I have made

May would be the end of me


I've mentioned it here before, but May is a rough month for us. Birthdays, anniversaries, mothers, toss in a race or two, and you've got a great month to break any good habits you may have built up over the course of the rest of the year. Like that whole photo project that had begun its decline into mediocre Instagram slideshow. So that's done, now. And maybe the things I do manage to post will have a little more substance than the shoes I happen to be wearing at the time I manage to whip out my phone to take a hurried shot before my self-imposed midnight deadline.

All the event-ness of May does offer opportunity for making, though. And when we were through with nearly everything on our calendars, and there was just the matter of The Boy's very first birthday party to resolve, I finally pressed all my tools — sewing machine, Gocco, designy computer apps, piping bags and every single measuring utensil — into service.

Really, it was just a goodie bag, some cupcakes and a little paper soccer game I devised, but cram it all into a week that also shares calendar space with work and volunteer and racing commitments, and every clockable moment turns into crunch time.

The goodie bag was a simple, exposed seam design. Gocco-printed muslin on the outside and a laminated cotton lining, with a handle snipped and reinforced into the design. I figured once the bags made it home and were no longer official party accoutrement, they could be turned inside out for a generically owl-decked carrier of small items that six-year-olds are wont to tote around.

I didn't go crazy making the fillers this year, and, at any rate, I suspect that the pre-tween crowd collectively scoffs at the idea of fiddling with something so baby-ish as play dough. So I made it easy on myself and rolled the cart into the dollar aisle at Target and stocked up on shwaggy amounts of kazoos and novelty pencils. 


But, mostly to justify the purchase of a perforating tool, I went ahead and drafted up a card-stock soccer board (PDF here, on the off chance you want to give it a whirl) to fold and bend and cajole into GOOOOOOOOOOL-worthy play. You know that thing where you fold up a scrap of paper into a wedge that in no way resembles a football, and then fling that at a friend idiotically holding his fingers in a field goal formation in front of his face? It's exactly that, but without the inherent facial trauma. 

Anyway, I haven't heard back from anyone who tried to play with it, though The Boy was plenty keen on starting up a pick-up game. And it was a nice tie-in to the party venue, which was our neighborhood indoor soccer joint. So it had to be done. And now May is done, so a round of relaxation is in order.

xmas redux: Printed cloths


With that Valentine post, it occurred to me that Christmas snuck through without examination of the goods I came up with this year. So I'll just intermittently toss some belated product run-downs here, scattered amongst the daily picture posts.

I decided to lay off the Gocco this year, because last time I hauled it out I discovered some of the inks had started separating and, well, it requires some coordination of resources (and covert hijacking of my work printer) to get the laser masters printed for the screens. I do love a good carved block, though, and planning for one of those enforces the need for ultra-simple design work. And ultra-simplicity is precisely the kind of design work I'm capable of during the final weeks of the year. 


So I whipped up a two-minute binary poinsettia and put it to work on some loosely-woven fabric that I'd sewn into square, bandana-ish sized swatches. Full disclosure here: I have no idea what the precise make-up of that material is. The bolt's ultra-inexpensiveness and proximity to the muslins would suggest that it's not actual linen, possibly not any natural fiber. But it gets the job done and in a nicely neutral palette. 

And their primary purpose, apart from satisfying my printing urges? To wrap up some of the more fragile items in the gift baskets. Their ultimate purpose? Slung around Bear's neck, one makes a nifty attached-to-the-kid hankie for her perpetually runny nose. 


Tags: block print, furoshiki, stamp, xmas

So, Valentine's Day…


Let's start with The Bear's Valentines, because they were easy. Because I used a free pattern from a web-sourced idea. Felt a little like cheating, but what are free online patterns are for, after all. Also felt little like cheating because they're so similar to the ones I made Bear last year, right down to the metal type stamp and fingerprint hearts on the tag/hanger detail (with edges unfinished and fantastically susceptible to fraying). But woolen hearts are an allure I just can't beat, and for another year I chose not to fight it. 


Candy would be the default go-in. But it's not as if these kids need more sugar in their lives. Stickers and tattoos are Bear's go-to happy-makers, these days. And as she's the closest insight I've got to Toddlers These Days, that's what we're going with. 


Also, hand-stitching the couple dozen hearts with a luxe perle cotton completely stamped out my long-harbored notion that I dislike handwork. Because apparently I do quite enjoy having a lap-bound project while cozied up under a throw. Or passing time at the breakfast table while the children agonize over their last quarter inch of yogurt. Or taking a break from playground hovering. Or multitasking while checking Facebook updates. And, just as with reading a book or doing my crossword puzzle, I like the kids seeing me make things in front of them.


As for The Boy's Valentines, I can't trace the exact genesis of these with a simple url. DIY seed tapes and seed bombs and seeded paper have been making the rounds for a while now, and it's an idea I heartily support, even while my own thumb is steadfastly disinclined to make things grow. But those bulbs we planted in the fall have been poking up and reminding me that plants indeed have the ability to grow around here with the minimal maintenance that a Kindergartener can supply. And I love the idea of sending out cards with a bit of fun utility to them. 

So we pulpified some colored tissue paper, starting with the bright green sheets that swaddled the fancy heirloom seeds we picked up at the fancy gardening boutique. Not having the proper paper-making supplies (there are some crafty supplies I am missing, after all) we simply finger-pressed seed-embedded wads of the blender-puréed pulp into scalloped cookie cutters placed over super-absorbant cloths (OK, they were cloth diapers). Left them in front of a heater vent to dry out for a couple nights and they were compacted and hard as the cardboard on those 4-up to-go trays you get at Starbucks. It's a lot like felting loose wool into a tight little bead.

And then those sat around for a couple weeks while I put off designing the cards around them. 

My design process:

  1. Try to conceptualize the product. 
  2. Fail.
  3. Get distracted by the little hexagons that I've got going.
  4. Put off working on the project because I don't have a clear vision for it.
  5. Faced with dwindling lead-time, force myself to just sit down and push pixels around for the thirty minutes that it takes me to come up with an idea I'm really excited about. 
  6. Remind myself of all those designy aphorisms that tell you to just stop thinking and get to working. Also remind myself that I've been doing this pixel pushing for a while now, and I'm actually pretty ok at it.

Every damned time.


So, the cards came together. I could have made more effort to better tie it all in to Valentine's Day than that tenuous "Happy Valentine's Day" bit I've got there. Still, I've already mentioned that I'm crazy happy with them. I'm also fairly confident there are enough visual cues to dissuade the Kindergarteners from trying to consume them. And that's what good design is really all about.

Tags: cards, hearts, plants, seeds, Valentines, wool felt

2012: Feb 11

Is it too much to say that I'm over-the-moon in love with the Valentines The Boy and I worked up this year? Labor intensive as they sometimes were (I mean, what possessed me to have us press our own paper pulp seed pucks?), the end product kicks some serious Valentine ass. If I do say so myself. And, finishing them up this afternoon, The Boy put his shoelace-tying skills to some practical use.

2012: Feb 10

These little hearts, like the similarly felt hearts I made up last year, are just so precious I want to gather them all up and nuzzle them against my cheek. Or a more likely scenario: I'm so frazzled with all the V-day makings that I shove them into Bear's little hands to just get rid of them already.

2012: Jan 19

Starting on the second day of this snow event, I've been working on this little tic-tac-toe mat for The Boy. The board itself, with a pocket sewn into the back to contain the markers, came together easily the first night. The hexagons, I've been shuffling around the house to work on while the kids work through their stir-craziness. I finished off the last marker this morning and handed it off to The Boy, who, appreciative of all things rainbow, went to work devising all-new rules to the age-old game.


I decided to get a little fancy with the marshmallows this year. Which gives me license to make them half the size as previous years' and package them in smaller batches. So there are the peppermint candy-topped ones (which, frankly, came out odd-looking), and then these babies, painted with a bit of melted chocolate and sprinkled with crushed graham crackers. A perfect, no-fuss s'more. www.lovelihood.com