Crafting for Christmas … in July

If you’ve been in a craft store lately, you know that Christmas isn’t really that far away. Never mind that it’s 95 degrees outside and most of the country is dry as a bowl of Cheerios sans milk. (Really, now do toddlers eat those things dry?!) This year has been warmer and dryer than any year in recent memory, so it’s begun to feel like the title of one of those drippy teen romance novels:The Summer of Forever, or whatever. And then I saw the aisles at Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s and Michael’s. Aisles that twinkled with red, green, and gold glitter. Santas and snowmen greeted me with crinkly eyes and fat-cheeked smiles. They reminded me that even this summer will come to an end.

My first reaction is horror. How can they even think about Christmas this early? Then I start to think about it. And realize, like the merchandisers of craft stores, that I should really get started on projects that I intend to make as Christmas gifts this year.

Granted, those kinds of gifts are fewer than they used to be. When I had small children (all boys, by the way), I made beautiful, heirloom-worthy things. My oldest son’s hand-stitched crewel embroidery stocking was a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it now resides with my ex-husband who may or may not treasure it as I would. Some part of me wants to go all ninja-like and sneak in to steal this one-of-a-kind work of art. Honestly, I learned stitches on that thing that I had never done before nor have done since. I *will* post a photo of it on here someday. Just don’t ask how I got it.

Nowadays I satisfy my crafting urges by making smaller things: dishcloths, dishcloths, earrings, dishcloths, bracelets, hot pads that can double as dishcloths. I go for quantity over quality now. That Christmas stocking took me more than 80 hours to finish, I’m sure. Now I can whip up a dishcloth in about 15 minutes. It’s a good one, too, don’t get me wrong. Just look:

Ask yourself honestly, would you give away something that took you much longer than 15 minutes to make if you knew it was going to be submerged in dishwater for wiping peanut butter or pasta sauce off a stack of plates? I rest my case. (The one on the right here is especially good for cleaning up grape jam, by the way.)

How many have I made for Christmas 2012 so far? At last count, about 25.

Anybody want a dishcloth?

 

 

Oh, the hoarders, the hoarders!

When I watched a couple of episodes of Hoarders, I had to look away whenever one of the hoarders said, “No, I have to keep that. I might need it,” or “Oh, I forgot I had that. I can’t throw that away.” How many times have I heard those phrases inside my own head while cleaning out drawers, shelves, or boxes? Although the show has not scared me neat, it definitely makes me pay attention to what I tell myself whenever I look at all my “stuff.”

My stuff tends to fall into two large groups: books and craft supplies. I am not a shoe collector, nor do I collect any particular collectibles (both of which my husband is very happy about). The problems I run into with the books and crafts are the niggling thoughts that someday I might read that book again, or I might want to use that 6″ piece of ribbon for a card someday. And I know why I don’t just give some of my books to, say, Goodwill or some other secondhand service. I want the next owner to care as much about that book as I did. I don’t want it to languish on a shelf or in a pile somewhere, getting old and ratty and musty. (UPDATE: I just gave away two large bags of books to the local library. Then I went out and got more books. Oh, well.)

The craft items are hard to give up because they’re pretty or they’re part of a kit I have almost finished or I had this idea of a new craft project…the list of excuses goes on and on. The main reason I have so much stuff (and such a variety) is that I love all kinds of crafts. I love to crochet (yarn, needles, books, pamphlets, more yarn, crochet thread); I love to sew by hand (thread, needles, fabric, felt, buttons buttons buttons, rickrack, ribbon); I sometimes use a sewing machine (thread, fabric, patterns, buttons buttons buttons, interfacing, trims, zippers); I used to cross stitch (floss, fabric, needles, floss, floss, books) but my eyes don’t let me enjoy that like I used to. Don’t even get me started on all the paper crafts (paper of all kinds, colors, patterns, sizes; rubber stamps; ink; colored pencils; markers; paints; embossers; scissors; punches).

Why do I feel like I need to join a recovery/support group after writing all this?

The truth is, I’m really good at this stuff. And in life, it feels good to be good at something. So if I have to put up with feeling guilty for having too much just so the stuff will be there when I want to express my creativity in some crafty fashion, then I guess I need to make peace with the piles o’ supplies.

But I’ll let you know if I decide to finally have that craft-themed garage sale.

 

 

Once a Teacher…

always a teacher, at least in my heart. I think that’s true of so many of us who spent a few years in the classroom but moved on to other careers or responsibilities, like raising our own kids. It’s been more than (ahem, garble, mutter) years since I stood at the doorway, greeting students on the first day of school. I was as nervous and excited as they were, maybe more so. But none of us looked nervous. No, that would have been so uncool—and a huge mistake for me. To teach a herd of teenagers, one has to be confident, a bit aloof even, and definitely able to deliver “the look” with deadly accuracy. I think it took me about 4 years to accomplish all that.

I loved teaching, loved the teenagers (really!), loved the subject matter (writing, literature, and American history), and loved the growth I saw from their freshmen through senior years. I didn’t like the drama, but that mostly came from other teachers and the administration. Honestly. Why did I leave teaching? Long story…that ended in Florida and began a new chapter working with children’s and YA literature. It’s all been very good.

So, what’s my craft du jour that dovetails with this post? How about something simple you can make for either your teen student or a teacher buddy? It’s fresh, functional, and fun!

  All you need is a small terracotta pot (with bottom), a bit of Styrofoam, a silk flower, and some school supplies. I used green paper clips, green pencil-top erasers, pencils, highlighter, scissors, ruler, Post-It notes, stickers, glue stick, red marking pencil, and pencil sharpener. Glue the pot to its bottom, sliding it toward the back so you can place stuff in front of the pot. Then shove the Styrofoam down into the pot. Glue a wooden clothespin to the back of the pot so it can hold notes and sticker sheets. Push down into the Styrofoam the pencils (sharpened is easier), highlighter, glue stick, scissors, ruler, and flower. Put a small Post-Note pad and sharpener in the bottom . Sprinkle the green paper clips and erasers around the objects, covering the Styrofoam. Voila! A desktop delight for teens and teachers alike.

 

 

 

     

Buckets o’ fun

In my quest to get organized, I had to go beyond the hanging organizer (see previous post). Yes, it’s finished! I think it turned out pretty-kitty well and it also got filled up pretty-kitty fast. I think it looks pretty-kitty pretty. Don’t you just love themes?

What could I do with the other stuff that didn’t fit into one of those pockets? Put it in bags? Bins? Boxes? Baskets? Buckets! But buckets are ugly and bulky, right? Well, not anymore. Introducing my “buckets o’ fun”! The first one I made is sans handle, but I think I’ll add it later. It continues the kitty theme, but not quite as directly as the new brown bucket. See that kitty on the front? I just imitated one of the kitties in the fabric used for the liner (same fabric used on the hanging organizer).

Now I’m using my buckets to hold things like rick-rack packs, patterns, notions, and little remnants that I might used for other things. Instead of a pile of mess, I now have some cute, coordinated organizers to help me be less cluttered.

In the next couple of days, I’ll be posting a pattern and instructions on how to make your own lined buckets. I hope you have buckets o’ fun, too!

 

Getting organized is messy

McCall's Crafts M6374

I found a fun and practical pattern for making lots of things to help keep some of my sewing and crafts more organized. It’s McCall’s Crafts pattern M6374. I can’t imagine paying $18.95 for a pattern—remember back in the good old days when patterns were in the $1–$3 range?—so I was THRILLED when Hobby Lobby had their occasional sale of all patterns for 99 cents. (It’s beyond satisfying to buy things for 99 cents, isn’t it? I love to wander around dollar stores.) So I bought four patterns, but knew this one was the one I’d open first. Why?

Because I need to get organized. I thought the wall-hanging organizer would be a good idea so I can get things off my sewing table, but still keep them handy. I’ll just hang it within reach while I’m sewing. (Oh, and a huge THANK YOU to my DH, Eric, for buying me a new sewing machine! Love it!) But things had to get a little messier before they got better. Isn’t life like that sometimes? I remember hearing that when I was going through some counseling several years ago. It’s like needing surgery. In order to heal, sometimes we have to get cut open, which can be very messy and painful indeed. And sometimes we need someone outside ourselves to help. For me, that has included God, close friends, special family members, and the occasional mental health professional. The end result, though, is worth all the tears. It means moving forward with more light and less darkness, more self-control and less trying to control others.

So here’s the messy part of my project: cutting out the 20+ pieces that are supposed to become an organizer. When I saw how many pieces were involved, I have to admit that I almost changed my mind. Instead, I decided to read through the directions so I could understand what each piece was, how it was sewn, and what purpose it served when finished. I did just that, and **Surprise!** it all made sense! I cut out each piece and began sewing. Less than 24 hours later, I was finished!

I love this bright, sparkly, kitty-laden organizer. Now I want to get busy making some matching accessories: probably the square pincushion and some of the round boxes to hold lots of goodies. Stay tuned for finished products in the next post!

I hope you’re learning how to put all your pieces in the right places, too. Thanks, friends, for coming along for the journey.