Vintage Handmade Christmas

December 1, 2011

We jumped on the Christmas tree bandwagon a little early this year. We justified it  because we have a great window to display the tree and since we’re in Texas during a week or two of December, we wanted to enjoy it for a couple of weeks. We are a sad case when it comes to Christmas decorations. I really don’t like purchasing things like that. We’re really not into decorating for holidays. We don’t have kids, so thematic decorating seems a bit weird. We always get a wreath and sometimes a tree. This year it was totally our intention to invite our friends over to have a party to make ornaments for our tree so that we would have handmade decorations that meant something to us. Life gets in the way and it seems like everyone is too busy this time of year. I was a little sad about this but I’ve moved on.

In the Christmas decoration box I found a couple of things that warmed my heart. A couple of handmade christmas decorations made by my great-grandmother Sparky. She’s no longer with us but she was a hoot. With a name like Sparky you better have personality to back it up and she did!  Anyhow, I don’t know how I came into ownership of these decorations. I think it was after by grandma Barbara passed away. I always remember these in her house when we would visit for the holidays, so they must have come from her.

The decorations are both handmade wall hangings. They’re very old too.  They weren’t in the best shape so I tried to do a little repair work. They are made out of felt, gold tim, sequins and beads. I was struck by how much love was put into these. I feel like they really mark a passage in time. We don’t make crafts like this anymore. Crafts that last and are passed down. They really brought me back to being a little girl.  They’re just so sweet. They make me think about my family more than I thought they would.

I love the wall hanging pictured above. It’s made of 5 vignettes that were patch worked together. There is so much detail in them. I’m really inspired by this particular craft. It’s all stitched together and there is some kind of paper stabilizer on the back. There is even a little tag on back that says “Handmade By Dorothy Flower” (Sparky). I keep wondering how I could modernize this a little but still keep the vintage feel. I think the key is the hand sewing of many little sequins and beads.

I suppose this craft was meant to hold Christmas cards or maybe letters to Santa. I just love the Santa face. Have you ever seen a happier Santa? Look at those cheeks…all sparkles! This is all made of felt, gold trim, sequins and beads.

I’ve had his tiny stocking that Sparky made for me for as long as I can remember. It’s made out of all her normal materials. I’ve held onto it for all these years. I guess my point is that these crafts, as silly and happy as they are , have  been around for  at least thirty or forty years. They represent a simpler time and transport me to another place. I almost got rid of these last year because they were in bad shape with pieces falling off and very creased from being folded. With a little love and gentle hands I was able to repair them and spend a nice afternoon with both my grandma and great grandma! Think twice before you throw anything like this away, your kids may want them!

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Mostly Handmade Holiday

September 22, 2011

I was happy to see that I’m not the only one preparing for a handmade holiday season before the first day of fall has even landed. Things are very tight this year so most my crafts have to pack a punch and be very inexpensive. I’m very into repurposing fabrics for projects or giving an old item a facelift. I looked through my photo library to see if I had any old projects or ideas to share. Maybe one of these will spark an idea for someone else.

I sew a lot. I have lots of fabric gift ideas, unfortunately most my photos are on my old computer. Luckily, I found a few. None of these are super new ideas but the result will be unique depending on your choices.

Bags are always fun gifts. Simple shapes are easy to knock out and the fabric choices are endless.

This Obi apron comes from a free pattern on Burda Style. I used a mustard linen like material and it’s super cute.

Maybe you can make a pair of custom café curtains for someone. This is a really personal gift and best suited for someone who you really know. You’ll have to measure their window and make refinements as you go.  These curtains were a hit in my old house and I’ve had lots of requests for them!

If you patchwork a bunch of fabric together for curtains and have leftovers, you can use it to make smaller items like pillows. This particular pillow was not sewn together great but you get the idea.

Market bags are always a nice gift. Especially if you live in a city like Santa Monica, Ca that has a plastic shopping bag ban! The styles and fabric choices are endless. Just make sure that they are pretty sturdy. This bag is made out of oilcloth, eyelets and interfaced cotton straps. Repurposed fabrics make great market bags. Think t-shirts, vinyl banners, nylon, and old dresses and skirts.

I love making fabric covered buttons. If you’re like me and have a ton of fabric scraps, this is a great project. You do have to buy the button cover tool and the buttons you can cover. You can get these at Joann’s.  I like to pick 3-5 buttons that compliment each other and attach them to a handmade card. These are great for crafters and non-crafters.

Using embroidery hoops as fabric frames is always nice. I like this giant hoop. You can print a fun saying from a hip poster or embroider it. I would add a wire across the back, like you would on a big picture frame, to hang it straight. You could also print on photo transfer paper for fabric and layer an image or words that way. Make sure if you use words to flip them before you print them or they will transfer backwards. I used foam stamps and fabric paint.

Never underestimate thrift store finds! I’ve found some awesome kitschy art work for just a few dollars. I look at everything through a spray paint lens. The ugliest things can become beautiful mantle worthy pieces with just a little primer and paint! Just make sure you gift these items to the proper personality.

Great framed embroidery thrift store finds! Love the orange frames!

Hard to see here but the wood framed stag etched on glass was a great cheap thrift find!

This white owl used to be a gaudy gold, green, yellow terror. A little primer and paint has transformed it into a cute piece that could grace any mantle. The pitcher/vase was also a thrift store find. Both would make cute presents.

Don’t be afraid to paint on canvas. The outcome may even surprise you! When I’m making a painting for someone else, I really try to see their personality in color. I start with color and I just begin to layer. I’m not a form based painter. I love the abstract and the process of building color, texture, and feeling through movement, experimentation  and emotion. Sometimes I write a special note, poem, or letter inside an envelope that I tuck into the back of the frame. Use a decent gallery canvas and don’t expect to finish in a day. Buy some painting knives, some painters tape and just play. I work on my paintings for weeks and sometimes years! If you get frustrated or disconnected from it just stop and come back to it later.

A painting for myself. Playing with color and texture and memories of sunny play days at the beach.

This painting was a gift for a good friend and represents her love for a complex city.

A painting in the works. Who knows if I'll ever finish it. It's already been about 2 years in the works. Sometimes inspiration just comes and goes.

The next best thing to handmade is buying handmade. Check listings for things like Unique LA and Renegade Craft Fair. We bought some great presents and Renegade Craft Fair a few months ago. One of my favorites is from a seller named Miles to Go. They print t-shirts, bags, etc based on books. The t-shirt pictured is the Stephen King book The Gunslinger. We recently gifted the book and the t-shirt to our nephew. It’s a fun way to get people to read books and support a great small business!

Our loot from the Renegade Craft Fair!

I hope some of these suggestions help or inspire some fun gifts for the holidays or anytime of year. I think gifts should be given all year and for no reason! Get those hands working on a project!

Holiday Brainstorm

September 21, 2011

Holidays are around the corner. I hate to think about it but since i make a lot of gifts I have to start early. Last year I made a few small things but we mostly bought cookbooks and craft books for folks. We had lots of fun wrapping presents. I thought I’d share some of last years gifts and ideas for this years crafts to get the ball rolling!

We love to cook and we’re vegetarians so generally we love great vegetarian cookbooks! We hate to come across as trying to indoctrinate others to our lifestyle. We gifted the Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian Cookbook to one of Peter’s sisters who loves healthy recipes and vegetables. It’s a nice book with great photos along with the instructions.

I’m a craft nerd. I love craft books. We gifted to arts and crafts books last year. We got Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts for Peter’s other sister. It has lots of basic crafts but lots of really useful crafts laid out in simple Martha Stewart style. It’s jam-packed with gift ideas! For our niece who is into fashion and art we got a book called Fashion Designers Sketchbooks. It’s filled with fashion designers concept sketches. It’s goes inside the mind of someone who is creating a collection. It shows process and how designers get from point A to point B. We paired it with sketchbooks and a nice Pitt drawing pens.

We bought some H&M outfits for the little one. We bought a nice cheese board and cheese cutters from CB2 for Peter’s mom since she enjoys entertaining. She also wanted a vintage wooden ironing board for her craft room. Low and behold my grandmother had one collecting dust in her closet. She gave it to us to pass along. It had a cover with it but it was old and crusty so we bought some nice fabric to and gave it to her with the old cover so she could sew a cover for it herself.

Music is always a good gift. We like to pick out CD’s, yes CD’s, and give four or five as a nicely curated box set. One year we picked out prints for everyone. We bought some from Etsy and some elsewhere online. We framed them and matted them. We tried to pick things that were thoughtful and unique to each person.

I made some purses, some knitting needle holders, and aprons in the past. Last year i just made a few little things. For all the women I sewed little lavender filled squares with fun fabrics and presented them in little handmade pouches, The pouches could be used later for carrying jewelry while traveling or thrown into a purse for an extra pocket.

This year I have some ideas, most of which I can’t share yet. The one I’m willing to share is for our niece. I saw it on Craftgawker and then visited the original blog. It’s a project to make these fabric wings for a little girl . I think they’re magical. Has anyone made these yet? I’m dying to do it.

In many months I will post photos of all the goods we make. It’s definitely going to be a handmade holiday this year!

the flat: part one

August 18, 2011

We’ve taken a lot of care with this move to make sure that our new space wasn’t filled with IKEA furniture.  It’s not that we don’t appreciate IKEA, It’s just that we practically lived next door to it for three years. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great for when your just moving in and need some staples like hangers, curtains, etc. It’s horrible for breeding furniture in your house. I swear I would go to bed and wake up in the morning and the cabinet would breed with the bookshelf and a new hybrid cabinet bookshelf would be in the room. It happened in every room.  Soon after the finishes on the furniture would start to bubble or peel. We would swear to ourselves that we would just save up and get the piece of furniture we really wanted instead of constantly disposing of stuff we bought on a whim. Our old 550 sq foot apartment was jam-packed with horrible mismatched storage solutions. Our house was only made up of a series of walking paths between storage solutions.

When we finally decided to commit and move, we also decided not to bring any of the IKEA with us. We would’ve loved to keep our old sectional but it didn’t fit. Well, the bookshelf that houses all our records also came with us. We got rid of everything! We sold it all with the promise of investing in more non-disposable furniture.  I was so surprised at how easily we just let go of stuff.  It was a nice cleansing process. The cherry on top was that we made some decent cash! We scrimped and saved and purchased items thoughtfully. We were also very patient. With our diligence and our creativity we’ve begun the process of creating an ever-changing space that feels cheerful, creative, and more mindful. Our dining room and living room are pretty much done but will always be tinkered with.

For now, here are some before and after photos of the living and dining rooms. Maybe it will inspire some makeovers somewhere else out in internetland…maybe it won’t but we had lots of fun putting it all together!

In the dining room we put up floating picture ledges to create a wall of impermanent art. If there is one thing we’ve discovered about ourselves, it’s that we change things around a lot. Art is always being moved around. The walls in our last apartment can vouch for that! these shelves give us the opportunity to create multiple new installations. We don’t have much for it yet but now we can keep collecting more prints and interesting pieces without having to think about where to place them!

Before: Our old empty dining room. The rug is actually from IKEA and i love it!

After: Picture ledges on one side for revolving art, Modernica chair that moves around the house, and new curtains and rods.

DIY chalkboard project! This measures about 4 ft X 5 ft. It's pretty fun!

peter drew this moth. Still needs legs but looks so awesome!

We move the table under the chalkboard to create a roomier workspace. When we need to entertain or just want a more formal sitting area we bring it back to the middle.

To make this chalkboard, we simply had hard board (found in the paneling section) cut into our desired dimensions at Lowe’s. We created another chalkboard for the kitchen with the extra piece. It was about $6-$10 bucks. It comes in 4 ft X 8 ft pieces. Make sure you have a car that fits your cut pieces! Then we just painted it with chalkboard paint.  We did two coats over two days. Then we let it sit for four days. Then we primed it with the side of a piece of chalk. If you don’t do this the first thing you write or draw will be there forever. We bought chalk and an eraser at Michael’s. We hung this directly into the wall with 6 screws. We plan on adding some molding to the bottom to create a chalk rail. If you have carpet you’ll should be mindful that chalk creates a lot of dust that travels to the floor. until we create a rail, we’re just using white chalk.

My dad made the table and benches for me close to 9 or 10 years ago! I love this table.

In the living room we built our own love seat at The Sofa Company. This style is the Rupert. We had them add buttons on the pillows to make it look more mid-century. The bookshelf, rug, desk, curtains and curtain rods are all from West Elm.  The mini wing-back chair was from the clearance store that H.D. Buttercup used to have in Culver City.

Before: From the dining room in to the living room.

Before: View out of the front window.

After: Here she is all dressed up!

This image is from before we had our rug but it shows the style of the love seat a bit better.

After: We dressed up the patio a bit!

After: Our cool Olly Moss print from Peter's work!

We moved one of the benches out of the dining room to create more space.  We’re using it as a temporary coffee table. I think we need to sell more of our stuff off before we can buy one anytime soon! this works for now. I’m all about repurposing furniture before buying it.

The next rooms on the agenda are the bedroom and the guest room!

rediscovery

July 20, 2011

moving has been great for peter and myself. we’ve gotten out of the house more, recommitted to our creative paths, taken on new challenges, reconnected with friends, and really found a space to breathe. our old apartment was so small and our furniture so big that it just weighed us down.  there was no room to do anything, especially for people with as many hobbies as hipsters have clever t-shirts. it just felt like our creative and social animals were dying!

this summer has been pretty lovely so far. we’ve been out and about!

there are some simple pleasures in los angeles! often, longtime residents like myself become jaded by the plasticity of the energy that seeps out of every crevice of this city. it’s hard to find substance in a city that asks you to wear a mask all the time and where everyone wants to put on a mask.  we forget that we have a beautiful coastline and mountains nestled into that coastline. we have amazing music venues like the hollywood bowl and little neighborhoods that offer you something outside of your hood. there are so many great restaurants and gastropubs popping up that are serving fun food for decent prices.  our farmers markets are awesome and the bbq weather has been perfect! every weekend there is some sort of festival promoting food, art, music, craft, or all the above.  when i transferred some photos to my computer this morning i was looking at all these great moments.

our culture has trained us to move on. i just did all these activities recently, and already the pace of the city has made me forget the moments. i guess the lesson always lies in gratitude and remembering that creative and positive moments are sleeping all around us, we just have awaken and feed those moments!

go out and rediscover your city or just try to appreciate it! not everything is plastic here. most things but everything!

 

summer days phase 1:

hollywood bowl

 

bbqing at our friend chaz’s house

    

renegade craft fair (los angeles historical park)

playa del rey (my old stomping grounds)

the tripel (awesome post beach beers in playa del rey)

free subway rides (personally i loved carmeggedon!)

chinatown

olvera street

union station

staring out my new window

so excited for phase 2 because it involves camping in big sur!

cornered

June 23, 2011

the breezy corner of our new kitchen gets a tremendous amount of light.  i love a bright kitchen with windows, so we’re pretty lucky. the tricky part is that it’s a corner window. i’ve never really hung curtains in this type of situation.  it’s tricky.

for the time being, i’ve hung one rod on the main window that has a gorgeous view of the parking lot. everyone stares into our unit after parking their cars.  i wanted to have fun sheers that put a bit of a buffer between us and the public.  i was able to reuse one curtain i made from our old apartment. this set off the design for the second curtain. the second curtain was maddening to put together. all my fabric and sewing  supplies are still scattered around the apartment in boxes.

i’ve managed to make two curtains, but my question is about the third. what do i do? will three of this patchwork sheers be too much? they let in wonderful light and really change their look throughout the day. the curtains are really the only color in the kitchen. everything is white on white on more white. should i break it up with one simpler  grayish sheer curtain with a strip of patchwork at the bottom? or should i just go for it and make it fun?

i think i will take a little space from this project. i always have to remind the kids i teach that it’s okay to step away from your painting for a while and take a break. it’s okay to stop and come back to it with more energy. i think i will follow my advice today!