I’ve been absent, I apologize. I’ve been distracted. Life has been a bit nuttsy and I’ve been trying to keep my head above water; I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I have been making art, though. Lots and lots of pottery, knitting, quilting… but mostly pottery. Matt and I are getting married next month (that nuttsy life thing I mentioned earlier) and I decided to make mugs and bowls as wedding favors. So… that took a lot of time.
I made over a hundred. Not all were usable… I had some trouble finding the right glaze that would show the stamp. Plus I had a few that just didn’t turn out. This one, for instance…
Once I finished with favors I got really crazy and decided to make centerpieces. I thought about making small pots for succulents, which I did for a show a few years ago. They looked like this:
But then I started thinking about the logistics of this plan. We are getting married in a National Park five hours away. I’m already packing up a hundred bowls to transport. What is the plan here? Am I bringing all the pots and succulents already planted? Am I going to get there and then buy plants and a bag of dirt from Home Depot and spend the day before the wedding planting these? Also, how much is that going to cost, when each little succulent is five bucks or so and I need enough for twelve tables? And then what do I do with them? Take them to Vegas on our mini-moon?
I spent a lot of time noodling on it. For a minute I thought “fuck the centerpieces, who cares!” But then I saw this photo online:
And I decided to steal the idea! Because that’s the kind of artist I am. Here are a few of the ones I made.
Now making succulents is my new favorite thing! Which is great because I am so bad with plants I can’t even keep a cactus alive. Here is my plan. I’m going to force my friends to make a few of these at my hen party and then fire them and deliver them to their makers at the wedding as gifts… after I’m done using them as centerpieces, that is. Free labor and loving homes for the little dudes after? Um, hell yes. I don’t often feel this proud of myself but, damn. I’m a flipping genius.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve made a few other things as well. There’s also a wedding quilt which is coming together. Here are a few of the blocks I made.
This owl design is based on one of my favorite photos of Mr. Owlbertson that I took a few years ago.
To be honest, I hate quilting. I like fabric and I appreciate the artistry, but it makes my brain hurt. It’s basically just math but with bleeding.
I think I’ll stick with clay. That’s my happy place.
I really didn’t want to write about COVID19. I know it’s impossible to escape right now. But honestly, it is all I think about. Maybe in another week or two this will just be my new life and I’ll be back to worrying about things other than how quickly my household is going through toilet paper.
Because I am lucky enough to have a job, my health, and family, this is an example of how the virus is affecting me:
Last week, I got an email from work which, at first glance, appeared to indicate that I had made a large mistake. Before I could register what I was reading or go back and look into the matter, Matt called to me from the other room in a panic. He needed help tuning Ethan’s violin before his online lesson started in three minutes. I do not know how to tune a violin, but I was needed so I shot off an email to my coworkers, apologizing profusely for being an idiot, and dashed off to learn about tuning pegs. Between Matt and I, we made the violin much worse. But once Ethan’s lesson started, his instructor was able to talk us through it and most of his lesson wasn’t wasted. I returned to my computer, re-read the email and opened up a few files to see what had happened. Turned out that everything was fine. There was no mistake in action on my part, only a small mistake in communication on someone else’s part, and I had leaped onto my sword in my apology email for no reason.
I’m not sure, but I think my blood-pressure broke a record high in that 15 minute interval.
This is what I am going through, because as I said, I am very lucky. My sisters and most of my friends have full time jobs and multiple children to home school, also full time. And I don’t know anyone who is sick! I can’t even imagine what those folks are going through.
I’m just trying to keep on top of things at work and home, but it is tricky. I feel like a big part of living with this pandemic is like playing a multi week long scavenger hunt. I’m finding out what I need to collect just a little too late, however. First it was toilet paper, then paper towels, eggs, flour, then paper towels again. Then, a few days ago, we got the “order” (a gentle request from our Republican governor with zero consequences for ignoring it) to wear homemade masks while in stores.
The homemade part is important because they want to save all the medical supplies for health care workers. I have heard just how important this is multiple times on NPR. And that matters NPR is the closest thing that I have to a religion now. It used to be the second closest but brunch has been cancelled until further notice.
I set about making masks and again, I am very lucky here. I have a sewing machine. I can sew. Not well, but I can. It occurred to me that I was being called to use my least favorite crafting skill for my country and I was a little irritated by this fact. If this were a knitting crisis, I would be kicking ass. I would be the equivalent of the mom in the Incredibles at knitting the country back together. But no. It had to be sewing.
I have plenty of fabric laying around, so that wasn’t a problem. This is when I realized I missed out on another important item from the scavenger hunt list: elastic. I saw people online using hair elastics but I was concerned about making that work if the mask was either a little too big or a little too small. I decided to go to Joann’s Fabric and see what I could find. The only elastic they had was for waistbands, which was much too wide. I found a lot of ribbon though, so I decided to use that and just tie the damn thing.
As I was poking around looking at ribbon and thread, I noticed that everyone else in the store was already wearing a homemade mask, and they were all perfectly executed. Hang on! I said in my mind. I’m working on it!
I heard on NPR that it takes about five minutes to sew one of these masks. I knew that it would take me longer, but it took about one hour and forty five minutes longer. I found a free pattern online and immediately had to start improvising with it because it was so large it would have covered my entire face. You remember that kid from So I Married an Axe Murderer? The one that has a head “like an orange on a toothpick”? I have the opposite problem. I am more of the pin on a tangerine shaped human.
I messed with it and messed with it. I had to add several more pleats than the pattern called for. It did not look like the perfect masks on the ladies of Joann’s. For one thing, it was still too big. But I got it done.
The next time I braved the grocery store, I put on my mask with some pride. I made this for my country! I thought. It’s like a tiny victory garden, right on my face!
But the grocery store patrons were quite different from the serious crafters of Joann’s. First, I was one of the only people wearing a mask, (as I said, it wasn’t required) and second, the other masked people were all wearing the medical looking ones that we weren’t supposed to buy. The feeling that I got at Joann’s was something like shame that I hadn’t done this already. The feeling I got in the deli aisle was something like embarrassment for being the goody-two shoes who listens to NPR and our governor’s gentle suggestions. Both felt like high school, all over again.
Oh well. I made it and I’m wearing it. I may take crack at sewing a new one. I still have a ton of fabric and I found a pattern that might fit on my face (and stay on my nose!) much better. If I’m too busy with work or violin triage, however, then I’ll make do with this.
In that same address, our governor asked everyone to try to help local businesses by getting take-out three times a week. This was the best news I received since this whole thing started. Get take out for my country? Hell yes! I’m suddenly patriotic AF!
If there is a knitting need that arises, by all means let me know. I’m ready to help! Meanwhile, I’ve got some noodles and tacos to attend to. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Growing up, Thanksgiving was spent with my large extended family and, while food was the main event, football was also central. If my uncles didn’t get into a fight about something (it’s not just drinking families that argue; Mormons do it, too), like which of them loved Ronald Reagan the most, then they would hunker down around TV and the children (and there were oodles of us) needed to stay quiet. If not quiet, then in the basement. Preferably both.
One year we did a craft around the kitchen table while the menfolk watched football and talked politics. And I loved it! I couldn’t figure out while we weren’t doing that all along! Granted, you can’t do elaborate crafts with babies and toddlers, so I guess there is my answer. But it was so great to have my mind and hands occupied and not be endlessly shushed for a change.
I’ve made the post dinner craft a part of my Thanksgiving traditions. I think the adults enjoy it… some more than others. But the kids always get really into it. A few years ago I brought a roll of butcher paper and gave everyone a large sheet to decorate as wrapping paper. The great thing about that one was that the end product was used up by Christmas and no long term storage was needed. Last year we made ornaments, which require minimal space.
I googled ideas for this year, but didn’t really find what I was looking for. Not that I didn’t find any…. there are tons of them! But, heavens to Betsy, there a lot of crap out there! Too many materials, too much mess, and then what do you do with it when Christmas ends? Also, who are these people who give children glitter? And why do they hate themselves so much?
Though, I will admit this glittered tampon garland caught my eye. Not only would it horrify my mother (my favorite!), but it would finally give me a way to use that Costco size box of tampons that I bought before switching to a silicone cup (Yahtzee!)!!!
But no. Maybe if I save them and trade them for bullets and vodka during the zombie apocalypse.
Instead we settled on Sculpey Clay ornaments. I didn’t want to do the same thing as last year, but I also love to compare the kid made ornaments over the developmental years, so I got over it. I got a pound of white clay and a bunch of other colors for around $20 with a Joann’s coupon. (I also brought screw eyes to make them easy to hang.)
It was perfect. Not too messy, easy to make, and they bake quickly. The kids had a blast and they made a bunch of ornaments. We made some for our own trees and a few to send home with the grandparents for their trees, also.
Here are the three I made:
Best of all, the kids were entertained for over an hour! Maybe that is second best, if you consider that no one glitter-glued a tampon to anyone’s forehead. Depends on how you look at it.
I finished a baby blanket and put in in the mail for a friend who is expecting a baby girl in the next month. As soon as I walked out of the post office I realized I forgot to take a photo of the finished blanket. Doh!
Here is a photo of the first quarter:
I love this pattern. It’s called the Llyr Baby Blanket and you can find the pattern here:
If I could make a living making things with my hands, that would make me very happy. I would sell pots and plates and knitted blankets and baked goods. I would make things all day long.
Unfortunately, I don’t make enough money with these things to even cover the cost of materials and studio time, let alone to generate a surplus. But even if I did, I want to keep paying my mortgage on my house with a yard. And I want to go to restaurants that serve Brussels sprouts on small plates cooked in some new delicious way that no one has thought to cook a Brussels sprout before, probably involving bacon and for an average cost of $3 per sprout.
So… it’s the 9-5 life for me. Until I find a way to get people to spend $100 on a hand made mug, that is.
Meanwhile, I dabble. My pottery studio had an open house event last weekend and I showed off my latest creations. Here are some photos I took of my stuff. I sold a bunch, including all the owls (which I am calling “planter buddies,” the idea being that you put them in with your plants), several bowls, and all the blue succulent planters.
This was the first time in a while that I went in and made this much new stuff for a show. It was great because I reminded myself just how much I really love working with clay. Which is great because I sold enough stuff that now I need to get back in to the studio to start making Christmas presents.
At long last! It took all summer, but the tube scarf is finally done. (I wrote about the failed attempt back in this post.) These little stitches are no joke, my friends!
I really like this pattern. And not just because it is free, but I am cheap AF so that certainly is nice. I love how there is only a public side (or “right” side, as most knitters say) and that makes it soft from every angle that touches your skin. When I first started working on it a few people asked me what the heck I was making, with a raised eyebrow and a doubtful frown, as it didn’t look like any kind of scarf they had ever seen. But now that it’s done I think it’s nifty. I’m even proud of how even my stitches are… though when I go back and look at the photo on the pattern I’m amazed at the work. How do they do that? These are not knitters, people. They are wizards!
This is a prescription that my chiropractor wrote. It says, “Ice 20 on 20 off / Netflix.”
If you are a chiropractor and you wonder why people refuse to think of you as a real doctor, this might be something to bring up at the next convention.
Yes, I threw out my back early in the week. I was dusting and straightening my nightstand when I picked up… wait for it… a tube of lip balm. BAM! Pain, starting from my lower spine, shot down my left leg and I was stuck in place unable to move. Obviously I did manage to get in to get my back cracked and I’m doing better today. But I woke up this morning with a bad head cold, and I’m wishing I hadn’t just gone back to work after leaving the chiropractors office. I should have taken the Netflix advice. Sometimes, your body wants you to slow down and chill out. You can ignore it, but then it will remind you who is really in charge.
BTW I do know that this is not what the “chill” in “Netflix and chill” means. I’m old (as evidenced by the damage a one ounce object can do to my spine), but I watch TV.
The funny thing is, this would have been great news a few weeks ago. I was furiously trying to finish the throw that I was making for my baby sister’s (gasp) fortieth birthday, and I was behind. Where were you when I needed you, sciatica?! We could have done Knitflex for a week and I would have made my deadline! But, as it happens, I got the package in the mail the day before my lip balm related baccident. Here are a few photos of how it turned out.
I was trying to do *artful staging,* something I realized successful bloggers do at the conference I attended two weeks ago. I put the throw on this chair and took several pictures, trying to figure out what was missing.
Then Wensley hopped up there because apparently if you are in this chair you get my attention, and I realized what was missing. Cuteness!
This is a free pattern from Lion Brand called “Lovers Knot.” I’ve made it a few times. It is complex but fun. I especially like the XOXO cable. I didn’t use Lion Brand wool, however. I have developed this addiction to Malabrigo yarn; I can’t work with anything else these days. It’s pricey, but I don’t care. I’m not going to spend 80 hours of my life on something and use cheapo shit yarn. No way. I’ll eat in August, it will be fine.
Here is the a little more information on the specific weight (Rastita) and color (Solis). It just happens to match the book I am reading perfectly. Also, I added my mala beads because I do *artful staging* now.
When I got up this morning and realized I had a cold, one of my first thoughts was, “but I just finished a project and I haven’t started another one, yet!”
My very first thought was a question. “You know that statistic that says the average American gets six colds a year? I used to think that was high, but now I know it is because when you have a child living with you, you get twenty colds a year and spend the rest of your life evening out your average.”
So I got up and went shopping for orange juice and yarn, but I didn’t design this planet so I had to go to two stores. The amazing thing is that I went to see my crack dealer… er… local yarn store (Blazing Needles), and only bought yarn for a new project! That is a first! Except for that time I went in, saw several things I wanted, only bought the yarn I needed for a baby blanket, then rewarded myself by going back the next day and buying the other things. I’m telling you: yarn is crack.
Here is my idea for my new project. I’m going to start a basic hat – brim first with an entrelac cable pattern – but then (here’s the crazy part), instead of reducing I just keep going until it is the length of a scarf, and then add a second brim / edge. So the scarf is like a long tube with no “wrong side.” Plus it would be doubly cozy, right? Is this crazy? I’m going to try it; the crazy will out itself in due time. I will have to post pictures, especially if it goes all sorts of wrong. Those are the best projects, at least when they happen to someone else, who is everyone but me in this case. And I am happy to share.
Here is what I picked out. It’s three more skeins of the Malabrigo (of course). The weight is Mechita and the color is Impressionist Sky. Blazing Needles always winds your yarn and wraps it up like a gift. Or like illicit drugs… it’s just occurring to me.
And here is the artfully staged photo of my new blue yarn… But keep in mind, I’m new at this and I’ve taken a lot of Day Quill.
Last year, I wrote about my nephew, who we call Frog. He was born early, at just 25 weeks, weighing about 2 pounds. I had just come back from meeting him and was feeling assured by his fighting spirit.
I’m happy to report, a little over a year later, he is home and thriving. He had is first birthday over the holidays, when he was still wearing 9 month old clothes, but he’s happy and goofy and a delight to be around.
My sister just sent me this photo of him playing with the felt activity book I made for him last Christmas. Apparently he is a big fan of the red shiny buttons. Can’t say that I blame him; they are mesmerizing.
I don’t know if activity books (I’ve also heard them called “busy books” or “quiet books”) are a thing everywhere. When I was growing up, it was something you gave a baby to keep them occupied during long church meetings. I had kind of forgotten about them until I was looking for a good DIY present for Frog and Matt’s nephew (who also turned one over the holidays) last fall. I purchased the pattern on Etsy from LindyJDesign. I thought, “Oh… that will kill a cold autumn weekend or two.” But I’m not great with the sewing machine and making the books turned into a part time job for a couple of weeks.
Don’t let that deter you, however. It was a lot of fun. Here are a few more photos of some of the pages:
And as long as I’m doing a humble-brag post about my Auntie craft projects, here is another recent photo of Frog wearing a hat I made many years ago for his older brother. This pattern is by Mamachee and can be found here (what would I do without Etsy?). I don’t know how much he weighs now, but look at those gloriously chubby pink cheeks! I know I said I made the hat for his brother, but it really suits our Froggie. He’s a warrior, for sure.
Wensley had to get a haircut last week. I try to avoid cutting his hair in January and February because it is so dang cold, and he doesn’t deal well with the snow. It couldn’t wait, however. He was getting a bit of a Rastafarian situation on his back end, and it was time.
I brought him home from the groomer and dug through the winter accessories to dig out his sweater. I knitted this for him a few years ago. (There is no pattern to share; I just knitted a rectangle and fashioned it around his body and then sewed it up.) Unfortunately, when I pulled it over his little body, I realized the moths had been at it.
Obviously, Wensley doesn’t care. He doesn’t love wearing sweaters and would be happy to feed the whole thing to the moths of the world. But he stopped shivering once he had it on, and that was the important thing.
I was reminded of a story that David Sedaris wrote in When you Are Engulfed in Flames, where he buys a $400 cashmere sweater but finds it is too nice to wear. He pays a professional designer to “distress” it. Extremely distressed. He writes, “Ordinarily I avoid things that have been distressed, but this sweater had been taken a step further and ruined. Having been destroyed, it is now indestructible, meaning I can wear it without worry.”
This is not a cashmere sweater, but it was handmade. That took a little time. I never felt it was too nice for the dog, clearly. But I used to take it off before I sent him outside to pee. Not anymore! Now Wensley can keep it on and stave off the shivers even while making yellow snow, sweater be damned!
I grew up in a crafty family. I think that is related to the fact that I was raised in the Mormon Church (I know they just made up that new rule that you aren’t supposed to say “Mormon” anymore; they want you to say the whole Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But it takes too long and I’m too old to make a change like that. Besides, I left the church. Stop trying to tell me what to do!), but I also recognize that Mormons aren’t the only craft people. There are tons of people on Pinterest and they can’t all be Mormon. Do the Amish make an exception to allow you to get on the internet just for Pinterest? That must be it.
Growing up, we had a Thanksgiving craft tradition. We didn’t do it every year, but I loved it when we did. Basically, we had a big meal with aunts and uncles and cousins, and when we were done with the pie course, the men folk watched football and the women folk went back to the kitchen to craft. One year we made tiny ski hat ornaments. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but this required a lot of base skills. Everyone had to already be able to knit, for one thing.
“Our craft game was high!” I realized when I thought of it last month. I was getting ready to spend Thanksgiving with Matt’s family, making it the first turkey day I had spent away from my family in a long time. I was plotting to make Matt’s family do a post meal craft, but I knew it wouldn’t fly unless I found the right one. No knitting, for instance.
I found the perfect thing. Just a few materials needed and the most difficult part involved a glue gun. And so cute!
I found it here. You can also get the template on Etsy.
After dinner (and the subsequent naps) it was time to introduce my craft session to Matt’s family. I felt really sheepish and had to work myself up to it. And there were members of the family that gave me a “you want me to do what, now?” look. But they moved toward the TV and the others were intrigued. Once they jumped in, they legitimately appeared to be having fun. (I don’t think it hurt that I also provided wine.)
Matt’s sister-in-law enjoyed it so much she asked me to send her my proposed craft next year, even though we will be spending the holiday with our own families. That’s what I call success!