Archive for December, 2009


last minute sewing

December 31, 2009

I love sewing, especially things that I have to figure out my own method for. The crayon rolls were a satisfying project but my favourite sewing is the kind that is done in a day, or better yet, done in a few hours.

With my new camera I want to be sure that I can take it on any and every trip so that it gets used. That means it needs a place on my pack where I can reach it, and a way to protect it from the rain when we’re on hikes. I am determined to make sure this camera stays out of both the lid of my pack and Kevin’s pocket. And it won’t be staying at home either!

When we picked up my camera we found a small, lightweight neoprene case that was just the right size. If not for the zipper it would probably be fairly water resistant. Today I followed through on my plan to add straps so it snuggly fits on the waist belt of my pack and then came the fun part – a lightweight pack cover out of sil-nylon. Sil-nylon is a royal pain to work with but it’s hard to beat for raincovers, tarp tents and stuff sacks when you’re a gram weenie.

modified camera case and rain cover

The form of my two projects aren’t my best but they are definitely going to rock in their function! And it didn’t take me months to strike this project off my list. Hiking season is still quite a few months away for us but I’m ready!

modified camera case ready for action!


the book

December 30, 2009

the book with leather ties

I wanted to hold off in sharing the photos of what I created for my brother-in-law until after Christmas and I nearly forgot to share them at all!

We learned a simple book binding technique with Japanese binding in school and while I still haven’t taken a picture of what I created there I made sure to document this project before it hopped on a jet plane. My brother-in-law and sister are both artists and when I was taking my urban design courses I learned that he’s can be quite a prolific sketcher. They both appreciate hand made and our exchange is strictly “second hand or hand made and it better be good” so I figured this project was safe. Plus it’s useable/consumable and those are rules I like to follow too.

inside cover of the book

This project took longer than I expected based on what I did at school but a big part of it was supplies. I wanted to fill it with sketch paper but made the spine to thick for what was left on my sketch pad and I lent my paper cutter out during the middle of my construction process. The book is by no means perfect but I’m confident it will be used. And if nothing else, I know my sister likes it!


i survived christmas

December 29, 2009

snowy trees

I didn’t have high hopes for Christmas this year – I usually don’t. I like the season of sleeping in, sewing, crafting, visiting with friends and relaxing with family but the commercialism, grouchy behavior and visual busyness wear me out. I have little tolerance for any kind of shopping at this time of year and if I need something I’ll usually get it when I need it. As a result I generally don’t see the need for giving or getting store bought “stuff”.

This year we hosted Kevin’s family and when we were all together in the summer the deal was that there were to be no gifts. I was surprised but thought it would be good… until last week when I learned that the rule had been overturned months earlier. Then there was the episode where the boxes of Christmas decorations from his folks storage unit made it to our house. There were a few tense moments but I think we found a suitable compromise. The ornaments and multi-coloured lights went on the tree at Kev’s sisters place and Kevin’s Christmas chain from grade one joined our gift basket, clear mini lights, stockings and the tree we picked up on Christmas eve.

the Christmas set up

I felt like I was coming off as enough of a grinch with the ornament thing but a material Christmas wasn’t really part of my plan so I decided I’d just go with stuff I already had. It was an easy decision to make since my thumbs weren’t cooperating with crafting and my status as a student means little extra money.

Fortunately Kevin was happy to say that the main things for his sisters were from both of us. I had made tapered candles for us which were easy to give to Kev’s parents instead and the chocolates I had managed to make the week before got wrapped up and given in stockings. Oh, and a friend led me to this site where I downloaded a photo for Kevin. He’s still deciding exactly which one I should print and I think he’s been having fun figuring out which one he likes the most.

Of course I wasn’t expecting much stuff for Christmas gift wise – I was happy to spend time at home with our friends and family. Kevin’s family gave me a few cool things but Kevin blew me away when he opted to get me a new Nikon S640 camera. I think I had even specified that I was going to make do with the half broken old one but I’m happy to report that I have fully accepted his gift.

snowy mustache

I’ve been snapping like crazy and am enjoying the quick response times, and the range of things I can take clear photos of. I imagine I’ll still have the battle between living in the moment and taking a photo but it’s going to be much more difficult to leave the camera at home now. Hopefully that means that more photos will be gracing these pages in the weeks and months to come too.

low level bridge crossing

I made it through the Christmas season and am enjoying some quieter days and a tonne more sleep before I head back to school.


crayon roll for sticks and blocks

December 24, 2009

I’ve been wanting to make myself a roll for my growing collection of Stockmar block and stick crayons for a while now and last week I finally got started. I had figured there would be instructions available somewhere on-line but I didn’t find them. I like figuring out these sorts of things for myself so *maybe* I didn’t look that hard. A few friends have asked how I made mine so now I’m sharing my how to.

First off, I used two fabrics and interfacing to give the roll a little more body and support to the outside layer. A scrap of denim, flannel or home dec weight fabric would likely work just as well and is probably only necessary when the two visible fabrics are quilting cotton.

crayon roll

Because I wanted to maximize the use of my fabrics, I worked it out so that I could make 2 crayon rolls for each of my fabrics. The yardage (meterage?) requirements for two crayon rolls are:

Fabric A (purple fabric in my example): 0.4 metres
Fabric B (batik): 0.3 metres
Interfacing: 0.8 metres (or 0.4 if you’re only making one roll since it’s usually less than 104 cm wide)
Matching ribbon or cord for ties: 1.3 metres

Before really getting into this project I washed, dried and ironed the fabrics (but not the interfacing).

1. Cut fabrics and interfacing:
– from fabric A cut two rectangles (one for each crayon roll) measuring 36 cm x 52 cm (14 1/4″ x 20.5″).
– from the interfacing cut another rectangle (or two) measuring 36 cm x 52 cm (14 1/4″ x 20.5″).
– from fabric B cut two rectangles measuring 30 cm x 52 cm (12″ x 20.5″).

2. Stack one piece of each fabric in the following order from bottom to top:
– interfacing
– fabric A, right side up
– fabric B, right side down
being sure to align the two short sides and one long side.

3. Pin the 3 materials together along one long side and sew 1 cm (1/2″) away from this edge.

crayon roll - pinning long edge

4. Align the materials along the opposing long side (note that fabric B will be shorter than the rest but all three should be lined up together). Pin and sew as in step 3.

crayon roll - inside panel is shorter

5. Press seams allowances towards fabric B, then turn the fabric tube right side and press these seams again.

crayon roll - pressing seams towards inside panel fabric

6. Centre the panel of fabric B so that even amounts of fabric A show above and below. (Note that this alignment doesn’t need to be perfect since the seams will be hidden in the pockets.) Press the edges at the top and bottom of your fabric tube.

crayon roll - centering inside panel

7. Make the folds for the pockets. To accommodate stick crayons, I made a fold 5.5 cm (2″) away from one of the creases I made in step 6. For blocks, I folded the fabric over 4 cm (1 5/8″). No matter what the pocket sizes, the folds need to be firmly pressed for the subsequent steps to work.

crayon roll - folding first pocket

8. Pin the the centre of the fabric or ribbon tie in place on one of the short sides of the fabric. Pin to either fabric A or B before turning the whole works inside out.

crayon roll - attaching ties

9. Preparing the fabric for sewing is the most difficult process. In order for the side seams to be neat, the fabric tube needs to be folded along the creases made in steps 6 and 7 but now the pockets stick into the middle of the inside tube as show in this photo. Be sure that the loose ends of the ribbon are away from the open ends so they don’t get sewn into the wrong spot.

crayon roll - positioning pockets

10. Place pins and sew down the side of the roll where the ribbon is attached using a 1 cm (1/2″) seam allowance. Be sure to double back at the start and the end of this seam and where the ribbon attaches.

11. There needs to be a space for turning the roll right side out so at the end without the ribbon, pin and sew a seam over each set of pockets using a 1 cm (1/2″) seam allowance being sure to double back at each end of each pocket.

12. Clip corners. If you would like to reduce the bulk you may also want to grade the seams.

crayon roll - clipping corners

13. Turn the roll right side out. It should look much like it did after step 7 except that the side edges are now concealed by the seams you just sewed.

14. Fold over the loose fabric edges at the opening where you turned the pouch right side out. Pin in place. (Hand sew if desired.)

crayon roll - pinning opening closed

15. Mark sewing lines to make the individual crayon pockets.
– You’ll want 48 cm (19″) between the top stitching on either end of the roll so that each crayon can have a 4 cm (just under 1 5/8″) wide pocket. When I used a lightweight cord my top stitching on either side needed to be 7mm from the end of the fabric.
– Draw (with chalk) individual pocket lines every 4 cm starting after the top stitching line on one side.
– This pattern allows for top stitching along the top and bottom of the pocket 0.5 cm (1/4″) from the edge. Mark this stitching line with chalk.

crayon roll - drawing out stitching lines

16. Add a few pins to ensure that the pocket flaps stay where you want them and then sew the pockets in a zig zag pattern like so:

crayon roll stitching pattern

Once you’ve reached the far end of the roll it’s time to do one final round of the perimeter.

17. Use a clean, dry toothbrush to remove chalk lines and stuff with 12 block and 12 stick crayons!

finished crayon roll


relax mode

December 22, 2009

After a week of trying to get things done and being frustrated by my sore hands I’m finally getting into the season and relaxing a little bit.

My main gift in my family gift exchange is done and in the hands of the recipient, we had a great time with friends on Sunday evening, Kev’s folks are here, and we’ve had some low key evenings with friends. Life is good again!

I haven’t been able to do as much sewing as I would like but when I got word that my mother had broken her wrist on Friday I felt compelled to move into action. (No my mother does not have weak bones or a propensity to fall.) She was complaining about the hospital issue sling and when I had the fracture that changed my outlook on skiing, hockey and mountain biking, I had a similar problem so I bought a more comfortable one. I thought I’d throw it in with the package my sister was taking home but it’s navy and white and I knew my mom would wear it reluctantly because it’s so darn obvious. Taking into account her love of green and corduroy I fashioned this:

mom's sling

It should get to her tonight.

In addition to cleaning up the house, I’ve been trying to make some of our blah areas look a little nicer. Last week I covered up our reference library (which is heavily used in the summer but sits dormant through most of the winter) and made a home for our candles and the plant from the kitchen. Since my wrist and thumb have settled down I was finally able to replace the pieces of our window trees that have disappeared since last December and today I also made a swag for our door.

transformed bookshelf

snowy trees

trees and SNOW!

Following in my mom’s footsteps we always have a swag of conifers and cones at this time of year but since we haven’t made it to the u-cut tree farm and I don’t believe in paying money for branches our door has been empty. Whether we’ll have a tree or not remains to be seen so I waded through the knee deep snow to clip a sampling of twigs from our backyard. It’s small and simple but it works for me!

door swag

Oh, and how could I forget baking!  There’s been chocolates that Kevin and his mom can eat, chocolate almond bark for the rest of us, caramel popcorn, caramel coated puffed sorghum, cosmic power cookies and more…  These treats alone would be too sweet so we’ve also been enjoying salsa and corn chips, veggies and hummus and of course, oranges.  I hope you and yours are enjoying a happy holiday season too!



December 17, 2009


When my mom first introduced me to Julie Van Rosendaals “Grazing” a few years ago, one of my early favourites was the granola.  Somewhere along the line I stopped making it but then I started eating it this fall in support of the grade eights’ fundraising campaign. I loved it and made it last for as long as I could. Then, in my GF kick I realized that I didn’t have any cereal I could eat so I revisited making my own. It’s been great, and I enjoy it with an orange or applesauce nearly every morning.

One of the first things I did upon returning to Alberta was make more granola. I thought Kevin might try it once at the most but it turns out he loves it and isn’t reacting to it either so I replenished our supply with a double batch this afternoon.

My inspiration was that original recipe in Grazing but of course I’ve tweaked it a bit to suit our preferences and what can be found in our pantry.  My favourite combo so far is:

4 cups old fashioned (large flake) oats
2 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (almond pieces, pecan piecess, green pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, moderately ground flax seeds, sesame seeds)
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 – 1/3 cup agave nectar (light is best here otherwise it can overpower the maple syrup)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla (unless I forget)
1 1/2 cup dried fruit (apples, pears, raisins and ribbon coconut)

I haven’t seen any other recipes that call for including the fruit in the oven for the whole cook time but I did it once by accident and quite liked it. I’ve since found that adding the fruit for the last 10 minutes in the oven produces a really nice result.  Today I cooked things a little longer because I had overloaded my baking trays and the apples have a nice crunch.  And I always like the way ribbon coconut toasts up.



home at last

December 16, 2009

I’m home! And somehow received what felt like a warm welcome despite record cold temperatures. We’re talking -37 when I got off the plane and -44 by the time we got home from Kevin’s Christmas party. In such weather it can be a challenge to find the motivation to leave the house but fortunately we’ve had no such problem yet. We wouldn’t have thought of missing the annual reunion with his coworkers (who are truly like family) after 3 months to a year away and then Christmas preparations have kept us going the rest of the time.

Kevin has been finalizing his big give and is printing our calendar as I type. I’ve been cleaning the corners of our kitchen and closets but am ready to start preparing for a lot of little gifts. I’m finding I’m not interested in much other than useables and consumables so I’m trying to stick to those themes for what I give.

I’m quite happy with what I’ve come up with but of course I can’t share until I’ve actually given them away…. sooon though!

I’ll be getting my hands on a camera soon since I forgot mine at school so stay tuned!


almost home

December 10, 2009

Today we finished our first semester of school with a little festival. It’s been a trying week. It seems that we all felt the pressure to create a great festival and of course there are a lot of other worries at this time of year as well.

In two days I’ll be home, reunited with Kevin for a good, long holiday. I’m so looking forward to some quiet time together and getting things done around the house too.

At the very least I need to make and mail a gift for my brother-in-law, sew the binding on my brown quilt, make four crayon rolls, finish a knitted sweater that’s been collecting dust for 4 or 5 years, paint the kitchen, clean out the closets, prepare for a party and for hosting Kevin’s family at Christmas. And I still want to spend time with everyone there too. I know the time will fly but I’m so glad I’ll have three weeks to try and do everything while staying calm and taking time for rest.

Here are some photos from corners of my temporary space.

warm calming light

a corner of my desk

plotting my next sewing adventure


crafting, socializing and supporting

December 6, 2009

These past two weekends have been full of time with friends. I so cherish this part of the winter season.

Last weekend marked the 10 year “Water Girls Cookie Bake Reunion” and was it ever good!

Unlike the days of old where we would take a 2 hour study break during exams and cut cookies assembly line style, this years event consisted of a good deal of snacking, catching up, entertaining little ones and dinner on top of the cookie bake itself. We’ve had mini reunions when I’ve been out this way before but between weddings, brand new babies, mamas that are about to give birth and the limited time we have to be together they’ve all been rushed. It was so nice to relax and I think the mama’s really appreciated getting out and having help with their little ones. That and so much has changed within our group in the past year. We really needed this time together and I feel like we made the most of it.

This weekend, my socializing was with some of my current classmates. It started with dinner and sharing a new craft on Friday and then more of the same sort of thing yesterday. The trip to the yarn store on Saturday was so pleasant and then we had a cozy little dinner of left overs before moving onto folding kite paper window stars. We prepped a LOT of them for decorating our classroom!

We also got started on our new knitting projects all the while sharing some important things – from the challenges that led us here to the struggles we’re facing with some of what we’re meeting hear and also what our futures hold; what, in more detail has led us to this place, and how satisfying to our souls this evening togetherness has been. Yet again, some very important reminders of what’s important and plenty of heart felt smiles. Yes this time of year is definitely good!


art update

December 3, 2009

I was working on a longer post but my week has been full again. That and not having full use of my dominant hand is really making a lot of the ordinary tasks of the day more tiring. I now it could be a lot worse though!

In handwork this week we made quick but beautiful angels out of silk and merino.


There’s also been a fair bit of drawing. Yesterday I finally upgraded to pencil crayons and have been working on these:

2nd mountain drawing (tiny)

a walk in the mountains

I still have much to learn but I’m actually enjoying it and that’s a big difference from any other drawing experience I can remember. And I feel like I can actually get some semblance of gesture too. With the way these projects have gone I’m pretty sure I’ll do more on my own too.