I made another batch of merit badges on Friday afternoon. Despite having NSFW language on them, they are actually for the authors who are writing chapters for the book I’m co-editing about teaching books with taboo and controversial content. My authors turned in draft chapters this weekend and I’ll be delivering merit badges and dark chocolate to them this week. I tried to make this round of merit badges the same size as the last batch (about 1 inch in diameter) but the text was not readable. I have three more to make this afternoon and I’m going to try a darker color thread for the text which I think will help with readability. Although, as you can see with the “I heart swears” badge below, the thread connecting the letters is very visible when it is black. More experimenting required.
On Saturday afternoon I had a group of friends over for a Crafternoon (after my friend Wendy mentioned in a volunteer profile that she could “be found sipping cocktails at crafternoon parties”). I made French 75s, which were delicious and went down a little too easy, and my friends knit, sewed, worked on photobooks, cut paper, and were generally lovely to hang out with, but very hard to photograph.
I decided that what I needed to do was to wind a hank of yarn without a swift. This is the SECOND time in one week I’ve thought this was a good idea and the second time I ended up with hours of untangling knots. Hard not to see the choice to try and wind without a swift and against my better judgement (and the resulting knots) as a metaphor for life.
This is a project I’ve had in mind for awhile and finally got around to completing it this week. It was born out of the high levels of self-congratulation I feel when I do something responsible, like going to the grocery store when I’d rather be reading a book or making a week of dinners without ordering out once. Sadly, no one seems to give out gold stars for being an adult and doing the boring, responsible tasks that are necessary to keep life going. These grown-up merit badges are for my sisters-in-law, who both work from home while taking care of 3 young children (they would both say that their job is being a mom and they happen to do a little work on the side, but seriously, they both work like crazy and take care of the children). They deserve way more than a merit badge.
I made the merit badges on a Brother digital embroidery machine at the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab. The images are from a google icon set, that I made into badges in photoshop. There is not yet open source software for digital embroidery machines, so the staff at the Fab Lab helped me convert my jpeg into a vector image that could then be imported into SewArt which creates the embroidery file.
Once the badges were stitched, I cut them out and added a layer of Heat’n Bond to the back so they could be ironed on to…I don’t know what, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I also put a layer of Fray Check on the outline so I could comfortably cut close to the stitching. To finish the presentation, I remembered that I had seen, in a batch of ephemera, some cards that Boy Scout merit badges were presented with. I did a little googling, and found these that I based my presentation cards on.
Once I had my images created (which took the most time, both in moving from idea to actual assembly in photoshop and converting to an embroidery pattern), the digital embroidery machine was very easy to use. Each color change was prompted by the machine and the only real work I had to do was to thread the machine multiple times. This design is simple, compared to what the machines are capable of and is only just a beginning.
I just started to write something about when I started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t apologize for not posting and then went looking for that first post, only to find this one from two years ago that basically says what I was going to write. But it also contains these sentences, that I had entirely forgotten:
The truth, for me, is that life happens sometimes in a way that doesn’t leave much space for creativity. Or the space is so small, timid and rare, I don’t want to point it out to the world, lest it run away. I’m in one of those places now–when work and life and family seem to be taking up all the available oxygen in the room.
I think I might now, finally, two years after writing those sentence, be crawling my way back to a more public creative space. I’ve been steadily making things in the quite of my life and sharing them with friends, but haven’t been sharing those things publicly beyond the occasional half-assed Instagram or Facebook photo.
I spent the morning updating my Ravelry project page with the knitting I did for Christmas and planning my next project. Who knows, perhaps this afternoon I’ll pull out my sewing machine or maybe I’ll retreat to the couch with a good book, but for now, I’m feeling like saying hello and look what I made!
My niece asked for stationary to write to her pen pals for her birthday, and being a person who is quite fond of old-fashioned-delivered-by-the-post-office-mail, I assembled a pen pal pouch for her. Inside there is stationary, stamped envelopes (with vintage postage, natch), stickers, and a journal for keeping notes.
Her current career ambition is to be an astronaut, so I picked out all of my space exploration themed stamps for her envelopes.
The pouch is a simple zipper pouch that I lightly quilted. I love the little cell phone charm that I put on the zipper and I’ll be sad when my supply of them are gone. Here’s to more snail mail correspondence!
Toddlers are my creative muse at this point. There is definitely an appeal to making something small and cute. All of these projects (with the exception of the leg warmers) are easily completed in an hour or two and will be enthusiastically received.
I’m headed to Chicago for 24 hours on Thursday to see a friend from college who has a four year old and a new infant. We will be dining out with the kids (said friend is a wee bit obsessive about trying new restaurants) so I made this zippy pouch from an unused x+y block to hold crayons and other little treats for the toddler to play with at the restaurants.
It’s a simple top zipper pouch (which I learned to make here, but these days just know how to make). I used a light interfacing on the back of the quilt square and the lining and then quilted the exterior fabric with straight lines.
The leg warmers were a birthday request from my niece. I knit them flat (details on ravelry) and seamed them with a mattress stitch (which I finally understood after reading this on knitty). Like most of my knitting projects, I was lazy about doing a test swatch and these are going to be baggier than I had originally hoped, but the ribbing at the ankle should keep them in place.
A couple of my nieces have Birthdays coming up which has provided some much needed inspiration around here.
This week is Agora Days at my school, which means I am teaching a class on Yarn Bombing and another called The Jane Austen Auxiliary Society. In the Jane Austen class we will be spending two days on dancing and two days on letter writing and card games. The quills and walnut ink that lettermo participant Mea Clift sent will be put to good use when students try to write in the style of Ms. Austen.
In other news, I’ve signed up for Leslie Keating’s Handprinted Fabric Swap which I’m a dead excited about. I’ve wanted to do it for awhile and missed the sign ups both times, but this time I signed up on the first day and am already playing with ideas. I won’t have my swap group until March 3, but some practice before then is not a bad idea. Also, I need to make sure to use my real camera this week. Instagram is fun and all, but I am not so good with the iPhonography (I can’t believe that is really a thing).
I’ve successfully completed the first week of the Month of Letters Challenge. I mailed 12 letters, including valentines to my nieces and nephews, a couple postcards to other lettermo participants, a letter to a college roomate, and a couple letters of introduction to other lettermo people.
The valentines were all well received; my nephew Lucas apparently said that he no longer likes letter than come in plain envelopes and he needs a letter opener so that he can save the envelopes forever. I <3 five year old.
I also participated in a letterpress card making workshop and made my card letter themed. Those cards are only now printed and folded and will be what I send out in week 2. I have found myself getting into a rhythm of decorating envelopes on the weekend and writing letters during the week. I had a couple busy days where I thought I might not have time to write a letter, but found that there are always 5 or 10 minutes windows when I’m waiting for someone that I usually spend clicking around on the computer. If I have a postcard or stationary handy, I can usually dash off a letter in that amount of time.
Next week I’m on jury duty which, from all reports, involves a lot of sitting and waiting. I’m planning on taking my letter writing materials with me to the court house. The post office is right across the street, so I’ll be able to drop them off on my way to the car.
Week 2 envelopes waiting for their letters.
I was following links on the internet last weekend when I found information about a man who sells unused vintage stamps. I dropped him an email on Saturday morning and today I held in my hand an amazing collection of unused US postal stamps. I had asked for balloons, dinosaurs, rocket ships, and animals, but am most delighted with the stamps I didn’t ask for. He included a number of postal themed stamps which are delightfully meta to be using during The Month of Letters.
My favorite single stamp is this chicken, celebrating the Centennial of the American Poultry Industry. A very important event in 1948.
I only recently realized that you could use vintage postage to send letters (but when I think about it, of course you can. The PO can’t put an expiration date on stamps) and I am excited to have some in my hot little hands. Remember that we used to have to lick stamps to make them stick? Hot hands are a liability with those stamps.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for the following announcement:
You may have noticed that the sewing has been on hold for awhile around here (with a few exceptions) but I haven’t completely stopped being creative. In the last year, I’ve become increasingly taken with handmade letters. It started when I first met Donovan and Kathy of the Letter Writers Alliance at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago. I’ve been writing more letters since that meeting and then in November I noticed a post of the LWA blog about throwing a mail art party and I was completely hooked. Now I’m contemplating participating in the Month of Letters challenge.