Some Sketchbooks

Last week I made 3 new sketchbooks. Three! That’s a big spike in productivity, mind you. It helped a lot that my mother-in-law was visiting and helped out a ton (thanks!).

I made them according to the soft-cover sketchbook tutorial I posted a couple years ago. I love these books. No glue required, which is nice when you have no glue on hand. colophon colphon 2

I used some nice thick St. Armand handmade paper in Elephant Gray and Plum. covers spines 3 spines spines2 stacked up stitchingIf you’re interested in making your own, check out the tutorial. Now to start filling these up.

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I made a quilt

whole quilt

I am not a quilter. Not even an aspiring quilter. I have only ever made one other quilt in my life, a little lap quilt that I hand quilted about ten years ago. But for whatever reason, about 2 years ago (yes, two years) I got the urge to make a queen sized quilt for my bed. I can only explain this by stating that I needed a new quilt/covering for my bed, and I have this feeling that I should DIY pretty much anything I think I could handle. quilt close up 1

I had it all pieced together and even the layers basted over a year ago, but when I came down to live in Galapagos, neither it nor my sewing machine made it in my suitcases. So when we, and my lovely 1970’s sewing machine were all reunited, I decided it was time to get this thing done.

quilt close up 2

Did it matter that I didn’t have a walking foot that fit my sewing machine? Of course, but I just decided to accept the unintentional ruching and puckering that came about because of my regular-feed presser foot.
close up 3

Of course, it was a little ill-advised to take up this project in the high heat and humidity of a Galapagos summer, especially with no air-conditioning, but once I started, I just had to get it done. I felt a little crazy and cool at the same time thinking that I was surely the only person on the entire island engaged in this kind of activity.
funny isabella

My little girl helped with the photo shoot. She’s been experimenting a lot lately with the crazy faces.

Here’s what the back looks like. backbottom of quilt bindingquilt back close up
quilting

Of course, it has its quirks and defects, but I’m quite pleased with the results. Would I do this project again? Hmm, probably, but I think it would be something to save for chilly winter evenings, and not hot, humid, air-conditioning-free afternoons.   thread 2 thread

I used this lovely organic cotton thread for the quilting. I was worried I would run out, and being in Galapagos with no access to any craft supplies, I figured that would put an end to the project, but I had just enough. Phew.

Now, I just need to wait a little for it to be cool enough to actually use it.

Have a great Monday.

(Almost) 28 Self Portraits

So, remember how I said a while back that I was going to draw a self portrait every day for month? And now it’s been more than a month and I haven’t mentioned it at all. Well, I haven’t been trekking to my local internet joint as often, and this has resulted in less blogging, but guess what, I actually did do those drawings. Almost a full month (I decided to go for 4 weeks, and I missed a day because I was violently ill).

faces 3

faces 4

faces5So here they are, all 27 portraits. I started out doing one week of pen and ink, then one week of charcoal, then two weeks of pencil. Can you guess which day I was violently ill (my little girl helped supply the missing drawing).

all facesHere’s a closer look at the first (uck) and last picture in the series. I’m glad there was some improvement.

first and last

And here are few portraits that I think were more successful.

favoritesWhat do you think? There’s something to be said for doing something consistently over a period of time. I think it helped me get focused again on what I really love doing. So that’s great.faces 2Here’s to more drawing in the future.

Perpetual calendar

I had planned a different post for today, but since my internet connection is making the tortoises here look fast, I’m just going to settle with this post that I had saved from a little while ago.

This is a project that I’ve been thinking about making for a long, long time. I have lots of those. So I was glad to have a reason to finally get it whipped up.

calendar 1

It’s a perpetual calendar. The little numbers are magnetic and can be moved around to form any 28, 29, 30, or 31 day configuration.
pieces 2

close up

I’m not going to lie. It was a lot of work; more than I was expecting, but now I have a calendar that I can use for years (and years) to come. So hurray for that. 

I was thinking, originally, of making a tutorial for this, but after I got through the 50th step or so, I decided that I would probably be the only one crazy enough to make such a labor intensive little thing. Also, there are still some kinks I want to work out on it. So no tutorial, sorry. But if you’d like some templates for the numbers or the lettering for the months, just leave  comment and I’ll get those to you (keep in mind I only get on the internet for a couple hours every week, so it may take a few days for me to respond. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

 

Have a great day.

Baking again

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you have a more than healthy relationship with baked goods that enjoy the union of sugar and butter, being able to bake is a big thing. Especially when you live in a place without a decent bakery (meaning one that bakes sweets), let alone a cupcake or cookie boutique popping up on every corner. The problem is compounded when butter and sugar cost twice the US price, and oh yes, you don’t have an oven. In desperation, I’ve more than once resorted to some Oreo off-brand creation with an eternal shelf life. But no more. A while ago I discovered that you could cook cookies in a skillet on the stove top. The results are not exactly like a cookie fresh out of the oven; since you have to flip the cookie to get it to cook properly, you end up with two browned sides. But it’s something. And then, and even bigger breakthrough. Steam cake. Have you ever heard of this before? I hadn’t, and I wasn’t sure about it, but the concept seemed worth a try. If you can take some cake-batter-like substance and steam it into submission, why not try something other than a “steam cake” recipe. I chose banana bread from here (minus the burbon, and substituted oil since I was out of butter). Will you believe me if I told you it worked? I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t tried it myself. It was almost like a miracle when I opened that pan and instead of a gooey, drippy mess I found a perfectly firm but moist banana bread.

The process is very simple. Here’s what it looks like:

how to cake

Here’s the break down.

  1. Find a pan that is big enough to fit your cake pan inside without the cake pan touching the walls of your bigger pan.
  2. Put something metal on the bottom of the pan to raise the cake pan up, but also keep it level. Old canning jars would work great for this, but I didn’t have any, so I just used forks.
  3. Fill your pan with about an inch of water. It should be just below the level of the bottom of your cake pan, but I don’t know if it would hurt the cake if the water actually touched the cake pan.
  4. Fill your greased cake pan with the batter.
  5. Place the cake pan inside the bigger pan.
  6. Tie a dish cloth around the lid of the big pan. Choose one that is big enough to tie, and one that is tightly woven (I think these are less likely to catch fire if the cloth gets hot).
  7. Put the lid on the big pan. Make sure no part of your towel is hanging where it can catch fire. THIS IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.
  8. Turn the heat on to medium.
  9. Let it cook for the amount of time listed in the recipe. Steaming make go a little quicker or slower, so just check it about 10 minutes before the time just to be sure. Also, keep an eye on the water level. You don’t want your pan to go dry.
  10. When your cake/bread/brownies  are done, remove the lid and take the pan of the heat. Unless you have some special grabber, it will probably be hard to get the cake pan out before it cools, so just leave it there. Leaving the lid off helps dry out the top if a little water collected on the top of your pan.

finished cake

And there you go.

I have yet to venture into other batter-baking areas, but these brownies have been calling my name, so they are next on the list.

So yeah, if you can’t use your oven for some reason, or you just want to try something a little different, give steam cooking a try.

Have a great Monday (and happy Presidents day to you US readers)!

Drawing Again

So, I’ve been drawing again. Just started up this week. Again? You might be asking yourself. Well, you see, way back when I started this blog (almost three years ago, yikes!) I had the grand and glorious idea of this being kind of an artist journal. Well, an aspiring-artist journal. But it has kind of morphed and evolved since then into this different kind of a thing. More of a craft blog, I suppose. But behind the sewing and what not that I usually show on the blog, every now and then I do real, legitimate aspiring-artist stuff. To be honest, though, it’s been a while. On Monday, after months of almost no drawing of any sort, I started drawing again. Just an hour a day, sometimes a little more, if naptime permitted. And it’s been five days now that I’ve been drawing. My usual routine, when I’m trying to work my skills up again, is to do a little free doodling, and then a more focused self-portrait. Here are the self-portraits for the last five days.

facesAs you can see, the beginning was rough. I mean really rough. I wasn’t even planning on showing these, because they’re a little embarrassing, but when I got to today and lined up all five drawings, I was quite impressed with the progress I had made in such a short amount of time. So I thought I would share, in case it might inspire someone else to give drawing a chance. Toddlers permitting, I’m going to try to keep doing a self-portrait every day, for the next little while (a month, maybe?). If I can keep this up for a month, I’ll share the results again. Hopefully I’ll see even more progress then. Would anyone care to join me? If so, here are some basic suggestions:

  • Sit in front of a mirror and draw yourself from life. It may be more challenging than a photograph, but it helps train your eye to translate 3 dimensions into 2. When you work from a photograph, the camera has already done that for you.
  • Try to draw with natural light as much as possible.
  • Don’t expect every day to be a masterpiece. Just keep working at it, and over time you will see improvement
  • If you’re getting bored, try a new medium. Pen and ink work a lot differently than pencil.
  • Have fun with it.

If you do some self portraits, I’d love to see. You can leave a link in the comments to this post, if you’d like.

Have a great weekend!

Oregon

green and red
green 3
green moss
green 2

So, I didn’t talk to much about my time in Oregon, but I just wanted to say what a wonderful time I had. It was strange being there after being out of the States for a year, but it was good. The first couple stores I went to were pretty overwhelming, and I was especially appreciative of conveniences like clean, drinkable water, access to pretty much any thing you can imagine (food, clothing, craft supply, you name it, and the public library system.

I also enjoyed taking in the complete difference between my family’s home in Oregon and our home in Galapagos. There is so much lush, rich green in Oregon. I love it.

Have you ever experienced coming home after an extended absence? I’d love to hear.

Have a wonderful day!

Taking it Slow

fia at sunset fia smile isa goggles isa playing pepe stroller

It’s been a little over a week since we got back to the island, and the time has flown by. Each day feels very full of life, but I don’t have very many significant activities to report. Most of my accomplishments fall into a list like “cut husbands hair, organized two drawers in studio desk, went through kids clothes and removed all the clothes that don’t fit.” Silly little things, but it feels good to get them done. Each afternoon we’ve gone to the beach or the park. Sometimes we buy some fresh-baked bread from the panadería (bread store) to snack on. I really enjoy the slow pace of things here. Besides Joel’s work, we really have no other time commitments besides the ones we make for ourselves. We walk everywhere. We can get up early and go to the beach at sunrise or stop by the giant tortoise in residence at the visitor’s center down the street from Joel’s work. We can let the girls go swimming at sunset.

I’m most excited about starting up my reading program again with my four-year-old. She’s learned a bunch of individual words, and is moving to sentences and soon books! So excited about this for her. I’m also really excited to get deep into some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, and I can’t wait to share those with you. Plus, did I mention that I recently took a couture dress making class online over our Christmas vacation (thank you, high-speed internet)? It’s got me all revved up and ready to try some clothing construction. Maybe, if I can clear off my desk enough to get to my sewing machine.

Anyways, the bottom line is, life is good here, and I have good things in store for the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

Dolls for Christmas

dolls sittingThis is my very first finished project of 2013. Never mind that I started it way back last year. I really wanted to make some dolls for my girls for Christmas. Last Christmas they got a some dolls from their abuela that they loved to pieces, literally. Like, the legs fell off of one, and the head fell off of the other. I wish I was kidding. And after watching my poor baby walking around cuddling, cooing, and shooshing a headless doll for a couple months, I decided I needed to take some action. So I made these (hopefully) sturdier dolls.

girls smiling

Now, this could have been a simple project. There are tons and tons and tons of thorough tutorials, books, and patterns for beautiful dolls out there. I even took advantage of the the wonderful public library system to check out some books on doll making techniques. But when it came down to it, I decided that I wanted to make my own pattern for my doll. And I wanted to stuff it with wool. And I wanted to do some of that cool, Waldorf-doll style hair. Like I said, this could have been a simple project. isa playing with hair

doll  2

But as my husband often reminds me, if it isn’t difficult, I won’t do it. Sometimes I think he’s right. So, I used some of the very, very helpful information on one of my favorite blogs, While She Naps, to draft a basic doll pattern. And then another one. And then a third one. After three prototypes (thankfully done in muslin) I decided I’d had enough and would have to go with it. If I ever make more dolls, I’ll definitely want to refine it a bit. It was a great learning experience, though.

And, of course, I decided to purchase a raw wool fleece from ebay to stuff the dolls with. Hmm, I think I’ll just breeze through this whole phase of the doll preparation phase, but lets just say there was so much washing, and culling plant and fecal matter from the fleece, and then drying, and then more sorting, and then combing/fluffing. Bottom line, buying prepared wool is probably worth the extra cost.

After assembling the doll bodies, I had to decide on the faces. Several sketches were thrown out before I decided to kind of wing it as I stitched. I fairly well like how the faces came out. I did the pink lip face first, then the smile face. I had intended to go back and redo the pink lips as a smile, but my four-year-old saw the pink lip doll and wouldn’t let me change it.

all together

When it came to the clothes, I did a very simple dress, but I got a little fancy with the decorative stitching on the hem. First time, and it felt good.
close up dress

more close ups

For the hair, I used some lovely organic cotton yarn which is super soft, but a little fragile, so I had to tell my girls not to try combing the dolls hair. They were a little disappointed with that, but they like having me do braids and other hairstyles on their dolls (since they won’t let me do it on them).

faces

dolls by trees

underwear

Oh, and I stitched on a pair of underwear for both dolls, so there wouldn’t be any doll indecency should they choose to climb a tree or swing on the swings.

doll love

twoSo far the working names are Tully and Sally, but we’ll see if that changes.

If you have any questions about the process, I’d love to share my beginner’s perspective with you. Does anyone else have any first-time doll-making experiences to share? I’d love to hear.

Have a great day!

Ice Monsters and Other Pleasantries

Well, now that we’ve past the middle mark of the first month of the year, I thought now would be a good time to pop my head in and say hi. The truth is, I just completed (almost, since I don’t count the exterior of the fridge as any big deal after going through the inside) a major overhaul of the fridge. Let me back up. I don’t know if I mentioned, but we were in Oregon from the beginning of December until three days ago, and we are just settling back in to life in Paradise (every time I type that, I am slightly tempted to put that word in sarcasm-implying quotation marks, but really, I do love it here most of the time).

And all that time we were gone, my fridge was brooding over its neglected state. By all rights, I should have thrown the thing out long ago, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to come by a nice new fridge for a decent price on a secluded island. So I’ve hung onto it, because any fridge is better than no fridge, right? My fridge makes me question that logic. It had a record-breaking 4 inches of solid ice accumulated on the bottom of the freezer (meaning, the top of the “fridge” portion of the fridge, the “shelf” that separates the fridge from the freezer, so technically, not even in the freezer). Seriously, I feel like this defies the laws of physics, but I’m sure there is some equation for predicting the amount of ice that can form in a 6-week period given x weather conditions and y amount of years your fridge is past its prime, to put it nicely. Yes, I should have left the fridge unplugged while we were gone, but I didn’t have time to gut it of all contents before we left, and I paid for my negligence. I just finished thawing and cleaning the white beast and have just now restored it to semi-dilapidated service, so the chocolate chips I imported can get a chance to de-liquefy after several days on the counter in sticky-hot weather.

Though I’ve been all but silent on the blog, I assure you I have been quite busy behind the scenes. There were holiday toys to be made; always less done than I had planned, but a good showing nonetheless. Of course, most of my time was spent enjoying my families company and indulging in the luxuries a first world nation offers up in abundance (cheddar cheese, bacon, pickles, butter, a working oven, showers with warm water and high pressure, and libraries, to name but a few). Anyways, I’ll be sharing more as time allows. Because, truthfully, there is a lot more to be done to get our house in shape than thawing one ice monster.

Have a great weekend!