Crochet Lessons from Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising

[Esperanza] watched the silver crochet needle dance back and forth in her grandmother’s hand. When a strand of hair fell into her lap, Abuelita picked it up and held it against the yarn and stitched it into the blanket.

“Esperanza, in this way my love and good wishes will be in the blanket forever. Now watch. Ten stitches up to the top of the mountain. Add one stitch. Nine stitches down to the bottom of the valley. Skip one.”

Esperanza picked up her own crochet needle and copied Abuelita’s movements and then looked at her own crocheting. The tops of her mountains were lopsided and the bottoms of the valleys were all bunched up.

Abuelita smiled, reached over, and pulled the yarn, unravelling all of Esperanza’s rows. “Do not be afraid to start over,” she said.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Scholastic paperback edition, ISBN 978-0-439-12042-5, 2007, pp. 14–15.

A Few Opening Thoughts

If you haven’t read this book yet, let me tell you that it belongs on your TBR list. Go ahead. Write it down. I’ll wait.

The clamor over immigration these days is not as new as we want to believe. It’s been a hotbed issue for decades. This tale of a young Mexican girl who has to flee her home with her mother and a group of family friends for the safety of America is based on the author’s grandmother’s immigration experience. Migrant farm workers form the backbone of Ryan’s family tree. They worked hard to make a home for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even though the story takes place during the Great Depression decade of the 1930s, the obstacles for immigrants are still looming and scary. 

If you have a young person in your life, probably aged 10 or older, do them a favor and buy them this book. Then have a conversation about immigration. Perhaps dig up your own family history and share it. Many of us can trace our roots to an immigrant who dared to risk everything to start over in America. Now, more than ever, this conversation needs to happen. 

Crochet Lesson #1 (Lección de Ganchillo Número Uno)

Imperfections create personalization.

Those of us who work with yarn—usually as knitters or crocheters—find ourselves pick, pick, picking things out of the yarn as we stitch. It might be a piece of lint, a cat hair, or one of our own single tresses that clings to the fiber. We see that as an imperfection, an intrusion into the project that we’re working so hard to make. Pick, pick, pick.

From now on, I want to think like Abuelita. I want my strands to embrace the yarn if they fall into my work. I want to make every stitch a prayer for the person who will receive the gift I’m creating. I’ll be less worried about perfection so I can enjoy the stitches, the rows, the mountains and the valleys. Will you?

Crochet Lesson #2 (Lección de Ganchillo Número Dos)

Ah, those mountains and valleys. I’ve spent time in both places—and so many years in between. I’ll bet you have, too. Those valleys are tough. They feel dark, lonely, and long. If you can envision the crochet pattern Abuelita uses (it looks exactly like the photo above), you will see that the deepest part of the valley is only one stitch away from heading up toward the mountain top. Just one stitch. Maybe that’s all you can manage some days. That one thing that moves you slightly up, changes the angle oh-so-little, but oh-so-not-in-the-deepest-part-of-the-valley. Maybe it’s taking a walk. Calling a friend. Starting a new book (read or write). Steeping a cup of tea and watching a favorite old movie. Just one little stitch. Crochet hook in, yarn over, pull through. Pull through.

Crochet Lesson #3 (Lección de Ganchillo Número Tres)

Abuelita smiled, reached over, and pulled the yarn, unravelling all of Esperanza’s rows. “Do not be afraid to start over,” she said.

I wish we could undo our mistakes as simply as pulling on a string. We can’t. However, we can try again, over and over if necessary. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Apologize sincerely when wrong.
  • Admit when we’ve made a mistake.
  • Make atonement when possible. (AA’s Twelve-Steps followers depend on this to maintain sanity and sobriety. We all would do well to practice this step, too.)
  • Not take failure to heart. 
  • Remember that everyone fails, and probably a lot more often than we realize.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to mess up, especially if it means you can take risks doing something you’ve always wanted to do.
  • Swear. Punch a pillow. Take a break. Doodle. Journal. Mow the lawn. Clean the kitchen. Do something to get the negative feelings out (don’t stuff and deny them—that will only make you depressed and even sick) and then start again when you’re ready.

Do you know someone who might be encouraged by this post? Send it to them. They don’t have to join the blog, make a comment, or do anything at all. Just receive some encouragement—especially if they’re deep in a valley right now.

Those who want to follow my blog can do so by adding your information here:


 

 

 

 

Let’s Fill Those Pockets, Part 2

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. —Albert Schweitzer

This is one reason I love doing pocket letters. It allows me to send a little spark of hope, friendship, laughter, or love to my friends. Jennifer and I have known each other for more than 20 years, and most of those years we’ve been separated by hundreds of miles. Mailing each other cards, notes, stickers (I got those yesterday!), packages, and now pocket letters has kept our friendship alive and well. I believe in connections. But connections break if we don’t tend to them. This project we’re working on together in this set of blogs can strengthen the bonds of friendship no matter the distance between the sender and receiver.

Today we’re going to finish that pocket letter! Get out your supplies, including the cards you’ve cut to size. Let the fun begin!

FIRST: I like to insert all of my cards and arrange them in a way that’s random, attractive, and colorful.

   Front (see the binder holes on the left?)
Back

My mixed-bag of papers has a loose theme that could be kitchen-y or calico-y or retro. I just liked how all of the patterns and colors worked together.

NEXT: Now I get to go digging through my containers of embellishments. (I won’t admit how many of those I have.) I’m looking for stickers, decorative elements, etc. to add to each card. Here’s one of my hoards:

ALSO NEXT: The next photos will show you how I took different paper cards and applied stuff to them. 

     

    

ALMOST DONE: After every card has its special message, design, or gift included (tea bags fit perfectly in a pocket!), just put them into the spaces until the page is filled (on both sides if you want).

I added some tea bags to three pockets in the back before sending this PL to one of my new friends, Linda. (Hi, Linda!)

Sending? That’s right! These are meant to be mailed. Just accordion-fold the three horizontal sections and the whole thing fits a standard business-size envelope. If it weighs less than 13 ounces, you only need one first-class stamp. Most of mine take two stamps—sometimes I add a third one if the envelope is extra-thick.

So try one! There’s nothing about this that has to be perfect. It’s easy, creative, and filled with love. That’s almost as good as a doughnut!

Send me your photos of finished or in-progress pocket letters. I’d love to share them with my blog followers and on my Heartfelt Crafts Facebook page. Send them to me at tanya (at) heartfeltcrafts (dot) com.


 

Let’s Fill Those Pockets, Part 1—Plus a Giveaway Prize!

Okay, fellow crafters, gather all your goodies from the previous post and let’s get started!

First, place your pockets nearby. Note that there are nine pockets and each of them opens at the top. (If you have it upside-down, your papers will just fall out. You’ll feel sad, bad, and slightly mad. No one has ever done this. Ahem…) Let’s do some math!

9 pockets = 9 papers, right?

Well, only if you want to make a one-sided PL, which is okay with me. My first one was one-sided. Then I thought, “Hey, what a missed opportunity to double my fun!” So I made sure there were enough papers for 9 + 9 = 18 sides. Does that mean you need to cut 18 pieces? Not necessarily.

If your papers are printed only on the front and the back is white, then you will need 18 pieces (2 per pocket) to cover both sides. However, the wonderful world of paper crafting has provided us with 2-sided printed papers, too. Here’s an example. One side is covered with sweet cherries and the other has a complimentary color/design of gingham. When you slide one of these cards in a pocket, you get a different design on the front and back. This can save you time, but you will want to have 2-sided papers that you really like. 

If you want more control over your colors and patterns, then you will want to cut 18 individual papers. Quick Quiz: Do you remember the dimensions?

2.5 inches wide
3.5 inches tall

How should you cut them? Very carefully! But seriously, folks, you can either cut them with scissors (trace your cards with pencil or make a template and use it) or use a paper trimmer like the one shown below. As you can see, I’ve marked the 2.5 and 3.5 inch lines so I don’t mess up. (Remember the old adage “measure twice, cut once”? Yeah, that actually works.) Having markers helps me get it right the first time. Do what you feel most comfortable doing. Using the trimmer looks like this:

      

 

As you can see, the 3.5 x 2.5 paper fits perfectly in a pocket.

  

It’s fun to move the pieces around until you get them in an array that makes you happy. Here’s mine, from various papers with a kitchen/Americana/fruit theme (front and back). Yes, I’ve made two of several papers, one for each side. It keeps my theme from running amok.

  

This post is running a bit long, so we will finish our PLs in the next post. Here’s a tip: scrounge around your craft room, home office, kitchen, garage, local craft store, etc. for little items that will fit your theme and the pockets. Ideas: stickers, buttons, tiny envelopes (!), misc. embellishments, quotes, photos, cards, decorative tapes, recycle-able stuff, and whatever your heart loves. We’ll be using them to decorate the pockets.

Okay, so here’s the GIVEAWAY!!! You will get points for each of the following. Each point gives you an entry into the drawing. The prize is described below the list.

  1. Subscribe to this blog. (If you already have, you’re my best friend. Truly.)
  2. Post a link to my blog on your Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter in the next 72 hours (ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 5, 2018). If you do all four, that’s more chances to win! Use the hashtag #heartfeltcraftblog so I can keep track.
  3. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
  4. Post a photo of your PL with its papers in place on the Heartfelt Crafts Facebook page. I’ll give you a “like” to show I’ve seen it.

Each entry will earn you a name on a slip of paper. I’ll put all of the papers out on my floor and let my adorable dog, Kirby, select the winner. Photos will follow!!!

Drumroll please! THE PRIZE!

The winner will be mailed a themed set of papers, stickers, and other goodies, perfect for making your own PLs or other paper craft. (Retail value around $15.)

Ready, set, CUT THOSE PAPERS AND GET POSTING!!!


 

What the heck is a pocket letter?

When I first heard the term “pocket letter,” I thought it might be something simple like a letter in a pocket. 

Or could it be . . . a letter ON a pocket?

I’m not seeing the craft possibilities yet. Oh, I know! It’s a letter that USED to be a pocket! I feel so smart.

Wait. What? That’s not it either? So what in the heck is this newfangled fun craft thing that so many scrapbookers are crazy about—and that has the unofficial endorsement of the United States Postal Service?*

My friend Jennifer sent me a link to a Pinterest folder: Pocket Letters. She suggested we try to make some and send them to each other. I was in Ohio and she was in Florida, so it was kind of a nice way to do a craft together—but apart—you get it.

So we did. And we agreed to photograph our PLs (we quickly created an abbreviation to keep from having to write or type the words over and over again) and to post them on Pinterest for others to share and adore. That was almost a year ago! We have had a blast. Let me show you some and give you some ideas for how to start your own #PLPenPalProject.

A Few of Our PLs

This one has a friendship theme. I made it very personal for Jennifer, the recipient. The middle row, far right pocket has samples of some washi tape I wanted to share with her. I wrapped 3-ft lengths around a piece of mylar I cut from some packaging. Good use for that mylar stuff instead of throwing it in the trash!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer sent me this one with a birds-of-a-feather theme. She included stickers for me to use (middle row, left) and some adorable feathers!

As you can see, coming up with a theme is half of the idea. Then you can have fun finding all kinds of things to add. Some themes we’ve used or seen others use include:

  • back to school
  • our home state (Ohio/Buckeyes for me!)
  • by the seashore
  • quotes about pennies, with a penny in each pocket
  • owls (whoooo doesn’t love owls???)
  • kitties (see above, but kitties)
  • fall/autumn
  • Christmas
  • patriotism–4th of July
  • summer fun
  • coffee and tea
  • sweet stuff (cupcakes, candy, etc.)
  • I could go on all day, but you get the idea. Check out the Pinterest link for tons of ideas!

Now that you can tell what PLs are, I’ll walk you through making one of your own in our next post.

P.S. Go get some baseball card protector sleeves:

 

*I made that up. But I’m sure they appreciate the increase in actual snail mail that’s hitting their inboxes—I mean, mailboxes—lately. Maybe they don’t like the lumpiness or the fancy, schmancy hand lettering on the envelopes. Hey, for 50¢ (so far, but who knows what with tariffs and such—just kidding!!!), it’s a heck of a deal to send these things. Maybe they’ll even get where they’re supposed to go–and in one piece!


 

Grandma Moses Was Right…

…you’re never too old to take up art.

This year I surprised myself. I figured I was well-acquainted with all the corners of my weird little mind. But something lay hidden. It was probably under a rug embroidered with the words “stuff you can’t do.” Do you have a rug like that? Or an attic with a big, scary door and a sign that reads “Don’t even try to come in here.” Stowed away under dust and discouraging words, you just might find a surprise, too.

Almost a year ago, I was spending the winter in Florida and my aunt had come down for a short visit. One day we decided that we’d try out a new place nearby that offered “paint and sip” classes. The concept is that you bring a beverage (adult or otherwise) and the teacher provides all the painting supplies. Everyone paints the same picture, more or less. That night we were working on a colorful thing called the Whimsy Tree.

mcdonalds-Sweet-Tea-SmallAunt Sue and I showed up with our McDonald’s Buckets o’ Tea (really, what a deal for a buck!). We figured we’d need all our senses to complete this project. Neither of us had done much with acrylic paints before. It was an adventure in artistry! We watched the instructor and did what she did (kinda). Thanks to having lids on our iced tea, we never dipped our paintbrushes into our drinks, so there’s that. My main goal was to have a fun evening, not to paint a masterpiece. (Aunt Sue, bless her heart, had had shoulder surgery the month before, so she gave it her best. She’s usually very artistic! I was scared.)

whimsy treeWhich is why I was so surprised when my painting actually turned out to be something I might hang on a wall. I mean I was SURPRISED. And the instructor complimented me, which, all of us who live for the approval of others know, is the cherry on top. Here’s what I discovered:

  • I enjoyed learning a new skill.
  • I didn’t even think about how much the class cost afterward.
  • I felt proud of myself.
  • I looked forward to showing it to my husband and others.
  • Every time I look at it, it makes me happy. (Yes, I did hang it prominently in our dining area.)
  • I can do art. Like real ART.

And that got me started. Follow along and I’ll share my next piece of artsy serendipity! (With photos!)