Sunday, December 14, 2008

Treasured Family Heirloom

This antique tinsel tree is a vintage family heirloom that has been passed down for generations to the third daughter of the first son of each Ehlers family for as long as anyone in my family can remember. It was lovingly brought from Germany by my immigrant ancestors who traveled by boat to America in search of a new life and new opportunities. Even when times were tough and my penniless ancestors almost starved on the mean streets of New York, they never ever sold the tree. Ahahaha! Gotcha!!! I totally made all that nonsense up. The sepia photo of the 'vintage' tinsel tree is courtesy of Photoshop. I'm not sure who those immigrants are, but I am pretty sure that my ancestors would be the sort of people that would sell not only their tinsel tree but their children as well for a hot bowl of soup. In reality, this hideous lime green holographic tinsel tree was purchased last week at Micheal's. It came pre strung with Grinch green lights and when I saw it, I just about died. Be still my heart, it was one 0f the most hideously wonderful things that I had ever seen and I knew that I had to have it for the kitsch factor alone. Thankfully it was on sale and marked down quite a bit because for some strange reason no one wanted to buy them! It also came in barbie doll pink, put I opted for the grinch green one. When I took it from it's box, Adrian's first words were "Oh......My". But I do think that it's growing on him. When the heat comes on in our house it blows on the tree and the tinsel shimmers and flutters. It's only four feet tall and in no way will it replace the lovely fragrant live tree that we get every year. It's more of an addition to our existing holiday decor. I am not sure how I want to decorate it yet. It completely clashes with my naturey Christmas theme that I have going on in my house. Lime green holographic tinsel does not go particularly well with pine cones, acorns, greenery and mushroom birds. I think it needs a theme of it's own. Maybe I'll make up a bunch of kitschy vintage ornaments for it. It's bare nekkid right now with nothing but a length of neon green 'Cat in the Hat' fabric to adorn it's base. Does anyone have any good decorating ideas?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Acorn Addiction

After I completed the last batch of autumn colored acorns I vowed to put away my tiny crochet hook and get busy making my holiday gifts. Well, that vow lasted for about a month until my girlfriend Carmelita Fantastica joined me at my house for an afternoon of movies and crafting. I pulled out my bag of oddball yarns to make her some acorns while we enjoyed watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. By the time all of the brides were married to the brothers I had completed a nice little assortment of acorns for her to take home. Unfortunately, I got addicted again to making what has got to be the crack cocaine of the crafting world. So I spent the next couple of days making up another pile o' acorns but this time in festive christmasy colors. Once again I couldn't stop at making a half a dozen or so. I began to worry when the pile grew to fifteen and by the time I made twenty eight I knew that I had to put away the hook or I'd be lost forever. I do believe that I had even more fun making these ones than the last batch. Probably because it was all snowy outside and the bright festive colors were such a feast for the eyes. The bright red acorns are made from some stunning hand dyed sock yarn that was leftover from a pair of sympathy socks that my sister Brenda knit for me after I broke my neck last year. I absolutely love the socks but that yarn is so incredibly scrumptious. I am going to try really hard to not unravel the socks so that I can have more of that yarn to play with.
This time around I used a darning needle to poke a tiny hole in the acorn cap to add a wee eye pin so that I could hang the acorns.
I never thought it was possible, but I began to run out of acorn caps. I have collected so many of them over the years that I was sure that I had a lifetime supply. Since the ground is frozen and covered with a blanket of snow there will be no more acorn cap gathering until next year. I am not sure what I am going to do when Valentine's day rolls around and I want to make pink and red acorns. And what about springtime acorns in lovely robin's egg blue? I am going to have to find someone who lives in a snow free world and who is willing to hunt and gather for me.So how is everyone's holiday crafting going? What projects are you frantically working on in order to get them done by Christmas? I hope that everyone in having a festive holiday season and is managing to keep the holiday stress level down to a manageable level. I am trying to enjoy more and stress less about the whole thing. So far so good.....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Unexpected Farm

Adrian's cold from a few weeks ago finally caught up with me so I spent the long holiday weekend feeling miserable and whiny. By Sunday I was starting to feel a bit better so I spent the day finishing up my BJP page for November while curled up on the sofa and enjoying a Harry Potter movie marathon. I finished sewing the backing on the piece by the time Harry had defeated the dementors, rescued Sirius and rode off on his Firebolt.It seems as if my November page took a very long time to complete. Probably because it's sort of an extension of my beading in October or I should say my lack of beading in October. I was in a terrible blue funk for the entire month, depressed and stressed over the cost of groceries, the economy, the impending election and a whole list other things. I started and abandoned three separate pieces of beading. I desperately struggled to bead about the autumn landscape in October, something that usually brings me great joy. It's my favorite month here in Minnesota and I usually spend it camping and hiking and enjoying the gorgeous fall colors. But my heart was just not into beading about it and by the end of the month I decided to put October's beading away for a while and get a fresh start on November. With the election over, I began to think more positively about the future and I was able to shake the gloom and anxiety that I felt in October. For my November BJP page, I wanted to bead about the farmlands of Minnesota. I was thinking about the harvest and Thanksgiving and gratitude for all that the land provides for us. I envisioned beading a stark oak tree with rows of fields behind it. I wanted to convey a sense of closure of the growing season. So I began my beading and guess what? The piece fell totally flat. It was boring and ugly and I hated it. At this point I began to panic and I was worried that I'd never be able bead anything again and that I'd have to hang my picture in the BJP hall of shame. I know, I can be a total drama queen, but it thankfully doesn't last very long. So I took a deep breath and bravely started over. I laid one bead down, and then the next one and the next one. Before I knew it, my piece was coming together in a most unexpected way. It looked absolutely nothing like what I'd imagined and it seemingly had nothing to do with farmlands or harvest or anything that I had originally intended. But I liked it anyway and I kept at it, adding row after row of beads until one day I glanced at the almost completed piece and there before my eyes emerged something totally and completely unexpected:A crazy, funky beady farm! I saw beady rows of crops and beady barns and strange shiny silos and beady rows of trees. I saw bee hives surrounded by clover, a crazy round chicken coop and apple trees heavy with fruit. It was a birds eye view of a busy little farm! Okay, so maybe it's a farm that you'd see after walking through a field of poppies on your way to Oz, but it's my farm and I love it. It's the farm that I will one day live on and it makes me insanely happy. This crazy funky unexpected farm may not represent any farm that you'd see in real life, it's more like a landscape from my imagination. It's a place that builds and nurtures and grows for the future. A place where you can be thankful and smile with gratitude for all of the wonderful unexpected joys that life brings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journal Quilt Class

Last week I went to my last journal quilt class for the year. It was by far one of the best classes that I've ever signed up for. The class was was taught by Susan Stein, owner of Colorful Quilts and Textiles. Colorful Quilts is my favorite place to shop, take classes and to get creatively inspired. The journal quilt class was held once a month for the past nine months. Each class started with a show and tell, moved into a demo of a fiber arts technique and ended with us playing and experimenting with the particular technique. The idea was to learn a technique and then go home and make a small quilt using that technique. Several class members came up with a theme for their quilts such as castles or stars or leaves. Susan's journal quilts had a wonderful southwest theme that she carried through by using particular colors and fabrics and images. I had no theme and as a result my quilts were all over the place in terms of colors and images and fabrics. Next year I will most definitely attempt to unify my designs. Even if my quilts didn't quite all match, several of them did look pretty good together. The reason for this is my obsession with the color purple and the fact that on any project it's the first color I reach for in my fabric stash. Here are some of the quilts that I made over the past year:I learned how to make silk fusion fabric for this quilt. It involves using silk fiber and textile medium and results in a lovely shimmery fabric like paper. One classmate added feathery seeds from a milkweed pod to her silk fusion. It was fabulous and I must remember to do that sometime.I learned how to print on fabric using texture plates for this quilt. I used iridescent jacquard textile paints for this quilt. I liked the technique so much that I printed up a big stack of fabric and made a long wall hanging that I hung in my dining room.This quilt was made with sun printed fabrics. I used Setacolor paints which are light sensitive. I painted the fabric, laid leaves over it and let the paint dry in the sun. You have to do this on a very sunny day or your images wont be as sharp. The hearts on this quilt are cut out of sheets angelina fiber. Angelina is a shimmery shredded fiber that melts to itself when you iron it. I added a layer of misty fuse fusible web over the hearts and topped it off with a piece of sheer magenta organza. I love the look of organza over fabric. It makes everything muted and ethereal. The misty fuse holds everything in place beautifully. I used the same technique for this quilt:I found a light blue shimmery organza with glittery silver beads in the prom section of the fabric store. I thought it would be perfect for the night sky. I cut out a piece of greenish bluish batik for the aurora borealis and laid it on dark blue batik fabric. I covered the fabric with Misty fuse and the organza and ironed it all together. I cut out the mountains out of the same dark blue batik. All that was left was to quilt the sky and add some snow to the top of the mountains. I love this quilt but I wish that my mountains weren't quite so triangular.We learned a very cool technique in class last week that I haven't worked into a quilt quite yet. This a piece of fabric printed using meat trays and jacquard fabric paint. Yep, you read that correctly. We printed fabric using styrofoam meat trays that hold the ground beef and steaks you buy at the grocery store. You can make all kinds of designs on them using a regular ball point pen or pencil. I decided to use the images and words that were already printed on the trays because I thought it was neat looking and besides, why do work when it's already done for you, right? I scored a few extra lines around the printed stuff so that I didn't look completely lazy and dabbed on some paint. I think it's pretty flippin' cool if I do say so myself. It looks like hieroglyphics or alien writing. I am most definitely going to be playing further with this technique. Dang, I loved taking this class. From the artwork that other classmates shared, to the demos, to the hands on playtime, it never failed to inspire me. I always came home energized and excited to try new things. What a totally fun and worthwhile class this was. I can't wait until next year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There were never such devoted sisters....

My sister Sandra emailed me today wondering why I hadn't put anything new on my blog lately. She wondered if I had bloggers block. The answer to that is no not really....maybe....I'm not sure....kind of....or maybe I'm just feeling lazy. How about all of the above? Or none of the above. I guess I'm really not sure why I haven't put stuff up on my blog for the past few weeks. I intended to slack off for a week during the elections and then get right back to blogging, but then that turned into two weeks and now we're heading into the third week. I am thinking that blogging is like keeping an up an exercise routine. If you skip a few days it's very easy to totally slack off. Come to think of it, I've been slacking with my exercise too. Baaaad Pam!!!!! Time to get back on the computer and back on the treadmill!Anyway, it was great to get an email from Sandra. She lives in a small Yupik village in Alaska where it's dark all winter long and you can't drink to drown your sorrows because it's a dry village. A couple of years ago Sandra had someone in the village make me an ulu which is a traditional Yupik knife. I love it and I use it all the time to skin ptarmigan and cut up eels for stir fry. Nah, I mainly use it to cut veggies and herbs like the parsnips in the photo.
Yesterday I received a fabulous package from my other sister, Brenda. She lives overseas so her packages always have a lovely exotic flair to them. Okay, so she lives in Wales, not Marrakesh, but it's still exciting to see the foreign postage on the odd silver plastic packaging. In this latest love offering from the UK there was a big box of tea. Years ago Brenda introduced me to strong British tea and now I am hopelessly addicted. Like any good opportunistic pusher of addictive substances, Brenda knows that I am hooked and will do anything for the goods. This is why I am often running errands for her and mailing packages of things she can't get in rural Wales. She gets her Vogue patterns and seam rippers, and I get my tea. When I opened the package, out wafted the most wonderful smell ever. The scent came from the best smelling little candle tarts in the world. You melt them in an oil burner and they leave the house smelling heavenly. The tarts come from this company called Dame Candles that no longer exists which is tragic. The owner, Wendy, came up with the most amazing candle scents you can possibly imagine. She was seriously olfactory gifted. I am completely in love with one of the scents called Pan. It's a blend of amber, cedar, sandalwood, white lilies, lavender, cloves, patchouli, vanilla and musk and it's to die for. Brenda shared some of her little candle tarts with me which is as generous as you can get. I plan on hoarding these until Dame Wendy comes to her senses and starts making candles again. Hahaha. Get it? A scented candle maker coming to her senses! I crack myself up. Along with the tea, candle tarts and some divine chocolates was a bag of oddball yarn. I love knitting small projects so Brenda sends me her bits and bobs of leftover yarn. Sometimes she throws in some fun hand spun stuff. As I was pawing through the bag looking at the fibery treasures, I came across something bizarre that left me speechless. Why Brenda why? The only logical reason I could come up with was that maybe she suffers from a rare infliction where in the middle of the night she is compelled to knit teeny tiny undergarments in her sleep with no recollection of doing so the next morning. To be fair though, I'll confess to making crocheted bikinis for my growing hair Velvet doll so perhaps knitters in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. So if my sister wants to knit teeny tiny underwear that's fine by me. Plus I've been knitting some teeny tiny things myself this past week. I'll share them tomorrow. I really am going to get back to blogging on a regular basis.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And the winner is.....

Tracey N. you are the winner of the Cold Comfort Farm contest!!! If you'll email me your address, I'll get a lamb sent out to you. Just let me know which color you want!

And remember...There will always be Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Acorn Obsession

Okay, so I am seriously obsessed with making these little crocheted acorns. They are the brain child of Margaret Oomen who writes the most wonderful blog called resurrection fern. I can't believe there is someone else out there who enjoys rocks and lichen and naturey goodness as much as I do! Her artwork and creativity is beyond amazing and her photography is absolutely gorgeous. A few weeks ago she had a little tutorial for making these crocheted acorns and I was immediately smitten. I already had a container full of acorn caps that I had collected over the years and thanks to my sister Brenda, who gives me all of her odd bits of leftover yarn, I had a great assortment of sock yarn. Last weekend I gathered up my supplies and began crocheting a few acorns. I thought I'd do maybe six of them or so, but that took hardly any time at all. So I did a few more, and then a few more and before I knew it I had crocheted 27 of the little beauties. They only took a few minutes to crochet and were so addicting to make. I mean SERIOUSLY addicting, like eating Cheetos or collecting agates or knitting wee felted sheep. I used mostly self striping and variegated sock yarns so each one turned out different. The acorns are stuffed with a bit of wool roving and the caps are glued on with hot glue. I think that they are utterly charming and it was one of the best little projects that I've done in a long time. I was thinking of making a couple of embroidered wool felt oak leaves for them to rest on. Or maybe I'll tie thread to the caps and make a mobile. Or maybe I'll just keep them in the little wooden tray so I can fondle and play with them whenever I want.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Church Pew of the Quivering Brethren

Today was moving day at the casa de cherry blossom. After a summer of restoration in the garage, the pew finally made it's way into the rectory, I mean living room. It's the perfect piece of living room furniture for a lapsed Catholic like myself.
The pew is originally from a church in Ketchikan, Alaska. My friend Cyndy was living there a few years ago and she found it at a rummage sale or something like that. She gave it to me when she moved back to Minnesota last year. It was in pretty rough shape so Adrian and I decided to restore it. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it before we disassembled it. It was was really grungy and rickety. The two side pieces were actually split in two and had to be glued back together. The arm rests were a total disaster so my Dad made me two new ones out of ash. I spent the summer striping the old finish off of it with an orbital sander. What a handy tool that was!
After I stripped the old finish off, Adrian and I stained the pieces. We used an all in one walnut stain/varethane finish. I found out after the fact that it was probably not the best thing to use on old wood. The wood sort of soaked up the stain unevenly so we had some streaking in some places. My clever woodworking Dad said I should have put a coat of pre-stain on it first. Oh well, live and learn. After my initial dismay, I decided that I didn't mind the uneven finish. The pew is handmade and is really old. It has dents and dings and dark spots on it from a lifetime of butts sitting on it. It has tons of character built into it. People pay good money for furniture with a distressed look to it. After we stained the pieces, we reassembled the pew. Of course we dinged it up in the process so we had to apply one final coat of stain to it to cover them up. We finished the pew off with the wooden buttons to cover the screws and a final coat of polyurethane. As you can see on the sides, there is a lighter circle up toward the top. That's where some decorative little circles of wood get glued on. We'll get to that this weekend. We are also going to give the backrest a quick second coat of polyurethane. We noticed some dull streaking on it, probably because it was a really cold day when we painted it. We'll let the wood warm up and paint it in the living room. Maybe if we inhale the paint fumes we will have spiritual visions.So here's a contest for anyone who reads this: Can you name the movie that features the Church of the Quivering Brethren? How about a fabulous prize for the first person who names the movie. I will send the winner one of the lambs from my flock of felted sheep. This contest is NOT open to anyone with the last name of Ehlers or Dayne. The movie is a family favorite and I am pretty sure we could all recite the entire dialog from it.

Another Felted Bag

This is definitely the last felted bag that I am going to make for a good long while. I mean, just how many felted bags does one person need? I think I've made three new ones in the last couple of months.
The first one was a modular knit bag that used up most of the left over odd balls of lamb's pride worsted from all of the felted clogs that I've knit over the past few years. The bag was freakishly huge before I felted it. I know that most felted items are huge before you toss them into the washing machine, but this thing was a monster! After I felted the bag, it was a reasonably normal size, but the bag is so thick and heavy! It weighs about six pounds. The I cord binding along the top edge was too tight and the straps felted all wonky so I had to cut them off. I intend to add fabric trim to the edge and make a couple of nice straps for it, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. So that bag resides on my sewing room floor and functions as a fancy felted feline futon for Big Kitty to lay on:The next bag was the felted Fair Isle tote which I use all the time. I used up some stash yarn for that one. I wrote about it a few blog posts back.
The third and final bag was an impulse project. I saw the pattern and sample at my local yarn shop and fell in love with the simplicity of it. I bought new yarn for this project from Knit Picks. I used 10 skeins total of Wool of the Andes yarn in the colors avocado, fairytale and blackberry. The fairytale yarn is really more of a dark berry color and not the weird hot pink that shows up in the pictures. Knit Picks has really affordable basic yarn and I buy from them when I am feeling frugal. Wool of the Andes is great yarn for felting and is similar to Cascade 220 or Brown Sheep worsted . The pattern is by Theresa Gaffey and is knit in modular garter stitch squares. It's a really easy pattern and has some fun design features like a cool mitred bottom. The pattern called for putting the bag into a pillow case before felting it in the washing machine. It was the first time I'd done that and I must say it worked beautifully. The bag felted really fast and there was no fuzz to shave off. I just wish I didn't use a white pillow case with dark yarn though. Well, at least now I have a designated felting pillow case! I really do love this bag. It will be a great library book bag or knitting project bag. I still need to find a fabulous button for it.I'm not going to start any new major knitting projects for a while. I'm kind of in the mood to knit silly and frivolous things that take just a few hours to make. I do have a sweater that I want to finish up and maybe I'll knit myself a new hat, but for the most part I am going to work on fun little projects knitted from my stash of oddball yarn.