W.I.P. Wednesday : The finished, the planned and the in-progress…

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This is an extra-large serving of W.I.P.ness, so grab a little cup of tea and here we go!

The finished : Staring here is good, helps me to feel like I’ve accomplished something!

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Here are the carp I told you about here. Love them. I hope my nephew does, too.

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He’s quite a sketcher (I sent him the watercolour-pencil roll for Christmas) so I thought a blank notebook would suit him. I also made him a black denim pouch to slip the notebook and some pencils in, in case he wants to do a little field work (ok, this is a bad inside joke because he lives on a farm. Sorry.)

It’s also my niece’s birthday soon, so here are her goodies :

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The little dude’s antenna/hat isn’t sewn on yet in this photo, but I assure you, it has since been sewn on and they are on their way to the U.S. along with this :

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…a little felty pouch (decorated with ribbon on the other side) and a heart pin because they are so cute I’m making them for everyone! I used this felt, and for the butterflies I used this adorable pattern from Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls fame. I just noticed she’s having a doll giveaway today – go throw your name in the virtual hat!.

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This was one of the first patterns I ever ordered (about 9 months ago), but this is the first time I’ve used it. I have a feeling I’ll be making more of these in the future they are so sweet. And springy.

Oh, and a new pincushion, because I just love making these little cuties!

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and the other side, so you can see my wonky stitching.

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Now, the in-progress :

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Another one of these dolls. This is for a “new” baby (she’s already 3 weeks old – aak!). She’s mostly done – just need to sew her hair ribbon on and get her limbs attached. Have you ever noticed the less you have to do to finish a project, the more difficult it is psychologically to get it done? Or is it just me?

I started this last night for the talented Tacha :

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Lucky me gets to test another pattern for her! This is going to be adorable – I’ll hopefully have it ready for show & tell by Friday! She has the best stuff in her shop – go check it out!

The planned :

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard of the terrible fires in Australia, killing so many – humans and animals – and destroying everything in sight. I wanted to so something, so I donated what I could, but still felt like I wasn’t doing anything. Then, the aforementioned Tacha told me about The Bushfire Quilt Project. Tia Curtis, an American quilter living in Australia, is rounding-up quilt blocks from all over the globe and with the help of local quilters, they are creating quilts for families who lost everything in this tragedy. If your life has ever been touched by fire, you know the devastation of completely starting over. These quilts may not be much, but they are a start, and a great way to show some global solidarity to our Australian friends.

That’s great, Shellyfish, but I don’t know how to quilt. Well, guess what? Neither do I! But I’m committing to making at least a few of these Wonky Stars thanks to the tutorial. My biggest obstacle is an anemic fabric stash, but I’m hoping to get some scraps organized Friday. Here’s The Bushfire Quilt Project Flickr Group if you want to be inspired. Doing what you can makes such a big difference, be it 2 or 50 squares. Others are sending quilting supplies to help out. Just wanted to spread the word, and thanks to Tacha for sharing the links with me!

And to finish, behold! Guppy’s new dress, er, dress fabric :

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Ok, this fabric is just dreamy. It has such a great feel and weight to it. Yum. We don’t have a fabric store in town, but there is a vendor who comes to the marché twice a week. The up-side is he often has designer remnants at great prices. The down-side is that you can’t buy the amount you’d like – you’re stuck with whatever size the remnant is – be it a half meter or 3 meters. It’s a good thing in this case because I got nearly 3 meters for 10E which is just super exciting!

I wish I were only 4 and could have a dress, too. Ok, no, when I was 4 I wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. But Guppy is rather excited about it, probably because she doesn’t have any cold-weather dresses so it seems special. I’m excited because I’ve never made a dress before. So much excitement.

Speaking of excitement, next week’s W.I.P. will have our Wipster of the Month interview and we’ll also have our March Stitch-Along – I bet you just can’t wait! Try to satisfy your curiosity by visitng the other Wipsters to see what they are up to this week, and don’t forget the W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Group, too!

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Bookmaking & Birthday Gifts (and an ugly yet delicious cupcake)

I’ve been wanting to blog about my newest favourite creative obsession outlet, but thought it would be better to wait until I had a little more to show you. I wanted to explain the why’s and how’s, give you the soul behind the groove…

But I just can’t wait because it’s so fun!

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I am in love with making these notebooks! Don’t you love the unfinished, just raveld enough edges? I think they look so natural. Sometimes I wonder if it’s normal to enjoy sewing into paper so much, because it’s the bee’s knees. I promise a more in-depth post soon, but you know when you’re into something and you just have to share it? This little cupper is actually on its way to a very sweet Birthday Girl. It doesn’t have far to go, but I don’t think it’s going to make it in time. Sigh.

These notebooks have become my birthday gift idea par excellence, and I’m working on a few others right now. I’ve done a pretty good job honoring my Handmade Pledge, and this is a great way for me to send something from the heart and hands. I’ve been using Moleskine (over-priced) and faux-Moleskine (far more reasonable but difficult to find) notebooks, but I’m going to be making my own soon (that’ll be part of the part 2 of this post!).

Rather than typing this post, I should be embroidering this :

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It’s going to be for a notebook for my nephew’s birthday. These groovy little carp are from this book :

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I bought it last summer when visiting the U.S. I think it’s a great book for embroidery beginners (like me!) because it gives a good explanation of some basic techniques and has some fun project ideas, and though not all of them are really my cup of tea, I’ve enjoyed flipping through the pages for inspiration. I’m excited to use a design from this book for the first time.

I’ll be posting a proper bookmaking W.I.P. soon, promis, juré!

Did you happen to see the whiteout cakes that were taking over the Internet last week? If not you can visit Honey B or Natalia to see how beeeutiful they looked. They got me dreaming of deep, dark chocolate and frosting and since Guppy & I are on vacation, we decided to make some cupcake love…

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Clearly not as fancy as it could have been, but very fun to make with Guppy, and even more fun to eat! We just used the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, but I doubled the cocoa (because I’m punk rock like that) and we made a variation on the fluffy buttercream recipe. Betcha want one, too!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Sugar Free, Fat Free, Calorie Free Donuts! A tutorial…

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I know what you’re thinking : With a title like that, there’s got to be a catch. You’re right.

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I’d been wracking my little brain (ouch!), trying to think of something to make for my Pay It Forward (PIF) winners. It’s not easy knowing what to send someone you know without really knowing them outside of their blog lives. I considered making handbags, but not knowing their individual tastes, didn’t want to send something in their least favourite colour, or something that would sit in a closet forever. The only real criteria for the PIF gifts were that they be vegan and handmade.

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Enter the donuts! As I was thinking of goodies to add to their parcels, I thought of making a treat to send, but was concerned that even though they weren’t leaving the European Union, cookies could be crushed or frosting smudged, etc. by they time they arrived at destination. I’d made some felt food for Guppy to play with, and while she was setting up a little tea party for us one day, I thought felt donuts would be the ticket!

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Please do note that this felt is indeed vegan : made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, we’re cruelty-free and lessening the environmental impact by using a recycled medium. Woot!

Would you like to make some donuts? It’s really very easy, though it is a little more time consuming if you stitch your “sprinkles” on. I set this up assembly-line style and it was a fun little project. I can hardly take credit for these – felt food has been around since I was little (Regan child. No, ketchup is not a vegetable. Shudder), and I’ve seen felt donuts in felt food packs for kids, on the net, etc. If you do decide to use this tutorial to make donuts that you’ll be selling, please remember me when you’re rich and famous!

Let’s begin! First you’ll need some felt. I chose two colours of brown for the “cake” part – so we have regular and chocolate flavours, and some assorted colours for your glazes :

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You’ll also need the following :

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Thread, pins, beads for your “sprinkles”, something to trace your donut shape (I used a CD, a canning lid or something similar would obviously work, too, but would indeed be less musical), a needle, an exacto-knife or rolling cutter, scissors and maybe even a self-healing mat if you have one (a clean cutting board works ok, too).

First : Trace your basic donut shape in the darker felt. Don’t forget, you’ll need two pieces per pastry. I made a dozen, so that meant 24 pieces (my math skillz are amazing, n’est-ce pas?).

Next :

use-a-spool-to-trace-your-centreYou can use a spool to trace the outline of the centre. Don’t worry too much about this if your circle isn’t perfect -it’s going to look beautiful once it’s sewn up. Do try to cut two at a time, though, makes matching them up later a wee bit easier.

Now : (night was falling, so sorry for the flashy-blek.)

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Whip out that CD again and trace your glaze colours. You can be traditional or get crazy – these are your donuts and they are your art!

Ensuite : (which means next, but I already said that above)

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You’ll want to cut along the outer edge of your glazes to give them a drippy look. I just weaved in and out with my scissors. Again, if it looks funky don’t worry – it’ll be sweet as can be once it’s all stitched together.

Let’s Sew!

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You can proceed a number of different ways – I tried doing things in different orders because I’m curious like that – but this is the order that I found worked best pour moi. Begin by sewing the outer edge of your glaze to the top layer of your donut. Try to centre the glaze on the donut, and if the holes don’t perfectly match up it’s ok, you can trim them to match in the next step. It’s more important that your glaze is centered over the donut right now.

You might want to pin the glaze on before doing this to keep it in place, or maybe you’re a renegade and you scoff at my idées bourgeoises – best translated as playing square or safe. Anyway, you can whip stitch (I did) or straight stitch this part. Youtube has great videos to show you what that means if you don’t know. I didn’t know a year ago, so don’t worry, it’s cool. You’re cool. I said so.

Sammich time!

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It’s time to stitch all three layers together via the centre. If the three holes don’t match up well (ahem, at all), fear not. You can trim them to fit, just don’t cut too far into your donut or you’ll end up with an onion ring, which is tasty, but not what we’re going for here (but what a great idea! And fries, too! Yes!). Be sure and sew through all three layers using a nice, tight whip stitch.

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If you’re stitching looks like your 3-year-old did it (see above) don’t worry a bit! It’s going to look just lovely when it’s stuffed. Promise!

Sprinkles!

What’s a donut without sprinkles? A naked donut, and I’ll have no nudity on this blog! I used beads, however, if you’re planning on making these for small children, animals, or batty adults, you may want to consider just using embroidery to embellish. Do that now, because the layers are open and it’ll be easier. Let me know when you’re done.

Closing Time!

I had a picture of this, but it was terrible, so it didn’t make the cut. You don’t really need one, though. Just try to match up the outer edges of your donut, and whip stitch them together, leaving a small hole so you can stuff it with polyfill. I used a chopstick (see Katie, I can use chopsticks, too!) to push the polyfill around. If your edges don’t perfectly match up, it’s really ok, just slide them forward or back so that they do – once you’ve added the stuffing you won’t be able to tell.

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See how easy that was? And fun, too! Now go make a guilt-free dozen!

Don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

I’ve received some most excellent Happy Mail in the past two weeks and I will be posting about it soon! I’m totally behind, but please super-cool sender-people, don’t think your mail didn’t rock my socks – my next post is all about you!

W.I.P. Wednesday – Blackwork

Just a reminder : You only have 3 shipping days left until my birthday (it’s the 9th). :)

I have so many things I want to work on and create during 2009 – I don’t feel like I can concentrate on any one project there are so many I want to begin! (Please reassure me, this happens to you, too, right?).

To kick of the New Year I’d like to share this amazing book I picked up last autumn, but only recently made something from :

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Until happening upon this book, Blackwork : Technique et modèls by Sonia Lucano, I’d never heard of blackwork. This ancient form of embroidery dates back to the XVth century, even earlier according to some things I’ve read on the Internet. According to the book, Catherine of Aragon practiced blackwork in the XVIth century – who knew?

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This inspiring book is beautifully photographed and would be eye-candy for anyone, even if you’re not particularly interested in embroidery.

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Blackwork is traditionally black thread embroidered on white cloth, but there are examples of white on black which are also gorgeous.

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There are so many beautiful ideas in this volume, I found myself pouring over the pages for weeks, just for fun, but never knowing what I wanted to try. I decided to jump in by trying some of the mixed motifs from the book. I didn’t actually cross-stitch them, I actually just embroidered them using back and split stitches.

I opted to use my first attempt at blackwork to embellish my 2009 Diary.

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Before : boaring, pleather-covered 2009 Diary. Ho-hum.

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After : Groovy blackworked (albeit off-centre) design on some cream coloured muslin. It’s already nice & wrinkly from bouncing about in my bag.

I’m not sure what I’ll be making next. I’m still looking for some good PIF ideas, and there are some great ones in here. I know Tacha and Natlaia have already found their future PIF recipients, so I want to get them their goodies out soon.

There are more and more of you joining in the W.I.P. fun – please don’t be shy – don’t forget it can be about any work in progress be it textile, prose, culinary – you name it! You can also highlight things you’d like to try or crafty ideas. If you know you’ll be participating next week, drop me a line & I’ll add your link to my post. I’m hoping to get a list of participants in my sidebar…but please, no stress about posting. It’s on a ‘if you wanna’ basis only!

Other W.I.Ppers:

Check out:

Jessy’s knitty goodness

Jessica has some groovy knit stiches happening

Kittee is rocking the canine embroidery scene

Bianca is subverting the dominant embroidery theme

Don’t forget – it’s never too late to join in on the World Yoga Practice Month fun!

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Your Karma & your joints will thank you!

On My Desk…

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On my desk today…some holiday cheer. Oh, and my desk is also my sofa, because that’s where I’ve got my silly leg propped up.

I’ve got these almost finished upish. I’m trying to make enough ornaments to send to family & friends this year. These are so basic it’s a hair embarrassing, but here’s my ancient Chinese secret : just trace the inside of a star-shaped cookie or sandwich cutter, round the edges if you like. Me, I like. Give them a sophisticated (ahem) 2-dimensional look by whip stitching two stars together with some polyfill in the middle.

I know. Just call me Ms. Stewart.

Other players

Little Gifts

Not long ago when Monsieur Fish was dropping Guppy off at school, he bumped into a friend from Lycée that he hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. Not only does her little girl go to the same school as Guppy, it turns out that her little girl Sofia is Guppy’s best school friend. Small world indeed. After some brief catching up, his friend invited us over for an apéro or cocktails the following Friday.

I wanted to bring something to share, but our hostess refused. So, I opted to make a little gift for 3 1/2 year-old Sofia instead :

Guppy helped me chose some felty friends to make for Sofia, and I made her a little heart-shaped pouch to keep them in. These Aranzi-Aranzo-inspired critters were really quick to whip up, which is a good thing since I started them shortly before we had to leave. This would explain the not-even-a-little-straight stitching on the heart pouch. But oh well. I don’t think the future recipiant’s attention was really drawn to the seams..

Our cocktail was lovely, and our hosts went all-out to make it a real Vegan-friendly affair : organic wines (which were super-yum!), crudités with soy cream dips, a lovely leek and potato tourte which was delicious, and cucumber and hummus mini-sandwiches. It’s so refreshing when people go the extra bit to prepare something that makes you feel special, rather than just tossing some raw veggies on a plate for you at the last minute (yes, I’ve had that happen).

In other news, I have a new niece! Baby Payten was born last Tuesday and she is doing splendidly. Guppy is rather frustrated because she “wants to go hold that baby”. It’s rather difficult to explain that we can’t just hop on the plane and fly to the U.S. to see her Auntie & Uncle and their new daughter. She felt better when I told her she could help me work on some gifts for her new cousin, though.

I’m making bibs like nobody’s business. I probably should have started them, geeze, I don’t know, before she was born? Yup. I have some other things I’m hoping to make for her…need to get on that.

Growing up, one of my very favourite things was corn bread. My father would often be the first one up and would make some yummy corn bread for us to slather with jam for breakfast. It was also one of the cursory dishes at Thanksgiving. I had never, ever made it myself, though. Mostly because I am a big cooking and baking novice and thought that I couldn’t get corn meal here in France.

Ahem. I’m a big banana pants. In my defense until a year and a half ago I’d never made a cupcake, and up until a year ago I’d never attempted bread or biscuits. I’m a newbie. As I was making polenta the other day it sort of hit me that duh, I do have the technology, even though we call corn flour polenta flour, it’s the same darn thing.

Silly Shellyfish!

Here is some yummy Autumn goodness to keep you the chill at bay : Yummy Corn bread adapted from VCON and homemade chili. Perfect for nibbling while watching the wind whip the leaves off the trees.

Délicieux!

The Bunny!

I woke up and wanted to hurry to get out for my run, when I heard squeals of joy emanating from the living room…

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The Guppy knew that today was “Bunny Day”, and she was up and in the living room standing before her basket, repeating excitedly, “Mumma, Mumma, look!”

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How exciting! Baby felt bunnies hatching from vegan chocolate eggs!

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Madame & Monsieur Lapin (Monsieur is easily recognizable by his little French moustache and pink attire…because male-folk do wear pink!) were my first attempts at sewing with a machine (more on that another day…). I followed the free Wee Bunny pattern from Wee Wonderfuls. Monsieur Rabbit was my first attempt (er, pas terrible or not-so-great as we say in French), but Madame Rabbit is much cooler (and looks darn good for just having a brood of felt bunnies!). The little felt bunnies are from the cutest book in the world which I want to blog about when I get the time so I won’t steal the thunder from a future post.

The Bdefilles.jpgunny of Spring didn’t forget me, as I found this beautiful book in my basket and cannot wait to start a billion projects…

The Stray Cats

Permettez-moi de vous présenter :

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Sacha, Lou & Princess Angel Kitty
(As named by the Guppy)

I am an ever-evolving Fish. From time to time I look back on who I was 2, 5, or 10 years ago, and I have to laugh at the way everything twists and turns and changes. Up until about 3 months ago the only reason I’d ever picked up a sewing needle was to attach my point shoe ribbons or elastics, and that was because I had to. I didn’t sew loose buttons, they just sort of fell off and whatever sorry shirt they’d belonged to made it’s way to the back of the wardrobe rotation. I brought my pants to be hemmed by professionals, even though I should have used the money on something else. I didn’t even own anything vaguely resembling what could be called a “sewing kit”.

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Things change, thankfully, and now I feel like I just can’t master stitches fast enough or find the time to make everything I want to.

My first real attempts at hand-sewing : “Pointy Kitty”, a free down-loadable pattern from one of my favorite “crafty” blogs Wee Wonderfuls. There are always great photos and wonderful ideas, plus lots of softy patterns to be had (some free, some not). Ms. Lang is one of those neat and talented Fish that you wished was your sister or your neighbor. She’s always got a tons of nifty ideas and projects going and has a very subtle, muted style which is so nice in contrast to the neon-plastic world of today. Even if you’re not of the nimble-fingered, her blog is a pleasant respite from the rush-rush-rush.

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Lou was my first attempt, and taught me a great deal. Princess Angel Kitty & Sacha are for my niece & nephew’s birthdays (which were, er, a few weeks ago) and Lou has adopted the Guppy. Or vice versa. Now I just need to send these kitties state-side without crushing them.

Valentines for my Valentines : Late Love Is Better Than No Love, Right?

Cascade de coeurs

Here they are, the hand-made valentines I’ve been working on since early January (I started them on my birthday, actually). As mentioned in my previous post I don’t have much sewing or craft experience, so for the nimble-fingered, 13 felt and bead hearts don’t seem like a much of a feat, and I admit that doing them wasn’t difficult, but when I compare the first few hearts with the last few, the difference in the stitching is huge! When ever I had a few free minutes (my copious free-time is far from limitless, but you can always make time when you really want to do something, right?) I would add a few beads or cut out some hearts.

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My goal was to get them finished before Valentine’s Day, and I did indeed manage that- I put the final touches on the last heart the morning of the 11th, but getting them into envelopes and in the mail, well, that just happened today.

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Sending them regular mail, they should get to the States before Saint Patrick’s Day…

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So here they are, and there they go. They are on their way to Michigan and to Arizona to remind the ones I love that I miss them so and that they are always in my heart. My poor belle-mère, my mother-in-law, had a heart attack two weeks before Valentine’s Day, so she got her felt heart early. She is recovering very well for her 75 years, and she had her felt heart hanging next to her bed in the CCU at the hospital. A healthy heart is what I wish for everyone this year. And lots of love, too!

Coeur Rouge & Noir