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!

embroidered-notebook

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 :

fish

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

doodle-stitching

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…

whiteout-cupcake

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!

Japanese Sewing Pattern Help, Found?! Oh, yeah, and VOTE!

flowersFlowers, which have nothing to do with this post, other than they were on my table and I hate blogging without pictures!

Remember my quiet call à l’aide* when I told you about the Stylish Dress Book that I received for my birthday (and which I can’t put down because it is so beautiful!)?

Well, guess what?

I found this immensely helpful post by Mari over at The Purl Bee. For those of you not in the know, ahem, like I was (or wasn’t?) until recently, The Purl Bee is a gigantic treasure chest of inspiration, help and eye candy for the crafty (and crafty at heart). Their beautiful site is loaded with tutorals, knitting, crochet and sewing ideas, a glossary… of course if you happen to be in NYC you could sign up for one of their classes.

There are also tons helpful posts over at label-free (fantastical sewing site) : on cutting and one on sewing patterns from Japanese craft books – there are actually multiple helpful posts. So awesome – thank you sewing people!

Crafting Japanese has some great examples of finished dresses, too, but be warned…time flies when you’re looking at this stuff!

Ok, one last link : My Daruma est un blog pour mes copines francophones! Beautiful creations, and many of them from or influenced by various Japanese craft books. Much of the blog is in French, but there are often little summaries in English, too.

I am so going to be making these little dresses…I just need a little practice, that’s all. And the right fabric.

And I forgot to say this super-important thing:

Get thineself over to Ricki’s blog right now! Have you heard her amazing news? She’s up for a well-deserved award and it’s up to us to help her! We’ve seen what can happen when people get out and vote in the recent past, so let’s keep the ball rolling kids! Get on over there and while you’re at it, sign up for her giveaway! (Shellyfish muttering under her breath something about wishing she lived in the greater Toronto, Ontario area in Canada because she too wants the homemade goodness).

Why are you still here reading this, Go. Go now.

Stop reading this.

You’re still reading…

Go!

*for help

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 :

blackwork

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?

black

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

composition

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

motifs

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.

before

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

leaves

leaves2

finished

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!

woyopracmo1

Your Karma & your joints will thank you!

Mini-Cupcakes, Crafty Love & More!

Hola Everyone! First off, a change… Raw Tuesdays will now be…Raw Thursdays! So stay tuned tomorrow for that! My new schedule make a Thursday raw day a little easier, so there you go!

I picked up a mini-cupcake pan when I was in the U.S. and we’ve been enjoying the mini-cupcake love, let me tell you! They are the perfect size, because you feel much less guilty about eating two (or three) when they are tiny! Above are some Lemon Cupcakes with lemon royal icing and below, the Basic Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache icing from VCTOTW.

Friday we had a bunch of friends over for the apéro or cocktails…but it was a well-fed apéro :

Homemade salsa & fresh-baked pita triangles

(I didn’t make the tortilla chips, hélas, but I’ll get that figured out eventually…)

Homemade roasted-garlic hummus

Diann posted about these Samosa Potatoes from VCON recently & I thought they would be a great finger-food – and they were! I doubled the batch, and good thing I did because they disappeared almost right away! I admit to not following the recipe and making my own curry paste… not pictured is the soy yogurt & fresh coriander sauce I made to dunk them in.

The other thing not pictured are the 45 spring rolls I made! Don’t ask me how I forgot to take a picture of them…they took me so long to prepare!

And isn’t this cute?

You already know I’m an Aranzi Aranzo fan, so no surprises here! I aquired their Cute Stuff book this summer, and this felt bag really caught me eye. I added a liner, because it just looks way better with one. I’m really playing with the basic design of this bag and am coming up with some really cute ideas, but need some time to get them together! I really love their style, and find their ideas so inspiring – a great jumping off point for me to make my own things!

Jen’s Birthday Apron

My very best friend Jen turns 30 today! I have never had a friend like her, nor have I ever been through so many things, from the dramatic and traumatic to the blissful and fantastic, with anyone else. I wish I could have toasted to her “live”, but she is in Arizona and I’m not. Sigh.

Despite the fact that we’re thick as thieves, she isn’t a regular reader of my blog (she works in IT and doesn’t do anything in front of a computer screen that isn’t absolutely necessary, which I totally understand…we don’t even really email, we just call – woo hoo unlimited free long distance!), which means I can show off her birthday present which I sent off to her today.

What I miss the most about my Jenniefish is porch-sitting, hanging out on weekend evenings, usually with Jen whipping up something tasty and me opening wine bottles and keeping wine glasses full (because the Shellyfish did no food preparation until just three years ago…and I haven’t lived on the same continent as Jen in 5!). We’d sit outside in the warm pueblo, reinventing the world together… Jen is still often found entertaining post-work cocktails-cum-dinners, so an apron seemed like the perfect gift. She is, like me, always spilling and wearing what she is making or drinking, so this will help keep her clean, and she’s got two pockets for matches to light candles on the patio table, or to carry a bottle opener, her secret decoder ring…

I really wanted to make an apron with gathers at the waistband so I consulted my newly acquired Bend The Rules Sewing by Amy Karol and it was so flipping easy to do! It’s so funny how we think what we don’t yet know how to do is so crazy hard. Not the case at all. I like Amy’s blog Angry Chicken, and also happened upon her “apron blog” Tie One On which has a sometimes-monthly apron making theme/event. This time around it happened to be gingham, which is what this little flirty apron is made of (I actually bought the fabric to make something cutesy for my soon-to-be-born niece, but it preferred to be an apron. Not my fault) so I have submitted it to Amy’s Tie One On flicker group, to go up at the beginning of the month.

And don’t you love my little felt appliqués? Un repas sans vin, est comme une nuit sans étoiles… a meal without wine is like a night without stars…

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!

Apron Love

This is an apron made by my great-grandmother Mary, my mum’s grandmother. She was undoubtedly one of the most important women in my mum’s life, and while I never was able to physically meet her (she died before my parents were married), I always felt her in our lives- not in some bizarre “Sixth Sense” meets X-Files way, rest assured. More in the way that many African societies divide people (here’s my Reader’s Digest version of a beautiful and complex theory) – the living, the sasha, and the zamani. The first category is obvious. The second, the sasha, are those who are indeed dead, but whose existence dovetailed with those still living, thus they are “alive” in the living memory of people. The zamani are our ancestors who are revered and remembered by the group, but there is no one left who was alive at the same time as the deceased.

My great-grandmother Mary was very much “alive” in the memories of my mother, my grandmother, and my great aunts and uncle. She is most definitely a member of the sasha. While my Grams often had rather humorous stories to tell, oft reflecting my great-grandmother’s sense of humor, duty and love, my mother often spoke of her in the present, and in flashes of detail rather than linear stories. The smell of parsley. Taboo. Pink flannel. Ice Box Cookies. Aprons. You see, my mother has but one memory of her grandmother sans apron, and this was when she was hospitalized. Great-Grandmother Mary wore an apron every day, as did many women at the time. Washing clothes being a royal chore, an apron served an obvious functional purpose, however, she made herself many aprons reflecting the seasons (lighter or darker colors), and special aprons for more momentous occasions such as holidays, family reunions, communions and baptisms.

Great-Grandmother Mary was a hard-working woman. She lived in a rural area, and at a time when all that needed to be done in the home – laundry, cooking, cleaning, clothes, canning, etc., was done at home. Her family made their own bread, their own maple syrup, wine (even when it wasn’t legal- rebel!) and my great-grandfather, a carpenter, carved their toys (one of our family’s prized possession is the chess board he made), even my gram’s crutches after injuring her foot when she was a little girl.

One of my prized possessions is my great-grandmother’s hand-written recipe book. Her bilingualism was often a handicap in the pre-depression era, leading to the family speaking English-only, but how I love to read her recipes which are often written in franglais. Until recently, the recipe book was all I had in the line of family heirlooms, but during her recent visit, my mother gave me this apron. It’s just beautiful, which I never thought I’d say about an apron, but it is. It must have been made for special occasions, the delicate rosebud fabric and the gold-threaded trim are rather fancy. It was perhaps only worn once or twice as it seems brand new, despite it’s being at least 50+ years old.

The acquisition of my great-grandmother’s apron inspired me to try my hand at my own. The above is my updated rendition, which I love. The pattern is from De Filles en Aiguilles by Céline Dupuy which I got in my Easter basket. It is also available in English as Simple Sewing With A French Twist. This was a super-easy project for the neophyte seamstress that I am. While I didn’t make the apron while my mum was here, she did come with me to purchase the materials, so in her own way was part of the process (not the mention that she gave me my sewing machine!).

There was a time during my youth when I felt rather envious of my friends whose mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers were career women, often college educated. This was not the case of the women in my family, and I found myself sometimes feeling almost apologetic when talking about them. I’ve since seen the absolute ridiculousness in not recognizing all that they did. Silly Shellyfish. Any woman who dried her herbs, grew her own food in her garden, cooked and canned it, and on and on, without the things I take for granted from running water to kitchen gadgets, well, she kicked some serious buttercream.