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!


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!


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!


June 21, 2011

after peter and i eloped, we honeymooned in hawaii. it wasn’t the most adventurous trip but it was free. while most couples are deciding whether to serve chicken or fish and all the other minutiae involved with planning a ceremony, we were most concerned with spending as little as possible and getting married as quietly as possible. weddings are fun but that whole concept and process was not for us. we didn’t have the time or money to dedicate to a throwing the type of party we would want to put our names on.  getting married in los angeles is the worst.  everything is so expensive. if the thought of doing something makes you unhappy you shouldn’t do it.  in the course of making the decision to elope we discovered that  elopers and non-elopers are way different people. yes, i realize “elopers and non-elopers” are not words. your just going to have to deal with it.

many non-elopers kind of assumed we weren’t sentimental people.  elopers see things quite differently. we were very sentimental and we wanted to own the moment ourselves. we wanted it to feel pure, quiet and about our love. we’d like to have a party someday so our families  and a handful of friends can all celebrate together, but that’s not happening awhile. shouldn’t these celebrations be about everyone’s love, not just the love of the couple getting married?

anyways, lets return to hawaii before i rant too much! we booked an ocean view room , which we partly received.  we mostly faced other hotels and buildings. most people would probably complain, but we’re not really that type of couple. we’re easy breezy yogis who make the best of a situation! we ended up loving the view. it was like a giant life-sized  art installation of hundreds of televisions stacked on top of each other. the content was always changing and the voyeuristic feeling was inevitable. we were watching all these televisions and they were watching us back!

the lines and grids also made for great photos!

filtered light

June 17, 2011

i was gifted a ton of fabric from a good friend of mine sometime last year.  it was a bit overwhelming at first because it was about twenty or so boxes of samples from a clothing manufacturer that had gone out of business. i lived in 500 sq ft at the time and could not take it all. i donated some to the art school where i work and the rest came with me. let me just say that my husband, peter, has been very patient with these boxes of fabric.  they all sat in our living room for a long time. it was hard to start a project with them because it was very hard to navigate through so many boxes of tiny samples. it all had to be sorted, washed and pressed.  i managed to make a couple of little things with it in the old space. i’m very excited of what’s to come in the new apartment because i actually have space to work with it.

i made these great sheer curtains that let in colorful and bright filtered light into the kitchen.  the curtains don’t fit the dimensions of any windows in the new apartment, so they will have to be repurposed into something else fun.  i love natural light washing over a room. i just don’t love people looking into our windows like we live inside a tv. i think sheers do a great service in allowing beautiful filtered  light in but also creating a nice buffer between you and the public.

i made these by arranging various samples on the floor. it was very much a stream of consciousness sewing project. i really didn’t have a sewing plan. i would just stitch seams and hope for the best. i used some cute little ribbons, different twill tapes and even an old drawstring or two to make the hanging loops. it was very organic and i will miss them dearly! try it with old sheer scraps and lightweight cottons!

i was listening to NPR a few weeks or months ago and the segment was about this woman named cassie boorn who was creating a blog for other woman to write letters to their 20 yr old selves. i was very inspired by this project and wanted to join in. i highly recommend it as a cathartic mental exercise. there was so much more i wanted to say to myself and to other women but you have to let certain parts of life just be. i want to thank cassie boorn for coming up with such a great idea. what a wonderful way for women to share their experiences. you can learn a lot about yourself and connect with all women in the process of reflection. i recommend it for men too.

dear 20 yr old carol,

i sit here, a 34 yr old woman wondering where time went. there is so much i want to tell you. most of all i want to tell you be braver, bolder and more open to the ebb and flow of life. you’re so insecure and angry and i just want you to know that your family loves you. you’ll have a lot of decisions to make about your future and most of them will be wrong.

writing isn’t the only art you’ll grow to love. living in words will always support you when you feel the pull of the extreme moods that you’ll face for the rest of your life. i want you to know that there are so many more outlets for you to process your emotions. you’re creative, insightful and incredibly emotional. you’re also more stubborn than most mules. your passions can be blinding. you’ll internalize a lot of fears that others project onto you. those fears will be your greatest obstacles. fear of success. fear of small talk. fear of judgment. fear of being yourself. fear of being loved. fear will be scary until you learn how to harness it into experience. that takes a lifetime.

don’t trust boys until you truly know who you are. most boys who know you before your twenty will only know who you’re trying to be for them. they will hurt you. they will humiliate you. they will make you feel sad. many of them will say things that aren’t true about you. many will think your pretty but that’s it. you’re going to hurt a lot of people too. search for your depth. depth will help you mine your soul and elevate you to a more conscious being. until you can connect with a positive and radiant light in your own life you won’t be able to connect with others in a way that makes you feel confident and content.

you don’t have to be so angry. it turns out your angry because you’re not living your truth. your quiet and that is okay. you’ll find your voice. that anger is going to poison you for a while. it will bring on stress and sleepless nights for many years. the truth is you live for love. don’t mistake this for living to be loved by others. you’ll never want to be surrounded by many. you’ll spend a long time looking for friends that are supportive and loving. even when you find that niche, it will always be tested.

yoga will breathe life back into you. it will start as a physical activity that you become slightly obsessed with. stick with it. a great spirit will form in you that gives you the ability to connect where once those feelings were weak. it will help with the constant inflammation you’ll feel in your body for a lifetime. it will help your anxiety. however, there will come a time when you have to stop doing yoga and start being yoga. treasure that transformation. it’s a lifelong journey.

be brave. be honest. try not to be so intense…it scares people. pour your intensity into art. try writing, sculpting, painting and sewing all your fears, ideas and observations about life into your work. sometimes it’s the easiest way for you to speak. you’ll never feel heard. that will never change. there are ways to combat all the noise and to find a frequency and a medium that support you. live in your truth. love from the deepest and scariest depths of your heart. open your ears to listen and eventually you’ll be heard.

also, you’re going to meet this guy named peter. your life is never going to be the same.

love and light,

34 year old you

ebb and flow

May 4, 2010

“Unlike humans, wolves do not deem the ups and downs of life, energy, power, food, opportunity as startling or punitive. The peaks and valleys just are, and wolves ride them as efficiently, as fluidly, as possible. The instinctual nature has the miraculous ability to live through all positive boon, all negative consequence, and still maintain relationship to self, to other.”   –women who run with the wolves,  by clarissa pinkola estes, phd

love. it confuses people. it confuses both those who are falling deep into it and those watching it happen from a distance. sooner or later those who are lost in the boon of love are challenged by others to reframe or reshape that love into something that suits them better. the quote above reminds me that, for humans, to ebb and flow is life. my heart hurt a little recently. i felt like little bruises were left on my heart. in processing my experience i cried a little, i ran a little, i wrote a little and i remembered who i am a little. the bruises began to shrink and my breath returned to me.

i spend a lot of time alone. i love to write, express, ponder and curate my emotions. as i get older, more time is spent here, in this  contemplative world. i found some pictures i took a few weeks back. i was driving home from my grandmother’s house when i noticed we were between rainstorms and the wind was picking up. i was right by the beach knew i had to stop. these photos speak to me in ways i can’t communicate in words. it is moments like these that heal the unintended bruises that life presses onto your heart.

diy kayak!

April 11, 2010

i have always been one to tinker around with stuff. i enjoy learning how to make things myself, even when it would be cheaper to go out and buy the item i’m interested in making. i owe a great part of this need to tinker and create to my dad. we create things in very different ways. he is a former engineer and math is not my strong suit. immediately, it’s easy to see where our creative paths split. i’m the sociologist who is very into the process of art. he is the engineer who likes to create large scale math based wood working projects.

so he is making this wooden kayak in his garage. i wish i had been smart enough to take photos from the earlier stages of construction. i wasn’t, so what i do have photos of are closer to the end stages. he got some instructions off the internet and tweaked them a bit and this is where we are at. it is beautiful. the differing woods and the designs are really coming out as he begins to add coats of shiny liquids. i don’t know what they are to be honest. next i think he has to fiberglass it or something close to that to make it water ready.

we don’t know if it will float. that is part of the great experiment too. as my mom says…if anything it will be a very unique planter in the garden. it’s exciting to watch. the amount of patience it has taken him to plan out, problem solve and create is so far beyond anything i have patience for! pictures of the water launch to follow once it’s water ready!