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The Christmas Stockings

Posted by on 15 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: animal crafts, Christmas, family, needle-felting, sewing, winter, wool felt

Two days in a row! Woo-hoo!

And another big Christmas project, though this one was from last year. Looking back, I’m not entirely clear how I managed to needle-felt three stockings with a newborn, though I guess he was still sleeping a lot of the time in his father’s arms, so maybe that explains it. Years earlier, I had decorated felt stockings for our little family of three people and ten animals, but I’d used the cheap synthetic stuff and had never gotten around to making one for Lucas after he was born. So I was determined my children would have lovingly-crafted felt stockings, newborn baby or not!

I found a pattern for a Santa on etsy for Jonah’s stocking:

Jonah Santa Stocking

I’m really proud of the Santa — and I was impressed how much heftier he was than he would have been had I not followed a pattern — I actually needle-felted him first and then sewed him on rather than needle-felting him directly onto the wool felt. I am disappointed at the shape of all the stockings — they ended up too long and skinny, with boxy toes. But I do love that Santa:

Santa

For my ballet-in-general-and-Nutcracker-in-particular-obsessed daughter, I attempted a Sugar Plum Fairy. Mia loves her, but I’m afraid she turned out a little too manly in the face and shoulders. I tried and tried to fix it until I’d needle-felted everything so firmly there was no more tweaking. Oh well!

Mia Ballerina Stocking

And a close-up of Mr. Sugar Plum:

Ballerina

And finally, for Lucas, I used as inspiration, the wonderful, beautiful book we discovered last year thanks to our friend Lynn — Eve Bunting’s Night Tree

Lucas Night Tree Stocking

The animals ended up a little cartoonish, but I still think it’s sweet. It’s decorated with strings of popcorn, apples and oranges. The family in the book goes to the edge of town each year to decorate a tree for the animals. It’s such a wonderful story, and when they are back home, there’s a scene where the little boy is lying in bed, thinking of all the animals coming out to eat from the tree. Covering the little boy is a quilt with a tree and all the animals on it — a sweet touch this crafty mama really appreciated!

Here’s a little more detail on Lucas’ stocking:

Night Tree Bear

Night Tree Fox

And now I need to get to crafting for this year! I have lots of littler gifts, plus a large crafty gift for each child still to make! I’ll be back in this space, sharing a little of our decorating and crafting as we go!

Advent Calendar and I’m really back this time, I promise

Posted by on 14 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: calendar, family, needle-felting, winter

It’s been a very full year for us, one of wonderful things, though also some sadness. We’ve sold a house, bought a house, lived out of town for an extended period of time, started a business, soft-launched a project, sent our oldest off to kindergarten and our middlest off to preschool, traveled out of the country, suffered the loss of a dear family member, a sweet cat and bunny, and the injury and illness of another family member and cat. But we are feeling grateful, as we enter the holiday season, for our sweet little family, our home, our loved ones. And I am ready now, after all the upheaval, to return to this place and share a little bit of the crafting that has grounded me over the last year. I’d like to start today with the advent calendar.

I’ve been dreaming about this advent calendar for years, and have even started similar attempts, the first when my six-year-old was only one. But it’s never come to fruition. Until now. I started it late, over Thanksgiving, and of course failed to have it done in time for the first of December! The kids had to wait several more days, and I still have some logistics to figure out — how to hang it, for one. But here it is with all the doors:

Advent Calendar with Doors

I had intended to make little felt doors and blanket stitch the numbers onto them and the doors onto the calendar, but well, being days late already, I opted for needlefelting. I figured I would go back and add doors next year. I don’t know — I like how the doors in the snow, sky and tree are camouflaged, and when the doors are open, they are gone instead of potentially blocking what was behind or next to them. But I think felt doors would look better on the house and barn… we’ll see.

Here’s a peek at a scene from one of my favorite books when I was little, growing up in Germany: The Tomten and the Fox:

The Tomten and the Fox / Tomte und der Fuchs

A close-up of the shooting star in the sky:
Shooting Star

And the sweet animals in the barn:
Sheep, horses, cows and bell in the barn

Cat and mouse in the barn

Here are the children upstairs in the house. On the right, two children are reading, and on the left another child is being kissed by a dog (you can see the dog’s pink tongue if you look closely enough!):

Children and dog in the house

And downstairs in the house, the mother and father hold the baby by the fireplace and Christmas tree:

Mother, father and baby

Since this post isn’t long and rambling enough, I realized something that bothers me about so many Nativity sets — the baby Jesus is almost always lying in the manger and it just seems like someone should be holding such a new little baby. Granted, this is coming from a person who pretty much never puts her baby down, but I just realized this season how “off” it seems to me. I did see some cute Peruvian sets at Ten Thousand Villages where Mary is holding Jesus, and it made me wonder how much our own culture plays into something as simple as where the baby Jesus figure is in the Nativity scene. Okay, back to the calendar. Here’s the whole house:

The whole house

The tree:

Cardinal, owl and squirrel in the tree

That’s a cardinal, an owl and a squirrel — somehow my squirrels always seem to suffer most in my calendars — he’s just not quite recognizable.

And the skunk under the tree:

Skunk

Eagerly anticipating opening the next door:

Anticipating what's behind the next door

The fireplace reveal:

The Fireplace

And finally (though the little ones haven’t seen it yet!), the whole calendar:

Advent Calendar

I love this time of year, the lead-up to Christmas, even more than Christmas itself. I love the traditions from my childhood I can share with my own family, the appreciation I see growing in all of them for handmade gifts. Mia, my 6-year-old, is busily crouched over paper, scissors and glue, making gifts for her classmates and her family. And I am filled with happiness, knowing she not only recognizes how much love goes into the gifts I make for her, but she is getting to experience the joy that I feel when I give handmade presents.

If I have any readers left at all, I’d love to hear what you are making or enjoying this holiday season!

A little something for my midwife

Posted by on 03 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: about me, animal crafts, family, needle-felting, sewing, wool felt

Our family was lucky enough to get to experience a perfect and wonderful homebirth under the care of our dedicated and much loved midwife. During the course of my pregnancy, we bonded over our mutual love for animals, and both she and her birth assistant enjoyed having our pup Audrey there for Jonah’s birth. When it came time for me to make a gift for her, I decided to attempt to render in felt a photograph of Audrey and Jonah shortly after his birth. I also included a little vervet my midwife raised and who now lives at The Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky.

Here’s the original picture:

Jonah and Audrey

And my attempt to recreate it:

DSC_8996

DSC_8998

DSC_8999

DSC_8997

I don’t think I succeeded in recreating sweet little Jonah — his nose is clownish, I couldn’t get his hair right and those adorable little forehead furrows… I think I should just stick to creating REAL babies. But I’m pretty pleased with how our Audrey lady and Bob the vervet ended up looking.

The founder of the sanctuary where Bob now lives is featured in part of the book Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species, a chilling investigation into the trade in exotic animals in this country. It follows paper trails that lead from AZA accredited zoos to canned hunts, explains the dangers and cruelties of keeping wild animals as pets and is just generally one of those books that you can’t “unknow” after you read it. You’ll find yourself recounting horrifying details to innocent bystanders, but who knows, you might end up influencing just the right person to make a difference… [steps off soapbox…]

The crafting is coming along slowly around here with a baby who has suddenly started making the distinction between Mama’s arms and just about anyone else’s. So while we manage to never actually put him down, he’s needing specifically me in the evenings when I would be crafting. I’m still getting a few minutes in here and there, and I have some plans for Valentine’s Day, but progress is slow. I’ll try to post some older projects if the newer ones take too long, so keep checking back!

Almost back!

Posted by on 24 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: about me, family

My little break was quite a bit longer than I expected, but I’ve missed this space! It’s just been a blogging break, not a crafting one, so I do have some crafty goodness to share once I get some pictures uploaded. For now, here’s my excuse for my loooong absence — I was crafting a little someone of my own:

sweet boy

Jonah Carl was born at home on December 8th and our not-so-little-anymore family has been spending an awful lot of time baby gazing over the last 6 1/2 weeks. More actual craftiness to come this week, so please visit again soon!

An update filled with excuses followed by some real craftiness

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, family, winter

Well, it’s been ridiculously long since I last posted. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My grandmother has had to move out of her home, and all five grandchildren came from near and far to help empty her house. We found incredible treasures in that home — childhood pictures of my dad we never knew existed, decades and decades of my grandfather’s journals, the receipt to the Plymouth Coupe he purchased in 1938, and beautiful paintings and other creations my grandmother made.

I came home with a wonderful St. Francis of Assisi statue my grandmother had made, which is just perfection — my grandmother’s craftiness gene and the patron saint of animals. Can’t get any more Emily than that. Speaking of which, I also found this treasure, which I like to call “Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist:” (click for a larger view)

Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist

I do have to cringe at the dog breeding part. Someone told me in second grade that animal control officers picked up animals and killed them, even puppies, and it wasn’t until middle school that I really understood what happened in shelters. And now sheltering is such a core part of my identity that, well, I’m a little embarrassed by my fourth grade self.

And then, there was the huge snowstorm that dropped more snow on Richmond (I think about 10 inches) than we’ve seen since we moved here in 2002. FINALLY, the snow I’d been waiting for, with real sledding that didn’t expose grass after one run, real snowman building, real snow angels. It was amazing. We went sledding in the park and it was packed with people. Craftiness and innovation surrounded us as people sledded on beach boogie boards, wearing plastic bags over their shoes, cobbling together warm outfits out of an assortment of forgotten articles of clothing. We Richmonders may not have been ready for the snow, but we were sure going to enjoy every second of it. And while the sheer joy of it has us contemplating moving to colder climes just as those living in colder climes are considering relocation to Florida, mostly it just reminded us what a magical effect snow, especially unexpected snow, has on people. Strangers smiling at each other, giving each other a hand after a crash at the bottom of a hill, exclaiming over the beauty of it all.

That was Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday, I drove to my parents’ house, where I spent two days with them and Big Sister before coming home to a lonely and sick husband. And then today (Saturday), was 80 degrees! Sledding on Tuesday and getting sunburnt at the kite festival today! What a crazy week!  I’m going to go ahead and post some craftiness, but will be back in the next couple of days to share some pictures of these weather flukes, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.

My new Mei Tai!

Posted by on 17 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: babywearing, family, sewing

I’ve wanted a Mei Tai for years, since my oldest was a baby. But I have a beautiful, beautiful Didymos wrap and felt like I couldn’t justify another one. The Didymos is beautiful, but it’s not the most practical — tons of fabric and no stretch. Mei Tais just seemed so perfect. And expensive.

But then I found this tutorial and decided to try it. I’m terrible at machine sewing. Really terrible. But the tutorial was so clear that I managed it! The stitches may be a little wonky, but I’m thrilled with it. I’ll have to practice getting Lucas in and out by myself, especially in a back carry, but it feels great.

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

I especially love the snuggly front carry.

Scandi Mei Tai

I had originally picked out some really cool fabric, but then the lady at the fabric store mentioned, as she was cutting it, that she had made herself a blouse from it, and after that, all I could see was blouse. So instead I used two non-coordinating fabrics and made it reversible.

I love my fall leafy print, but it did seem a little seasonal, so I went with a cool batik for the other side.

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

Somehow, the kids let me work on it all day (I cut out the pattern and the straps last night), though Lucas was pretty clingy by the end of the day. He was happy to discover my project was designed for snuggling.

I have Mia’s finished Valentine’s Day present to post, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. I have a sleeping babe in arms, and Tony just carried a feverish, sleeping Mia upstairs to her bed. Looks like she’ll have her first sick day from preschool tomorrow. Pretty impressive, really, but I feel like I jinxed it by announcing this weekend that she hadn’t missed a single day of preschool due to illness since she started in September. Oh well, a snuggly, rainy sick day for us tomorrow! Poor girl!

Chile Llama Farm

Posted by on 12 Jan 2009 | Tagged as: family, friends, gardening, local food, winter

My friend Melissa and I made habit of frequenting the little farmer’s market that opened near her house last spring, and our favorite vendor is Kevin, a very kind, helpful and talkative man whose small-scale farming operation is called Chile Llama Farm.

The end of farmer’s market season here has been rough. Although our freezer is stocked full enough to eat vegetarian chili once a week and pesto twice a week until next July, we miss the vast quantities of fresh veggies we had at our disposal from May-early December. Here’s a one-week haul from our CSA last summer (and that’s not counting our additional veggies from Chile Llama):

Farmer's Market Haul 6/28/08

After New Year’s, I called Kevin, and he said he had enough lettuce and spinach for our two families to come out and pick our own. We were thrilled and drove out to see him on Saturday, which dawned a beautiful, cold and sunny day. The following pictures were taken by Melissa and her husband Christian.

Our girls had a wonderful time eating “candy carrots,” as the organic gardener Elliot Coleman calls them. In winter, the carrots that are still in the ground freeze, and their starch turns to sugar. I’m afraid the girls didn’t leave any for Kevin!

Harvesting Candy Carrots

Candy carrot

Lucas was mostly interested in playing with the rainwater collection containers and other farm gear, but also tried his hand at picking lettuce.

Little man

Chile Llama lettuce

We had a wonderful time, enjoying the moment, but also enjoying the ripple effect of our children knowing where their food grows, and the wonderful, fresh, organic veggies we’d be eating over the next few days. (Tonight’s dinner was pasta with raw cherry tomato sauce out of our freezer, fresh Chile Llama spinach sauteed with garlic and Chile Llama greens with a vinaigrette dressing. We also roasted Chile Llama beets for tomorrow, one of our little ones’ favorite foods.) It was just a wonderful, beautiful day.

Future farmers

More fun with friends

Fun with friends

Right about this time of year, I start getting the urge to sit down with seed catalogs and plan our garden. And in two months, we’ll be able to start planting! But tonight, I’ll be working on the Valentine’s Day Countdown Calendar. It’s coming along nicely, but I may have a couple of late nights to have it done by Wednesday!