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!

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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!

we made a delicious pizza for our fancy friday meal in our new kitchen. we started fancy fridays in our last apartment to have a nice sit down meal with a friend or two. sometimes it’s just us. it’s a great way to decompress and catch up with friends or each other. we had a long hiatus from fancy fridays because we didn’t have a dinner table at our old apartment.  we’re bringing it back since we have the perfect space for it now! i think everyone should have fancy friday at home. reconnect with your friends, your partner or family over a nice fun meal!

this weeks meal was the mini-zucchini pizza with a lemon basil pesto.

the flavors are amazing! i made this up on the fly while i was at trader joe’s picking up some wine. i was craving summer flavors and pizza. try this one at home! here’s the rough draft of my recipe!

baby zucchini –lemon basil pesto summer night pizza

ingredients:

dough

garlic & herb pizza dough from trader joe’s, in the refrigerated section. i’m sure you could use any type of pizza dough. for the trader joe’s dough, take it out of the fridge and let it sit for  about 20 min. after letting dough rest, sprinkle area where you’re going to roll out dough with masa harina or flour.  roll into desired shape, i prefer rectangle.

lemon basil pesto:

fresh basil,  start with 1 cup to 1.5 cups of basil leaves

1/2  of a lemon

olive oil, i  start with about a ¼ cup.

a handful of marcona almonds ( the salted skin-on ones from trader joe’s work great!) you can use regular almonds too or walnuts or pine nuts…any nut you like.

1 large clove of garlic or 2-3 small ones, crushed

about a cup of “quattro  formaggio” cheese from trader joe’s.  you can sub parmesan or another cheese blend.  the quattro formaggio blend is asiago, parmesan, fontina, and mild provolone cheeses.

a little salt is optional. this is not a science. taste as you go…add more or less. this pesto would also be great tossed on a pasta!

directions:

i use a little kitchen aid chef’s chopper.

chop the basil in your mini processor.

add your olive oil (start slow…less is better than more and you can always add more). blend/chop again.

squeeze half a lemon into mixture. blend/chop again.

add almonds.blend/chop again.

add garlic.blend/chop again.

add cheese. blend/chop again.

taste and if it’s awesome, set aside. if not start adding more of the flavors you like.

i blend and chop often to make sure everything is the right consistency.

this way i know what ingredients to add more of.

toppings:

a bag of baby zucchini from trader joe’s. (or any type of zucchini available to you) sliced into thins. i use the side of a cheese grater that lets you cut slices. you could use a mandolin or cut by hand.

goat cheese crumbles (for sprinkling)

pink himalayan salt (or sea salt) optional

quattro formaggio blend or your choice of cheese (you decide how cheesy you want it. keep in mind there is also cheese in the pesto!)

olive oil with red pepper flakes soaking in it. (enough for drizzling or brushing pizza)

assemble:

spread the pesto on the pizza dough.

top with desired amount of cheese.

layout zucchini  in desired formation.

sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles.

bake according to directions on pizza dough.  it said 8-10 min.  i did about 15-18 min at 450 deg until goat cheese crumbles browned.

sprinkle with pink himalayan salt and drizzle or brush with  red pepper flake infused olive oil.

crack open some wine with friends and eat!

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!

cultivating patience

April 2, 2010

it’s  that time of year in southern california when the weather seems unseasonable compared to other parts of the country. early spring hikes, premature wearing of flip-flops and our first pair of shorts find their way into our wardrobe rotation. its invigorating and exciting to watch our natural world wake up. leaves unfurl themselves, pesky bugs begin snooping around my plants and the farmer’s markets begin to fill with tantalizing fruits and veggies.

last year we began growing our own fruits and veggies in our garden. many were a success and some went to that farm upstate where bad plants go to live out the sad end of their lives. this year we are trying again to be our own farmers. allow me to preface this by saying that we’re growing all our veggies and fruits in containers. we have a small yard and no room to plant in ground, so we’re going the container route.

peter has started many seeds inside the house, while we already have some larger plants growing outside. the picture above shows his sprouting seeds from hatch, new mexico. peter grew up in el paso ,tx  and often drove through the chile fields in hatch and has quite fond memories of fresh delicious sun-kissed hatch chilies. that being said, we were sadly informed that hatch chiles can only be called hatch chiles if the are grown in hatch, new mexico. so we are calling them our hatch inspired chiles! they are doing great so far, probably because I’ve had nothing to do with them!

we’re also working on sprouting some carrots, peas and radishes. outside we’ve planted swiss chard, eggplants, strawberries, jalapeños and grapes. many people may say “why bother?” i say, because it feels so good! i love being connected to my food. whether we get to harvest all these plants or not, we get to watch them evolve and learn about the process of growing food.  one day when we have a larger garden it will be so rewarding to be able to plant rows or chard, lettuce and chiles and perhaps know what we’re doing. these are all test rounds. farmers aren’t great farmers overnight.

the other aspect of growing your own food that is nice is the meditative process of cultivating patience. peter has taught me that, by tending to his baby seeds everyday. it is amazing to watch another person connect to the process the way he has. patience is everything with gardening. perhaps that’s why i’m not the most talented gardener!

if all goes well, we plan on having a nice harvest party at the end of the year. we’re vegetarians and also live a gluten-free lifestyle. this makes it so hard to join dinner parties or even accept an invitation anymore. i think people feel that we’re a pain in the ass. this is true. we’re a pain in the ass. we can’t eat a lot of things! hopefully our harvest bbq will show that we can be social and eat at he same time. we also hope to showcase some delicious gluten-free and vegetarian foods complete with recipe book! it should be fun and enlightening experience for everyone!

lets hope our plants all make it to harvest!

sculpting nature

March 27, 2010

over a year ago we found this amazing palm frond on a walk. immediately peter and I knew we had to turn it into a sculpture. here we are a year later and we still have not mounted it onto wood. we want to attach it to a block of wood so that it’s standing on top of it. stay tuned for the results. i should warn you not to hold your breathe. we’re moving like turtles on this one. perhaps this is due to it’s natural beauty. it gently leans against walls in our house perfectly content not to be mounted onto wood. perhaps this piece is speaking to us and we just can’t bear to alter it. ah, but mounted on a would block it would look so sweet!

i love creating bold art inspired by nature’s lines and curves. I endlessly search for these big huge fronds but I never find one as beautiful as the one we found on accident. we keep expecting it to erode or dry out and crumble but it hasn’t. perhaps, the frond’s impending impermanence is it’s main draw. just writing about this sun baked frond is making me restless for an early evening walk somewhere like malibu canyon park. I already have my shoes on….

in love: on a pier

September 2, 2009

in love: on a pier     acrylic, housepaint on canvas

in love: on a pier acrylic, housepaint on canvas

colorful umbrellas. towels scattered. sandcastles growing. piers and ports. markets. friends gathering. families reconnecting. individuals escaping urban pressures.  children screaming.  ice cold lemonades and a cheese on a stick from hot dog on a stick. cold beer. deep belly laughs. teenagers pretending to know more then they do. surfers. bikers. swimmers. runners.

all the energy can be overwhelming when you are seeking breath and space at a beach heavily visited by the masses. sitting above it on a pier with a partner allows meditation to surface and connectivity to settle in. this painting is my homage to letting the chaos become fluid.  the positive elements of the moment quietly  balance out all the conflicting energies.  one can feel in love and free in the same moment.