Vickie Howell). There are many many blogs that do interviews but my 2 favorite are Crafty Synergy and the
Featured Seller on Etsy.
I've pondered for a long time doing interviews with artists (in fact, I was a guest interviewer for Create a Connection), but it seems there are already so many…
Do you have any favorite interviews? Is there someone (or some type of artist) that you'd like to see/read interviewed that hasn't been?

Weekly Inspiration

I find inspiration all around me on good days. On not-so-good days, I often wish I knew where to go for an inspiration fix. So, a new weekly feature: Weekly Inspirations. It's my hope to post, on Mondays, those things that are inspiring me today. I'd love to know what inspires others, so please comment, or post your list to your own blog!
This week's list is influenced by my recent receipt of a huge amount of wool for dyeing and spinning, my weekend in Gatlinburg with girlfriends and the upcoming holidays:

  • Elf – the colors, the music, the mood, the illustrations and especially Elf's outfit and those wondrous snowflakes!
  • Corinne Bailey Rae – her songs are perfect for catching up on reading and for dyeing, even her website is beautiful
  • Pies – Since watching Waitress, I've been seeing the world through her eyes, imagining a pie for everything
  • Shari's Friday walks.
  • The new Knitty

Give Handmade – Tips on managing the Gift List

I've taken the Handmade Challenge and am very excited to see so many other people are as well! I've always preferred handmade for myself and my general distate for malls has necessitated our own version of ‘Handmade Holidays' through the years. We do this by paring down the list, making special things for the people who reamin and giving cookies to everyone else. In the 3 years we've been married, we've developed a bit of a tradition:

  • We simply don't buy gift for anyone we won't be seeing over the holidays
    • Jay's extended family is huge (15 Aunts and Uncles + spouses + kids) and we just don't want to mindlessly contribute to the masses of gifts they're all getting each other, so we give tins of cookies or handmade ornaments. I'm not sure they entirely appreciate it, but after 3 years, they accept it. Same goes for my Dad and Step-mom.
  • I always knit slippers for my Mom and 2 little brothers (ages 6 & 7 this year). It's something they all love and have come to expect)
  • Together we make something for his parents (handpainted cookery, pictures in frames).
  • I also try to make a handmade ornament to use in place of a gift tag for every gift I give. One year it was little hats, last year it was beaded wire snowflakes.
  • There's at least one ‘required' gift for co-workers (in every office we've worked in, we've insisted on a name-drawing and just give to ONE person). This just can't be avoided and I'll address the problem of buying a gift for someone you might not know anything about during the Handmade Gift Guide.

The above system not only saves money, it's a great way to avoid contributing to the commercialization of the holidays and it requires us to think and plan and make together.
Even with the small gift list, this time of year always feels like creative overload for me. So many things to make, so many tutorials to read and new things to try. And that's just for gifts. Gift wrapping is something I love, but I never feel I truly succeed in getting it just right. Tree decorating is a whole other creative endevour: finding old ornaments, making new ones. And Baking: cakes and breads and iced cookies. Yum!
Sometimes there are so many things on the To-Create that I get overwhelmed. This year, in an effort to avoid that, I'm going to learn to be ok with buying something handmade.
In that spirit and to celebrate the official start of the Holiday Shopping Season, I'll be posting a daily Give Handmade Guide, starting on Friday, November 23. Each day will have ideas and links on appropriate gifts for different types of giftee (anonymous co-worker, Crafter, Foodie, Reader, Kids). I choose these gifts with the following in mind:

  1. The gift must be handmade (or produced by a small business) or be something you could handmake in a short amount of time.
  2. Be as environmentally friendly as possible (extra points for recycled or reclaimed materials!)

On the final day, I'll list gift-wrapping tutorials and links to Handmade gift wrap.

Oh and many many stores on Etsy are having sales (or free shipping) this weekend, Friday – Monday, to kick off the Holiday Season. Just search “cybersale” to find all of the sales!
Happy Shopping!

Creative Mojo

Ok, first of all, it's hard for me to talk about *mojo* without using my Austin Powers voice (yeah, baby) but my loved ones don't find that funny, so I'll resist (oh, behave).

But in reality, I am feeling the mojo. I've been reading, devouring, savoring Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write a little bit each day, journaling my impressions. That bit about resting in a creative idle, well it really sunk in and started to work some magic in my creative life. After a weekend of emptying list of ‘shoulds' and ‘musts' .. I woke up with a buzz Sunday morning. I had a burning desire to create, to make, to flow.
Luckily there's a stash of yarn next to my bed, so I grabbed the first ball and needles I found and just started knitting. It doesn't matter what I knit, or even that I knit…but what matters, what really spoke to me, was that I wanted to.
I had bemoaned that my interests and inspirations never make that jump into passion-in-action but through reading this book, I realized that it was because I wasn't showing up for it. Brenda (we're on a first name basis, now) encourages the writer (or artist or whatever) to show up everyday, ready to write, ready to create. I had been feeling inspired, but I wasn't commiting to showing up whether inspiration struck or not. Just the commitment itself has become inspiration, spurring me on to action.
I'm not entirely sure I'm explaining this as clearly as I'd like, but I plan on writing about this more, with my journal by my side, because it feels important to get this right, to figure out this part of my creative life. To understand and maybe to capture it…

Pincushion Love

I am besot with pincushions.
Pincushions!

1. three + three, 2. yet another, 3. cat pincushion, 4. bird nest 2 003, 5. Zingy!, 6. Donut Strawberry Erdbeer Pincushion, 7. red ladybird, 8. Cupcake Pincushion (bottlecap), 9. bottlecap pincushion, 10. koi pincushion, 11. custom order for fgantner, 12. Festival de alfineteiros!

They are just so adorable and small and fantastically useful! After stumbling upon the Flickr group, I discovered some great vendors of handmade pincushions:


edited to add: All of those pincushions inspired me to try my hand at my own. I used Purl's tutorial…but only as a rough guide. I cut the fabric a little too small, and my pincushion is minuscule.The dog added himself for scale, but keep in mind, he's little!

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