Goodbye Christmas…

It is always bittersweet taking down all the decorations, the garlands, the tree.  This year it was particularly hard as I was quite in love with some of my handmades…

I took some pictures so I could remember and thought you might enjoy them too.

Solstice StockingsI’m particularly sad to see these babies packed away.  I’ve been wanting to make them for a while and finally got around to it this year.  I started in July and got sidetracked. I embroidered two of them while at a conference in November and of course I finished the last one two days before the holidays.  The pattern can be found in my favourite craft book of all time:

Scandinavian NeedlecraftYou can find other projects I’ve made from this book here (don’t worry I fixed it) and here.

Scandinavian Heart embroidery

Scandinavian Snowflake Embroidery

Scandinavian Snowflake Embroidery Christmas StockingWell, you can see why I love them can’t you?  They are so beautiful!  (as a side note, I had a good laugh while editing these photos.  Take a good look at some of the titles on the bookshelf…I hung this stocking in front of “All Family’s are Psychotic” LOL…that might tie in with some holiday celebrations non?).

pinecone garland

Pinecone garlandAnd I couldn’t resist taking this photo in the morning light (no editing I swear) of my favourite handmade holiday decoration.  I make one every year.  I collect the pinecones in the fall at my in law’s place. I also took a fallen branch or two from their forest and used them around the house and on the porch in the form of garlands and evergreen swags.  The pinecones I keep in a paper bag in the basement until December and they usually have opened nicely by then.  The orange slices I dehydrate in the oven the same day I make the garland using jute twine.   This year I hung it along a pine branch that I secured to the curtain rod in my front window.  I love how the light shines through the oranges like stained glass.

cedar wreaths with red ribbonMy second favourite decoration this year are these cedar wreaths I made using cedar branches I trimmed from our cedar shrubs in the front yard.  I really hated taking them down.  I love the way they looked and with them gone I can’t decide what to put in their place.  Any ideas?

cedar wreaths and juniper boughsI tucked some Juniper boughs into a basket my friend’s mom made me as a wedding gift.  Santa had a kind of Scandinavian look and I picked him up from my local VV.  The red wooden bead garland? VV.  The reindeer candle holders were also a find at VV and now that I am typing this, I can’t decide if they are my second favourite or not…no.  They are my third favourite for sure.  Mostly because it was a nightmare trying to put the candles in place without splitting them.  So they get third place…

Solstice mantle

IMG_2082Here is what they look like lit up.  So pretty.  The chalkboard (from HomeSense) did boast a chalk christmas tree but I erased it before I thought of taking any pictures.cedar wreaths in windowAnd finally, one of my very favourite handmades this year, cedar branches hot glued onto embroidery hoops hung with red ribbon at my kitchen window.  I loved waking up to this bright and cheery window every wintry morning.  It made me smile.apple candle holderAnd this sat on my window sill.  I made a few of these apple candle holders and used them to light our Solstice dinner table.  I love the red of the apples…and the fact that most of my decorations will now find themselves in the compost heap and not the land fill. In fact I now only have one box of Christmas decorations to store.  Mostly ornaments and lights.

So while it was hard to take them down, I do like to start the new year with fresh walls and less clutter.

Here is to fresh starts!  Happy 2014 everyone!!

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…the fire is burning…

…the fire is burning
the long night draws near
all who need comfort
are welcome by here…

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The girls and I spent this evening building snowball lanterns in preparation for Solstice on December 21st

…we’ll dance ‘neath the stars
and toast the past year
for the spirit of solstice
is still living here…

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The fire pit now has outdoor lighting. We’ll be dusting off the log stumps for friends to gather round the bonfire to hold back the night.

…we’ll count all our blessings
while the Mother lays down
with snow as her blanket
covering the ground…

We are fortunate enough to have a gorgeous yew tree in the backyard. We'll be decorating this living tree with popcorn strings, pine cone bird feeders and apple ornaments as gifts to our animal friends.

We are fortunate enough to have a gorgeous yew tree in the backyard. We’ll be decorating this living tree with popcorn strings, pine cone bird feeders and apple ornaments as gifts to our animal friends.

…thanks to the Mother
for the life that she brings
she’ll waken to warm us
again in the spring

the poor and the hungry
the sick and the lost
these are our children
no matter the cost…

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Every year we make lanterns. This year it is snowball lanterns to line our walk way and welcome our guests. In years past we’ve used glass jars hung from sticks with wire to take with us on our lantern walk.  This year we’ll take apple candle holders with us while we go carolling.

 

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Our decorations are all taken from nature. The snow lanterns require only a tea light and the right kind of snow. We’ve brought fresh greenery, birch bark and berries indoors to decorate our table and mantle.

…come by the fire
the harvest to share

for the spirit of solstice
is still living there

the fire is burning
the long night draws near
all who need comfort
are welcome by here…

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Part of the fun of planning which crafts we’ll do and how we’ll decorate is watching the girls add their own bit of magic to our celebration. Our connections are strengthened to the earth and in our community. I love how the girls look forward to Solstice as part of our holiday celebrations.

…we’ll dance ‘neath the stars
and toast the past year

for the spirit of solstice
is still living here
for the spirit of solstice
is still living here…


~ Lyrics to “A Solstice Carole” by the Wyrd Sisters

Snow Day Fun

tobogganoutsideplayhouse

Yay!  Winter is upon us!  When the snow flies the girls fly out the door.  I have the easiest time on these snowy winter mornings.  They can’t dress and eat breakfast fast enough.  A quick ski around the yard or jumping on the toboggan:

toboggan1But it can’t all be fun when there is work to be done.  Winter blew right into our lovely little playhouse and the girls had some cleaning up to do.

toboggansnowinsideWhich can be fun too!

snowinside1

snowinside2

snowinside3The Missus took care of the porch.

tobogganisweepingDoes this mean we can call the playhouse a four season fort?

toboggangirls inwindow

It was a great morning and we decided afterward that the pictures would be perfect for our annual “Cool Yule” card.  Happy Holidays to all!

Cool Yule 2013

Yuletide Greetings!

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin sol, meaning sun, and sistere, meaning to stand. At Solstice the sun appears to stand still, to pause, before continuing on its path.  We’ve been celebrating Solstice as a family for over a decade.  No matter where we have found ourselves over years, on a tropical island, out west, up north, in the city or in the forest, no matter what has been happening in our lives, this time of year reminds us to pause, and to reflect.  Our celebrations have been simple (especially when it was just the two of us) and some have  been elaborate gatherings full of family and friends.  Decorations are natural and are designed to end up in the compost heap rather than in storage or the landfill.  The greenery reminding us of the coming spring.  The candles reminding us of the returning light.

When we first started celebrating Solstice we were met with many questions and confused looks and some people were even dismissive.  It was a little isolating.  And so starting nine years ago we began sending out what we called our “Cool Yule Cards”.  They were conversation starters for sure, just look at our first one:

cool yule photo 1Yes, I put a dress on my dog.  Mad Men was not a show back then either…we were just before our time I suppose : ).

banjo bellyIn the beginning we always tried to inject a little bit of humour to try to keep it light-hearted.

coolyuledoorThis is one of my favourites…Sostice in the forest with a wood stove inside…so dreamy.

coolyuleThis one did look more “Christmas-y” but Cool Yule wishes remained the same…

Grandma cool yuleI think last year’s card was my favourite so far.  Such a great vintage photo of J’s great-grandmother!

Our 2013 Cool Yule greeting card will be revealed to family and friends tomorrow (that is if I can get a great shot of the girls on their lantern walk).  Today, I’m wrapping our handmade solstice gifts to put under the tree and finishing up the preparations for our Annual Solstice Party.  Back by popular demand will be our lantern walk which the children loved a few years ago.  After dinner we make our lanterns and set off to carol our way through the neighbourhood.  If it is not raining we will gather around the bonfire outside to sing, drink and generally be merry and, if we remember, we mark the actual moment of Solstice.   Tomorrow we’ll open our gifts, make pine cone bird feeders and decorated our outdoor tree for our animal friends.  And as always we are busy reading our favourite winter and Solstice books.

I mentioned our celebrations to a neighbour a few weeks ago and they commented that more and more people seemed to be celebrating solstice.  I’m so glad to hear it.  Solstice also means “turning point”.  Our world could use a reminder to pause and slow down, a reminder that light follows darkness, and to reestablish a relationship with Mother Earth.

This morning we woke up to find a soft blanket of snow covering the ground.  The girls rushed to the windows and squealed with delight.  Mrs. Iverson declared that it was Solstice magic that made it happen.  I think the smile on this proud mama’s face should last all day…

Wishing you all a Cool Yule, peace and joy for the New Year!

Things are coming together…

Have you ever had a feeling of uncontrollable giddiness as you came to the end of making something?  I had that feeling a little bit when I was making my French Press Slippers this summer.  The feeling was overwhelming when I was making a fox mask for Mrs.Iverson’s birthday (it was borderline euphoric!).  And last night, as I finished another gift for the Mrs., I felt my heart pick up the pace a little, a satisfied grin spread across my face…I had to tell myself to slow it down so I didn’t make any mistakes but really wanted to see how it had turned out now!!!

I think this project had been in my head for so many years that that alone contributed my buoyant mood, to that feeling of anticipation.  I had saved this plain grey, wool sweater for almost 8 eight years with this project in mind.  It felt so good to finally make the first cut.  I loosely followed the Cozy Winter Hat pattern in this gem of a book, Little Things to Sew:

Oliver+S

It was a really easy pattern and sewing with an old wool sweater didn’t cause any issues thank goodness.

Sweaterhat

Sleeve

Sweaterpieces

Once I had cut out the wool pieces, I ironed some of this on the “wrong” side near the sides of the cheeks to add some stability while I did some embroidery work.

hat embroidery

I used a tiny bit of the embroidery pattern meant for these mitts from Scandinavian Needlecraft:

mitts

Once that was done,  I cut out the lining pieces.  I sewed the wool pieces together and added the ribbon.  Then I sewed the lining pieces together.  Next was sewing both the wool and the lining together.  I was incredibly nervous at this point and I was sure I would make a mistake so I read and reread the pattern…but then I did end up making a mistake and so I made my own “stamp” on the piece and it didn’t turn out too badly.

lining

In this picture you get an idea of what the lining fabric looks like.

finished hat

And here is the finished product!  It is too bad I couldn’t put it on a child so you could see what it looks like on.  After Solstice I’ll post one of the Mrs. wearing it I promise.  I keep going to sneak a peek at this one.  I’m so excited to have made it and I can’t wait to see her face when she opens it!

My favourite handmades

I love handmade things, I do.  And so I thought I’d share some of my favourite gifts to make in case someone out there needed some inspiration.

1.  A fishing basket:

fishing basket 2

This one is as easy as drawing a fish template and tracing it onto some scraps of felt.  I embroidered some details on these ones and then decided to also make them “counting fish”.  Notice the orange one has one bead, the purple has two, the green has three etc.  Next, find a stick, tie some garden twine to it and secure a round magnet to the other end.  Each fish has a metal washer in its “mouth”.  Super easy and fun.  Then find a basket and some blue fabric for the water and pack them up!

fishing basket

2.  Wee Wonderful Dolls:

Lumina

This one I made for Lil’S a few Solstices ago.  We called her Lumina and still can’t get over her hair!  I love it!

joy

This one I named Joy and she was destined for my my niece on the east coast.  I actually made her outfit and shoes whereas with Lumina I stole the clothing off of another doll’s back (there wasn’t enough time!).  Making these dolls was so simple.  I really barely knew what to do with my sewing machine at the time.  I ordered and then downloaded a PDF from Wee Wonderfuls which included instructions for three darling dolls and their clothes for only $15.

3. French Press Slippers

french press slippers

Now these little lovelies I must confess I did not gift…they were for me!  Oh and how I adore them!  Actually I still can’t believe that I made these.  You can download the PDF pattern here.  And for $7.50 it is a steal.  I’ve been knitting up a number of these in some pretty funky colours for Christmas presents.  Now all I need is a trip to the laundromat to felt them in a top loader…

4.  A Scandinavian Inspired Felt bag:

Scandinavian Felt Bag

This will probably be the hardest gift for me to wrap up and give.  I have wanted one for myself ever since I saw it on the cover of Scandinavian Needlecraft.  It took me forever to source the thicker felt.  In the end I bought the synthetic felt from Fabricland but I would have loved real wool felt.  One day I’ll find a source (and if you have one that ships to Canada please let me know!).  The bag was super easy to make but it did put a sizable dent into my embroidery thread stash.

5. A Knitted Snake:

snake

The snake you see on the right is one I made for Solstice a few years back. “Snakey” as he is known has been well loved as you can see.  The skinny unfinished guy on the left will be gifted away this season.  The pattern can be found in the book, Knitted Toys.  I love this book and have made a number of their knitted dolls and animals.

6.  Even more slippers:

embroidered slippers

I love these slippers and they turned out even better than I expected.  They are another project from the Scandinavian Needlecraft book I mentioned the other day.  I used Sulky Solvy to trace the embroidery design on, laid it over the felt and pinned it in place.  Once you’re done embroidering you simply run it under water and the Sulky Solvy dissolves!

baby slippers

These baby slippers are from the same book.  The fleece on the inside is sooo soft.  I love them but I admit, they were not as easy to make due to their size.  They are en route right now to my new nephew in NFDL!

7. A Headband:

headband

I based this headband on this tutorial at Heidi and Finn.  I covered my elastic in fabric and made the band itself a little wider.  I’m still tweeking this as I’d like the band to be longer but the standard sheets of felt are too short.  I also had a hard time sourcing the pre-cut felt flowers.  Instead I used felt embellishments that were intended for use in scrapbooking from Michael’s.  I simply took off the sticker on the back, did a little hand sewing to reinforce them and sewed them onto the felt.  I’m using up my scraps from past projects for the fabric backing.  Lil’S has had many compliments on hers already.

8.  Felt Animal Masks:

felt animal masks

I made these for Mrs. Iverson’s birthday party this year.  Instead of loot bags the guest were able to bring home a mask.  I keep meaning to post a tutorial…one day…

9.  Alphabet Magnets

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Lil’S made these for Mrs. Iverson a few years ago and they are still a huge hit.  Click on the link to find out how to make your own.

10. Homemade Playdough

homemade playdough

This is always a favourite and it is super simple to make as well.  I’ve used this as an add on to many gifts over the years.  Click on the link and you’ll find my favourite recipe.

When Handmade goes wrong

I quite like making things to give as gifts.  It is always a delicate art.  First you must be sure you want to invest the time and that the final product will turn out well.  Second you must think carefully about who you are giving it to.  There is nothing more awkward than getting the feeling that the recipient doesn’t actually like the gift because a solid drawback to handmade is that you can’t return it.

This is a story about a handmade gift that the recipient, my father-in-law, liked just fine.  The problem was, I had made a really big mistake when putting this gift together.  Let’s see if you can spot it:

log carrier

What is it you ask?  Why it is a log carrier of course!  An absolutely chic log carrier if I do say so myself.

the embroideryThis embroidery took FOREVER!  In the end I just couldn’t do it on my machine and off I went to my friend Rebecca’s for help.  Man did it turn out great or what?  I was ever so pleased.

cute tag

Then there are the little details like this cute tag.  I was in love with this present and I couldn’t wait to give it.  Have you spotted my error yet?  Keep looking.

recycledjeans

And just why did I love this thing so much?  Well I thought it looked pretty great and it was made out of recycled materials.  In the picture above you can see that it is lined with denim from an old pair of jeans.  The cream coloured fabric on the front was left over from a couch slipcover I had made.  The thread was leftover from my bridesmaids dresses (13 years ago!!).  And finally the twill tape for the handles was from a grab bag at Value Village.  I was in recycled gift heaven.

folded

Can you tell now what is wrong?  Yep.  As beautiful as it turned out, it was utterly useless for carrying wood.  I had made it long and skinny.  It would likely only fit one or two logs (super long ones at that).  Sigh.  It was supposed to be folded the other way so that it was deeper and shorter.  I was entirely horrified and with no time left before the family gift exchange to fix it, I did what I had to do…I gave it to him and then took it right back offering promises to “fix it soon”.

oh dear

This is the way it was supposed to go.  Which means the embroidery is going the wrong way and so are the straps.  Not such as easy fix after all.   And do you know what is worse?  I still haven’t fixed it.  I’m going to do it tonight and give it to him again before Christmas so at least I don’t have to say it took me a year to fix it.  Wish me luck!

book

Oh and by the way, I found this project in this book.  I’ve now made a number of the projects in here and all of them have turned out so wonderfully!  I’ll share a few in the coming days.

What are some of your DYI disasters?

Easing into the season

adventwreath

I’ve decided we are not doing a countdown calendar this year.  I just didn’t want to invest the time it takes to make one and organize the little presents.  Plus there can be fights about whose turn it is to open that day’s gift.  This year I needed simple.  I needed relaxed.  I needed beautiful.  And I do think our advent wreath turned out beautifully don’t you?

advent wreath

The base is cut from a pine log out at J’s parents house.  We used it (and a few others) for decorations for Mrs. Iverson’s woodland animal birthday party a few months ago.  Eventually it is destined to be a “dinner plate” to be used in the girls backyard “mudpie kitchen” in the spring.  The centre is cut from a lovely cedar heartwood log.  We drilled 4 holes into it, melted a bit of wax into the holes and placed a beeswax candle into each (the candles were left over from our Earth Day celebration downtown this past April). We had a few branches that needed trimming on our evergreen out back and we used our glue gun to keep them in place.  The berries are from some grab bag I had from VV.

I was raised Roman Catholic and the advent wreath was central to the lead up to the Christmas celebrations.  Of course the use of evergreen wreaths with candles during this season predates Christianity and so an advent wreath can be enjoyed by Christians and non-christians alike.  I loved telling the girls about this piece of their cultural heritage and sharing something so peaceful and serene with them.  It ties in so nicely with our yearly discussions about Solstice and the symbol of the evergreen and its promise of new life in spring.  The light of the candles holds back the darkness just enough for us to remember that the light will return.

Each night at dinner we’ve been lighting one candle and letting it burn while we eat.  The girls take turns lighting it (there is another random candle for the girl who does not get to light the advent wreath that night : ).  So instead of chocolate/candy highs (and then lows) we’re enjoying candlelight dinners and a more gentle and peaceful sort of countdown.

Now this is a tradition I can live with…

A Solstice surprise

I know that many of you were left wondering after my “This Moment” post earlier.  I must say the story of this doll house is one that really touched me.

I was approached by an acquaintance at KUF who asked if I might be interested in the doll house.  An older gentleman and his wife were looking to find it a good home.  It belonged to their daughter and as she is now 40 years old and has only boys it wasn’t something that would be passed down.  As it happens, I have been looking for exactly this kind of doll house for years!

And so I went to go see it.  It is just so precious.  The gentleman told me about how a friend with carpentry skills made it for his daughter for Christmas many years ago.   He was still painting it that Christmas Eve!  You can clearly see how thoughtful the person making it was.  The staircases, the railings…the perfectly chosen faux wood floors in the living room and bedroom, faux tile in the kitchen and bathroom and the velour “carpet” in the attic.  Even the wallpaper is on a scale that is perfect for this tiny house!

I was gushing with gratitude saying how I promised that my girls would take such good care of it when away he went again to find the accessories.  Accessories?  Oh my goodness, wait ’til you see…

Are you kidding me?  There was a side board for the kitchen, a letter writing desk (which actually works!), a grandfather clock and a cuckoo clock, a market basket, a canopy bed and a lamp that is actually wired for electricity!!

I mean for Pete’s sake!  Look at this phone!

This fireplace!  Have you ever seen anything like it?!  The bucket with the faux wood, the fireplace tools, not to mention the tiny silver tea set and those books!  Those are honest to goodness real books….with pages you can flip!

Clearly I couldn’t wait to set it all up when I got home and look at each and every precious piece.  Dust and all, I put the whole thing together taking notes on what needed repair and what needed doing (a new cover for the bed mattress is in order I do believe).

I would have died to have a doll bed like this as a kid.  Amazing.

So cozy!

Do I even need to tell you how much I love this cradle?  And this stroller?

Yep.  This is the bathroom.  It has a soaker tub.  Goodness.

The bedroom!  Doesn’t it look like it is out of a magazine or something?

Another adorable fireplace and this lamp…clearly, I need to look into wiring and electrical for miniature houses!

And that completes our house tour.  What do you think?  Will the girls love it or what?  I was really and truly touched by this generosity.  The exchange was finished with a handshake and a heartfelt Merry Christmas.  Merry Christmas indeed.  I’ve been thinking of ways to pay it forward ever since.