Dec 28, 2007

broadcasting live from honduras

charlie and pal

Well hello there! Here we are - communing with the birds and skipping in the sand. Warmest wishes for a Happy New Year from our family to yours!

toucan eating a peanut

scarlet macaws

Dec 20, 2007

planes, trains, and automobiles

watching an airplane go by
Watching an airplane go by

Needless to say, I've lost that innocent wonder of those large, metal bird-ish machines. Or perhaps it's not the bird-ish things themselves, but the bureaucracies that tame them.

You've seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, right? I think it's about time for a sequel, starring Aeromexico as the main antagonist.

Back in July, we purchased tickets to fly to Roatan, Honduras tomorrow. Last night, Aeromexico called us and told us that our flight had been canceled. What?!? You're telling us this 30 hours before we were planning to leave for the airport? Oh yes. We'll fly you there tomorrow instead. All you have to do is beam yourselves to Mexico City within the next 7 hours. WE LIVE FOUR HOURS FROM THE AIRPORT, AND THE LAST FLIGHT TO MEXICO CITY HAS ALREADY LEFT!!! Oh. Well then. We'll see if we can get you on a flight on Saturday. Let me see (type type type type ... endless typing ...) No, we're sorry, that flight is full. You need to get us to Honduras! Both of our families will be there and, without us, it's sure to become a tropical version of National Lampoon's Christmas vacation! Type type type ... okay, we can fly you to another city in Honduras on Sunday. Oh, why thank you, benevolent ones. Okay. You're all set, you just need to pay us now. WE ALREADY PAID YOU ... !@^($!@#%@#!!!!! Oh no. You just reserved. We had your complete credit card information but we just didn't run your card. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!? Oh - by the way, this flight was canceled on September 21st and we just never told you. IF DANTE COULD CREATE A MORE NEFARIOUS CIRCLE OF HELL ... Okay, because I realize that my life would most certainly be in danger if I were talking to you in person, I will not charge you extra money for this ticket. We think we should get a discount, because you are, after all, eating away our vacation days, you unfeeling bureaucratic automaton. The same price. Whatever.

Meanwhile, the beleaguered soon-to-be-travelers call up a Honduran regional airline to buy more flights from this "new" destination, Tegucigalpa, to the island of Roatan. Content to actually be arriving in Roatan on Sunday, the aforementioned future travelers retreat to their bedchamber, weary and $250 poorer.

Calling Aeromexico this afternoon: Um, hi ... we just wanted to verify that we have a flight from Mexico City to Tegucigalpa on Sunday. That's not possible. We don't have a flight that day to Tegucigalpa. !@^#(@#^$!!!! YOU AUTOMATONS ARE INSANE!!! WHO CREATED YOU?? No, the flight you are reserved on is going to San Pedro Sula (the original city.) Oh my. Oh my my my. Okay, thank you, you ever-so-helpful and cheerful bureaucrat.

That's where our story (hopefully) ends. We were able to get the regional airline to change our tickets and fly us to Roatan out of San Pedro Sula instead.

Must. Lay. On. Beach. I just hope that come this weekend, no more flights have been canceled!

Dec 16, 2007


posada 2007 021

One of the most notable Christmas traditions in Mexico is the reenactment of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, when they were denied rooms at various inns and finally found shelter in a stable.

posada 2007 027

During the Posada, a group with candles (representing Mary and Joseph) go from door to door singing a little tune and being "refused" until they come to the end of the pageant - the final home - where they are finally offered a place to stay.

Nowadays, the word Posada is synonymous with "Christmas Party." Perhaps the most important part of the party (for the children) is the breaking of the piƱata and the ensuing sugar-fest.

posada 2007 100

posada 2007 173

posada 2007 199

posada 2007 chocolate mouth

Feliz Navidad a todos!

Dec 12, 2007

wishing you

Photo by Allison Toth, from the Holiday Traditions Exchange 2007 Flickr group

Did you hear my sigh of contentment? The pattern layouts are done, the house is clean, and the etsy gift shopping is done. I finally had a chance to leisurely peruse all of the lovely photos you've been uploading to the Holiday Traditions Exchange flickr group - and I have to say, you went all out! What lovely decorations, and what incredible packaging! Check out this one from Christie:

Christmas Traditions Swap

Can you see the wax seal on that envelope? Brilliant! And the child's apron? Too adorable. Thanks to all who have shared photos of your creations.

Speaking of your creations - for those of you who have made Reading Pillows or Mei Tais, please upload your photos to the Montessori By Hand Patterns flickr group! It's a fantastic resource for others who are making the patterns - your use of fabrics, etc. can serve as great inspiration. I know tons of you have purchased one or both of the patterns, but the group looks a little sparse right now - let's spiff it up and send some love its way!

Ahhh ... I'm still sighing. The winds of this happy sigh are carrying me to the kitchen, where something sweet will emerge in about an hour.

Christmas music? Check. Emmeline Apron version #1? Check. All is good.


Dec 10, 2007

on being soggy

mischievous gnome bag in red

Dear me. I just about need galoshes so I can puddle-jump from one room to another. Notice the water dripping down the back of the chair? Just one of many dribbly areas. If only the rain would turn to snow .... there's no precipitation like snow, you know?

Lest you fear I'm drowning in a soggy torpor - here's a glance at a bit of behind-the-scenes work that's been going on here during the whole pattern-making process. Miss Emmeline has been sent out to my wonderfully generous testers, and the Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag is in the works.

My apologies for being such an apron-donning bag lady, but it seems as though that's what my life is all about nowadays. What else is a girl to do when she can't go outside to play? Write patterns, you say? Okay! (Although it's so tempting to just curl up with a good book and wave adieu to the real world ... )

A warm and cozy Monday to all,

Dec 7, 2007

loving those latkes

hanukkah - grating potatoes for latkes

As part of my effort to diversify the winter holiday experience for my children, today we prepared and enjoyed latkes, lit a "menorah", and learned a few traditional Jewish songs.

hanukkah - preparing the latkes

Latkes are very simple to make. Check out this site for recipe ideas.

hanukkah - lighting the "menorah"

Here's the lot of them not noticing that I'm taking their picture. ;) For the menorah, I used what I had available - eight tea lights.

Speaking of holiday traditions, the Holiday Traditions Exchange shipping deadline is this coming Monday! Also, don't forget to share any photos of swap packages (both sent and received) by uploading them to the flickr group.

Here's to a lovely (and productive?) weekend! Wish me luck as I do the layout for the new patterns!

Dec 6, 2007

monsieur, madame gnome

mr. gnome outside

From the aptly named wee wonderfuls pattern collection, it's my pleasure to introduce to you Monsieur and Madame Gnome - an absolute delight to sew, and an even greater delight to look at.
mr. and mrs. outside

Holiday decorations? I think I'll have a hard time packing these away come January. Plus, if M. & M. Gnome stick around, Amelie and Timoun will have others on which to blame their daily mischief.

amelie and timoun

"Amelie, why are all of the pistachios on the floor, and why are some of them half-eaten?"
Amelie responds, "Oh - that. It was Monsieur Gnome. It must have been yet another of his gravity experiments. And, well, you know how it goes ... once something is on the floor, it should be tasted."

Uh huh.

By the way, thanks to all of you who left comments telling me of your love for the Emmeline Apron! For those of you who expressed interest in testing the pattern - stay tuned. Once I have the pattern ready, I will be putting out another call, and will be outlining the requirements and my time frame (it needs to be a somewhat quick turn around, as I want to have these ready to send to the printer before Christmas.) I will only need 3 testers for each pattern - the apron and the messenger bag. You all are awesome - thanks for your enthusiastic response!


Dec 3, 2007

the emmeline apron

emmeline apron front tie
EDIT: Pattern is now available here!

I've been bursting at the seams to show you this new pattern design, which will be available in January! After weeks of muslin mayhem in my crafting corner, I've finally come up with this little lovely: completely reversible, ties in the front or back, and flattering for all body types. I hope you all love Miss Emmeline as much as I do!

emmeline apron reverse side with tie in back

emmeline apron 008

I'm so glad I have to wear aprons every day to work. I'm gathering quite a little collection, and I'm sure I'll be making many more 2-in-1 Emmelines to spruce up my schoolmarm-ishness. If you can't wait to have your own cute apron or if you are looking to purchase one for a gift, I highly suggest that you be-bop over to Jamie Christina's Etsy shop and take a look at her gorgeous aprons!

This post was my one valiant effort for the day - I'm home sick with a really crummy cough. Really, now. How many times can one person be sick in the span of three months? I'm going to submit myself for the Guinness Book of World Records. I'm off to rest with a cup of hot something rather. As soon as I'm feeling better, I will be doing the pattern layouts for both the Gnome Messenger Bag and the Emmeline Apron (the instructions are already written!) Then I'll be looking for some pattern testers. ***Thank you for your interest - I've found my pattern testers for the Emmeline Apron!***


Nov 29, 2007

holiday crafting with the wee ones

salt dough ornament

As promised! I'll begin with my personal chart-topper, salt dough ornaments.

Use the play doh recipe and leave out the food coloring. Form a small ball (about 1" diameter) by rolling the dough in your hands. On wax paper, flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and use a small rolling pin to roll out the ornament until it is no less than 1/2 cm thick. With a small wooden dowel (or a pencil with the eraser cut off) make a hole in the top of the ornament. Using acrylic paints (or even washable tempera, which I used due to availability) paint the ornament while it is still soft. Let it air dry on the wax paper overnight, then flip it over and air dry it some more. Two days later, it should be dry enough to finish with a glossy mod podge seal. Attach the ribbon, and ta da! You now have a keepsake ornament for the family collection. (Before the ornament is dry, you might consider "engraving" the date on the back with a toothpick.)

Winter scene collage
Gather all of the white miscellany you can get your hands on - cotton balls, white buttons, styrofoam packing peanuts, soap flakes, white yarn, egg shells, etc. Glue away on a dark card stock background.

Winter scene 3-D collage
Using a scrap of cardboard as the base, go outside and collect sticks and stones, and perhaps a little moss if you're lucky. Using that handy-dandy play doh once again, make a sturdy base in which to place the sticks to make the "trees" stand upright. Go for it with the play doh, glue, and other white items such as the ones suggested above. You might consider providing a bit of glitter to evoke a moon-kissed snowy eve.

This looks awesome, too - though I haven't tried it yet.

Soap Snow
Here's an idea from one of my favorite children's craft books: Global Art.

Measure 1 cup of cold water into a bowl. Little by little, using a hand mixer, add 4 cups of soap flakes (such as Ivory) to the water. Beat the soap and water until just stiff. Put some of the soap mixture into a pastry bag or a sandwich bag with a small hole cut out of the corner to allow the soap to escape. Squeeze soap designs onto cardboard and dry until hard.
*Don't put the mixture down the drain as it will cause a whopper of a clog!*

suggested children's craft goodness

As far as holiday crafting goes, I'm a huge proponent of going the multi-cultural route whenever possible. A family (or classroom) crafting activity becomes that much more meaningful when it is accompanied by stories, food, and music from the region. These two books have been a real boon in this aspect. Festivals Together is a great amalgamation of traditional crafts, activities, songs, stories, and recipes from cultures around the world, arranged by season.

Oh - one more thing - don't forget to visit Bella Dia during the month of December. Cassi will be authoring a daily "activity advent," replete with holiday activities, children's crafting, and cooking!

If you have a children's holiday craft you would like to share, please consider posting a short tutorial in the comments!

:) Meg

Nov 28, 2007

art, craft, children, and the making of the home

salt dough ornament

winter collage

oh my gosh ... he's smiling!

classroom holiday crafts

In my Montessori training, we were warned against putting the children's art up for display. Children's art, it was said, should be spared the ooohs and aaahs adults are so prone to spill all over it. Like any work, it should be received in a kind and encouraging manner, but shouldn't be put on a pedestal, as the goal is for the child to learn to love the process of creating for itself, and not to "create" just because of the accolades their creations tend to elicit from grown-ups.

Okay, so that's the Montessori view of artwork. I'm on the fence - while I certainly don't want my students and future children to create simply because I like it and think its so incredibly cute, I also believe that displaying children's art in the home and classroom is an important act of home making and community building.

First, I would never want to diminish the act of giving a handmade gift that is, by its nature, infused with love, time, and much effort. As a child, I remember giving countless homemade gifts to people I loved. The child's generosity is unencumbered by holiday pressures and financial worries, and his penniless, spontaneous state allows creations of love to be gifted at any time of the year, if only he has within his reach a set of paints, fabric scraps, and other mundane treasures.

Next, if my creations are sprinkled about my home, why shouldn't my children's be, as well? For me, an integral part of "home making" is just that - a home must be made, not bought. How does one make a home? Here are a few thoughts:

Baking and cooking from scratch
Gardening and eating from your seasonal harvest
Making household items, such as towels, pillowcases, quilts, etc., by hand
Thoughtfully decorating with thrifted or handmade items
Cleaning - again and again and again and again ...

A home must be lovingly "acted upon" in order to make it a home. A home can't function on its own - we grown-ups are well aware of this. Children need to be brought into this realm of understanding, too. Remember that post on Practical Life exercises a while back? If you haven't read it yet, go ahead and read it now. As soon as the child is developmentally capable, he should be encouraged to help to "make" the house into a home. Like his parents, he should be involved in meal preparation, cleaning, and decorating; in essence, the child shouldn't be overlooked in the whole, ever-occurring process of making a house into a home.

If you are a crafter, this means that, like you, your children will want to make useful and decorative items for display, as they will see it as a tangible way to contribute to the family community. If you don't consider yourself an artist - consider trying it out, for the sake of your children. Why should their art be the only of its kind on display on the fridge? Consider making items for the home together, and finding more pleasing and permanent ways to display children's artwork other than the fridge. If you're at a loss for where to begin, Amanda's upcoming book promises to have some innovative ideas for displaying children's handiwork and many more lovely ideas for encouraging creativity in the family.

As for the classroom? Well, it wasn't for quaintness that Maria Montessori decided to call the 3-6 year-old classroom the Children's House. It is meant to mimic the family home, from the cozy decor to the familiar household (practical life) activities. I would say, then, that the students in the Montessori classroom should be part of the entire "home making" process, from caring for the plants to decorating for the holidays. No die-cut bulletin boards for our "House." Instead, you will find handmade paper garlands, hand-cut snowflakes, salt-dough ornaments, and more. The children make the decoration and then decide how, where, and if it will be displayed.

More on specific holiday crafts tomorrow!

Nov 26, 2007

the secret joy of giving

christmas tree patchwork
sneak peek of a wonderful someone's gift

'Tis the season of occult crafting. Little snippets of WIPs are shown, but not the project in its full glory, out of fear that the recipient might be lurking around blog land - eager to shake the virtual gift box and discover what might be waiting underneath the tree. ;)

I am a box shaker. Are you? Thus, being naturally on guard against other box shakers, I have several wonderful handmade gifts in the works that I'll be keeping under wraps for the time being.

Meanwhile, I'm busy gathering goodies for the Holiday Traditions Exchange and sewing up little ice skates for the ornament exchange.

And, like many of you, I have pledged to buy handmade this holiday season. This has translated into an inordinate amount of time spent wandering around Etsy. I leave you with some of my favorites:

JCasa's baby quilt

The Wreath Lady
Marmee Craft's Wee Felted Snowmen
Matryoshka wrapping paper
Bombo by littlellama
The Black Apple
Coyote Craft's embroidered cupcake ornaments
Treehouse 28

Nov 24, 2007

fire up the wood stove

the storm prelude 2
The prelude.

snowy front yard
The snow.

yeah ... um ... that's our wood pile
The wood pile. Oops!

Nov 23, 2007

thanksgiving leftovers

thanksgiving leftovers

The best Thanksgiving leftovers of all time! Come to find out, I'm not the only American- Montessorian expat who enjoyed some Domino's home cookin' instead of turkey. Be still my salivating taste buds.

May I speak frankly about Thanksgiving dinner? I hate to offend, but I must say that I have never, EVER, enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving meal. First off, my vegetarian sensibilities kicked off at an early age, and I always felt bad for the bird. Second, gravy makes me gag. Third, I SO dreaded the days upon days of really icky cold turkey sandwiches and football games. Umm ... hello, my name is Meg and I'm a Thanksgiving party pooper.

That said, there are some wonderful things about Thanksgiving - family, pumpkin pie, and Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. And the fact that, once Thanksgiving passes, it's gung-ho Christmas decorating time!

So yes, it made us a bit sad yesterday that instead of sipping apple cider with all the fam, we found ourselves in Chihuahua City taking care of my husband's immigration documents. Which, I might add, is just about as fun as spending the day at the DMV. But it all worked out in the end, (no) thanks to American cultural hegemony. For what did we find 8 hours south of the Texas border in the middle of a desert? Domino's pizza! Rock on.

Nov 20, 2007

tour of rural mexico

uriquenov2007 015

uriquenov2007 194

uriquenov2007 113
for more, hop on over to flickr

Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Every morning, afternoon, and evening. That pretty much sums up our weekend getaway to Urique. To tell you the truth, we didn't do much else other than pick, squeeze, and drink grapefruit juice - but that was the whole point! No internet, no crafting, no thinking about anything other than the present moment. We brought our yoga mats, enjoyed our books, and stayed up late talking about a hodge-podge of subjects. Nice.

If you happen to be presented with an opportunity to visit Urique, we highly recommend staying at Entre Amigos. Be warned - you will never want to leave, and will begin making arrangements to retire somewhere nearby.

Thanks to those of you who took advantage of the sale over at my Etsy shop. I am leaving the sale open until Wednesday night, as my sweet Grandma has offered to ship off any extra orders.

Hasta muy pronto,

Nov 16, 2007

i've embroidered something you might like ...


35% off over at my etsy store until Monday, November 19th!

My lovely parents (who are in charge of packaging and sending out my patterns) are going on vacation, and won't be back until the second week of December. This means that if you are considering making reading pillows or baby carriers for holiday gifts you should order now so that the patterns arrive with enough sewing-time to spare! I have listed 40 of each pattern at 35 percent off - first come, first serve. My parents will ship your pattern(s) by Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. Then they will go lounge about with nothing to do on a beautiful beach in Hawaii. Poor parents. Let's inundate them with pattern packaging before they leave! ;)

Patrick and I will also be guilty of a totally indulgent, relaxing mini-holiday this weekend. We are headed off to Urique, a tiny town at the bottom of the Copper Canyon. While we live in an alpine climate up here in Creel, Urique is tropical. That means mangoes, cherries, and avocados dripping off the trees. That means shorts. That means ice cream cones, old men playing cards on their front stoops, women fanning themselves as they watch their children play ball in the street. Yes. We'll be back Monday night, completely refreshed. Oh. And ready to prepare shipping labels for 80 patterns!

Thanks for all your support - every pattern purchase is so appreciated, and it brings us one step closer to our goal of being able to have me stay home with our (future) children when they are young. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!


Nov 15, 2007

paper clip ice skates

ice skates

wool + embroidery floss + cotton ball + paper clips

I first came across these little bitties during my Montessori training course. It was love at first sight, I tell you! They've been a seasonal staple in my classroom ever since.

You will need to pre-cut the wool or felt "booties" and provide all of the necessary materials, including an easy-to-use needle threader (available at Michael Olaf.) Obviously, this is a rather advanced sewing activity and only children who have mastered the more simple sewing materials should be introduced to the ice skates.

What, you say? You aren't six years old and you still want to make paper clip ice skates as tree ornaments? No matter! I'm already twenty years past my prime, and I'm still as giddy about them as any kindergartener.

Oh ... and, if you are in Group 11 for the holiday ornament swap, don't go making yourself a whole set. Surprise! You're all getting paper clip ice skate ornaments!


Nov 12, 2007

holiday traditions exchange is officially closed!

***Update: All of the swap partner emails have been sent out (whew!) If you haven't heard from me, send an email to montessorirevolution(at)***

I will begin sending out swap partner emails tonight, but might not get through the whole list of participants until Wednesday - there are 210 of you, after all!

I must admit - it feels quite odd publishing a post without a picture. This is a self-conscious, naked little post, running hither and thither looking for some pretty photographic foliage with which to cover up. ;)

Have a happy Monday,

Nov 11, 2007

i wasn't joking

halter holiday apron

I really am holiday obsessed. Here's a halter apron that emerged from the sewing machine today. The fabric is from Reprodepot, but I bought it way back in July, when I stocked up on creative supplies on a visit home to the states.

Speaking of which ... my fabric supply is dwindling. Time to start ordering enough to get me through the next six months. My dear, sweet mummy will be hauling a duffel-full of fabric, books, and patterns when we meet up this Christmas in Roatan, Honduras. Ever been? While I'm partial to snowy holidays, I can't complain. Plus, the whole lot of us will be there - Patrick's parent's and three siblings (one of whom is a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras,) and my mom and dad. Nothing like killing two families with one stone. Hmm ... perhaps that idiom doesn't quite fit the bill? We are loving children. Really. :)

Posts will be short and sweet this coming week due to my parent-teacher conferences, but you will most certainly be hearing from me by Wednesday with your swap partner info! Swap entries close at midnight tonight.


Nov 9, 2007

just a spoonful of nutella helps the mexican food go down

nutella - the real chocolate substitute

What are you in the mood for - Mexican? Thai? Ethiopian? I can't wait until I can ask myself that question without having it prompt a moan. Have you ever tried diversifying your palette with little more than pinto beans and a few pesticide-laden veggies on hand?

Of course, it isn't all bad - I did find this lone jar of Nutella at a local store, which I proceeded to devour like a famished dog. Chocolate is hard to come by. We have, on rare occasion, found a bag of unmarked chocolate chips hiding amongst the tortilla chips. Taking this to be a good sign, we began to ask for chocolate chips when we couldn't find them on the shelves. They had NO clue what we were talking about. The woman at the register actually showed us chicken bouillon and said, "Si, es chocolate." Umm ... okay, so she was crazy. Whatever. The chocolate chips had a vague taste of "been sitting around a Mexican grocery store for 10 years so start to taste like the grocery store" thing about them, anyway.

Most of the time I try to make the best of the situation, but come winter, the prospects get considerable worse if you are a Moosewood snob at heart, like myself. You mean the only vegetables available are carrots, an occasional tomato, and iceberg lettuce? Going grocery shopping can be pretty depressing, let me tell you! Especially when all of you lovely bloggers are constantly raving about a newfound wonder-recipe using all organic ingredients, or posting saliva-producing photos of your latest baking pursuits. Am I the only one who got totally envious when I downloaded Amy's recipe cheat-sheet? Gosh. I'm pretty sure this means that I am due to gain about 278 pounds once I move back to the US and sign up at a local organic co-op.

Just a quick update - I have been receiving so many sign-ups for the Holiday Traditions Exchange that I can no longer respond to each one! Just look for an email from me sometime before Nov. 14th, which will contain your swap partner's information. If you don't hear from me by the 15th, then go ahead shoot me off an email.

P.S. Watch this for a good laugh. It's also perfect for inducing cheese ball lust.

Nov 7, 2007

once upon a time there was a little boy who loved play-doh

making play doh 009

But his teacher thought he was too little to make it himself on the stove ...

making play doh 039

So she put together a special, no-cook play-doh making exercise just for him.

The little boy has never been happier! Every day at school he makes a batch of play-doh to share with the rest of the children on the art shelf and a special green batch to take home.

4 tablespoons of white flour
2 tablespoons of salt
1 dropper-full of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of water

Add the dry ingredients in a bowl. If you want to add a few drops of food coloring, make sure to add it to the water, otherwise it will be difficult to get a uniform color. Little by little, add the water. At first, stir with a spoon - once all of the water is added, start smooshing the mixture with your hands until it reaches the desired consistency. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge when not in use. Most likely, it will end up drying out after a day or two of heavy use.

Psst ... want to see more recent pics of classroom happenings? I just posted a bunch over at Flickr .


Nov 5, 2007

i'm swa(m)ped!


Such good news - I have over 120 wonderful people signed up for the Holiday Traditions Exchange! Keep those sign-ups comin'. This is going to be so much fun! Just a few remarks - if you simply left a comment on the post but didn't email me directly, please go ahead and send me an email. Remember that Blogger doesn't provide me with your email addresses. Also, if you sent me an email to sign up and didn't receive a direct response, know that I received it and you are good to go. The beginning of last week was a bit crazy, so my apologies for not being able to confirm with everyone.


Keeping in the spirit of the season, I wanted to be sure to give you a heads up on this swap, in case you are feeling super festive. Be sure to make your decision soon - sign ups end on Friday, November 9th. I found out about the swap last year while milling about on Flickr, searching for holiday decorating ideas. I was a few weeks too late - and I made a mental note to be on the lookout for it this year. Make 8-10 ornaments, receive 8-10? Sounds like my kind of thing. I would love to (eventually) be able to decorate my tree exclusively with unique, handmade ornaments. White lights (do those eco-friendly LED lights come in white?) and lots of red, green, and aqua.

Yes, I do have a comically full plate - but truth be told, I wouldn't be able to put aside such great swapping opportunities simply in order to hold onto my sanity. Sanity is so overrated. Plus, the act of creating is quite relaxing - unless you are writing a pattern, that is! ;)

In my moments of sheer self-indulgence and utter procrastination, I've been ogling the the following handmade goodies: these aprons by Handmade Hostess; this print by Jen; and these adorable ornaments by Lauren Alane. Perhaps if I lost some more of that wretched sanity, all of these things would be mine. Humph. Like I said, sanity isn't always all it's cracked up to be!

The yo-yo's are calling (the fabric kind, sillies ... )


Nov 4, 2007

the people have spoken

gnome laptop sleeve 007

Wow! I guess you want a gnome bag pattern? Okey dokey - I'm working on it as we speak. In fact, your response has been so positive that I hope to have the pattern up for sale before Christmas - can it be done? I think so.

gnome laptop sleeve 006

AND, thanks to Joyful Abode's question concerning a laptop fitting in the bag, I've decided to make a matching, padded laptop sleeve as part of the pattern. I'll have to make the sleeve customizable, due to the great variation in laptop dimensions. I love mine - it gives me a wonderful way to cover up that Nascar label that is built into my own laptop (Don't ask - my laptop was a great deal, and we were able to get rid of that loud "engine revving" sound when Windows started up ...)

In other news, I am sick. Again. And I have pinkeye. Woohoo! I think my defenses must be ridiculously low, given the stress of last week. Joy.

The good news? Patrick is making a Chicago-style pizza for dinner. Joy - this time, without the sarcasm. :)


Nov 2, 2007

recycled bath mat tutorial

I extend the warmest of welcomes to everyone participating in Sew, Mama, Sew's beyond brilliant November Handmade Holidays series! With no further ado, I present to you:

The Recycled Bath Mat Tutorial
For those looking to add a little color to their family's shower experience

patchwork bath mat

1. Dive into your scrap bag.
Using a card stock 2 1/2 inch square template and tailor's chalk or other water-soluble quilter's pen, trace around your template onto your scrap fabric. Cut out the square. Repeat this 87 times (you will need 88 squares, total.) Be sure to cut out a variety of complimentary fabrics. While making my mat, I stuck with reds, aquas, greens and yellows.

patchwork 017

2. Arrange your patches
First thing's first - clean your floor and ban all fabric-loving felines from entering. You'll need to spread out your patches, 11 across by 8 down, and you wouldn't want your work disturbed once you've found the perfect layout! Once you're satisfied, begin stacking, in order, the top row of 11 patches. Leave the other rows in their place on the floor, and take this "first row stack" over to your sewing machine.

. Sew together the patchwork strips.

recycled bath mat tutorial 1

Using a 1/4 in seam allowance, sew the 11 squares together. Press the seams to one side. Return this first strip to your floor layout. Now stack the second row, sew the strip, press, and return. Repeat for the remaining strips.

4. Sew the strips together

patchwork 031

Starting with the top two strips, place the first strip with the right side facing up, then lay the second strip on top of it with its right side facing down. Secure the right, long edge with pins. With a 1/4 in seam allowance, stitch down this long edge and press the seam to one side. Repeat this process with the rest of the strips, always placing the "loose" strip face down on top of the previous strip and sewing along the right, unfinished edge.

5. Embellish the top of the mat
While it is fine to leave the top of the mat embroidery-free, I couldn't help but break out the old-fashioned needle and thread. Here's how I managed the feet outline:

recycled bath mat tutorial 2

I used my own tiny feet as the model, but it would be great to use a child's footsies, or, better yet, the whole family's! Make sure the top of the mat is pressed flat, then trace around the feet using tailor's chalk.

I used the chain stitch with 6 strands of white embroidery floss because I wanted the outline to stand out from the background colors. With three strands of floss, I embroidered "clean feet" using a no-nonsense running stitch.

patchwork bath mat close up

6. Cut out an old terry towel for the mat backing
Cut out part of an old towel to the same dimensions as your mat front.

recycled bath mat tutorial 3

Pin the mat front, right side facing down, to the towel backing.

recycled bath mat tutorial 4

7. Sew the mat front to the towel backing
Using a 1/4 seam allowance, sew around the edges, leaving a 4 inch gap for turning. Turn the mat right side out and press. Topstitch along the entire edge, closing the "turning gap" as you go.

8. "Quilt" around your embroidery

recycled bath mat tutorial 5

Lengthen your stitch length slightly and machine stitch around the outside of your "feet." This serves the dual purpose of accenting the embroidery as well as securing the towel backing to the mat front, to prevent slippage.

That's it! I hope that you or your gift recipient enjoys this light-hearted addition to the bathroom!