July/August~ Needles and the Bunny!

Bunnies, bunnies and more bunnies!! Taking a little break from making handsmocked & embroidered dresses, I’ve spent the past few months knitting; one of my favorite things of all, to do. I first learned to knit when I was 12; my teacher was my 13-yr.-old friend who was very gifted & knew how to do more than most adults did. I think of her with gratitude every time I pick up my knitting needles. I never would have imagined when I first held a pair of needles in my hands that knitting would become the much-loved activity in my life that it very quickly became. I’ve truly enjoyed the past two months that I’ve devoted to  knitting!

I started a few months ago knitting a bunny from a Debi Birkin pattern that I found in an Etsy shop and fell in love with. This was the first time in all of the years that I’ve spent knitting, that I knit a bunny doll. I loved doing it! I loved knitting the little bunny so much that I had to knit another right away. To date I have knit several bunnies, each one different. It’s always a wonderful surprise to see the unique personality that emerges with each new bunny.  After knitting the first bunny I started experimenting, making changes to the pattern; molding it to get the “look” that I’m after.

I have always loved bunnies. Over the span of several years, I had 4 house bunnies; all very sweet and very special. I loved to study their faces. There is a special & unique sweetness that even the mischievous ones had. It is that special “sweet” look, so unique to bunnies, that I’m trying to capture in the faces of the bunnies that I knit.

The bunnies aren’t at all easy to make, in fact I find them more difficult than any sweater I’ve  made. It’s not the knitting itself that’s difficult, it’s the assembly; particularly the heads & faces.  To capture the bunny look that I want, requires much more than knitting an oval, bunny-shaped head. I start with that knit shape, but then I need to put a lot of filling into it so that it’s very firmly stuffed so that  I can squeeze the face to make indents where the eyes belong and make it pouffe-out in the cheeks and over the mouth. Once I squeeze an area to be the way I want it, I have  to stitch through the head from one side to the other;  back & forth, to hold the shape permanently.  Sculpting the face in this manner is a slow, difficult process, but one that I love doing, as this is where the bunny is formed as an individual. This is where its personality emerges.  Once the head and face are shaped the way I want them to be, I hand stitch with embroidery floss, the eyes, nose & mouth. Work on just the head/face alone, is very intense and takes several hours. This is the part that I find the most difficult in making the bunny~ but it is also the most fulfilling.

Assembling the rest of the bunny is easier than shaping the head & stitching the face, but it too is difficult. (The details are too long for this post, but perhaps in a follow-up post I’ll describe what that involves.)

Once I’ve created a bunny, it’s time to knit something for them to wear.  Usually I haven’t an idea what it will be until I’ve created them & seen what their personality is. For the first few bunnies, I knit sweaters,  but as I knit more bunnies I felt like it would be fun to knit whole outfits for some of them, so my more recent bunnies are dressed in coordinating outfits; sweaters & pants or sweaters & a skirt- or overalls. I like to hand embroider a little flower~ or vegetable, on their clothes, it’s sort of become my signature.  I will definitely continue with bunny-making in the future, as they’ve become one of my very favorite things to knit. I also knit lamb dolls and have a few patterns of some new animals I’d like to try; an elephant, a mouse, and a puppy, so keep checking back and you may see these in my shop soon.

In addition to my animal menagerie, I’ve knit a few baby poncho & pants outfits that I enjoyed knitting and I just started a new outfit, so it should be in my shop, in about a week. And THAT’S what I’ve been up to!!!

August has started off to be horribly hot. I’m really hoping that this isn’t an indication of the remainder of the month. I’m trying to keep in mind that Fall, my favorite season of the year, is just around the corner~  Trying to knit on a hot day can be a challenge. I find if I imagine Fall outside, with it’s wonderful crisp, refreshing air and brilliantly colored leaves that ride a breeze with the grace of a surfer riding a huge rolling wave, I can almost forget about the 100` plus temperatures outside. Almost!

I hope you’re enjoying your summer and are able to stay cool!

About “Winter”

WINTER

I’ve just finished this dress that I call “Winter”; my third in a series of four long- sleeved dresses that I wanted to add to my store.  My goal is to have at least one long-sleeved dress in each size available. I just finished cutting out my fourth one,  a size 4, so hopefully before much longer, there will be one, OOAK,  long-sleeved dress in each size in my shop!

I thought I’d speak a bit about “Winter, ” and it’s creation,  because its appearance was a surprise even to me. I know that seems strange. It’s not the first time that I’ve been surprised by one of my dresses. The whole process of creating something  has always been a bit of a mystery to me, and making this dress,  is a perfect example ~

Not always, but often, before I begin working on a dress,  I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with the dress. I usually have a picture in mind. It’s not always a completed picture, but it’s at least a basic idea. What puzzles me,  like what occurred while making this dress, is what happens between the time I begin working on a dress with a particular image in mind, and the time I finish the dress—–and have created something entirely different from the idea envisioned when I began -

Finishing the dress before “Winter,” I began thinking about what I wanted to do with the size 1 that I planned to create next out of a piece of printed white cotton fabric.  I suddenly got an image of a white dress with green, or possibly white, smocking. The dress I envisioned had a very simple, pretty design  of smocked zig zags, interspersed with embroidered red, green, and white candy canes~  Yes!! That was it! I ran & got a piece of paper & a pencil so I could sketch a simple picture of what was in my head. I don’t usually write my ideas down, but this looked so cute the way I pictured it, that I wanted  to be sure it wouldn’t be forgotten.

I began the dress with my original idea, working  white smocking into a zig zag pattern on the white fabric,—– and somehow worked my way into the scene you see pictured in the photo above. It seems to have just “happened.” I don’t remember consciously making a decision to abandon my original idea, nor do I remember ever having visualized the scene that emerged on the dress. It’s as if my fingers just took over; as if they had planned the scene from the very beginning-  and I was there simply because I was attached!

Now that the dress is finished, I look at it and feel very fortunate. Though it was not at all what I had in mind when I began, I’m pleased with the way it turned out-  Fingers did a good job! Once again I’m left baffled by the creative process, but that’s o.k.  Sometimes it’s nice to just be surprised!!

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How Hot Are Your Squirrels?

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So how hot do you think it was today?

When I went down the hill to get the mail at 5:00 P.M. it was 103`!

Walking back up to the house I heard a little rustle in the tree and out of the corner of my eye thought I saw something move. I stopped for a second to look and this is what I saw. This little guy had slung himself over the tree limb and just lay there in the hot shade. He didn’t quickly run away like he usually does,  instead,  he lay there watching me & Pascal- who was either  too hot to bark, normally he totally “loses it,”  or he was pretending not to see the squirrel so  he wouldn’t have to bark~  It’s a rare occasion that Pascal forgoes an opportunity to bark-  That’s how hot it was!

I quickly put Pascal inside and grabbed my camera, feeling pretty certain the squirrel would be exactly where he was when I left him~ and he was!  Normally he and I are enemies, as he gets even more delight in digging up my garden and unplanting my flower pots, than he does lying on a shaded tree limb on a hot day, but today, with the heat on high, we seem to have called a truce. I actually felt sorry for the little guy. I could say he posed for me, but I can’t give him that much credit.  He did lay there and silently stare-  or was it glare-   at me while  the camera clicked back at him. Mission accomplished!

Too hot for me, I left him, hangin’ out on the tree, (probably mapping a new game plan for my garden,  once it cools off-)  and went back in to join Pascal in front of the fan. Having finally finished my baby dress, I needed to figure out what I want to make next!

Simply Irresistible

This is the dress  I just finished~  the one that I started too long ago-  I wanted to make a plain white baby dress for summer. Some people gasp at the thought of a white dress for a baby, but if you stop to think about it, what difference does it make if it’s white or any other color; if it’s going to get dirty, it’s going to get dirty. Whatever shows up on white will also show up on light pink, blue, green or yellow; all of the classic baby colors.   Actually white has an advantage over the other colors when it gets dirty because with white, you can usually bleach out a stain, whereas with a color, you don’t have that option.

So~ I wanted it to be white and I wanted it to be intricate and soft, but appear simple and elegant. Most of all I wanted it to say, “baby!”   I’m happy with the results and I hope you like it too. The smocking on the side panels is a double wave design that’s easy for the eye to follow, yet at the same time,  notice the gathers the smocking has created. They add the degree of intricacy that I wanted the dress to have. The central panal,  smocked in a white diamond design, gives a nice background for the brown hand embroidered bunny to stand-out against,  and the blue bow tied around her neck,  ties-in the blue smocking from the side panels. The white, diamond design of the smoking holds the background flat.  To add dimension, I hand embroidered several  flower stalks in both baby-blue and white that give the scene a 3-dimensional effect.

To me this` dress says,  “Baby”~  it is baby-fresh;  soft & delicate, feminine & sweet, and most of all, like every baby~  totally unique!!

Beware! Garden Giants

Dahlia~ giant

Life is full of surprises~ and of course,  being their nature, you never know when or where they are going to pop up!!  With my latest surprise I literally mean, “pop-up!”   Like this,  above-   the first, and most visible thing to see in my garden.

A few weeks ago I received a call from my mom saying  she had bought a large bag of Dahlia tubers, but hadn’t enough room in her garden to plant them all, would I like what she had left? (I have become known as the one to ask if someone has a plant to get rid of , because I can’t refuse them.) I have had a few dahlias in pots for several years and they do very well, so the thought of adding a few more , pleased me. Sure! I’d take them! Did I say a few more? That was my first surprise-

The bag of tubers I was given was about 95% full! I think my mom planted all of 2 tubers! Oh my gosh, I thought, when I looked into this very large, very full bag. Where am I going to plant all of these, and,worse yet, when am I going to find the time to plant them?

Somehow I managed to find a way to get  80% of them planted, (so far.) Most of them came up immediately, but many had already started sprouting in the bag; impatient, I guess. My first flower to open is the one  pictured. I watched the plant’s leaves grow from large to larger. The flower stems seemed to shoot up  4 ” per day!  I never saw small flower buds. I looked one day when I didn’t think the stalk could get much taller, and there was a fist-sized flower bud!

These were definitely not the same variety of dahlia that I have been growing. It was only a few days after I noticed the flower bud, that it began opening. It took a full week to be fully opened as you see it today, but I measured it a few days ago when the outer petals were fully opened and the flower looked huge already-  It measured 6 1/4″ in diameter. I’ve watched it opening the rest of the week, and almost can’t believe what I’ve seen.  These flowers are probably comparable in size to some large sunflowers. I measured the flower again today, now that it is fully opened. It’s 9 1/2″ in diameter!!  I wouldn’t call it beautiful, but it is definitely spectacular-  Most amazingly, today the second bud on this plant is almost to the 6 1/4″ diameter that the first one was a few days ago, and two more buds are at slightly lesser degrees of development, but within a few days, depending on how long this first flower remains,  there will be 4 gigantic monster flowers in my garden- and that’s just on this first plant! My second dahlia to bloom is pink with a light yellow center and is halfway opened right now and showing signs of being equally as huge as my first . And I’ve just spoken of the two dahlias that are the furthest along. There are many more, some in the process of emerging and some beginning their flower stalks.

It shouldn’t be long now before I will be typing from somewhere deep in a freakin-tall, monster-dahlia-forest!

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I said in my previous post that I was going to talk about my second set of note cards, but I’m going to save that for next time. Before I go, I want to give you a sneak preview of the baby dress, (size 1,) that I’m working on and hope to have finished and listed,  soon~  (provided I have no more “free-plant” offers to distract me!)                               IMG_9858 copy Coming Soon!

***One last note~ Please excuse the little “spill” into the margin at the beginning of my blog.  My blog was updated to the latest version and we encountered a problem that we hope to be able to correct soon!

A Few of My Favorite Things

#423 A Few of MY Favorite Things

I know. It’s been way too long since I’ve updated my blog. I have been working on this dress called, A Few of My Favorite Things and I’ve just finished it.

Making this dress has been the strangest experience! I felt as if a magic spell had been cast over me and I wasn’t able to put it down.  None of my other work, including a blog update,  got done. I was sewing until 1:00 A.M.- mainly because I wanted to see what it was going to look like.  I kept thinking, Oh I’m almost finished- might as well keep sewing so I can see-

You’d think by now, after having made close to 450 dresses,  I would know that what looks like just a small area  to finish, can take hours- sometimes days. You would also think that after making so many dresses, the thrill of seeing another one would have worn off. That most definitely wasn’t the case with this dress.   There is so much tiny, intricate detail sewn into this scene, that what seemed like it would take minutes to do, in fact took hours-  For example, if you look at a tiny head of cabbage, it seems like it’s so small, it should take only a few minutes to make one.

What happens is that yes, the area is small- until you picture the width of two strands of thread. It is the width, or thickness, of two strands of thread that has to fill that “small” cabbage space- a width probably about the same size as the width of one of the letters I am typing right now. In comparison, that cabbage space suddenly seems quite large. It takes lots and lots of stitches to fill up that small space- but then, it takes even more stitching to make it look like a cabbage.

If you look closely, you will see that the cabbage is stitched initially in a deep purple thread. Layered over that base is thread of a lighter purple shade to fill-in, and accent certain spots, giving the cabbage depth and more of a leafy look.  Layered on top of the two purples is some white stitching to better define the leaves. What initially looked like it might take a few minutes to complete, in fact, took a whole lot longer- There were many parts of this scene that required multi-layers and many hours, like the cabbages. But I can also say that although I felt  captivated by this dress, I thoroughly enjoyed creating it! I have just finished cutting out my next dress, again a size 4. This dress will be pink and I hope to get started on it this afternoon. I’m looking forward to working on it, but I do hope that I won’t be so captured by this one and will be able to work more realistically  on it, accomplishing other things in my life that need doing as well-

Last week Pascal had another grooming session which again inspired his “groom gloom” attitude and that reminded me that it has been my turn to talk for way too long. The next post is Pascal’s turn, so be sure to look again soon. I know there is a lot he wants to say!

With a Twist of Pink I don’t know what the weather has been like where you are, the past few weeks, but in nothern Ca. last week we had yet another week of beautiful spring weather and I was able to get some photos of the trees in beautiful full bloom. I’m not certain, but I think these trees on the left are plum trees, and the one on the right is a flowering crabapple-  Isn’t it gorgeous? This week it has rained all week which is wonderful because we really need the water, but I’m very happy I was able to catch photos of the trees before the rains came, because they probably knocked most of the beautiful blossoms off~                                                **Flowering Crabapple

Air Time for Me

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So, to steal a few minutes back from Pascal~

In my last post I wanted to give you a preview of the dress that I’m working on, but, as I explained then, Pascal has this way of dominating my thoughts, hence my blog! Since I’m ready to sew the dress pieces together, I thought I could still give you a bit of a preview.

The photo on the left, underneath this first picture is a view of my working area- Notice how neatly organized everything is? This “mess” is totally typical and necessary to my dress designing/making process.

IMG_8355 Next to the dress front you will see a picture torn from an  old calender. I like to have a picture to look at while I work. I especially like to look at these old calender photos because there are always so many things going on in them; lots of mini stories within the whole. I find them great for sparking story and design ideas. You probably won’t notice any correlation between the picture I am looking at and the work on my dress, but in some undefinable way, what I have stitched was probably remotely related to a thought about something I saw in the calender picture. At the very least, I love looking at these pictures when I work.

I think it’s probably very similar to another “necessity” while I work, and that is that I must always have classical music playing. You definitely don’t see Beethoven anywhere in my work, but believe me, ( I know this sounds funny,) but there is a very strong influence of classical music in my  work. Somewhere in my mind these “necessary” elements merge and produce what you see when you look at one of my dresses.

The last photo is the other photo that I had intended for the preview in myIMG_8346 copy last post. At that point I was about halfway finished with the smocking and embroidery, as you will see if you compare this photo with the one at the beginning. I cannot yet refer to the photo at the beginning as being of the finished front. It may be, but I won’t know that until the dress is completed. Often while I am putting a dress together, I’ll see that maybe it would look better with an additional row or two of smocking- or I’ll see a change I want to make in the scene. Sometimes I assemble the dress without wanting to change a thing. Right now I think I’m finished with the front, but we’ll see~  I plan now,  to begin sewing the dress together. This normally takes me about two days, so hopefully, in 2-3 days I will have this size 2 dress listed for sale. You will be able to find it on my website, as well as in my etsy shop .

* I apologize for the gaps in the text. Everytime I insert a photo it creates these gaps, and I haven’t been able to fix them back again~

Good Things Happen!

Wake-up! It's Spring!Pascal and I just returned from our morning walk. We are still having beautiful spring-like weather. It’s really becoming convincing, even though I know better~  I’ve never known the end of January, beginning of Febuary, to be spring; not this early- at least not in northern Ca. It’s really making me anxious to go out and work in the garden!

I forgot to announce in my last blog, some good news! If you’ve been to my etsy shop or my website you may have already noticed~  I’ve decided because of the depressed state of the economy, that the $25.00 reduction in the price of each dress for my sale that began in December ’08 and  ran through the end of January, ’09 will remain indefinitely. The current prices reflect what will now be considered the regular price, rather than returning to the pre-Dec.sale amount.

The other wonderful news is that the CPSIA law that was supposed to become effective Feb. 10 has been given a one-year “stay” so that it can be further reviewed and necessary changes made before being put into effect. I am very hopeful that the focus will be on the source of the problem, lead in the paint of imported toys from China,  and possibly,  in some metals used in children’s jewelry. There is an excellent article in today’s  Etsy Storque giving all of the details of the ruling.

And finally, I mentioned in an earlier post, that I have discovered so many wonderful shops at Etsy that I would like to share with you, and I want to feature some of these shops and their items from time to time. So~ being the beautiful “spring” day that it is, NOW seems like a great time to get started!

In honor of the CPSIA law being granted a “stay,” and because those of us involved in handmade products for children want the very best and safest items for children, it seems fitting that I start by featuring some of the wonderful unique, one-of-a-kind products for children that are now available for you to buy because of the “stay” granted.

The first shop from Etsy that I’d like to feature is my friend’s,  NeedfulThingsofSalem shop. This shop has a wonderful variety of one-of-a-kind items ranging from hand-knit, and hand-crocheted, to sewn items, quilts, stuffed animals and many other fun items. I would particularly like to feature some of the beautiful  creations for babies in this shop.

One of my favorites is the beautiful crocheted baby blanket in white with baby-blue trim around its border. This would make a beautiful gift for a newborn baby and would be perfect for either a girl or boy. There is a cute pair of matching hand-crocheted booties that would make a lovely “pairing” with the blanket.

Another of my favorites for babies in the shop, also happens to be a blanket.  This blanket is totally different from the one I just mentioned,  and reflects the amazing and diverse skills of this artisan.  A hand-appliqued, Teddy Bears and Hearts, baby quilt, is created in beautiful, soft, pastel colors with a deeper blue border. To complete the baby’s room, there is a matching, hand-quilted wall hanging. Can’t you just picture these two in a baby’s room?

Among the other wonderful baby items that are my favorite, the following two, either individually, or as a set,  would make wonderful baby gifts. The first is an adorable, cuddly, stuffed, white bunny, just right for hugging! Either by themselves, or combined with the bunny, these delicate white booties made from Irish lace, would make a beautiful gift for a baby girl.

There are so many wonderful items to be found there, and a wide and reasonable price range;  treat  yourself to a fun shopping experience. Go explore the many handmade “treasures” of NeedfulThingsofSalem~  Enjoy!

Hand-Smocked Long Dress size 4L

If having a long dress in a size 4 interests you, I recommend  taking a look at my first one in the shop. The cotton-poly fabric is a beautiful shade of lavender. I’ve hand-smocked the design in lavender embroidery floss with a few of the rows smocked in white.

Any little girl would fall in love with the shy,  white and brown bunny that is hand- embroidered in the center of the smocking. Peering out from behind a  cluster of  long-stemmed flowers embroidered in shades of purple, pink, yellow and white, we wonder what the bunny is watching. Perhaps your little girl would have some thoughts about that- ?

The sleeves are trimmed in lace and extra flowers are embroidered at the hemline, sleeves, and button placket.

Of course a complimentary pair of hand embroidered socks comes with every long dress just as it does with the short ones, so I invite you to come take a look. This could just be  the special dress you have been looking for.