Thursday, November 19, 2009

Secret Keeping and Gift Making

My two-year-old is a genius. It's true. Yes, I know, all us mothers say that about our children. But this time I really mean it. My toddler has learned to pin and iron and sew. Carefully, carefully supervised, of course, but nonetheless, he made his daddy's birthday present, then helped me wrap it up. And the best news -- he loved every minute. In fact, now he sometimes puts down the Thomas the Tank Engine and says he wants to do some "ironuning" and pinning. Here's some suggestions for including your toddler in your crafting projects.

My first word of advice is to choose a project that's small and has lots of short steps -- sitting around pinning for 10 minutes is really just going to end up with someone getting a pin stuck in their foot, or nose, or whatever. Then, get some sort of kid-proof container for the pins. I liked the fact that the pins were not being opened and closed (and landing on the carpet, only to be found again by bare feet) without me controlling it. Again, who wants a pin in their eye? I also recommend not involving the toddler in the cutting at all. Unless you have some child's safety scissors, I just don't think you, your project, or your child's clothes/appendages will survive it.

With the ironing, I suppose it depends on how well your toddler understands hot and don't touch. As I mentioned previously, my son is a genius, so he understands them perfectly. Ahem. Almost. What I did was set the iron on the lowest heat I could to make it work. Then, I explained in as graphic a detail I could that, if he touched the hot part, he would get a really, really bad owie. Here is where you can call on your long-suppressed desire to be an actress and mock-touch the hot part of the iron and recoil in horror. I also adjusted the ironing board so it was at the perfect toddler hight. Then, I showed him how to take the handle and run it up and down the ironing board. He did manage to touch the hot part of the iron for a split second, and more so for dramatic effect than anything else, I then rushed him downstairs to put ice on it. He then definitely got the message that the hot part is hot, and not to touch it!

For sewing, I set the little guy on my lap while I sewed. I also explained that he must not put his fingers by the needle or move any buttons (which, of course, was not a direction that was completely followed). I did give him two "jobs," which seemed to be enough to keep his interest. As a side note, if you have not yet started giving your tot jobs, try it. Our kid thinks it's the coolest thing ever if it's called a job. His jobs were to remove the pins as I sewed and put them back in the box and, upon command, push the reverse button to double back on the stiches.

When the project was done, I let him wrap it and choose a bow. He's been carrying the present around from room to room since yesterday when we finished it. Obviously he's extremely proud of his work, and cannot possibly wait two weeks until daddy's birthday.

Next up: toddlers learn needle felting. AHhhhhhhh...maybe I'll hold off on that.

Know any other great projects for kids?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Get Your Shopping Done in a Day

It's true. You can totally get all your holiday shopping done in one day. If you'd like, you could also spend every last penny of money you have, and happily so. Where and when is such a opportunity presenting itself? Why, the No Coast Craft-o-rama, of course!

Let me tell you the story of the No Coast Craft-o-rama. Oh, the year was 2005, I think. Right around the same time Crafty Planet opened it's doors. I had started crafting things to sell and was having very little success at the local craft sales. Around the same time my mom was retiring, and bugging me about what she was going to do with all this newfound time. So, I set about to recruit forces to help me plan a wee little sale in our fair city. And that is what I did.

To get things started, I dropped in on Trish at Crafty Planet. "Trish," I said, " can I get some hip crafty peeps together to help me plan this thing?" To which Trish said, "I'll help you!" And so it was. I created some flyers and hung them about town. Trish passed the word through the store and her wide network of crafty hipsters. The night of the first planning meeting arrived...and some people showed up! Real, live people! Who also liked the idea of a cool, indie craft sale! It was a thrill. To this day only one or two of the people who were at that meeting are still involved with the planning, but believe me, every one of them made a difference in how things came to be!

Fast forward past all of the agonizing hard work of putting together that first sale, trying to find vendors, a location, determine advertising needs, establish an identity and get organized to the morning of the sale. We all arrived at Columbia Manor in northeast Minneapolis with butterflies. Would anyone come? Would the tables all fit? Would everything run smoothly? As people trickled in, then crowds amassed, then hoards of made shoppers practically stormed the place, it became clear that we would far exceed our expected attendance of 500. In fact, I think I recall we had around 2,500 attendees! It was amazing, and one of the most exciting and rewarding feelings I've ever had to see all that hard work pay off. Our vendors said that shoppers were crazed, throwing money and snatching up crafts like it was their last ever opportunity to get a piece of the craft action. My husband dressed as Santa and dj'ed all day, and my mom had a banner day of sales. All of my friends came, and I made new friends and discovered some unbelievably talented local crafters and generally just had an awesome day. It whet my appetite for more.

As I said, the whole story is a long one, but I've helped plan this sale for the last four years -- everything from writing press releases to setting up and tearing down tables to helping design shirts and web sites and choose vendors and appear on media interviews. It's been a labor of love but also extremely consuming. This year I stepped away from it all to focus on (selfishly) me, my family, and lots of other things. But I can rest easy knowing that it's now in Trish and the Crafty Planet gang's capable hands. I feel like I set out to accomplish something really great, and I did -- and now it's got momentum of it's own! I can finally just show up and shop...with no responsibilities! It's a great feeling, and I plan to completely blow every penny I have there. So if you're expecting a gift from me this year, you can't come shopping with me. Or you've got to get lost...which won't be hard to do at this event!

Come check it out and support local handmakers. They deserve your business!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let the Christmas Crafting Begin! The Not Ugly Trash Bag

Wednesday (a day off!!! woot!) marked the first day of the Christmas shopping season for me. I loaded up wee Pumpkin and headed out to K-Mart to pick up a few of the Martha Stewart ornaments, first. I also picked up some towels to use for a One Yard Wonders towel embellishment project. This took all of about 7 minutes. The bulk of our time was spent looking at the animatronic lighted reindeer and Christmas trees on display and sitting on the firetruck ride outside the door (darn, mommy doesn't have any quarters...).

Of course when I have these very rare opportunities to spend time alone with my kiddo, I use it as a "teaching time" to learn something new. So what's to learn at K-Mart, you ask? Plenty of things, such as "never wear your pants that tight if you look like that" but that's a lesson for another day. I took on the task of teaching my two-year-old about giving gifts (versus receiving them). [As an aside, he calls them "pressets" and "supuprises" and every time I hear it I smile.] I let him select some ornaments for his cousins and he did really well until later in the day when we were at the sporting goods store. He found a nice, little, orange shovel "for his cousins" that he has taken to bed with him every night since. Hmm, guess he's not quite ready to fully appreciate gift giving. But we tried.

But, anyway. On to the crafting! I spent a few hours working on the Not Ugly Trash Bag from One Yard Wonders for a certain someone on my Christmas list. I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog, so I'm safe in sharing with you. It was an absolute cinch to put together and it just made me want to try more projects from the book. So very soon I'll be getting started on another one. And maybe this year I'll actually reach my goals for Christmas crafting.

What's on your agenda for this year? Thinking big? Scaling down?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

101 One Yard Wonders: WONDERFUL!

It happened! I was published! In a real book! One that a real publisher put out, not like a photocopied or "self published" type deal! It was very exciting to be involved and I am just happy no one called and made fun of me for poorly written instructions or changed their minds after they received the finished product. Phew!

Saturday was the book release party down at Crafty Planet, and it was so balmy here I rode my bike. It was packed! People were lining up to buy copies of the book -- I even heard they were out the door for a while! I hadn't yet received my own book yet, so I bum-rushed the front counter with the rest of them and quickly verified that they did, indeed, publish my project -- a kid's growth chart.

The most fun was that I got to meet a bunch of other contributors, all equally stoked about their appearance in print. We all signed each other's books (I ended up just buying one there...never can have too many) and joked about how we planned to write things like "have a great summer" and "don't do anything I wouldn't do" but instead just signed our names and talked about our projects.

I raced home with the book and sticky-noted each project that I plan to make for Christmas gifts. So far they include:
--Obi-inspired hot & cold pack
--Not Ugly Car Trash Bag (more on that another day...already done!!!)
--Checkers to go
--Fabric Dollhouse (will be a barn)
--Festive Flag Banners
--Oven Mitt and Hot Pads

I'm sure I'll try to sneak some more in there, but with moving and all the stuff going on, I'm not sure I'll have time. But, geez, I sure don't have an abundance of money, either, so maybe a desired reduction in fabric stash + money savings will cause me to "find" extra time...hmmm.

This book has a ton of great ideas in it. They range from really easy (the trash bag took me less than 2 hours) to semi-difficult. If you're a beginner sewer, or just pressed for time like me, I think you'll enjoy the book. The ideas are not run-of-the-mill, and there really is a little something in there for everyone. The only thing I noticed is that the kid's clothes section is all for wee girls...sadly little Mr. Pumpkin will just have to make due with a non-clothing wonder. Oh, well!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Wool Quilt Scarf

Here in Minnesota, it's already been cold enough to pull all the winter jackets, hats, scarves, and mittens out of their summer storage places and put them into regular rotation. Through the summertime, I've been a bit of a "late adopter" of the scarf as accessory (not as necessity) trend. I know, shock and awe that I'm not on the cutting edge of a trend. And, shock and awe again that I'm too cheap to actually go purchase one of these trendy wardrobe pieces that has -- for the most part -- absolutely no purpose. I mean, seriously. $60 for a scarf?

It was not to be. Usually when I say to myself "I'll just make one" I'm completely full of crap and never get around to it. But, given the relative ease of putting this project together, I went for it. I basically cut one big rectangle of wool for the back and then some various sizes of coordinating fabric (including a bit of vintage kimono fabric...yay!) for the front side. I added a button and a couple of fabric yo yo's here and there and called it my $6 vs. $60 accessory that actually serves a purpose, too! Not too shabby, right?

I'm just coming around now on my month-long head cold, so perhaps I can start staying up later than 9 p.m. for a bit now. I've got holiday gift making to get a jump on now! Yikes!