Book Review: “Craft Activism” By Joan Tapper and photography by Gale Zucker

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“We make to provide.  We make to give.  We make to share.  We make because we love.  Making is marketable, it’s “green,” it’s local.  And when the fad passes, we will still be making.  Because making things by hand has never stopped, and it will never disappear.” –Craft Activism (Foreward.)

The increased popularity of handmade is touching all age and economic groups. Young and old… at home and abroad…  People are turning to craft to create beautiful and meaningful items.  For some, it’s a way to express themselves creatively, as well as connect with others.  However, for some, crafting is used to make statements and promote change within their communities.

Craft Activism pays a joyous tribute to this growing movement.  In this fantastic new book, many talented artists reflect on their passions, provide insight in what motivates them, and encourage others to find their creative voice.  Their message seems to be, “Take something you love to make, and let it touch others in a more meaningful way.”

This book will give you ideas, it will provide you with inspiration, and it will challenge you to try something new.  Why not use your talent to think a little more “green”, beautify your community, join a group of like-minded folks, pay tribute to your past or make a statement about what matters to you?

Get a copy of this book to find out a little more about:

  • Knit Bombing (or crochet!) … See an amazing bench-warmer pattern by the Jafagirls!
  • How to connect with the women of our past… After all, aprons and Granny Squares are back and here to stay!
  • Organize a craft night… Make a Bella Brooklyn house-dress (so cute with skinny jeans and boots!)
  • Get excited about helping a cause… and support the The Red Scarf Project.
  • Protect the earth… and make vibrant art from plastic bags.
  • Ravelry!… This is one great online hub of crafty-connectedness!

This is a book that I will be turning to again and again.  It perfectly honors the grassroots movement that has become a crafting revolution.  It provides a generous amount of practical ideas along with a dose of sentimental tribute to those who have paved the “crafty- highway” for us.

Check out the Craft Activism website at: http://www.craftactivism.com/

For the Creative Book Club….

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Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience:  this is the ideal life.        ~Mark Twain

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a book review for Keeping the House by Ellen Baker.  If you’re looking for some creative ways to make your book club discussion of this book fun and interesting, I have gathered some ideas to make it festive!

As a member of a book club that has been meeting for 15 years, I know that sometimes finding a good book for discussion can be a challenge.  So, that’s why I’m suggesting this book as your next selection.  You will be talking about a wide variety of things…. The role of women in the early-to-mid 1900’s; the impact of both World Wars at home and abroad; the way small town life can be a blessing as well as a curse; the importance of communication in a marriage; and the way things have changed as well as how they have stayed the same!

First of all, head over to Ellen Baker’s website for some excellent background of the book including great discussion questions as well as some fun recipes from the book.  I think the recipe for Dolly’s Lacy Raisin Wafers would be perfect! In fact, take a look at these free recipe-card printables. Wouldn’t it be fun to print out the recipes on these cards and give them as favors to your guests?

LACY RAISIN WAFERS
Dolly brings these cookies to her first Ladies Aid gathering to try to make a good impression…

¾ cup sifted all-purpose flour
½ teasp. baking soda
½ teasp. salt
¼ teasp. nutmeg
¾ cup light or dark raisins
½ cup salad oil
¼ cup water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teasp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats

½ cup chopped nuts

Sift flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg.  Rinse and drain raisins; mix with salad oil, water; mix in sugar, vanilla, oats, nuts, then flour mixture.  Refrigerate 1 hr.  Start heating oven to 350 degrees F.  Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, about 2” apart, onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 min., or till crisp around edges.   Makes 3 ½ doz.
From the Good Housekeeping Cook Book, 1949

Are you feeling extra crafty?  Perhaps you could get some of these cute clothes-pins from Etsy, or make some using this tutorial,  and add a magnet to the back so your guests can display their recipe cards at home. How darling would these be, holding your recipe cards nestled next to your table settings?

When it comes to setting the table, there are so many great options. Aren’t these dishes great?  You can pick up lots of retro dishes at thrift stores, of course.  Perhaps your relatives have some to borrow. I know my mom has some really great pink melamine coffee cups and saucers. (I wonder where they are….)  These lovely ones are available online.

I have a co-worker who collects vintage tablecloths, and once in awhile I run across one at a thrift store for a good price, but they are a little hard to come-by.  Maybe you have one waiting for a good excuse to show it off!  (Since Dolly is a member of the ladies’ sewing circle working on a quilt throughout the novel, you could also cover the table with a quilt!)  One of my favorite bloggers, Dottie Angel, is a master when it comes to finding and re-purposing vintage linens.  I wish I had this one for book-club!  In fact her blog is full of inspirational ideas that would be perfect for this book-club gathering!  Her dishes, her linens, her aprons… Go visit her site now!

I can’t think of anything more fun than having each book-club member join-in the theme by arriving in a vintage-inspired apron.  The cover of paper-back version of the book, with its colorful apron, is so charming!  Most ladies will have a lot of fun finding an apron to wear to book-club.  Check out the inspiration for vintage aprons like this one.

Finally, I adore the idea of using graphics for display that include cover images of the magazines and journals quoted in the book.  If you can get color copies of covers from Ladies Home Journal or Good Housekeeping, place them around the house along with some of the quotes from the book that you type-out and print on vintage inspired paper. I just love this picture of a ladies sewing circle from a vintage magazine.  It looks almost exactly how I envisioned it in the book.  Or how about this picture of a wife happy in the kitchen?  I found it on an article entitled: From a 1950’s high school home economics textbook, teaching girls how to prepare for married life.    Take a look at the suggestions given, and find a way to print them out and incorporate them into your creative book-club gathering!

My favorite?  #7 Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Finally, in the novel, Dolly was so determined to be the perfect wife that she ended up resenting the fact that she couldn’t follow her dream to fly an airplane.  By the end, we are happy that Dolly will fulfill that wish.  Encourage your book-club members to follow their dreams and “fly” by giving each one a mini-charm to remind them that they have wings!

The sky’s the limit (no pun intended) with your creative book-club for Keeping the House!  If you try some of these ideas, please send me a note and a few pictures of your festive gathering!

Finding the Perfect Balance!

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Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.                 -Robert Fulghum

I wanted to whip-up a little birthday gift for my friend, and this is the perfect quick and easy handmade present!  I don’t know if it’s a by-product of being a former English teacher, a librarian, and of course, a lover of books, but I adore any project that uses letters and words. So, I’ve been collecting board games from the thrift store and using the pieces to make Scrabble tile message boards for the special people in my life.  Today, I met my dear friend for a birthday breakfast, and wanted to reminder her to cut-back, just say “no”, and quite simply make more time for herself!  (Good advice, wouldn’t you say?)  Just take a Scrabble tile holder and a little glue (I use E-6000) and admire your “instant message.”  Once you start, you will be thinking of all the important words you want to share!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

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And all your future lies beneath your hat.–John Oldham

Just a little crochet “show-and-tell” for a crisp, cold January day!  There have been LOTS of babies arriving in my circle lately, and I’ve been having so much fun whipping up hats for all of them.  There’s  nothing more rewarding than a baby hat…. it comes together quickly and looks so adorable on the recipient. I don’t know if they do it to be polite, but lately my parent-friends have been donning their little ones in my handmade originals.  So sweet!

These two are for sisters Anna and Ruby.  They are as precious as their names.

His-and-her bombers for big sister AnnaLynn and newborn brother Decland.

We’re still waiting for word that the latest boy baby to our school-family will arrive, but when he does, he’ll be sporting the right team colors – blue and green!

I wouldn’t know what to do without all of the generous creativity out on the Internet!  Here are the sources for the patterns I used:

Earflap Hat with Pom-Pom:  Neanners Shop. (http://neannersshop.blogspot.com/2010/10/ez-earflaps-pattern.html.)

Bomber Hat: http://www.etsy.com/listing/33857277/the-bomber-hat-pattern

Flowers:  http://crochet-mania.blogspot.com/2009/02/chain-5-join-round-1-10-sc-through-loop.html

2012 Resolutions: Keep it Simple!

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  — Leonardo DaVinci

I’ve thought and thought about what to focus on in 2012, and with much thought and contemplation, I’ve decided to keep it simple.  If you’re reading this, you either love to read, or you’re crafty (probably both), so I wish for you both of these joyous things in 2012.

A Place to Hang Your Hat….or Coat….or Scarf…..

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The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out.  ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

Check out my handmade yardstick coat hanger!  I ran across this project idea in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and I instantly loved the look of it, so I set out to collect as many vintage yard-sticks as I could find.  Ultimately, I was hoping to find them all from our local hometown businesses, as well as the small towns where my husband and I grew up, as that would be more sentimental.  However, they were hard to find!  I did find several at some consignment shops from far-away places, but they still had some unique and interesting “patina,” so I picked them up from $5.00 – $10.00. With help from my in-laws, I was able to get one from the Coast-to-Coast store in my husband’s small hometown in Eastern Montana, and of course, I found one in Grandma’s Attic!  (I’m always giving thanks to my Grandma for her collecting spirit!)   I found some antique black coat-hooks on E-Bay that came from an old school.  I love the look of these, because you can see flecks of different colors of paint and a few chips here and there.  We took a board and cut it just slightly larger than the layout of the rulers and painted it with several coats of black spray-paint.  This way it peeks out just a little around the perimeter and “frames” it.  The black also highlights the lettering on the yardsticks and the hooks as well. We have enough yardsticks to make another one, and we’re going to hang them side by side on the long wall in the entry-way at Camp More (the cabin). I think it’s going to add a lot of character to the room, not to mention, it will give us a place to hang our coats after we come back from snowshoeing!

True Grit – for the creative book club!

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“They tell me you are a man with true grit.”  -Mattie Ross, True Grit

Okay, is your book club like mine, and ready to try something unique, different, and not the typical “chick-lit?”  Look no further than True Grit by Charles Portis. This book has had a surge of popularity since the recent movie was released, but if you didn’t see the movie, and even if you did, this is a book not to be missed.  I can’t stress how thoroughly enjoyable it is!  My initial reaction was that it was easy to read, adventurous, and surprisingly funny.  Mattie Ross has to be one of the spunkiest, well-spoken and utterly fearless heroines in literature.  Another bonus of this book is that it’s relatively “tame” when it comes to content and language, and when you’re done, the feeling is that you’ve read something of a classic filled with good old-fashioned Americana. You would be surprised at how many people read this book when it was published in 1967 and describe it as one of their all-time favorites.  Get your book club to think outside the box and choose this book for its next read.  You will have tons of fun talking about Mattie and her unbelievable sense of justice, as well as Rooster and how completely un-refined, yet compulsively likeable, he is.  If you are a structured book club who follows a more rigid discussion format, there are lots of online discussion lists for this book.  One question to ask each guest:  “When in your life did you have to display, “True Grit?”  If you’re like my book club, you let the talking happen, and enjoy the food!

How do you get creative?

1.  Serve your guests hot coffee and if you can, get some old-fashioned blue enamelware dishes that look like you’re sitting around a campfire.

2.  Recipe ideas:  Grits! Chicken dumplings, cornbread and candied bacon.

3.  Use red bandanas for napkins to further enhance the “western” theme.

4.  The rooster motif can also be used in a creative way, as the main character is named Rooster.  Maybe include a rooster image on an invitation, or on handmade coasters.

5.  Can you find some horse decorations or imagery for decorations?  This would be appropriate, as Mattie and the men ride across the countryside in search of the outlaw Tom Chaney.  I found this one on Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ManateesToyBox?ref=seller_info)

6.  Spurs and rope figure predominantly in the book.  Use these as charms and/or decorations.

7.  Do you want to send your guests home with a favor?  How about a red bandana tied with rope-like string and filled with individually wrapped taffy, as that is one of the ingredients in Rooster’s pack when they embarked on their mission.  Embellish it with a U.S. Marshall charm. I found this cute little one on amazon.com.

8.  Find some empty whisky bottles and set them on the table filled with wildflowers.

Little Jars of Light

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Live in rooms full of light.  ~Cornelius Celsus
I thought I would share with you the creation my husband and I came up with for light fixtures at our cabin (which we refer to as Camp More).  A friend had shown us her Pottery Barn catalog, and we fell in love with their Canning Jar light fixture, but it’s hard to convince DIY’ers to hand over the credit card number when something looks like the perfect project!  We ordered these blue tinted jars from e-bay, and found the new, vintage-inspired electrical cord online. The ceiling canopy came from a porch light that we removed at our house, and we painted it with a hammered metal finish.  We love the way they turned out, and think they add just the right touch to our rustic little get-away.  I’ve seen Etsy shops that sell similar items, and they make such a unique conversation piece.

Perfectly Pumpkin

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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   -Henry David Thoreau 

I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween.  First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly.  I has literally taken over my front flower garden.  So, what’s a crafty girl to do?  Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors.  I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately.  The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter.  I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!)  Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short.  Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.

Crafty Team Spirit…. Princess Lasertron Style!

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“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  -Helen Keller

So, I work at a high school, and this week is Homecoming Week.  I don’t care how old you might be, you probably remember the buzz and energy of Homecoming.  The team building, the buzz, the energy, the traditions…..  It’s about theme inspired dress-up days, and class competitions, and parades and of course, the game!  That’s why I’m so excited about the prize ribbon I made at The Creative Connection Event.  I was so fortunate to be able to take a class by Megan from Princess Lasertron.  We all made these enormous, over-the-top, but oh-so-cute, prize ribbons.  In my daily life, I just don’t see myself donning it for groceries or the mall.  However, Homecoming is the perfect occasion to sport some extra big team spirit.  I was so excited to choose my school’s blue and green, as well as embroider a big “G” on the center button.  All of the ladies who attended this class were so much fun, and we truly enjoyed each others’ company.  It reminded me of what old-fashioned sewing circles must have been like.  I’m going to stock up on some more felt and ribbon, some fabric covered button kits, and I’m going to make some more of these beauties to share with my colleagues for next year.  Who says that team spirit can’t be crafty? Go Team!!