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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been eying peoplesnotepad projects with increasing interest. A useful and simple gift with endless possibilities for personalization. Originally, when I decided I would make some notepads for teacher gifts, I was thinking I would gocco the cover and upcycle some random office paper for the interior. I was going to use a variety, including plain, lined and quad rule.

Then I stumbled upon a goldmine of scratch pad paper. Literally. I kept tripping over a box of the kids’ old schoolwork. When I finally sat down to sort and purge, I realized how much of it was single-sided copies. As I grumbled about the waste of paper, I had a little light bulb moment.

I used the kids’ old papers for the interior and cut up an old calendar with Hiroshige prints for the cover. Some quality time with the papercutter, a little padding compound and voila!

Here you go, teachers, jot away!

I think I salvaged at least 3 reams of paper (and recycled even more). I have a nagging feeling that there is more lurking somewhere. (Un)fortunately, there’s little risk of me running out of scratch pad materials any time soon.

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Most of the time I am grateful for my kids being in a small school for the personal attention it allows, the low student-teacher ratio, etc.  This week, I am grateful for the fact that they only have to bring 11 Valentine cards each.  Much more than that I would surely go insane.

I didn’t give much thought or planning to the Valentine card making process.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  If I had planned and set up specific expectations, I am sure the stress would have been too much for all of us.  Instead, I cut some cardstock to size, tossed some supplies on the table and let them go at it.  Now, when the stress of results that don’t meet my standards gets too much for me, I just step out of the fray.

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In the end, the kids get to give out truly original Valentine cards and I get to practice letting go.

December has been unusually busy. Between various Christmas events, a round of strep throat that swept through the household and many extra hours of work for Brad, it feels like we are just now coming up for air.  Hence, the unintended radio silence around these parts.

I did manage to make a few gifts but, compared to last year, Christmas crafting was scaled back considerably.

Patchwork dish towels for teacher gifts.

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A shawl for my mom.

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A dress for Lizzie.

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Sarah was the recipient of the rest of my handmade efforts.  Our tradition for giving gifts to the kids is that each kid gets 3 gifts from us (3 was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for them).  They get a book, game/toy and an article of clothing.  (Santa is only responsible for the contents of the stockings.)

This year, Sarah’s toy was a bed for her doll.  We bought the bed from IKEA and Brad painted it white.  I made a red ticking mattress and a quilt.  I made the quilt with Jenean‘s lovely fabrics.  This is the perfect quilting project for me – small and manageable.  I quilted and bound it by hand.

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Sarah seems to like it.

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Trying to think of a book to get Sarah proved to be a challenge.  There is no shortage of books in our little house.  With two book-loving older siblings, it was hard to think of a book to buy that isn’t already on the shelves.  I had noticed how much she loves to look at Lizzie and Joshua’s photo albums and I was inspired.

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I decided to make an alphabet book with photos of Sarah and things she knows.  I wasn’t sure if a traditional photo album was going to stand up to frequent flipping by a toddler.  Instead,  I cut cardstock to 8×8 and coordinating pieces to 1×8.  I mounted the photos and text on the 8×8.  I then laminated the 1×8 and 8×8 side by side, with a couple millimeters space between.  This space allows the pages to open flat.

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The biggest mistake I made was in the layout.  The couplets are on opposite sides of the same paper, so you have to turn the page to read the rhyming line.  Should have had them facing.

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There are a couple of other annoyances, like a page or two on which the laminating creased and some wonky holes for the binding.  Overall, it was a funny little project and the kids all love to read it.  It is especially sweet listening to Joshua read it to Sarah.

It all started with the idea for the sunflower. With the math curse still going strong, I ended up with spirograph on the brain. You should see my sketchbook. Pages upon pages of spirographs. Although I had printed enough sunflowers for the swap, I decided to print some spirograph cards, too.

Great in theory. Not as great in practice. I filled an 8.5 x 11 page with spiros and placed that randomly on the mat to burn the screen. I realized I had some problems once I started printing. First of all, my cards were already cut to 5.5 x 8.5, which made the print orientation awkward. As a result, I had issues with ink pooling at the edges of the card. I also noticed that the screen didn’t burn completely. Argh.

After an extended argument with my inner-perfectionist, I decided to go ahead and send them. (Note the fact that I didn’t photograph the really bad ones.)

Now that my cards are out the door and on their way, I have my sights set on a couple other gocco projects. Someday, it’s rightful owner is going to reclaim it. I need to make good use of it while I can! I also have a couple linoleum blocks I want to carve. Then there is the new, irrational NEED to try screenprinting. It is safe to say that the blame rests squarely on Lotta and Lena‘s shoulders.  Damn them and their inspiring books!

For those of you who don’t know, I was born into a family of math people. Serious math people. My dad just retired after 37 years as a professor at the University of Memphis. He led the U.S. Math Olympiad team, including a gold medal-winning team, to at least half a dozen IMO (yep, it’s the Olympics for high school math geeks). I’m sure his curriculum vitae is a tome. I could go on and on, but I won’t. If curiosity gets the better of you, just Google “Cecil Rousseau” and settle in for a good read. At minimum, the first 3 pages were about him. It is bizarre.

My mom would never claim to be a “mathematician”. She did, however, teach math at the university for many years, mostly remedial courses. My sister majored in math, taught high school math, and is now a professor of math education. I was surrounded.

Just imagine my childhood! Dinners dominated by mathematical problems and solutions. The house littered with legal pads full of incomprehensible graphs and numbers. Apparently, my sister sucked all of the mathematical prowess out of the gene pool. I just suck.

Then I drew a sunflower. I was focused on the petals, until Brad mentioned how much he’s always loved the pattern of the seeds. To which I responded, “there’s a pattern to the seeds?”

Once I paid attention, I was enthralled. A double set of spirals going opposite directions. Lovely. The number of seeds in each spiral are adjacent Fibonacci numbers. Magnificent. I had to try to get the pattern right! After searching through books, on the internet and failing miserably at drawing such things free-hand, I finally ended up with this:

Can you see the pattern? This doesn’t really do justice to the real thing, but I tried.

I guess mathematics isn’t so bad. At least the pretty kind.

Immediately after finishing my Little Red Riding Hood block, Brad decided he needed to try his hand. He sat down and sketched a heron. On the one hand, I can’t begrudge him, since the carving tools I’ve been using are his. I do, however, feel a little shown up by his freehand rendering.

I decided to try my hand with a bird, too. Something more realistic. A move away from my doodling. I had to study our copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds quite intensely in order to get close enough. Here’s my attempt at a black-capped chickadee, what do you think?

My ability to print them is thanks to Anna. She kindly loaned me her box o’ goodies: inks, brayer, baren, etc. I managed to restrain myself from printing immediately upon my return home at 11 pm, but pulled everything out at 7 am to give it a go. My birthday list is already a bit out of control, but these tools may have to be added to the list. Also, want to add Lotta Prints to that list. So. Much. Fun.

I’ve also been trying some watercolors for a touch of color.

I’ve pulled out the Sibley again and am studying a robin. And a loon. Ooo, maybe I should try a chicken.

I’m also refining Little Red, but haven’t printed her yet.

On a completely unrelated note, let me recount a conversation between Joshua and myself as we walked out of the pharmacy:

“What’s in the bag?”

“My medicines.”

“Why do you need medicine? Are you sick?”

“You might say that. One is for high blood pressure. The other one is so I am not sad all the time.”

“Sad? And mad?”

“Mad too, I guess.”

“Good. You are mad ALL the time.”

“Huh?”

“I’m serious. You are.”

Feeling good right now. I’ll be in my room taking several Zoloft, if you need me.

I need to take up another craft like I need a giant hole in the head.  Nevertheless, I got a bee in my bonnet to try block printing.  On my trip to Dick Blick, I was tempted to purchase a starter kit, but resisted the temptation and just picked up some E-Z Cut Printing Blocks and mounted linoleum.  Brad has a set of Japanese woodblock carving tools that I am using, so I didn’t need to buy a linoleum handle and blades.

I am not skilled in the ways of drawing.  At best, I doodle:  hedgehogs, houses, trees, birds, etc.  Little Red Riding Hood has been a favorite doodle subject of late, so she became my first print subject, too.

She’s cute for a first try.  I am not loving the E-Z Cut.  It is too soft and crumbly.  I was a little afraid that the linoleum would be too hard, but based on the leaf I carved, I think I prefer the lino.  I plan to pick up some more of the linoleum and try Red again.  I was trying to manage printing with stamp pads, rather than messing with the ink, brayer, etc.  I think I will have to cave and get some ink and a brayer on the next supply run.

The good thing is that Brad is doing some carving too, so I can claim the supplies are for us both.  😉

A golfer, I am most certainly not. I do, however, have a new use for golf tees. Check it out:

A golf tee + a temporary glue dot = a convenient way to hold a small wooden doll for painting and varnishing. These gals are drying after an application of varnish. The tees are stuck into an upside-down styrofoam bowl. I fancy myself pretty clever (for the moment).

I ordered a variety of wooden people from Casey’s a few months ago with the intention of letting the kids paint and embellish them. I also loved the idea of making a kit with the dolls, paper and fabric scraps to give as gifts a la Liesl. Alas, I have ended up hording them for myself to make wee kokeshi dolls.

I am not very adept at painting tiny faces, but I have learned to make friends with the sandpaper. I have lots of little scraps of Japanese papers and origami paper that I decoupage on as “kimono”. I have other ideas of ways to embellish them, but I want to concentrate on my painting skills for now. I just keep buying smaller and smaller brushes, hoping that it will help.

I did finally let the kids paint some of my the dolls today. I’ll try to get pictures tomorrow. Bet you can’t guess what Joshua made?

and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a blogger finally bothers to post and no one is around to read it, does it really matter? Probably not, but here I am anyway.

December was filled with plenty of Christmas-related crafting. One might think I was out to rid the world of cold necks given the number of scarves I made: 5 Rubblework , 1 Bainbridge and 1 Branching Out. I didn’t take any pictures of the latter two. Maybe I’ll bug the recipients into providing photo documentation. Next, I want to make one of each for myself.  What?  My neck gets cold too.
After all the scarves were made, I sewed pencil rolls for a couple of small friends.

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Clearly they are a couple of my favorite small people, since I do not give out happy hedgehog fabric to just anyone! Aren’t those pencils cool? I got some from Joanna as part of the Fall Swap and was excited to find them locally. Completes the woodland theme, don’t you think? I also made some small notebooks. I mean, what good are cool pencils without a new notebook or two?

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I did a couple freezer paper stencil t-shirts for my sister-in-law and her husband. They are avid bicyclists, so I went with a bike theme. I was pretty disappointed with the results, but sent them off regardless. Neither were very crisp and this one has some obvious spots that needed another coat or two.

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The stencil is based on a Japanese road sign that marks the bike lane. It just says jitensha (bicycle).

I tried my hand at a little decoupage on a box for Lizzie.

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I may need to leave this to those with more talent than I possess. (Or at least I’ll try something without curves first.)

I have a growing love for bird images. They are rising in the ranks to contend with hedgehogs and elephants in the kawaii (cute) quotient. When we decorated the nursery for Sarah, we included a bird mobile (a family favorite) and framed prints from this set. I have been adding bird fabrics to my stash at an alarming rate and have only the vaguest notion of what I will do with them. A swatch portrait to add to the nursery, perhaps?

I made thank you cards for Sarah’s birthday:

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And a t-shirt as a birthday present for one of Lizzie’s friends:

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I originally sized the images to use on a onesie for Sarah. Clearly the issue of scale escaped me when I decided to use them on a t-shirt for an 8 year old. The branch is painted on with a freezer paper stencil and the bird and leaves are applique. I am really loving the combination of the stencil and applique techniques (thanks for the inspiration, Sarah).

I embroidered this little tree + birds recently, too.

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What’s next? Maybe elephants (like here, here or here).