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?

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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.

Winter Reading: Part I

With the colder weather comes more opportunities to cozy up by the fire with some of our favourite seasonal books.

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King is hands down, our family’s favourite.   This is a hilarious story.  The trickster, Coyote is preparing to host his annual solstice dinner with friends when a girl dressed up as a reindeer knocks at the door to his woodland home.  She introduces the friends to the world of commercial holidays and leads them to the mall where “rough herds of humans rushed by. Their arms filled with brightly wrapped boxes, and murderous looks in their eyes”.  Thomas King’s brilliant poetry reminds us of the simple pleasures of time spent with friends and the beauty of the world in winter as Coyote tries to recall “if goodwill and peace could be purchased for credit or cash at the mall”.

No wait, The Quilt Maker’s Gift is the favourite!

I love this book! The watercolour illustrations are stunning and the story is all about the joy of giving.  This is not a Christmas book but it is a great way to talk about how getting everything we want does not make us happy.  Sharing what we have with others is how we achieve true happiness.  The King who has everything attempts to demand a handmade quilt from a wise woman who lives in the mountains.  Only when he has given away his last possession will she gift him a quilt.  The King finds true happiness in sharing his wealth with others and continues the woman’s tradition of giving to those in need.

Solstice is our main holiday celebration. Wendy Pfeffer’s The Shortest Day is wonderful in its simplicity.  It reviews the past 5000 years of solstice celebrations and traditions around the world.

At the end there is a more in depth explanation of  why the days are shorter and then longer with a bunch of fun activities to try on your own as well.

You’ll notice a trend in any of our book lists and that is that there are many of Elsa Beskow’s books on them. Her books are always full of children finding adventure and using their imaginations.   Ollie’s Ski Trip is about a 6-year-old boy who gets a pair of skis for his birthday.  He sets off into the forest and meets Jack Frost who takes him to King Winter’s Palace. It is full of old world charm and is such a magical story.  When my girls see frost on a window pane they always exclaim “Jack Frost was here!”.

Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson is another wonderful book that explores the early solstice celebrations and traditions.  In this house there is no such thing as too many solstice stories.

What will we do without our trees to tap?  We move in 9 short days and I am already longing for the long winter nights spent outside tending the fire as we boil down the sap to make our delicious maple syrup.  This year we’ll have to make do with reading Sugar Snow and visiting a local sugar shack (or two) for our maple sugar fix.

This list doesn’t even put a dent in our winter reading library.  For some reason winter books out number our spring, summer and fall collections put together.  I’m one of those people who much prefer winter over summer.  There is still no snow here and I find that the girls and I are hungry for the pictures and stories of our favourite season and activities.  I’ll share more of our collection in another post.  Of course we are always looking to add more!  Here are some books on our wish list:

Islands by Anne Smythe

A Candle for Christmas by Jean E. Speare

The Winter Book by Rotraut Susanne Berner

Bella’s Tree by Janet Russell

For now we’ll have to search for them at the library but it is so lovely to have beautiful books of our own on our shelves…What are some of your favourite winter books?