As I walked through the house yesterday, flipping all the calendars to February, I looked around at the evidence of our days that I found in each room. Yup, it's February, I thought, as I saw reflected - on the floors and on the beds and in the couches and by the entryway - all the things that fill our days this time of year. It is the time of year where there's time to learn a whole new song in a day, sitting in front of the fire and breaking only for meals and to rest one's fingers. Craft books are being scoured for the next greatest thing we should do. And the projects started in the evening stay on the table and are jumped right into after breakfast again. Game marathons happen on every level from poker to Sorry and a very modified Go Fish that only one knows the rules to. And there is time for all-day-long imaginative play, acting out our favorite imagined or known stories (currently Ani playing the role of "Annie" is working out very well for the cleanliness of my floors/windows/and banisters). There is napping - if only from the cats, literally - but a certain kind of winter resting from all of us. And daydreaming too as we plan what's to come in the seasons ahead.
Oh, and lots and lots of sledding and skiing and skating and all that good snowy stuff that happens this time of year too. And the corresponding hot chocolate and popcorn, piles of snowy winter gear that block the doorway, and vying for the spot closest to the wood stove upon returning back inside.
We woke up to more snow falling this morning that doesn't look as though it plans on stopping or slowing anytime soon. As I sat down in my studio to do my morning work the emails came in right after another - fiddle is canceled! dance is canceled! riding is canceled! And so, we find ourselves starting another February Day. This is good.
Most all of these little bundles have been distributed, so I feel safe in sharing them here with you now. Not that our holiday gift this year was a huge surprise to anyone, but still. Of course, we gifted soap! A Soule Family Solstice Soap Sampler to be precise.
It was late August when we began work on this project, accumulating enough variety and quantity of soap for all these packages. Accounting for curing time and the inevitable failures, it worked out just perfectly that by early December, we had seven kinds of soaps ready for sharing. Though the late night soap making was done by me (and Steve laughing at me in my soap goggles, aka ski goggles), the next part of the project was shared by all. We each claimed a soap as our own - to be tested, named and described. In the end, we had Smelly Wine, Candy & Nuts, Jim, Lovely Lady Lavendar, Pumpkin Pie, Violet Swirl, Oil & Sugar. Adelaide created a library of line drawings for me to scan and use alongside the soap descriptions. And that's precisely how we ended up with a little booklet full of soap ingredients, and descriptions such as these:
"Violet Swirl - Once upon a time there was a girl named Violet. She was a horse girl and was always dirty from mucking out the stalls. One day, a fairy godmother came down and gave her this magical soap. It was pretty and smelled good. And from that day on, she always smelled good too." - Adelaide
"Smelly Wine - It's just good soap. It's super good to use. It smells good. It has wine in it, that's why it's brown. If you like wine, you'll like this soap. If you don't like wine, you won't like this one. Or maybe you will. It's good soap." - Harper
"Lovely Lady Lavender - It's like Old Spice, for hippies." Calvin
Ah, this was such a fun project to create together as a family, and even more delightful to share. And as Harper said one night in a marathon soap packing session, "Our friends are going to smell SOOOO good!!" Indeed!
And here we are , at that tricky time of year for crafty bloggers - where there is so much going on, but nothing to share! Not that anyone on our list isn't expecting what we're crafting up for them, but still, let's keep the illusion of surprise at least.
Last night was another family session of making and labeling and packing. Teacher gifts are going out this week to the various classes the kids take, and things are being shipped today to far away friends and family. We're nearly done with the handmades! As we were busy elving together last night, I was remembering some of our early family gift making when there were still so many little helpers. How fun, but also tricky it was to sometimes keep everyone happy and feeling involved in the process. (The bird calendar might still be my all time favorite little kid handmade we've shared, and its balance of child and adult work was just right.) It's all changing as they get older, and I am loving where it's all going - how their own creativity and ideas mature and develop and fit into the family plan. Last night at the table, the crew had some turnover as someone got bored or someone else wanted to go outside to play. We were never all together at once, but everyone was present at one point or other in the evening - making, packing and wrapping. And talking and laughing. I decided to move slowly, not rushing my way through the tasks, but truly looking around and sinking into the goodness of the moment. My growing children, our holiday traditions, the way we are together as a family. As I did so, I wondered if we will always gather around a table to make things together, no matter how old we are. I hope we do.
Are you doing the same thing in your home? I wish you much peace and joy in your own family elving these days!
While Mama's been busy with Nutracker and then messing around in my studio, and Papa's been busy keeping the home fires burning and everyone happy and fed, inside and out....it has not been lost on a few of the Soules that the clock is ticking in on December. After a few requests to put up our tree, they decided to take matters into their own hands. With garden clippers in her hands, and a hatchet over his shoulder (a brand new gift for the newly minted six year old working man), Adelaide and Harper went deep (or not so deep) into the woods to find their own trees. I'm told they then dug around in the barn for some lights, got out some scissors and markers and tape, and set to making their own merry. With a crafty planter plus rocks serving as a tree stand. Love.
The pine needles all throughout the house? And the water spilled over the laundry? And the bits and pieces of paper and string and tape all over the floor? One hundred percent worth keeping silent about for this kind of childhood merry, absolutely. They've got the rest of us inspired too - today, we'll get our family tree. I can only hope it will have an ounce of the magic that these little trees have. With their help, I'm sure it will.
My hands have been busy - mostly on the steering wheel, securing the hooks and eyes on the costumes of tiny dancing ladies, and applying makeup to fidgety boys. There has been little to no knitting, and hardly a hooked strip of wool, not to mention the sewing machine or my spinning wheel. But there are two children in the Soule house who are more than making up for my slacking in the handwork world.
Adelaide finished a 'funky scarf' as she calls it (I say it's called getting creative when you run out of yarn in one color) for her cousin's birthday. As the birth date approached, Adelaide walked around the house all day long with a small basket of yarn clipped onto her clothing and her knitting needles in hand. All day long, for two days straight, until the scarf was complete.
All that knitting from Adelaide inspired Harper, and I am so pleased to report that we have another knitter in the house! Woot! This being the fourth child I've seen learn to knit, on thing I can say is that they've all learned at such different ages and so differently in style. But I do usually start them all out on a size ten or so needle with an aran weight yarn. And we use the lovely little rhyme "In through the front door, run around the back, peek through the window, off jumps Jack" to help learn the knit stitch. Harper was keen to have that rhyme drawn out for him as he was learning it. He doesn't need it anymore, as it's committed to memory now and his own scarf is coming along beautifully.
I'm also happy to report that Adelaide has joined me in the hooking world! I had bought her this kit intending to give it to her as a holiday gift. But all the hovering over my own hook and frame was not only crowding me, but also letting me know that she needn't wait. It took barely a moment of instruction and she was off. By the time I came home with the boys at the end of the day, her sheep piece was done. Well, then. She didn't want another kit, though, she wanted to create something of her own. That last photo is her design that she presented me with early one morning with the request to help her transfer it to burlap. Can a Mama just brag a little? Because that is not at all the usual style in which she draws, and yet somehow she understood the need to keep the elements simple and large and layered. And the colors she choose from our yarn stash? Wonderful. Oh my girl. Oh my kids. What fun this all is!
And you? And yours? Whatchamaking these days?
Sometimes....we find ourselves in the middle of another busy day in a very busy month, I hear myself answering the same question I've heard for a string of days in a row with, "No, no. We can't do that today. Maybe tomorrow." It's too messy, we're too busy, I don't want to manage all of that right now.
And then "tomorrow" turns into Halloween and I hear, "Mom! We never carved our pumpkins!" And that tiny twinge of Mama guilt we all know so well sneaks in.
But then, weeks later, in the middle of a sunny November afternoon, as we sit on the bench watching the kittens play, pumpkins still whole and at our feet, it's remembered and asked again. Yes! Of course! is the answer. I do nothing, but let them go for it. Having a blast carving and scooping right there on the ground. The insides go to the chickens with much laughter, and the shells are prepared for nighttime lighting, then scattered around the house. It becomes the unplanned on thing they spend the afternoon doing, happily, together, and with a remarkable amount of peace.
Sometimes....it feels so good to turn a "Not now" into a resounding "Yes!" And to be reminded that it's never too late.
There has been a wall - a literal wall - of storage totes in my barn, all full of children's clothing. All appropriately labeled by size (as any Virgo Mama would do). I started these totes when Calvin was just a babe, picking things up here and there at thrift shops and yard sales, and as hand me downs. Storing things away for later that were too big, and tucking things that were too small into totes for the next Soule baby. These bins - this wall of totes - have moved from one house to another, and more importantly, have carried me through clothing five children. There are handmades and thoroughly-stained clothes and a whole lot of memories tucked into those boxes. But oh, it is time for them to go. Or at the very least, for them to be consolidated. I made myself a goal bringing all of the newborn to 3 year old clothing (where miss Annabel is at right now) into one neat and tidy tote, full of clean and folded clothes of the most special sort that I just cannot part with. One tote. Not six. One tote that I shall save and pour over as an old woman. One tote that I shall pass on to some poor daughter-in-law someday who will wonder why on earth I'm crying over a box of stained and dirty baby clothes from the early 2000's. One tote that holds just so much memory for me, and maybe, them too.
Because I am such a sentimental Mama, this purging project of course has prompted a sewing project I have been thinking about and for years and years. I always knew that I'd want to make a quilt from their baby clothes. I just didn't know when or how I'd be able to do it. I'm a sentimental fool about these things, I really am. Each textile evoking so much memory for me - bringing me right back to those earlier days. Memories of when they wore them and what they were doing. What they were like at that age. Who they've become. Oh my - what a process sorting through these boxes has been! As I sort, I've been separating as such - those in good enough shape to be passed on (though very little successfully survived five children!), those headed for the rag bag, those very few pieces just too precious for anything but tucking away, and the majority of things - those memory-triggering pieces that are just right for cutting up and being made into a special quilt, one for each child.
I have to take it slowly, this whole process. It's an emotional one, I am not embarrassed to say. Some of these pieces have been so hard for me to cut into. But what good are they doing sitting in a box in a barn? Most not in any shape to be worn again? Oh, as hard as it is, I am treasuring this process dearly, pulling out and remembering, cutting and planning. Laughing, telling stories, and sharing it with the kids who seem particularly interested in this sewing I'm doing, joining in to help press and cut and pile and claim pieces for their own pile. I wasn't sure how that would work, either, since so many of these things they ALL wore - who's quilt would they belong to? I first started sorting the squares by color but quickly realized that sorting by child made far more sense. Sometimes they each end up with a piece of something, sometimes something really calls out to be one or the other, and many I made for someone in particular. One of the slings we carried them in, a baby blanket, and all those little clothes. This and that from their early days.
Quickly, the piles have grown and become enough to make each of them a throw size blanket, perhaps even a twin. I don't know when I'll get to the stitching. I might just tuck each pile into a bag of its own for a while until I'm ready to begin the next part of the process. For now, I happily have a much emptier barn, one tote full of extra special handmades and precious clothing to save, and those five wonderful piles of fabric that hold so much meaning, ready to be transformed into something useful, special and new altogether.
Will it upset you if I talk about holiday gifts? I'm sorry. I assure you I am the very last person who would wish away summer, and that's not at all what I'm doing. But, there are the realities that soapmaking takes a good deal of curing time; that fall is an incredibly full time of year for us (I can hear the Nutcracker music creeping into the back of my head already); and well, we've been bringing in so many herbs from the garden to preserve, and store, and use in potions and lotions....and soaps! I've been eager to get to it.
And so it is that I've found myself up late a few nights this week, making batches of Calendula Soap, Honey Oatmeal, and Mint as well. Though I don't know if I'll ever get over my moment of fear each time I open the lye, the rest of the process is fun and relaxing. (This post from last year has all of my favorite soap making resources and great tips in the comments too.)
While the actual act of making the soap wasn't for the kids at all (the lye! the lye!), the rest of the process certainly is. From harvesting the flowers and drying and storing them....and now to the fun part of 'packaging' our soap for giving. Adelaide is on top of the artwork, Calvin's the official first tester of each kind, Ezra is in charge of creative naming, and Harper and Annabel are on the production team - helping me craft the labels and put it all together. This is going to be fun!
Friends, I have a new crafty love interest. Power tools! I am head over heels in love at the moment with a pile of fresh lumber, a saw, some screws and a drill. Smitten, actually.
My children are clearly far ahead of me on this passion - Steve says he's always running out of nails and screws and can never find his drill, for all the places they take it for all the various projects they have going around the place - forts, refreshment stands, ramps for bikes and skateboards, "houses" for all kinds of animals they plan on trapping and keeping. And while sometimes I'll lend a hand to a project that someone else is working on, I haven't really done a lot on my own. Not for lack of interest, I don't think, but for lack of time and freedom to do so. Little babes clinging so tightly to Mama's legs are not so conducive to working with saws, now are they? But my babes are growing and with that, a freedom that comes with having both hands free, for exploring new things. I'm loving that.
I started truly easy peasy and simple in my efforts. The Modern Park Bench plans from Ana White seemed doable for me upon first glance...and it really was. With kids nearby, helping me measure and drill, the first bench came together so smoothly. And just as soon as that one (slightly crooked) bench was finished, I can't tell you how pleased I was. Nearly ready to abandon all other forms of occupation to dedicate myself to furniture building. Ha! That's what building one (slightly crooked) first bench will do to a girl.
I made a couple more over the weekend, bringing me to a lovely set of three. They aren't quite finished - I need to sand and then paint. I think my family is quite sick of hearing me belabor over the color choices for my simple little benches (blue lake or blue toile?), and the ultimate placement of them (all three around the firepit, or scattered about in different spots through the gardens and pasture?). But they have no idea what's coming their way - for I've got great plans. If I can build a simple (slightly crooked) bench, surely I can make some cold frames, and a table for us to use outdoors, and a bed frame while I'm at it. Right? Why not.
(Thanks to Papa for following us around with a camera! And because I know you well, dear readers, let me tell you that Adelaide is wearing this dress in liberty fabric, Annabel has a vintage one on, and mine is a new favorite just picked up recently at an end-of-season Ace & Jig sale. And that rabbit vase that you all love each time I post it - I love it too - is from Portland artist Patti Sandberg.)
We are all having so much fun with the flowers this year. I've always loved bringing them in to enjoy in the summer. But this season, with a few more years here under our belt and the accompanying plantings that have gone in each year, there is so much growing to choose from! Plus I've got the wonderful addition of a cut flower garden bed in the vegetable garden, at the urging of my friend, a flower goddess (well, that's what Adelaide and I call her anyway), and her wisdom shared in our SEED issue of Taproot. I love especially the permission that she gave me to just 'cut and enjoy'. And we're doing just that - with many helpers, and many baskets, and many vessels for filling and arranging and spreading throughout the house - in every room of the house. It's a joy to see what they come up with for their own bouquets, and those they give. The colors, the vases, the style. And just as much a joy, I think, to wander the gardens and the yard and the woods on our searches together. For there is something new growing each time, something they've never seen before or something they remember from another year. Questions, conversations, knowledge shared (from them to me just as much as me to them). Truly, these are summer moments I treasure with all my heart. And judging by the peace on our gathering walks, the creativity expressed, and the pride in what they've made - I think they might love it too.
A Mama sitting anywhere is an invitation for someone to join her lap, isn't it? I managed to fit two there for just a while in the sidelines of those raspberry bushes, in need of some heavy weeding. It was a tangle of arms and legs and weeds and raspberry bushes for a little while. But eventually I convinced them to join next to me in the weeding. "Hey, do you guys see what we're pulling up here?" I asked them, once they were in the groove of it. They looked a little closer, then up with bright eyes and simultaneously declared, "mint! let's make tea!". And they were off...to find a basket, to gather more mint, to start the water.
We've been big fans of the book Walking the World in Wonder: A Children's Herbal by Ellen Evert Hopman (originally recommended by Amy long ago). It's in that book, with great big photos, that the 'story' of each herb is told alongside some practical advice on using them. It's from that book that Adelaide knows the bee balm leaves (bergamot) also make a great tea. And from that book that she has great plans to join me in making some tinctures and salves from what we have growing around here, leading to her hanging the first herbs of the season in the library for drying.
Gather herbs (double check with Mama to be certain it's really what you think it is), rinse, boil water, pour water over the herbs, cover and steep for five minutes, strain, maybe add a little bit of honey, and cool, add lemon or berries or whatever else you might like to try. They love - and I love - that this is something they can do all by themselves, with Adelaide at the helm. It's little, but it's big, these things. Identification, the stove, the timer. Selecting just the right cups in which to serve iced tea (a very important task). Rationing the ice. Tea time, or iced tea time is something they're proud of, and they very well should be. It's delicious tea - made with what they find, maybe a little extra honey, and most certainly a lot of love.
My baby girl turned three last week. (I know. Three!) Third birthdays are so fun, aren't they? It might be the first time they really understand that the day is all about them...and my little Annabel Edrie soaked every last bit of that special love and attention up. Not that she doesn't get it everyday, she certainly does. After all, this youngest one has seven people in the house to dote up on her. Anytime someone says no, surely one of the six remaining will say yes, right? Oh, it's a dangerous and wonderful thing, the youngest babe and all her fans in the house!
I came home from New York to a 'top secret' project in the works. Under the woodshed, and under some tarps, with saws and screws and drills and hammers everywhere, Adelaide had begun a birthday gift for her sister. A House For Annabel. Made out of leftover barn shingles, a pallet, and scraps of wood from last fall's construction project, she pieced together this little getaway for Annabel, complete with window trim, benches and chairs. We've hardly seen her for days for all the work she's been up to - fabric strips for the window, potted pink flowers for the entrance. After construction, it was moved to a corner of the garden, tucked under the trees, and presented to the little miss, who of course loves this little house that's all her own.
Oh this gifting they do for each other sure does make a Mama's heart swell with pride and joy. And so do growing, funny, confident, and loving babies turning three. I suppose I really do need to stop calling her a baby. Oh, but must I really? Right now she is still happy to declare herself Mama's Baby, and so I'll roll with that as long as I can. Oh my girl. S'mores, apple pie, tadpole catching, lamb snuggling, pink bathing suits, cousins, a house of her own, and sunshine? I'd say we've officially greeted 'three' in a way just right for our Annabel.
Ever since the last time we made fabric from Adelaide's art, periodically she'll slip me a piece of watercolor paper with "this might make a good fabric, don't you think?". In fact, there is an entire folder in my studio of Adelaide's "this might make a good fabric" art. A month ago, I pulled one out, scanned it, cleaned it up just a bit in Photoshop and sent it off to Spoonflower to surprise Adelaide with some more of her very own fabric. She was thrilled when it showed up - a bit of Kona Cotton and some Linen-Cotton Canvas. Sweetly, the first thing she wanted to make was something for her sister. So we worked together on a dress - (yes, another) from the Geranium pattern. She chose just the right buttons and proudly gave it to her little sister. "A horsie dress for you!!" she declared, and suddenly I realized that the gift was entirely connected to Adelaide's ongoing efforts to nurture a love of horses in her little sister, which by all accounts appears to be working.
She saved the linen-cotton fabric for something for herself. She's been perusing patterns, and piling up ribbons and buttons for a few days. She'll periodically switch them out for something else, as she gets closer to deciding just what it is we're going to make with it. Whatever it is will be wonderful, I am certain, with her very own horse fabric. And I will absolutely love and cherish making it with her.
I have found that now - this time of year - is when we need handwork most of all. Not just me, as evidenced by the finished knits piling up this February. In hands both big and small, handwork projects are the way we love to get through the days with peace and ease. In the early days of winter, just the shift to inside is enough to uncover latent projects, or forgotten books, puzzles and games. Artwork happens with a flurry in the months that begin winter. But eventually, at just about this point, we all get a little stuck. A little tired of looking at the same pens and paper, bookshelves, and projects in progress. And as a result, I see more unrest, feel more unsettled kids around me, and hear more bickering. The days are getting longer, and warmer, and it's becoming easier already to be out of doors more. We are close! But still...some "new" handworking projects are just the thing for keeping little (and big) hands busy, heads satisfied and hearts happy. They keep the peace, these things. After all, you can't swat at your brother when you're hands are both deep in felt. And you can't call your sister a name when you're counting stitches.
I thought today I'd show you some of the kid handwork we're up to these days, on the chance that it might be helpful in your own hands and homes too.
(Mama and her old bed sheet as a floor surface wasn't around at the start of this particular carving session. Ahem.) Everyone (excepting Annabel) has been doing quite a bit of carving these days. There are spoons, and wands, and spatulas in progress - rustic and unidentifiable as they may be (I'm speaking of my own work here). The kids - and Steve and I - have picked up most of our carving instruction from our friends at Koviashuvik Local Living School. I don't have a great book resource to give you about carving, but can promise that some good information is soon coming to the pages of Taproot!
Harper is having a great time with embroidery these days. I wrote a bit about the earliest of embroidery with children both in my first book, The Creative Family, and in this blog post. Harper has moved past that first burlap goodness and is now fully into linen and the like. He likes to draw directly onto the fabric with a light pencil, then stitch over that with a tapestry needle and embroidery floss (using all the strands). He just finished working on a collection of Valentine's - with his friends' name and accompanying hearts which were turned into "dream pillows". Sweet, sweet.
He - and Annabel too - are also spending a lot of time with the hand drill right now. It's a Fiskar's Hand Drill (like this one), recommended a few years back by Amy, it's become a huge hit here. We have a second now, just because it was in such frequent demand. They do some specific making of things with it, but mostly, with the littlest especially, they just really like making holes in wood. And I think that's just fabulous.
Adelaide has been spending a bit of time this month with her potholder loom - a little different from the classic metal one (which we also have, but that she got a little bored with in years past). This one requires a bit more work - more weaving - but it's perfect for where she's at. When it comes time for weaving (a hobby I am half-jokingly saving for my forties), I think she'll be able to lead the way, after using this.
She's also been playing around with a lot of wet felting, using Artfelt to be specific. It's an interesting process - a bit faster than a traditional wet felting, which I think makes it more appealing to her at the age of eight. I think she's just tapped into the things she could make with this - she really wants to 'draw' with felt, and she thinks this will be a good method for doing so.
And then there is knitting. A lot of knitting. I have taught my children to knit at various points each, sometimes with it sticking and sometimes not. It comes in fits and spurts for some, and with a passion for others. Ezra has been quite content to work on the same hat for about a year now - a few stitches here, a few stitches there. Sometimes ripping most of it out to trade out a stripe for a different color. Oh, he loves the process! And doesn't think much about the product. Adelaide started a cowl last week, cleverly devising a basket she could hook over her arm so that she could walk and knit at the same time, determined to be wearing the cowl by this weekend. Oh, my girl. (For kids knitting instruction - if you're looking for a visual reference for them or you - I really do like Kids Knitting a whole lot for that purpose.)
And you? Is there handworking keeping you and yours busy these days?
It's been a very long time since I've made little teacup lights, but I've been wanting to do so again. Amber's instructions and lovely photographs in the latest issue of Taproot prompted me to make it happen now, with another set of little ones who have never shared this particular craft with me. With a snow day yesterday, inching us closer to the solstice and all that means for light, yesterday was the perfect day. After a quick trip the the flea market, Adelaide and Harper were happily engaged - from peeling stickers and washing cups to holding wicks in place and finally, testing one out just as soon as it was dark enough to warrant one (we didn't have to wait long for that). I followed Amber's directions, and used what we had on hand for supplies - my handy "craft only" double boiler, these wicks, this wax, different essential oils, then our beeswax when I ran out of soy. These will be little gifties just from the two of them. They are enormously proud of them, and eager to share. (They gifted one to me right before bed - all bundled up and gift tagged. So lovely.)
All in all, another reminder for me that simple and special really is where it's at anytime, but especially at the holiday season. Some time spent creating together, thinking of those we love, and sharing. And in the end, a little bit more light.
Knitty beginnings after a little stop into Knitwit, my favorite yarn shop...
...the jewelry shop...
...the new Everyday Skirt from Oliver and S, ready to begin...
...she's got a bit of a pom pom making thing going on right now...
...I'm eager to get started on Alicia's ornaments, and hoping to entice Calvin to join in (it won't be hard)...
...conquering my fear of cables (and charts) with Habitat...
...I do predict this year's fashion trend: pom pom rings...
Oh, what glorious fall weather we've been having around here. Each day has been warm and just perfect for enjoying all the out of doors work and play that must be done this time of year. We're so happy to be spending most of each day outside so comfortably...in the pasture, on bikes, in the garden, on the swings. Ah...
And yet, there's a pull that's happened too, that's always especially strong this time of year. It's the inward pull to start making things. Evening fires call for a project in our hands, and one person with a project soon becomes three or seven. As we set the dates for holiday parties and gatherings, little ones within earshot scurry to their respective project at the moment, eager to start the merry making. I've heard tell of some grand plans for gifts this year. And there's plenty of time left for the completion of them...or a change in the plan two or ten times. I've been making a whole lot too. Knitting, sewing, stitching, and prepping fleece to spin. I can't tell who's leading the way anymore - maybe my new hat knitting inspired some bracelet making. But for sure, their pompoms inspired my new hat project. (It's going to be a pom pom kind of year, I can tell.) It doesn't matter of course who started it, it's clear that we're all doing it. Inspiring and loving the making of things.
Are you feeling it too? Is there lots of making happening in your world?
... a base-of-the-tree treehouse just for Annabel, so "she doesn't have to climb up to the big one".
...a "skibike" in progress. (He's got some time before the snow flies to work out the kinks.)
...and of course, paint and pen on anything and everything.
They're my very favorite kind of handmade, these things all over our house created by little hands and big imaginations. With a lot of freedom and time, a little bit of guidance and help with tools when it's requested or needed, they dream and make and problem solve and start it all over again with each project. With no hard and fast rules about what can be used where, there's no saying that plaster repair washers can't be art or that string and duct tape can't hold a bike seat to a piece of wood. And if it doesn't? Well, they try something else.
They're the creations I trip on, and the inventions that inspire me. And just the very things I'm thinking about this Monday morning as I start my week. Anything is possible. (I just might need more string.)
Are you ready for the annual crafty blogging, post-holiday handmade parade? It's time! And we begin today with the gifties I haven't shared yet that we - the lot of us - made by the doubles, or dozens as the case sometimes was. Complete with links, tips, and thoughts should making any of these be in your future in months or years to come.
For the oldest of the neices and nephews, a make your own book kit. Complete with colored pencils, stickers, pencils, and some blanks of our family favorite, bare books. The bundles are based loosely on the Gratitude Wrap, a free pattern of mine, with some Heather Ross gnomes on the outside fabric and Marimekko on the interior.
My falltime soapmaking wasn't a total bust. There was plenty that were giving-worthy, though a whole lot more that weren't quite so pretty, which only means that we've covered on soap for the year, most certainly. Everyone wins. My last soapmaking post here, with more details and links to recipes and books in this one.
A new to us but very favorite project, homemade Fairy Dust! We received some of this lovely stuff from a most special glitter girl when she visited recently, and all were smitten. So much that the jar disappeared quickly and we needed more. I did a little looking around for some recipes online, and ended up with the following concoction.
Scooped into 1 oz containers, we included the ingredients and instructions (not to be used near eyes, mouth, etc) and gifted them to nieces and nephews old enough for a little fairy magic of their own. And a jar was saved for each Soule, of course too. Because we all need a little bit of fairy dust magic from time to time, you know?
It may appear quite calm and normal on the surface of this here blog, but the reality of our day to day right now involves a whole lot of abnormal-for-us running around, as we're in the thick of performance season. Nutcracker, Boy Singers...oh goodness, these stage-loving boys of mine are in a constant state of bliss right now. As I pour another cup of tea for the road, I'm fully aware that this time is fleeting, and enjoy the ride. Or the drive, as the case may be. Everyone's having fun. Mama too (though safely from the wings, of course).
That isn't to say that the needles have been gathering dust, oh no. There's always a minute here, five minutes there to be found (or created - who really needs clean laundry?) - and I'm happy to fill those few minutes here and there with needles in hand. A little bit of sewing (more to come later on that dress - the wonderful bubble dress by oliver + s), plenty of knitting, and stitching too. My Winterwoods Sampler awaits a frame, and I await the arrival of some linen for the next cross stitch project (that was just too much fun).
The real progress right now is coming from my middles. With the (big) boys busy dancing and singing, and their Mama busy driving them to and fro, Harper and Adelaide have been busying themselves with needles! Every time we pull back into the drive, there's one of them running out of the house with a hoop in hand to show me, or a pile in my studio to 'frame'. They've caught the bug of the season, to be sure, and everyone on their giving list has a work in progress...or two. Stitched love. A special kind of love...both in the making and the giving.
My wintry cross stitch sampler is coming along nicely....and rapidly, much to my surprise. The reason for the pace and progress?
This. This is the reason. Because it's exciting for everyone! Really, I had no idea. I'm always sitting and stitching something - handsewing or dropspindling or knitting. Generally there's interest and almost always someone on my lap, but goodness nothing like the interest that this little sampler has brought. "Sit, Mama! Sit!" they say, as each of the three of them gather just as close as they possibly can to watch. To watch! Because, I've realized, a story is coming to life right in front of their eyes. Each little object goes on in such a relatively short amount of time that they can watch it transform from fabric and floss to something they recognize. They settle in with eagerness and a very honorable attempt to be still, and just a few minutes later... a snail....or a house....or a snowflake is there. They've all had their favorite letter and object they've been excited for me to get to. "Is it time for the rabbit?!!" I hear when I'm doing something else entirely, and am once again brought back to the stitching. I tell you, I really do like this kind of entertainment.
Of course, while watching is fun for all, doing it yourself is a whole lot of goodness too. Thanks to some recommendations, I started Adelaide with two strands of floss on some gingham fabric. She can play a bit with design, and color, and get the feel for the crosses without having to count every single stitch. She's on her third or fouth little patch of designed gingham, with many plans for them to stop by the sewing machine for the second phase of her making.
Harper is stitching these days with burlap and a doubled and knotted floss to avoid the frustrating slipping off the needle that I find happens easily at that age. He's having lots of fun changing color often, and making letters. He considers each piece a finished object of art - complete with embroidery hoop which musn't be removed. All of which requires hammer and nail to properly hang on his bedroom wall.
Sitting, stitching, watching, inspiring...and so it goes right on down the line.
a little something for him....
(in which you see photographic evidence that on Solstice Knit #2, I've already broken my self-imposed stash-only rule. Oh well, knitting rules were made to be broken, right?)
We are all doing okay, (due in part, I do believe, to all the sweet words of encouragement and healing thoughts coming our way - thank you). The nights are long and the days much quieter than we're used to. Technically free to roam about the world without worry of infecting anyone else, we've decided to stick close to home for just a little bit longer. To let the coughs quiet some more, to catch up on some very missed sleep, to give our bodies time to heal and remedies time to do their work, and well, to be here with each other.
We're treating ourselves with all manner of concoctions which are quite helpful to our lungs and immune systems. But hands down, the family favorite medicine is the combination of art and vitamin d. A cure-all for most troubles under the sun, we think, with immediate and direct results, straight to the soul.
When I first mentioned to folks that we were getting sheep or had sheep for the purpose of fiber, the natural question that followed was "Are you a spinner?" "Not yet" was my reply. And that's what I meant, truly. Though I had (have) no idea what I'm doing, I had no doubt that I would be a spinner, since the day I started knitting. Well before we had a farm, I just knew that sometime, somewhere, somehow spinning would be a part of my life - it was just one of those things you know, you know? And here we are, with the pieces falling into place, one step at a time, filling in the gap from sheep to knitting. Which is all to say that last Friday night I found myself with five sleeping children (a miracle in and of itself), with a bathtub full of my very first fleece from my very own sheep. With glass of wine, and knitting at my side, I washed it (and washed it and rinsed it and washed it and rinsed it, oh my!). Through the weekend, it dried on an old, retired (it doesn't fit any doorways here) mesh baby gate.
On Sunday, quite by chance and quite by good luck, a pair of Ashford hand carders landed in my lap from a neighboring farmer (and spinner). And with those in my hands, the carding began. Before I even realized what was happening, I was sitting on the front porch drop spindling my very own wool. And it all felt quite wonderful, and amazing, and just as it should be. A bliss just like I had imagined.
What I hadn't quite imagined, but should have, is that we'd all be doing it. While my mind was being blown from the reality of what I was doing on that rocker on the front porch, there were simultaneous minds being blown at my side. Harper sat at my side with a skein of bright pink yarn shouting, "out the gate, through the window, off jumps jack! I got it!" (he was close, anyway).
And a step down from him was my Adelaide, my co-shephardess who hasn't quite found her way with knitting or spinning yet, but so desperately wants to play with the fiber from the sheep she loves. There she was, with her own mind being blown as she discovered needle felting. "Mom, it's ART and MY SHEEP, together!" She hasn't put that foam pad and basket of roving down since.
With these two happily at my side on their own fiber art, I'm slowly but steadily filling up a basket of rolags. Because I've got a date on the calendar with a spinner and a wheel. Oh yes...filling the gap between sheep and knitting. (All of us.)
While we wait for the shearer to visit (soon!), I continue to spin through the lovely bits of roving that I began with and that have been gifted to me. All in the name of 'practice,' I am (obviously) loving every bit of it. The wool - the twist - it feels like magic happening in my hands, and the knowlege of the names of the sheep to whom much of this roving belonged to is a complete treat. I wonder when I'll ever feel like knitting again with yarn that doesn't have a sheep's name attached (but of course I will...).
To answer a few questions popping up in the comments yesterday:
I haven't dyed any of this fiber yet. Anything of color arrived that way to me. Though, on that note, yesterday, in lieu of weeding my vegetable garden, I did clear a spot in which to begin a dye garden next year. Oh yes. (Wild Color lives at my bedside table currently.)
I'm using a top-whorl drop spindle. I was shown bottom whorl as well, and have watched a few videos and given it some time, but the top whorl just feels better in my hands.
I haven't been 'setting the twist' yet. I've really just wanted to play with the yarn, and get a feel for the spinning (and of course, make a few quick little hats to assure myself that it is indeed yarn I'm making!).
I'm looking around for a drum carder, but haven't decided upon one yet. A spinning wheel on the other hand, I'm not ready for. I have hopes and plans of sitting at a few and trying them out before I make the commitment to one. But truth be told, all of this drop spindle spinning is feeling just right for me right now. The portability, the simplicity, the way I can pick it up (and put it down) after just a few minutes when my attention is called elsewhere - that all works with my life and my days right now. And besides, there's this joy to be found so easily in sharing the drop spindle...
Miss Annabel has been enjoying all the roving wool at my side. It really is such a lovely plaything that feels so good in the hands - as it goes onto the spindle in mine, as it rolls like a ball across the floor in hers.
With that show of wooly enthusiasm from her, I decided she should be the next victim recipient of my early spinning work. The pattern is Quynn by Wooly Wormhead, with the addition of some braided ties at the side. She was patient enough to tolerate Mama's silly wool hat on her head in July....for a few moments anyway, just to be certain it fit.
The wooly love goes all the year round...
Greetings! I'm Amanda Blake Soule - mother of five, author of three books on family creativity, and editor-in-chief of Taproot Magazine. I live with my family in an old farmhouse in Western Maine where we raise animals, grow vegetables and make lots of things. I write about it all here on the blog. Thank you for visiting!