Yesterday marked this year's autumn solstice, and the day before that we finished combining, making it one full month of harvest for us.
I've been enjoying the return of Light Jacket Season, as my sister calls it, though this week we are back to 30C+ temperatures. I really love autumn -the smells and colours, the end of a long summer of hard work, the promise of walks in the fresh air and cozy evenings in the house. Now that Julie is a bit older and beginning to understand things, I've been trying to create meaningful experiences for her. One book I read, Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, suggests celebrating seasonal festivals, allowing children to see how they are connected to something bigger than themselves, something continuous and meaningful. So, with this solstice, we've started a little celebration for the changing seasons.
Using a basic grapevine wreath as our starting point, Julie and I created a seasonal centrepiece for our kitchen table. We went on a walk around our yard and collected things that would look nice around a lit candle: rose hips, yellow poplar leaves, and dried sunflowers. We did a short dance outside (mainly because Julie likes to spin in circles) to welcome the new season, and decorated the house with an autumn wreath. For supper that night, we used a cloth tablecloth, and lit the candle in the middle of our centrepiece. It was a simple celebration, but a lot of fun, and definitely handmade.
This past weekend I got to be praised about my artwork, which is something I don't mind one little bit. Every year, I enter five artworks in the open show at our local art gallery -I like to create and it's a good opportunity and all that. They hang your artwork and bring in adjudicators to tell you what you did well and how you can improve. The first couple years I entered some pencil crayon drawings and paintings, but starting up New Leaf has given me a new perspective on making art and I've wandered into the fabric scene. For the open show over Christmas, I entered these wall hangings:
I've always been drawn to layers of texture. I love building up layers with paint or paper and now I've discovered the beauty of working with fabric to create touchable texture. During the summer of 2010 my eyes were drawn to the varying shades of greens on the side of the roads, along with the bright contrasting yellows. So that's how these hangings came to be.
I had about a month's notice for this past open show, so in May I was busily trying to create my five pieces. Thankfully, inspiration was not lacking. Spring brings out a vibrancy of different greens in the pastures around my farm. I wanted to capture the repetition as well as the subtle changes in the hills, grasses and plants. Summer is such a fleeting season in Saskatchewan and the bright greens of June and July are quickly forgotten under the snow. I want to create a reminder of lush and rainy seasons and to expose understated beauty in unexpected places.
I wasn't expecting much from the adjudication on the weekend, because I had been to the art gallery about a month ago and hadn't seen my artworks. I thought maybe they'd disliked them and decided not to hang them. I showed up a little early to my appointment, surprised to see no one else there but the gallery's receptionist. Apparently my artwork was hanging in a different gallery, and of course, this is where the adjudications were taking place. I raced over just in time and was treated with a wonderfully positive talk with the artist-adjudicator. He told me my work is unique and focused, consistent and well-designed, an excellent personal interpretation. I left glowing with delight, which was a nice change from the somewhat cranky state I'd arrived in. I feel like I've found a medium that I love to work with, and it's gratifying to have others appreciate it and encourage me along. Thanks for the inspiration, New Leaf.
Like I mentioned in my last post, I've been absent from New Leaf the past while, but not at all from the making scene. Having the cutest daughter in the world makes me want to give her everything I possible can, and I figure if I make it, it doesn't really count as spoiling her, right?
One of Julie's current interests includes having little people (an odd assortment of creatures from In The Night Garden, Duplo, Smurfs...) to put to bed, feed, make each other kiss, etc. One evening, by the light of the TV, I used some fabric and two-by-four scraps to create a few pieces of furniture to inspire her play. I didn't do any sewing at all (oh! except for the little pillow which I stitched to the bed by hand), which is sometimes a nice switch. The staple gun did all the work I needed -I folded fabric around corners (stuffed a little poly-fil in the bed for a mattress) and stapled it all in place, then attached felt to the bottoms to cover up the fabric edges. I think it took me about an hour from start to finish and the furniture is one of her favourite things these days.
Here are some felt creations I made. The doll (Lola) is from my own brains, just felt pieces cut out, stuffed with poly-fill, and sewed up with the machine. The frog I made from The Cuter Book by Aranzi Aronzo -a gift from my sister. The book is full of (you guessed it) cute little toys to hand sew with felt: chains of monkeys, the alphabet with eyes, stacking turtles, flowered snakes...and ideas of what to do with them (attach them to bags, cards, etc).
The colourful fish shown below, I also made with inspiration from a book: Creative Play for your Toddler. I haven't quite finished the project yet -there are little magnets sewn into the nose of each fish and I need to find a strong magnet to add to the end of a little fishing pole so Julie can go fishing with these little beauties. I really enjoyed this book. I made a felt ball from here a while ago, and more recently, the ribbon wands, the red felt crown and the cape (though I really adapted these last two quite a bit) (modelled below by a giant giraffe). Not only does it give lots of theory and insight into toddler play, it has pages and pages of step-by-step instructions for making imaginative and play-inspiring toys yourself.
Here's the little beauty herself! I hang a lot of laundry outside in the summer -nothing beats that smell of wind and sunshine in your clothes and sheets. A few years ago, my grandma gave me her old clothespin apron; basically it's a pocket that ties around your waist, making it easy to grab clothespins while you are busily hanging clothes. I bought (yet another!) project book last summer -One Yard Wonders. Flipping through it again recently, I noticed a pattern for a clothespin apron. Since Julie loves doing whatever Mommy or Daddy do lately, I knew she'd enjoy having her own version of what I have. I modified the pattern a bit to fit Julie's skinny waist -I love the colourful fabric scraps I used! My own plain canvas apron is truly dowdy in comparison.
Julie loves stealing clothespins from my apron to stuff into her own pocket so she can hand them to me as needed.
That about covers the experiments I've been creating, though I'd like to make her a few more things yet. A doll, maybe, and a sling to carry it around. Oven mitts to wear while she "helps" me cook. And this playtent from 2 little hooligans:
Hopefully some of these projects inspire you to create something for your toddler! I know Julie loves having things that I've spent time making for her ("Mommy made it!").
It's been a couple months since we've written anything on here -June and July have flown by so quickly (as time is prone to do). Cecelia had a very cute healthy baby boy in the middle of June and I taught full-time for a few weeks and was reminded (strongly) of why I love to work at home. July has zipped along as well -today I realized that August starts on Monday. Yikes! My July has passed in a haze of long hot afternoons on the front yard with my feet in the baby pool while Julie terrorizes our dog with buckets of water. I've been pulling weeds, hanging laundry, splashing in puddles, discovering new and delicious thing to cook in my slow cooker and BBQ, bringing iced coffees out to my husband while he cuts and bales hay endlessly -all the lovely summery things I dream about throughout the winter.
It's been refreshing to take a bit of a break from New Leaf, but I'm ready to start making notebooks and other goodies once again. My New Leaf hiatus has not been without making, however! I've been making all sorts of fun things for my daughter, building up my maternity wardrobe (yep -I'm due on Christmas Eve!), and exploring the world of summer cooking. I'm looking forward to sharing more about each of these things in the next few weeks.
Now that the weather is warmer, I'm finding it hard to strike a balance between work and play, especially since my daughter can actually walk this summer and would rather be outside than anywhere else. As a matter of fact, I haven't actually been doing a whole lot of work at all in the past week or so, and I've decided to just accept it rather than letting it stress me out. When I'm not outside exploring robin's nests and "houses" amidst the caragana bushes with my two-year old, I've been frantically trying to complete things on my bucket list before my life of leisure (if that's what you call being a stay-at-home mom with her own small business...) ends. Yes folks, I've accepted a short-term full-time job as a replacement teacher for the rest of the school year. It's only a three week gig, but giving up my freedom to do what I want when I want, even for that long, is a bit scary! Not to mention that I will miss my being the one to put my daughter down for naps and getting those skinny-armed hugs...
While I am busy keeping the kids learned and entertained for the last weeks of school, the other half of New Leaf, Cecelia, is going to be MIA from the business scene as well -her baby is due on June 15th, just over a week away! So making things and blogging won't really be on the top of her list for a little while.
Despite being busy with our various happy ventures, Cecelia and I will keep the Etsy shops in action and you can still order the items listed (though we probably won't be listing too many new things for a little bit) and I will package them up and send them out with as little wait as humanly possible. And don't forget, New Leaf has items in three local shops now! In Regina, Val Marie, and Eastend. You can see the shops on our Shop Locally page for details.
Thanks for your understanding and patience while the New Leaf Handmaidens attend to jobs and babes, and try to get the most out of the summer weather at the same time. Hope all is well with you and yours!
Once long ago, my young cousin dubbed a family (erroneously, I'm sure) 'The Scaries'. Think ill-fitting sweatpants and t-shirts with lots of stains on them and poorly, if at all, combed hair.
The other day, Maria was talking about making some yoga pants. Well, being at the point (for quite some time to be honest) of supreme discomfort, very hot, and bigger than I EVER was with Ava so that many of my 'comfortable' clothes are not quite so comfortable ('specially since they weren't supposed to dry and I did it anyways to help them fit a little bit better - why DID I buy them so big?) - I decided to try making a pair of my own. I can't tell you why, but sitting at my sewing machine for more than 5 minutes causes my back to ache in a way that I can't even describe but, for the sake of comfort, I forged ahead. I was pumped to recall the surplus of jersey fabric left over from a wrap top I made and went ahead and cut my pieces. Of course, the pants took slightly longer than 5 minutes to finish. I had GRAND ideas of what these pants would be like - and, after finishing the hems up, I rushed to try them on.
Let me just say, YIKES! sometimes things work, and sometimes they DON'T. Guess which this was? Yep, with my poorly combed hair and these horrendously (yet supremely comfortable feeling) fitting pants...I wouldn't hold it against anyone who called me a 'Scary'. You won't find me wearing the pants anytime soon, I was left with some poorly constructed pants and a backache that wouldn't subside. Sigh, live and learn, right?
Though it feels like I've lived on my yard for a long time, it's really only been just over 3 years. We bought a dirt-cheap, falling-apart old house and got it moved onto our yard of rolling hills and pasture in 2007. Thankfully (for me, since I have NO experience or knowledge about house renovations), my husband is quite the handy sort and has turned our once decrepit house into a cozy and lovely home. Below is our house, before and now (take a guess which is which):
We lived in the basement for about six months while Charles worked on the upstairs. The main floor was pretty much all finished when we moved up in the spring of 2008, but there is still a lot to do (including the entire basement) and we've have been slowly working away at the place. Over the past few weeks (in between colds and the flu and other issues), Charles has been giving the porch a major do-over: gip-rock instead of wood panelling, new flooring, and my FAVOURITE part -custom built boot shelves and coat hooks! The small rickety wooden shelf that housed about 3 sets of shoes had me dreaming of massive amounts of shelves for baskets and shoes and boots... Charles designed the spaces, built them and installed them all to my utter and complete joy. I still want to add a big mirror over the small dresser in the corner, and make padded seats for the benches, but that'll take a bit of time yet. As it is right now though is fantastic -I'm really excited to not have a big messy tub of shoes in my closet anymore.
Throughout school and university, and into my work life as a teacher, I always dreaded deadlines, stressing about getting assignments and lessons completed long before the due date, yet putting things off until the last minute despite the stress that ensued. I would have thought that working for myself would rid the need for deadlines. Over the past year I haven't really bothered with them much, except for occasionally rushing to get some things completed for a big trade show or completing a custom order. However, last month I noticed that there were stacks and stacks of notebooks in various stages of assembly, all strewn across my workspace. After working here and there on these notebooks, I finally decided to set myself a due date for which to complete the half-notebooks that were cluttering my space. I gave myself a week to accomplish this, and found that instead of being sidetracked by Facebook, or thinking up some new idea of something I'd like to create, I would actually work on the notebooks whenever I had a chance, knowing that I had a clear time limit. By Friday, I had completed all I had set out to do and was able to tidy up my workspace and think of which project I wanted to start next. I've given myself a new project for this week, with another Friday deadline. After learning how to make awesome envelopes, I've sort gone overboard and made hundreds. Inspired by the designs, I've been creating matching notecards and putting them into sets with mailing stickers and a self-designed wrap-around label. Friday will hopefully arrive with neat stacks of packaged envelope/notecard/label sets... Now to get off the computer and get to WORK!
The weather here over the past few days has been atrociously cold and I am happily wallowing in the fact that I don't really need to leave the house. Today I've been cutting paper and creating notebook covers, building up our stock to list online and send to a store in Regina (yay! Another actual brick and mortar shop wants to sell our stuff!). Working at home isn't always easy (especially since I have the attention span of a gnat) as I try to balance motherhood, making stuff, keeping the house in a liveable state and attempting to keep us all fed. But I love it more than I even thought possible. I glory in my routine of getting up early to work a bit before the house awakes, getting to exercise during the day, being able to start a loaf of bread baking in between emailing contacts, packaging orders, and binding another notebook. I think it's great that my evening "prep" time now consists of sitting on the couch watching episodes of Battlestar Gallactica while embroidering pillows and drawing new designs for notebooks. I love deciding for myself what I'll tackle today and what I'll leave for another winter Wednesday. Me, an entrepreneur...Who would have guessed that would happen?
Ever have one of those days when you just seem to get NOthing done? I seem to have those quite often, what with a busy toddler needing me ALL the time, and a body that, despite not being quite half way there, is feeling quite pregnant - and therefore, QUITE exhausted. Today was NOT one of those days. YIPEE!!
It is only 7 PM and, for once, I'm not feeling bad about calling it a night. In spite of the fact that I was at Maria's all morning til around 2, I still managed to get things done. Can I brag? Just a little bit? Please? :)
I got a pillow cover embroidered that I've been meaning to do since LAST Christmas when Ava got the book, Guess How Much I Love You, a loaf of bread baked (okay, yes, it WAS in the bread machine but there are days when I don't even have a chance to put the ingredients in the machine, let alone bake a loaf of bread), a chance to use a handheld blender that I've had for at least 3 years and never actually used, some homemade fruit-filled cereal bars baked, supper made and on the table before 6, and finally, my wee babe to bed. Yay, me! Oh, I'm also NOT forgetting to blog this week! I'm seriously on a roll. Now all I need is a bath, my book, and my bed...this handmaiden is calling it a day on a positive note!
Maria & Cecelia
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