Thursday, December 31, 2009

Antique Markets.

With the time off during the holidays, I have been able to take a couple trips to nearby Antique Markets. This is something I like to do with my mom since it gives us a chance to spend time together while seeing new and interesting things. I love shopping with her! She is like my goodluck charm as I always find things I had been hoping to come across when she's there.

We came across most of the antique markets by accident, we were actually only sure that two of them existed. This time everything was new (to us) and it was wonderful to be able to search through all the treasures. We decided to take home some of our very favourite things (which was helped by the 10% off after Christmas sale at one of the markets).

The markets themselves are interesting to see too. They're all so different. My favourites are the ones that go through room after room after room, where you can get lost in everything there is to look at.

I am so grateful to have been able to visit these places, find new treasures, and spend time with my mom. It was nice to have the time to do this. Next week it's back to work and school!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The mad rush of last week is over. The end of the semester is always a busy time. Exams, two vet visits, a broken furnace, a sprained ankle, semi-last minute shopping, last minute sewing, and lots of running around, all in a period of a few days. At times like that it can be hard to remember to be grateful, but I am glad for the little reminders I received. Now I am grateful to have a little break. I have time to breathe. Things are quiet and sweet, and I am appreciating it all. I have finished setting up the holiday displays and am now taking it all in. It is calm and it is nice. I look forward to spending the coming week with family and friends, and sharing our traditions with each other. I hope to share some of them with you too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Locker Organizer.

Last year I sewed up a few tote bags as holiday gifts. One went to someone who had given many handmade gifts to others. When she saw the little bag, she was almost moved to tears. Not because it was any great present, but because even though she had made gifts for others, nobody had ever made a gift for her and she knew how special it was to think of someone while you carefully put together a gift for them.

This year I knew I had to make her something again, but something a little more than a tote bag. She works in a school and stores her belongings in a locker during the day. A locker organizer was the perfect thing! Somewhere to store her little odds and ends and supplies, a place to keep a pen at your finger tips, and a larger pocket to keep hats and mitts (or notebooks).

I used two cotton fabrics in contrasting colours. I don't remember the designer or name, but I picked it up from my local fabric shop. I made up the pattern as I went along. Two long rectangles of fabric for the front and back, and assorted rectangles in the contrasting fabric for the pockets. Everything with a layer of interfacing (pockets & body pieces) to keep things sturdier. I did finish the edges on all the pieces of fabric before sewing them on to the background. It wasn't strictly necessary, but I found it much easier not having to worry about keeping all the edges even while sewing everything together.

The picture frame is just a square of fabric with a smaller square cut out in the center (inner edges folded under by making a snip in each corner). I sewed a thin piece of clear plastic to the back to protect the photo. The top edge is not sewn down, so the photo can be changed. The pocket to the right has a few lines of lengthwise stitching to hold pens in place.

I sewed a pocket for and inserted a small dowel along the top to prevent the corners from sagging when the pockets are full. In hindsight, I probably should have done the same along the bottom since it does sag a bit there.

The binding came next, and was a pain! I had never made my own binding or worked with binding before (I had started it on an unfinished project, but that remains unfinished). The binding and stitching around it are uneven in places, but I guess I can't expect to be perfect on the first try!

Last came the little details - the matching fabric covered button, and the fabric loop to hang it all from. The loop wraps around the button to keep it closed when you fold it up for carrying.

I had a lot of fun making this project, and definitely learned a few new things. It's something that could really be played around with a lot...different sizes of pockets, layered pockets, velcro, zippers, hangers, magnets...there is just so much that could be changed. If anyone wants to give it a try and would like more detailed instructions, I would be happy to share.

All ready to go in one of the gift bags I sewed up from my Shinzi Katoh holiday fabric!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doily Snowflakes.

A simple, but pretty craft. I saw doilies made into a snowflake garland on another blog and had to try it out for myself, only I had nowhere to put up a garland. I decided to cover my windows instead. I enjoyed making these so much. All it took was a selection from my vintage doily collection, a solution of white craft glue and water, a paint brush, and a bit of string. If you don't have craft glue, starch (the kind you use to stiffen clothes for ironing) works just as well.

All you do is paint the solution of watered down glue over the doilies (make sure to get both sides and soak through), and leave them to dry for several hours. A tip - paint from the center of the doily to the edge to avoid bunching and stretching. Once dry, tie a piece of string around one of the outer loops and hang up as you please! If you want the doilies to lay perfectly flat, you could place them underneath a towel and iron. So simple.

Placing them in a window where Christmas lights from the street are visible would create an even better effect. So wintery, and so pretty. The best part - even if the glue solution wont fully wash out, they're still usable on a table or flat surface while they're not functioning as winter decorations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Children in the Forest.

Last week I had the chance to take to the forest with a group of grade one students. We visited an outdoor education centre, where guides use the forest itself to provide opportunities for learning. It was wonderful to see the children out of the classroom and completely surrounded by nature, something these city kids don't get much chance to do. They looked, touched, listened, smelled, and even tasted what was around them. They tried new things, discovered new things, and gained so much out of the experience. So many channels for communication were opened.

My favourite points of our nature walk - watching the squirrels preparing for winter, talking about why alligators don't live in Toronto rivers (and having one of the children explain the difference between warm and cold blooded animals), listening to the rushing river water and racing sticks by the bridge, and feeling the wet leaves squish under our feet.

For lunch we had a cookout over a fire. Not the healthiest food, but a brand new experience for all of these children. Again, all their senses were at play. Seeing the flames, feeling the heat, hearing the crackling, smelling the burning wood and smoke (and having it sting our eyes when the wind blew it in our direction), and tasting the food we had cooked. Some children even conquered their fears as they were apprehensive about being near the fire, but decided to give it a try anyway. A chance to try something new!

And a lesson in trial an error - cooking marshmallows in the flames burns them, cooking them over the coals turns them nice, toasty brown.

Once the fire was extinguished and the coals cooled down, we had a chance to try drawing with the charcoal. We talked about how charcoals for art are made, and made a plan to try them out in the classroom.

After lunch we talked about preserving the forests and what we can do to help. As it is an outdoor education centre, there are lots of people walking along the forest floor. To give back a little, we sowed woodchips on the high traffic areas. This helps avoid the wearing down of the path, and protects the animals and insects under the forest floor. The children were excited to help out, and had a chance to do some "hard work" outside by shoveling, carrying, and sowing the woodchips. They were rewarded with hot chocolate and a nature story, but I think best of all they felt as though they had given back to the forest that had given them so much that day.

These children gained more from visiting a forest than they ever could from filling out worksheets. I had a wonderful time too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Elf.

I've always admired Hillary Lang at Wee Wonderfuls' dolls. She does some really amazing work! I was very excited when this pattern became available, and put it in my shopping cart right away. I got to it asap and finished my doll earlier today. This was my first time both making a doll and embroidering a face, so I did have some trouble (the first eye took several attemps...serves me right for embroidering one instead of using a felt eye like the pattern calls for). I am proud of her though!

I made some small changes, like adding some braids and pom pom trim on the skirt, using ric-rac instead of felt around her wrists and neck, and the style of the face (it's more similar to the Wee Wonderfuls Olive and Archie dolls I think). I should probably sew her hat down too!

The pattern called for fabric and accessories I already had in my stash. Wool felt for her head, hands, and shoes; cotton prints for her legs, hat, body and skirt (my new Shinzi Katoh little red Christmas fabric!); linen tape around her hat, and of course the ric-rac and pom pom trim. And bells, have to have the bells!

The pattern wasn't difficult to make. Pinning and sewing around some of the curves might be tricky for new sewers, but the instructions are very clear and easy to follow. I'm going to have to try making another one.

Oh, and that's just the "mini tree". The real tree didn't have room for all of our ornaments this year. Oops!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It has been a while! A very long while. I am still here, and looking forward to get back into regular posting. It has been a very busy fall, but now things are winding down. My sewing machine broke for good in early September and I wasn't able to replace it until last week. I am so glad to be sewing on a machine again! Just in time to make some handmade holiday gifts. As always I am very much looking forward to the holidays. This weekend will be full of decorating, hot chocolate, secret sewing, and the last of the holiday bazaars. It is just the beginning!

Do you have anything special planned?