Monday, November 24, 2008

Procraftinate with style

Come inside my obsessive need to always be productive—even while procrastinating—in this week's CraftStylish post. At right, my sketchbook offers a little insight into my creative process.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Daniel G. Harmann + Goodness concert this Friday

Just a reminder that Goodness (fronted by Carrie Akre) is doing a couple final reunion shows at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard this weekend. My annoyingly talented friend Daniel G. Harmann is going to be kicking things off on the 21st so I encourage you to check out what will assuredly be a rockin' show.

It's like peanut butter has met chocolate in a scrumptious combination of Seattle music.

Tickets are almost gone for Friday's show. You can get them via and also at all Sonic Boom Record locations.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pajama bottoms and insomnia

It's been a kookaloo time, I'm not gonna lie. I've been hit with the perfect storm of deadlines and I've been seriously treading water. So what happens is that I go to bed late and then wake up during those hours of early morning that no one should ever really see unless you have a 6am flight or work a hideous construction shift.

Anyway, I was hit with some insomnia and a time change adjustment (I just got back from the East Coast), and was wide awake at 5:30 yesterday morning. My mind just started racing, thinking about everything I have to accomplish and other pesky issues that don't have answers quite yet. So I got up and knocked out a pair of pajama bottoms, which ended up as this week's tutorial on CraftStylish. I am obsessed with this mountain map fabric and I love the results, which I think are pretty durn cute considering my blurred vision.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crafting memories

My latest essay has been posted on CraftStylish. It talks about a few of my treasured handicrafts, and the television shows and movies I associate with making them. My newest shawl will always remind me of Election Night 08.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Prairie Girl's Guide to Christmas

In light of the current economic situation, I thought this article was worth revisiting. It originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 07 issue of Adorn (may it rest in peace).

The Prairie Girl's Guide to Christmas
Two years ago, I quit Christmas. In the middle of stuffing my annual letter into a fancy-pants letterpressed holiday card, I quit. I backed away from the stack of cards and pulled out my knitting instead.

Eighty of my closest friends and colleagues didn’t hear from me that year, but oh my goodness, did my pal love the lacy shawl I knitted for her.

I didn’t throw in the holiday towel altogether. I just stopped trolling for parking at the mall, dealing with crowds hopped up on eggnog lattes, running to three parties in one night, turning my house into a 1,000 points of light, and buying designer gifts en masse.

Instead of these soul-sapping activities, I created new traditions. I created personal and personalized gifts. In other words, I went all Laura Ingalls Wilder on the holidays.

In doing this, I got my Christmas spirit back.

In re-reading Little House books while researching my own book on prairie crafts and skills, I could feel how precious one handmade gift and stick of Christmas candy could mean to a child when presented with love and thoughtfulness. I can relate. When someone presents me with a gift so perfectly chosen or made for me, I get weepy. I also well up when giving someone a personalized present. I love wrapping the gift as well, artfully providing some clue to the gift within.

And just between you and me, I can’t afford to keep up with copious and label-laden gifts. So I go for quality and thoughtfulness over quantity and price. A thick lotion, packaged in a sweet tin and infused with a friend’s favorite scent, goes over just as well as a spendy department store jar of cream. Bringing a homemade rhubarb pie to a holiday party rather than the ubiquitous bottle of champagne or wine sends any hostess over the moon. It also sends her to the pantry, where she hides the pie behind the canned goods, hording it for herself.

When it comes to holiday cards, I customize a few, and use the time I’ve saved on the dozens of other cards crafting sparkly jewelry for my nieces or making popcorn balls with my pals. Instead of garish lights that frankly give me a migraine, I drape cranberry and popcorn garlands on the boughs of my tree and use my great-grandmother’s quilt as a tree skirt.

Below are a just a few gift ideas that are inexpensive and easy to create and customize, no matter how fickle or fashionable your friends or family. And another thought: host a small holiday party with your pals, serve up some eggnog, and set up a prairie girl workshop for them to make their own lotions and potions. Supply essential oils so they can infuse their creation with whatever they need to get through the holidays, such as lavender if they need to relax or peppermint if they need an energy boost. Sadly, there’s no oil that I know of that will help with family dynamics.

Lavender Linen Waters
You don’t have to knit a shawl or spend all year making a quilt. There are many unique and thoughtful gifts you can whip up in a jif. For instance, make linen waters for friends who love to press their clothes and curtains, and infuse it with their favorite scent (lavender is a lovely choice).

2 teaspoons lavender essential oil (or essential oil of your choice)
5 tablespoons 100-proof vodka
1 cup distilled water

Sterilize a spray bottle (preferably glass) by washing it and then dipping it in a hot water bath and letting it dry completely. Combine the essential oil and vodka in the bottle, and shake vigorously. Add the distilled water. Shake gently before using. To use, mist on clothing and linens before ironing.

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

Furniture Polish
For the homebody, mix a homemade furniture polish. Packaged in a genteel glass bottle, your loved one will appreciate this almost as much as the coffee table she asked Santa for.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

Sterilize a spray bottle (preferably glass) by washing it and then dipping it into a hot water bath. Dry the bottle. Pour the oil and juice into the spray bottle and gently shake before each use. Spritz polish onto a clean cloth until it’s slightly damp. Use the cloth to polish furniture, using circular motions, and re-spraying the cloth as needed. Use another cloth to dry the furniture, again polishing in circles. Store bottle in a cool, dark place.

Makes 3/4 cup

Night Cream
For your beauty buddy, present her with an indulgent, moisturizing night cream, perfect for the winter months.

3 Tablespoons sweet almond oil
2 Tablespoons hydrous lanolin (lanolin that has been combined with purified water)
2 Tablespoons cocoa butter
2 teaspoons rosewater
1/2 teaspoon honey
6 drops rose essential oil

If you have a double boiler, pull it out. (A glass bowl can be used in its place.) Heat a pan of water on medium-high heat. When water starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium. Place the double boiler in the water and add the sweet almond oil, hydrous lanolin, and cocoa butter. As the ingredients melt, stir with a metal spoon until completely blended.

Remove the double boiler from the heat, and let the mixture cool slightly. Add the rosewater, honey, and rose essential oil, whisk until blended, and then scoop your new moisturizer into a sterilized plastic or glass jar.

Before applying to the face, test by rubbing a bit into the wrist. If there’s no reaction other than supple skin, feel free to apply to a clean face before bed. Store in a cool place.

Makes 1/2 cup

Insect Repellent
For the outdoorsy set, how about insect repellent that doesn’t smell like a vat of chemicals?

1/4 cup witch hazel (or substitute olive oil, rubbing alcohol, or vodka)
1 Tablespoon citronella, cedarwood, tea tree, or sandalwood essential oil

Sterilize a spray bottle (glass or plastic) by dipping it in a pan of boiling water. Let dry. Add witch hazel and essential oil of your choice (any of the oils listed above are excellent mosquito repellants) to bottle and close tightly. Shake well before each use. To use, spray liberally on any exposed areas when you are outdoors.

Makes approximately 1/3 cup

Decorating your Homestead for the Holidays
  • Pierce an orange full of cloves and hang this fragrant pomander in a doorway.
  • Fill clear vases with Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples, or even your favorite ornaments.
  • String cranberry and popcorn garlands and drape them on your trees, both inside and out (give the birds something to enjoy).
  • Use a quilt as a tablecloth or tree skirt.
  • Make your own ornaments with pinecones and found items.
  • Hang real stockings from your mantel and fill them with oranges, nuts, hard candy, and peppermint sticks.
  • Light a taper candle in each window (just keep them away from drafts and flammable items).

Monday, November 3, 2008

The gift guide for guys

If you need a bit of inspiration about what to make for the fellas in your life this holiday season, check out my latest CraftStylish post.

It even includes my grandmother's Cowboy Cookie recipe, a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie that has rendered all other cookies dead to me.

A sampling of my books