Wednesday, December 15, 2010

see how i transform this old rat into a most delightful hat!

making christmas this year has been a bit like a nightmare i once had about running from a bear. the bear clearly intended to eat me, and i ran away as fast as i could, but after a while i slowed down, started floating almost, as if i was suddenly running in water. the rest of the world continued in real time but i was slow motion and i knew the bear would catch me.

this christmas is a fucking bloodthirsty bear charging toward me, and i’m a senior citizen doing water aerobics.

i started working on presents early enough, mid-november. i brainstormed for hours to come up with just the right gift for each person on my list and ended up with a four-page (typed!) list of everything i needed to make (and in some cases buy.) i felt like once i figured all that out it would be simple, it would just be a matter of hard work and persistence.

i turned my craft room into santa’s sweatshop. i ripped fabrics from their shelves and scattered them around, transforming the floor into a giant idea-board with layers of multi-yard swatches collaged all over it. i bought supplies and i designed and sewed and knitted and sewed and sewed and sewed.

now it’s ten days until christmas and i’m starting to sweat. as hard as i’ve been working i’m not even close to being finished. about half the gifts i’m making need to be shipped off somewhere, mostly to friends and family back east, even one package going all the way to australia for my aunt and uncle down under (and i’m already too late on that one, i know. they won’t mind when it doesn’t arrive on time.) i meant to be finished with all of those gifts by monday, but i’m only now starting to wrap them up. i definitely bit off more than i’m capable of chewing.

it’s a little stressful, but i shouldn’t make it sound like i’m not having a good time, because making stuff for people i care about is one of my favorite things in the world to do. if only i didn’t have two articles due december 20th. one of them will write itself--a piece on heirloom tomatoes, i could write it in my sleep. the other is about a local guy who trims trees and turns all the trimmed wood into stunningly beautiful cooking utensils and boxes and whatnot. i wish i wasn’t so damned procrastinatey about writing.

here are some highlights of the gifts i’ve finished...i’ll post more after xmas for sure because obviously i’m not going to reveal any gifts to friends who read this blog.

this bronco-themed sock monkey is for some old family friends back east who are huge BSU fans.

the photo calendar turned out better than expected, although i don't love my choice of cover photo.

the calendar paper is extremely heavy-weight, with a nice soft matte finish. i ordered three intending to give them all away but now i’m keeping one for myself...

i ordered this book for my grandma. back in the 80s she and my grandpa traveled all over the east coast doing genealogical research, touring old towns and houses where her ancient relatives lived. she traced her roots all the way back to this william lamson guy who came over on the mayflower. this book has info about him and the town of ipswich, and some pretty cool historical information about what daily life was like back then...but basically it’s 400 pages of brief biographies and other genealogical information, with a few super old photos.

this tote bag is for my australian aunt. my mom assured me a fun frog print would be good for her because she’s a francophile...she knows her sister better than i do so i’m going with it.

this was the scene trying to sort out which preserves to give to which people and label them all. i’m so glad i made all these last summer.

i thrifted this lovely fabric that’s literally designed for the tops of jars, AND, just in time, a high-quality pair of pinking shears that actually cuts fabric really really well, unlike my old ones that just masticate it to death. if it wasn’t for this fabric and those shears i’d have to measure and cut the toppers out of normal fabric then finish all the edges on my sewing machine. it would take decades.

i sewed a whole stack of reusable salad storage bags out of cotton kitchen towels--they keep greens fresher and crisper longer than a plastic bag. the idea came from one of gayla trail’s books. super quick project, only about ten minutes per bag including the time it took me to crochet the drawstrings.

i found this 60s girl scout mess kit for my mom on ebay. for as long as i can remember she’s loved to flip through “campmor” catalogues, without ever actually buying anything--once i asked her what kinds of things she likes in there, and she told me about the camping cookware sets and how they remind her of her old mess kit from when she was a girl scout.

it’s pretty adorable, i kinda want one for myself. the kit is 100% complete and in decent condition, plus it came with a cute little pouch of fold-up metal silverware and this awesome girl scout handbook:

i love the girl scout laws with the dialogue examples of each law in action. “Wait a second. I must feed Duchess first.” “Let’s sing ‘Donkey Riding’ and these dishes will be finished in a flash.” it’s extra hilarious because in my head i can’t help but hear my mom reading those quotes in her old minnesota accent that she now does only as a joke.

store-bought sock monkey tree ornament for my mom. i have one of these hanging from the rear-view mirror in my car. i stitched an adorable dress for my mom’s full-size sock monkey, but i forgot to take a picture before wrapping it so i’ll try to get one post-xmas.

i made this “dome sweet dome” embroidered hot pad for my aunt and uncle who just bought a geodesic dome cabin in colorado. i was going to make a matching pair, but my god, trying to sew fine detail like this on my non-embroidery machine is such a pain in the ass. it would’ve been quicker and easier to hand sew it, probably.

interesting fact i recently learned about the small town where their stately pleasure-dome sits: the mayor of the town is a 20-year-old cat named monster, a member of the “democat” party (as opposed to the “repuplicans.”) check out his myspace page. also, the population of the town is 26. i can’t wait to visit this place.

these soft books are for friends’ kids. they’re made from fabric panels: you cut out pairs of pages, sew them together with batting in between, then assemble them just like paper book signatures and put a seam down the middle for the binding.

i made this collapsible nylon grocery bag for my dad. he’s always used reusable bags, decades before it was cool, so i wanted to make him one but he’s not really into the fun canvas bags i usually make. this is more his style, plain and functional.

it scrunches into this tiny pouch. i also got him a copy of rifka’s “my father’s idaho” DVD, a nice bamboo cutting board, and the arrowhead i found last summer framed in a shadowbox.

an early christmas gift to myself: a liner for my bike basket. i semi-started making this last summer, so there were pieces sitting around with pins in them, and i needed the pins for other projects (that’s how i justify making something for myself when i should be totally focused on gifts for other people.)

i get excited whenever i can design something that’s reversible, or something with multiple functions. this project is both! the little chin-straps that go under the basket to hold the liner in place twist around and transform into purse straps; lift the liner out of the basket, reverse the fabric if desired; and the liner turns into a bag.

the straps are also removable--those buttons aren’t just decorative. i think i like this better as a bag than a basket liner, so i might end up sewing something different for the liner and using this strictly as a bag.

i’ve also been busy sewing reusable satin gift bags for all the presents to go in. i actually gave up and used wrapping paper on some things, mostly books. in years past i’ve made drawstring bags like the green one pictured above, but this year most of them will just be simple bags tied closed with yarn:

they’re not as reuser-friendly as the drawstring ones but i’m running out of time and these are much faster.

i think that’s about all the best stuff...looking at this it doesn’t seem like i’ve made that much, but a lot of the biggest and most time-consuming projects can’t be revealed yet without spoiling any surprises. anyone else crafting like crazy right now?


the Knottie Knitta said...

i love your description of christmas as a big hungry bear...i agree!

also, i am really good at justifying making myself things amidst the chaos too!

great spoons think alike?

Emily said...

hehehe indeed!

GoneferalinID said...

I LOVE that last photo. I've always wanted to try to make a sock monkey. I just have to make one now. I might totally steal your BSU idea for my mom, who loves the Broncos and is constantly irked that I don't care for football. You made some really great gifts. We are going homemade this year as well with edibles like granola and rubs for BBQ.

Emily said...

yumm, those are good gift ideas. i hope you post a picture of your sock monkey if you make one!

Vetsy said...

Emily it is so nice that you are gifted and talented enough to make such wonderful gifts for your family and friends!

Those are the best gifts of all! ... because hand made gifts are always treasured more than others! at least in my opinion.

Season's Greetings to you and Family!

Emily said...

aww, thank you vetsy, season's greetings to you too!

dirtyduck said...

usng reusable bags before it was cool. kudos

"unlike my old ones that just masticate it to death"


also hat print that you found? thats for lids to jars? thats really neat that yo knew what it was for. i really liked that.

Emily said...

hehe, thank you dirtyduck.

Bumble Lush said...

Wow! I wish I had the skillz to make my loved ones cool presents. I'm really loving the calendar idea and the mini sock monkey--so cute! I've also been getting into things from the 60s lately, so the girl scout handbook is a good find! Hope your presents make it to their destination on time!

Emily said...

thanks, i hope so too! i got pretty much everything out last thursday so they probably will make it.