Wednesday, November 14, 2018

solstice gift ideas and another modern japanese rice pouch

Here's another version of kzsteven's Modern Japanese Rice Pouch. I had been wanting to sew another pouch, inspired by the upcoming winter solstice. 
I used soft, quiet neutral fabrics to reflect the mood of the wintery days ahead.
The little bit of embroidery I stitched last week served as the hopping off point for the bag. Sewing this up yesterday during the snowstorm got me to thinking about the solstice and I was surprised to realize it's just a bit more than a month away. As I sat at my Bernina, I began to brainstorm a list of wee gifts that might be appropriate for holiday giving. Maybe you would like to see my ideas and add  a few of your own suggestions.
Solstice celebrations are ancient. The special twenty four hours surrounding the shift feels free of the clutter of our more "modern day" holidays. I love to embrace it as a time to celebrate wonder and renewal in the midst of the darkest days of winter (at least here in the northern hemisphere). Sometimes I mark the solstice by gifting friends and family with thoughtful, little tokens of my affection. These ideas could certainly work for Christmas as well.

Bringing the outdoors in is a natural way to mark the solstice.nging the outdoors in is a natural way to decorate for the solstice...
-One of the most simple of gifts might be a heart, cut from foraged birch bark, and hung on a string. On the darkest of nights, the birches glow in the woods, with their white bark catching the moonlight.

-Pine cones, strung on twine, can create a lovely garland, to hang in a window or from a shelf.

-Frangrant bundles of fresh herbs, like sage, wrapped together with cedar bits, cinnamon sticks and anise stars, and hung with a bit of ribbon could scent a room for days.

-A swag of balsam boughs, bound with ribbon and a jingle bell creates a welcome at the front door, like this.

-Balsam sachets can be tucked into drawers.

There are so many ways to bring light to a friend's home...

-Beeswax candles can be purchased and gifted or you can make your own by tightly wrapping bee's wax sheets around wicks.

-Luminaria can be crafted from paper bags, a bit of sand and votive candles.

-Stars, folded from white paper, can be hung alone or strung in a row or piled in a bowl. Pinterest is full of tutorials!

-Make a date with a friend to go out at night and look up at the stars. Bring cozy blankets and a thermos full of hot chocolate. Check before you go out, to see what constellations you might see.

Food is a central part of celebrating holidays...

-A nicely wrapped loaf of quick bread is easy to tuck into your bag to drop off at a co-worker's desk, or at your local library. Or make an oven's worth and drop them at your local senior center. Cranberry orange, pumpkin spice and lemon blueberry are some of our faves.

-Homemade granola, stored in a pretty glass jar and tagged with the recipe will be appreciated by most folks.

-We like to make raspberry cordial because it reminds us--in the dead of winter--of the sunny summer days when raspberries are falling of their canes. A small bottle of cordial makes a nice solstice gift. Recipe here.

-Who wouldn't love a jar of spiced or roasted nuts, delivered along with a mesh bag of clementines?

-Don't forget the birdies! Gift a friend with a suet feeder and a few cakes of suet. Or make suet balls at home with this recipe.

As cold as it is outside, there are seeds germinating under the ground, a precious reminder that warmth will return.

-Gift a glass jar, filled with an amaryllis bulb or a few paper white narcissus, anchored with some rounded pebbles or aquarium gravel. Include a note describing how to "force" them to bloom.

-Sew a little pouch and slip some seed packets inside.

-Make a collage with photos from last year's seed catalog and put it in an inexpensive frame.

If you are a stitcher, here are some ideas for sewing a gift or two...

-For the sewer in your circle of friends, consider making a needle case, or a meditative pincushion. The needle case instructions can be found here. The pincushion instructions can be found in issue 3 of making magazine.   Crazy Mom Quilts has a number of free tutorials for pin cushions on her blog, here.

-Lotta Jansdotter has written a wonderful book called Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style, which is full of patterns and quick projects. I found a tutorial for a neat fabric bracelet, you can see my version, here. There's also a fun patchwork bias tape necklace that I'd like to try in solstice whites. Lotta also has patterns for tunics, totes and dresses included. Maybe your local library can find the book for you!

-If you have an artist in your midst, here's a very fun pencil roll you can sew. The pattern for this gift can be found in Joelle Hoveson's book, Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts.

-There are two fun projects for kids in issue 2 of making magazine. Woodland Finger Puppets (left) are embroidered with a simple outline stitch, and Squirrel, (right) by Grainline Studio is made of felt.

-A "treasure pouch" can be stitched up to hold any number of goodies (think Duplo blocks for kids, a small knitting project or juggling balls). I made a bunch of them and love how easy they are to make. The pattern can be found here. 

-For snail mail aficionados, here's a sweet little stationary kit tutorial by Fabric Mutt.

Finally, some other books that you may enjoy...

Celebrate the Solstice, by Richard Heinberg
The Winter Solstice, by John Matthews
Handmade Scandinavian Christmas, by Here Barnholt

I hope these ideas spark some creative energy in you, dearest readers. Please let me know if you try any of them. AND, please be sure to add any of your own ideas here in the comments. I'd love to hear  if and how you celebrate the shortest day/longest night of the year. xoxoxoxox

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

tula tuesday::week 36

 block number 62
from tula pink's
city sampler
100 modern quilt blocks.
 ...and the snowy inspiration.
 block number 36...
and the inspiration. 

After a month off from this project, stitching two blocks may help me get back into the swing of things. Lots of snow today and a high of 21, low of 5 degrees forecast for tomorrow. Seems like a really early winter to me.

I also stitched another Japanese Rice Bag today, using this little bit of stitching. Check back tomorrow to check it out. I'll post some ideas for solstice gifting, too.


Sunday, November 11, 2018


This is a tough day for me. Perhaps you struggle too? 

I sit on the knife edge of honoring veterans and abhorring war. (My dad was a proud Marine whose artistic skills (perversely) created training materials that supported troops in Korea. He requested that an honor guard serve at his internment. I could not tolerate the rifle salute and I still remember it as an intrusion on that day).

So I make room for reflection today.

Melissa at Tiny Happy had a tutorial for crafting a white poppy pin on her blog years ago. You can find it here. It is a peaceful alternative to the traditional red poppy. It was easy to stitch. 

I support Veterans For Peace and the work they do to “build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices.” Their “Reclaiming Armistice Day” is about “pushing the celebration of peace into the national conversation on Veterans Day”. 

And the work of the American Friends Service Committee merits consideration as a cause to support, too. 

And then there is this quote that rings with truth...
"Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows." -MLK Jr. 🕊

Saturday, November 10, 2018

stitching in the present moment

 snowy afternoon stitching,
using a scrap of selvedge and 
some embroidery floss.
edges turned under and ready to pin.

solstice ideas.

(riffing off of this)

Friday, November 9, 2018

snow is a comin' (and kooser)

 my car has her snow tires on and 
 a new windshield scraper is tucked under the front seat
(not sure where the old one went...). 
i dug up the last of the leeks this afternoon.
did you know that you can plant your freshly dug, untrimmed 
leeks in a container in the root cellar and they will stay fresh?
on my list of things to do tomorrow.
 i marvel at the sage.
her silvery leaves keep growing long after everything
else in the garden gives up.

we can often find her, tucked under a blanket of snow,
ready to flavor a thanksgiving or holiday turkey.

i love to sizzle her leaves in olive oil (along
 with slivered leeks) to use 
as a garnish for pasta and soups.
here's our weather station, perched at the top 
of the pole that holds up our clothesline.

today marks the first day of ted kooser's
Winter Morning Walks:
one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison

some of us are reading it again,
or maybe for the first time.

"The sky hangs thin and wet on its clothesline."

 that's surely how it feels as we wait for the first measurable
snow of the season here in vermont.

i look forward to spending a few, quiet and peaceful
moments for the next one hundred days
with the solace of kooser's writing.

let me know how it goes for you, dearest readers.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

a birthday quilt for maggie

 Our dearest little Magpie turns one year old today.
Yesterday was cold and rainy in Brooklyn,
so she opened her package from
Grandma and Gramdpa in Vermont a day early.
(She had an inkling of what might be inside).
 Her Mama wrapped her up in her new quilt
and they had a little snuggle time
before heading out into the world.

This little cutie pie has the most precious of smiles.
She's a city girl who charms folks on the subway and buses that 
rumble along her commute.
She's a "reeder" who loves her books.
She loves her veggies.
She and her Mama and Papa make such an adorable family.
Thank goodness for technology that allows all of us to stay
in touch with her as she grows before our very eyes.
 This is the fabric that started the quilt.
I could not resist these wee critters.
 I used this book that I bought in the early 2000's
to create the Seminole strips.
Maybe you noticed the birch fabric added here and there?
When I spotted the grey gingham checked fabric
I knew it would make a perfect binding.
And how about those elections?
I can't seem to get enough of those amazingly gorgeous smiles
 on the faces of the women
who are shifting the balance of power.

I'm guessing someday you will have a few things to say
about how the world is run.
Grow strong and brave and joyous,
little one.

with love from your Grandma in Vermont.

Monday, November 5, 2018

two projects: a sew and a sow

I "met" Karen Stevens on Instagram and fell in love with her slow stitching aesthetic. I bought one of her fun indigo moon zipper pouches from her Easy shop and I do love it. Imagine my delight when she asked me to be a tester for her Modern Japanese Rice Pouch pdf pattern! I pulled out an actual fabric rice bag (basmati, not sushi) from my fabric stash and some of my homegrown, hand dyed indigo and special bits and pieces and stitched up this version of her bag. The bag is easy to follow and Karen has a special 15% off through Thursday.
Here's the other side of my bag. You can follow Karen on Instagram here and check out her website where you'll find a link to her Etsy shop. Check it out!
My brother and sister-in-law are moving and cannot take the two funky little hoop houses that they built with them. In mid-September, Batman and I drove down to Massachusetts to rescue one of them. It was a snug fit, but we got the most important parts of the hoop house loaded into the pick up, tied it all down very carefully and hauled it back up to Vermont.
We started working on construction right away. We built a base with new lumber. We thought Batman might run into the typical ledge that follows the spine of the Braintree Hills, but he was able to dig a nice, deep central ditch.
The hoops went up, compost was hauled and added and we were excited about our progress. Then the rains began, the temperature dropped and our scheduled weekend work was postponed...
Finally, this past weekend the sun came out, we bundled up and headed out to finish things up.
Lifting this heavy window unit up onto the base was tricky business, but we did it! (Doug and Ra had used salvaged vinyl windows to create the ends, complete with screens!)
The second end was not as heavy and felt so much easier! We have decided to wait until the late winter to put the plastic sheeting up and over the hoops.
Here's Batman, (who is 6' 5" tall) standing in the house, without bumping his head, thanks to that nice deep ditch he dug.
We are curious to see how much this hoop house will increase our growing season. Imagine fresh greens while there's still spring snow on the ground...fingers crossed! And every time we step into the hoop house we'll take a bit of gratitude with us...for Doug and Ra's generosity. xo

Is there anything as hopeful as sowing seeds in the dirt? All winter long, we'll be able to look out the window and see this hoop house, filled with possibility!