Category Archives: A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Day 14! – Heartfelt and Handmade: An Apologia

Well peeps, this is it! The final day…*sad face*. I have enjoyed myself so much. Every time I do one of these blogfests I always end up with more incredible friends, more incredible patterns/recipes/projects and so much more appreciation for just what a wonderfully generous community the crafting one is!

In order to get through today I turned to baking. Baking fixes everything…and you get to eat it afterwards. Perfect! So I rustled up a batch of the Muesli Bars that were in yesterdays post. Yummy and very good with my iced latte that I made to Leethal’s great recipe.

And while watching the Wimbledon Men’s Final, I finished off my ‘Sweetie’ hat from Day 6, that I am now lovingly calling my ‘Crown of Leaves’ :) It is such a sweet project, fast and satisfying, and sits really nicely. I only did 5 rows of plain, between the end of the lace pattern and the start of the decreases for the top of the hat, to make it sit snugly on the back of my head. The perfect summer hat!

And so today I will leave you with one last thought, provided by Lilycobweb, the person who taught me how to knit and crochet. Thank you to everyone who was involved in this project…I’ll be doing proper thank you’s tomorrow (as well as telling you what really happened to the missing Day 11 :)

Heartfelt and Handmade – An Apologia

by Lilycobweb

AMDD is now drawing to a close. As an avid daily reader, I will miss the blog posts that bring together such fascinating elements from the minds of creative folk web-wide and world-wide. I have noticed a slender thread running through a number of the posts, from the Pilgrimage Cuffs to Susan Moloney’s amazing mixed-media pieces. This is the idea of Art or Craft as memoir or personal history.

This is not a new idea, but it’s certainly one worth revisiting. It requires an understanding of the value of anything handmade, not in terms of the quality of the materials, the time spent in its making, or the skill it takes to fashion it. Another leap of the imagination is required. You must imagine the flow of energy between the creator and the object, the music of an idea or design coming into being in a joyous, exciting way. That is what gives art and craft its magic.

It’s a personal crusade of mine to spread that message. Craft is widely misunderstood. I cavil slightly when people say (and they do!) ‘That must be very therapeutic for you’. I don’t do it solely to calm my shattered nerves. A course of high-dose Vitamin B would do that more effectively. I do it because it is how I give expression to an idea, a form, a function, a design, or a combination of colours. That is what makes the process calming and fulfilling-the fact that you are transforming your creative energy into something real.

An added dimension to that wonderful process of becoming is when it has a specific significance for the creator or the recipient, when found or significant objects are incorporated into the design and the making. Then, the value of the creation is so much more enriched, for the maker and the eventual recipient. American patchwork quilts are the obvious example, notably the AIDS quilts made in the ’80s as a way to commemorate the victims and console the survivors. It’s a perfect example of a community response to trauma through creativity and craft. There are lots of other examples, and I’d like to hear yours, if you’d care to comment. Otherwise, this may become a PhD thesis….

In pondering these worthy notions, I began to think about my personal history of the handmade. I have always had a huge fascination for things that are made by hand. It’s a family thing. My sister Brid and I go into transports of joy when we enter craft shops and art galleries, much to the dismay of our loved ones. They know it will be a whole-afternoon affair. Brid has gifted me so many lovely handmade things over the years….earrings from far-flung places are her specialty, and she had a rare talent for choosing the perfect ones for me. They are often translucent green (to match my eyes, I like to think) Thanks, Brid, and we have a date when you come home from Portugal!

I learned my craft of choice (crochet, for those of you who don’t know me) when I was a little girl and crocheted up a storm until my teens. Then, I abandoned it for cooler pursuits, like painting and life-drawing. (Well, at age 18, drawing the nude male form beat the double-treble or the bullion stitch hands down! ) In time, I abandoned those pursuits too, and just did nothing that filled that creativity space in a satisfying way.

That was when I got obsessed with other people’s work-buying it, hoarding it, hoping some of its magic would rub off on me. In 1980, when I was a young student, I remember buying the most amazing crocheted afghan in shades of red, grey and black in the Bloemenmarket in Amsterdam for 4 guilders. That’s probably about 3 euros. I kept it for years, then gifted it to a friend when she had her first baby. Shameful to admit, I sometimes wish I hadn’t, so much did I love that blanket!

I remember every handmade thing I ever bought, the joy of the purchase and sheer delight if it was a bargain. I could tell you many stories, but the point of it all is this. I was just flirting with my own creativity then, not realising the need for it to be liberated in some way, any way. How really didn’t matter. It just needed to be done. And it was.

I buy just as many handmade things these days, but for different reasons. I don’t need the vicarious thrill anymore. I create myself these days. No matter how it is perceived by anyone else, what is important is that I do it. It’s very important for me.

What follows is a list. A list of handmade things that resonate with meaning and history-some I’ve made myself, some were made by family and friends. Treasured and shared, they have brought a lot of joy. That’s the point of the whole thing. I invite you to add to the list and share your treasured handmade thing, something you made or were gifted. Just comment below. I’ll be fascinated. I always am. Thanks for listening.

  • Kelly Donovan’s crocheted wool scarf. A gift from her to me before we’d even met.
  • A ‘Labour of Love’ or a crocheted cot coverlet-. When I was pregnant with my son Keian, I started making a fine lace cot cover in very intricate Irish crochet stitches. (I was convinced I was having a girl!) I didn’t finish until he was 15 years old. Artist  and great friend, Marie-Claire Douglas of Seacrest Galleries, convinced me to frame it for an exhibition of textile art she curated in 2007. I’m proud I finished it in the end.
  • Flannel nightdresses that came from Iran. My mother-in-law is a seamstress. I didn’t meet her for 10 years after I married her son. When we had Parisa, and then Maryam, she would send us these amazing flannel nighties for them in her unique pattern complete with frilled yoke. I still have them all, and nothing evokes memories of their babyhoods more than the made-with-love nightwear sent by a woman I’d never met.
  • A Summer Garden. This wallhanging was made as a group project at Northern Ireland Baha’i Summer School in 2006, I think. Every group member made a flower or a leaf. (I can still remember who made what!). Zhenia Mahdi-Nau, friend and artist extraordinaire, helped me to join the motifs and mount it on a stretched canvas. It is now in the private collection of Tina Salter.
  • My daughter Soheila has sensory issues and hated to wear a hat when she was a child. I made her a beanie from the very softest chenille I could find. I was HONOURED that she wore it until it didn’t fit her anymore. She loved to wear it when I was hoovering-to block out the noise!
  • Queen of the Fairies- the most amazingly intricate cross-stitch artwork I have ever seen! This was a gift to me from my lovely cousin Angela Moriarty, when I visited her in Huddersfield in September last year. It looks like a painting, and I need to post a photo worthy of it.

Lilycobweb is a crochet designer and artist from Ireland, who has been crafting since she was little. She has passed her incredible skills on to many people, not least her daughter…me! You can contact her via her etsy store: lilycobweb.etsy.com

Day 13 – Getting a Grilling: Interview with Jillian van Ness

Well it’s nearly the very last day here at AMDD headquarters and I am sad. I like blogging about all this stuff, and I know I don’t need to make excuses to do, I can do it any time, but it feels nice to make a little event out of it. In fact I am thinking seriously about putting together an e-zine to release twice (maybe more, maybe less) a year, but that idea is still very much in the ‘floating round my head’ stage.

And so on to today’s goodies. I feel the need to make something tasty to go with my yummy old brew coffee that is working its magic in my fridge right now. So I’m including my adapted recipe for ridiculously tasty, ridiculously easy muesli bars…healthy and yummy!

Also here is a few thoughts and lots of inspiring photos from artist/musician/superwoman Jillian van Ness. I hope you enjoy…

Getting a Grilling – Jillian van Ness

Jillian van Ness is an artist who is very hard to put in a box! More than just ‘make art’, she seems to be ‘living art’ or at least making it constantly, spontaneously and without regard for different mediums, genres, materials and styles. She is a musician, songwriter, book-maker, crafter, writer, traveller, painter, photographer and Permaculture enthusiast. She currently lives in California. You can contact her and hear her music at myspace.com/jillianvanness

I was fortunate enough to meet her while attending music school and have found her creative abandon inspiring. She shared these few thoughts and photos with me recently…

1* Describe a typical day in your life.

Oh goodness. A “typical” day in my life. I’m really looking forward to that! My partner, Adam and I recently returned from a stint abroad, living and working in Ethiopia and have been essentially living out of our truck, searching for a home in the States from coast to coast. (If any of you know of a place for a teacher, an artist, and some gardening, outdoor adventure lovers, please get in touch!) A typical day for me right now starts with a fruit bowl, herbal tea, and a walk with my dog, and ends with a hot bath in sea salt and lavender. I also carry a stack of sticky Post-it notes around with me in my purse or pocket to write down any creative idea I have during the day. When I’m on the run and don’t have time to get out my art supplies, this helps me feel like I still have an outlet for all my creative energy and am honoring my artistic side, no matter how fleeting or realistic it may be. A typical day for me right now is very uncensored and very much about being in the flow.

 

2* How would you describe your ‘Artistic Style’?

I would call my artistic style “intentionally spontaneous” and always incorporating partial if not total elements of sustainability, recycling, up-cycling, etc. I’m a collector, so when I find objects, I sit with them awhile and wait for them to tell me the best way to use them or incorporate them into a piece. Sometimes I don’t even use that object in a tangible sense. Later on, it may become the inspiration for or subject of a children’s song or a greeting card.

I’m also a student of the Permaculture movement, working to holistically integrate my life as much as possible. Over time, I’ve noticed how one Permaculture principle in particular has wriggled its way into my creative practice, and that’s this idea that,”The problems are the solutions.”

When I hit a wall or spill, break, lose, crack, falter, or the original vision just falls completely to pieces… I find that everything’s better when I just allow that new reality unfold: my reactions, my attitude, and ultimately, the piece or project I’m working on are always better for it. Think of it as an exercise in Trust. Trust that everything will be okay in the end.

3* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/writing/music at the moment.

I”ve recently completed my first installation piece called, “The Last Apothecary” which exhibited last week in San Francisco, CA… and even though I’m tired, I’m still pretty excited about the concept and other spin-off projects that may come from it. I created the piece in response to a call for Eco-Art around the theme of “Water” (and the political & social implications of the element).

-Quick fire-

~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? Interestingly Pretty

~Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles

~Boxers or Y-fronts? Boxers

~Abstract or Realism? Realism

~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) Anything as long as it’s curly!

~Clooney or Depp? Depp. c’mon.

~Classic or Modern? Modern

~Custard or ice-cream? Ice-cream! Gelato!

~World Cup or World Series? World Cup

~What’s your favourite colour? I love blues… Caribbean to cerulean.

~When are you happiest? When I’m outdoors or submerged in water.

Muesli Bars

adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Express’

Ingredients:

  • 1 x 397g can condensed milk
  • 250g jumbo oats
  • 100g raisins
  • 200g mixed seeds…I love pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, poppy, anything you like…
  • 125g almonds…I like mine with a mixture of whole (big and crunchy) and sliced (blend in with the jumbo oats really nicely)
  • anything else you like really…add chocolate chips for naughty ones or cranberries for sweet n’ sour. Why not try peanuts, hazelnuts or walnuts instead of almonds? The original recipe calls for shredded coconut as well, which I don’t like, but hey! In fact, if you have leftover, never-going-to-get-eaten muesli lying at the back of the cupboard, why not throw that in too…the more the merrier :)

Method:

Preheat over at 130 C and throughly grease a 23 x 33 x 4 cm tin…better yet grease baking paper so you can lift it out or use a disposable tin.

Warm the condensed milk in a pan ’til runny.

Mix together all your dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the warmed condensed milk and blend throughly until everything is coated and sticky.

Press your mixture into your tin…it’s super sticky at this point so hand may have to be used.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from over and let cool for 15 mins before cutting into 16 or so chunky bars.

And enjoy…

Day 12 – Heart Strings

Hello all this sunny Friday! For those who are wondering, and can count, yes indeed Day 11 has gone AWOL! A very last minute job came up for me and I jumped at the chance to be involved and unfortunately the blog suffered. It was a great day though and I have photos and will write all about it after AMDD is all over.

It make up for my naughtiness today I’m publishing my own crochet pattern called ‘Heart Strings’. It’s sweet little hearts, all crocheted together in one continuous line (so only a start and finish ends to weave in – hurray!). It’s alternative bunting or decorations so that while you might not want to wear your heart on your sleeve, you can still have them hanging close by. I love them hanging in curtains or threaded through trees with fairy lights. I have given away a few strings of them and am curently making more, so here is the pattern and I’ll be posting pictures of my finished strands through out the weekend. I hope you love them as much as I do :)

Heart Strings

by Parisa Roohipour


Materials:

  • 1 ball 8 ply/DK yarn…I’m using Biggan Design First Cross Merino 8ply.
  • 3.5 mm hook (I like my hearts to be a little firm, but if this is too tight for you use a 4mm hook)
  • needle to weave in ends.
  • beads, ribbons or embroidery are really beautiful additions to these hearts

Each heart made is 7 cm wide and 7 cm tall (at longest points).

Abbreviations:

  • sl st – slip stitch (creates no height)
  • dc – double crochet
  • ch – chain

This pattern is written in AMERICAN crochet.

Pattern:

*Ch 3.

2 dc into bottom chaing. turn. (equals 3 dc)

Ch 3. 2 dc. 2 dc into top of turning chain. turn. (equals 5 dc)

Ch 3. 4 dc. 2 dc into top of turning chain. turn. (equals 7 dc)

Ch 3. 6 dc. 2 dc into top of turning chain. turn. (equals 9 dc)

Ch 3. 8 dc. 2 dc into top of turning chain. turn. (equals 11 dc)

Do not make a chain. Make 8 dc into the 3rd st along. Skip 12st. Sl st into next st. Skip 2 sts. Make 8 dc into the next st. Then sl st into the top of the turning chaining.

Now edge your heart by making sl st. all down the side, up the other side (when you reach the point of the heart the 1st time, sl st 3 times into the point and continue on…all other times bring your yarn across the point and just continue to sl st up the other side). Then make 2 sl st. into the back loop of each of the dc in the top of the heart, ending where you began.**

This becomes the start of your next heart. From this point repeat * to ** until you have bunting long enough. As you make the hearts they should start on the opposite side of where the last heart started. This way the hearts alternate sides they sit on and balance each other.

And voila, you have beautiful ‘heart strings’ to remind you of all the love…

Getting a Grilling: An Interview with Lee Meredith

Getting a Grilling: An Interview with Lee Meredith a.k.a. Leethal

Lee Meredith is a blogger, crafter, knit designer, photographer, yarn spinner, recycler and inspire-er (thank you!) to name but a few of her skills! You can keep up with her amazingly creative life at her website Do Stuff! Be sure to check out her ‘Quick Knits’ monthly yarn/pattern club and her self-published e-book ‘Game Knitting’. Thank you Lee for this incredibly detailed and open interview…with your glass of iced coffee at the ready, dive in!

* Describe a typical day in your life.
Hah, there is no “typical” day!  But, ok, I’ll try… I am a total night person, and my partner (Pete) works the late shift and doesn’t get home till 10:30 most nights, which puts us on a late schedule, so I usually sleep till 9 or 9:30, then wake up slowly with coffee and email checking, twitter reading, etc, and eat breakfast with Pete.  Then he goes to work around noon and I get to work, whatever that means each day – could be knitting to work on designs, could be computer work (blogging, website stuff, bookkeeping stuff, etc), could be yarn-making or working on any of the projects I’m always in the middle of.  So, the rest of the day is all up to whatever my priorities are; for example, the week leading up to my monthly club mail-out date is all focused on club stuff (making the yarn, designing the patterns, putting together the extras).  If I’m really into a project, like a knit design, or a new item for my shop, then I could spend the entire day on that project.  I’ll often take a walk to the grocery store or the post office or something in the middle of the day, to get outside and break things up.  If my work is knitting or another kind of crafting, I’ll usually do it on the couch with some Netflix instant movies or bad TV.  Then, when Pete gets home at night, we’ll eat dinner together and watch a movie or TV while I usually continue knitting (or crafting, or blogging, or whatever) until bedtime around 1.  That was long and rambly, but that’s how my days are!

* How do you juggle the demands of working for yourself?
It’s tough… just today, like many days, I’ve been thinking a ton about what exactly I should be focusing on – it’s always a struggle for me, deciding what needs to be put ahead of everything else.  I used to do much more freelancing work, with deadlines, making it easier – the project that’s due first got done first.  So, now that I have a bunch of projects, and I’m super excited about releasing all of them, but they all need a ton of my time before they’re ready, I try to figure out what’s the closest to being finished?  What will people like most?  What will be most profitable for me (gotta pay those bills)?  And then there’s all the more day-to-day stuff, like responding to emails (which I am not good at!), shipping out orders, trying to do blog posts a few days a week… so I’ll try to get those kinds of things done first, then focus on the big, long-term projects, but a lot of the time the long-term projects are the ones I’m excited about, so the little stuff will fall behind.

* How would you describe your work?
In all the different kinds of things that I make and design, I hope for there to be at least some element that is unusual, unique, or surprising – this could be the construction method of a knit design, or the materials chosen to make an object, or something having a dual purpose (like my connect-the-dots stitch sets being both an embroidery pattern and a puzzle!)…  Color is also something that ties most of my work together – when people think of my designs and works, I doubt they think of black, white, or neutrals!

* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/craftwork at the moment.
Of mine?  My favorite things are usually my most recent or things I’m currently working on… I love my Shapeshifter design because wearing it is so much fun!

* When faced with the dreaded ‘Blank Page’ how do you get started?
I’ll need to come to a starting point – usually my blank page is for planning my club each month… which is why I love giving each month a theme.  The theme becomes my starting point, then I can go from there.  If the ideas really aren’t coming and I’m stuck, then the answer is usually brainstorming with Pete – talking with him about the theme, or where I’m stuck, or what I have so far that I can’t turn into a solid idea, always helps me see new directions that weren’t showing before, or he’ll think of some solution I never would have thought of on my own!

* I’m very taken by your often unique approach to knit wear and design. What tips could you give someone who wanted to start designing their own patterns?
I was just improvising knit stuff, without writing anything down, for years before I started trying to actually “design” – there’s a big difference between just improvising something and developing it into a pattern that other people can follow and work from.  I think that helped me a lot, to have a good grasp of how to make a thing without a pattern to follow, then eventually I could make a thing and write down what I did, and turn that into an actual pattern.  So, I’m not saying that you should spend years before trying to design something, but just don’t rush into it I guess… If you make something you want to turn into design, test it out a bunch yourself, trying it different ways maybe, to see what works best.

* Where do you find inspiration?
The internet – browsing craft blogs, ravelry, flickr, etc – and flipping through craft/art books.  Usually an idea will come to me out of nowhere, or emerge from a conversation, but if I’m feeling stuck and need to seek out inspiration, I dig into the online craft world or open a book.

* Describe your workspace.
I just moved, so my studio space isn’t in working order yet – I can use the desk and tables when I need to, but there are boxes everywhere and things aren’t organized yet, so I do most of my work in the living room on the couch.  But, once it’s in order, there’s a big desk for computer work, a table for messy kinds of craft work, and another table for sewing and other related stuff, and tons of shelving and drawers.  One side of the closet (it’s a converted bedroom) is filled with hanging shoe holder things, which are used to store yarn.  There’s a record player, a CD player, a radio, and a cord for my computer or ipod (music is a must, of course!), great lighting (I chose the smaller bedroom to be my studio because it gets better light than the bigger room), and multiple magnet, inspiration, and dry erase boards.

* Who would play you in the film of your life?
Oh gosh, I don’t know… a friend of mine on twitter suggested Katharine Hepburn, if it doesn’t have to be someone living, but I don’t know about that… Maybe Drew Barrymore? I’ve always liked her, and she changes her hair a lot, like I do…

* How do you relax?
If I’m at home and fully relaxing – like watching a movie and doing nothing at the same time – I feel restless and not good most of the time, so my version of relaxing at home is watching a movie and knitting or doing something else at the same time.  If I really need to get away from work for awhile, then I have to leave the house – go out for food with Pete or friends, go out to a movie (yeah, I like movies) or anything else out in the world.

* What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Leaving my day job behind to be self-employed doing creative work, and succeeding!  When I left my day job over 2 years ago, I really expected to end up getting a part-time job at a yarn shop or something to make ends meet, but with a combination of freelance writing and teaching, and my own business and knit designing, I’ve been able to pay the bills every month – it’s not easy, and I’m lucky to live in a city with a relatively low cost of living, and to have a partner who can help me out if I’m cutting it close… but yeah, I still can’t believe I’m making it work!

-Quick fire-
~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? interestingly pretty
~Rolling Stones or Beatles? beatles
~Boxers or Y-fronts? y-fronts
~Abstract or Realism? abstract
~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) brunnettes
~Clooney or Depp? depp
~Classic or Modern? modern
~Custard or ice-cream? ice-cream
~World Cup or World Series? no sports for me
~What’s your favourite colour? I love all colors!
~When are you happiest? when I’m not stressed about something and I can appreciate how lucky I am
~Tell us a secret. I almost started a Carpenters cover band with my friend Abe many years ago, even though I can’t play any instruments or sing well.

Day 10 – How to make Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate!

Today I am so happy to share an interview with you from the blogger/crafter/force-to-be-reckoned-with Lee Meredith a.k.a Leethal! Click here for the interview! I’m particularly excited because it was Lee’s blog and go-getter attitude that inspired me to start this blog and hold my first blogfest – 12 Days of Craftmas. Not only has Lee given us a really generous look into her creative life and inspiration but she has also contributed an amazing tutorial on cold brew coffee, perfect for making a refreshing summer treat. I’m making mine a latte! My poor battered conscious and weary purse will be so happy that I won’t be relying on St*rb&cks for my fix anymore :)

How to make Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate!

by Leethal!

Cold brewed coffee is by far the best way to stay caffeinated in the summertime – I first read about it a few years ago when a blog linked to this New York Times article and I’ve been making it every summer since.  My way is super simple, and there are methods out there that might be a wee bit better, but I’ve been doing it this easy way for years and my coffee tastes oh so delicious!  None of the bitterness that you taste in regular drip-brewed coffee that’s been cooled; be sure to taste it before adding any sugar, because you probably won’t need any!

You’ll need:

  • ground coffee beans
  • a container in which to brew – either something with measurements on it, or an additional measuring cup, and either with a lid or with plastic wrap to cover it
  • a spoon to stir
  • a second container to store the final concentrate – a small pitcher is good
  • a reusable coffee filter or some kind of strainer fine enough for coffee grounds, or a strainer with cheesecloth to strain the grounds

The concentrate gets combined with water (or milk) for drinkable iced coffee, so however much you make will be about half the amount of total coffee you’ll have to drink.  I usually make enough for a few days, just for myself, but if I were making it to share with guests I would use a larger container than I did here and make more concentrate.

Step 1:  Measure grounds into brewing container (as much as you want this measurement will be about one fifth the total brewing mixture that will go into this container).

Step 2:  Add water – about four times as much as the amount of coffee grounds.  So if you’re adding it into the same measuring cup, your total measurement now should be approximately five times as much as the coffee grounds measurement.  Stir mixture well, then cover and place in refrigerator.

Step 3:  Let sit in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, or up to overnight – I usually leave it overnight.  I’ve never experienced it being too brewed, and I’ve left it over 24 hours, though it’s probably better to keep it under 12 hours.

Step 4:  Pour brew mixture through strainer or filter into the concentrate container.  You may need to move the filter around to strain all the concentrate through, depending on your filter/strainer.

That’s it, all the steps, now you have your coffee concentrate!  Keep it in the fridge as is, or you could mix the whole batch into drinkable iced coffee and store it that way.  To make iced coffee, mix equal parts concentrate and water, plus as much ice as you like (try out varying mixture ratios, as maybe you’ll like it stronger or weaker).  To make a cold brewed milky iced coffee, similar to an iced latte, combine equal parts concentrate and milk (or soy milk, my favorite!).  Try adding some chocolate syrup for a drink similar to an iced mocha, or a flavor syrup (like vanilla or hazelnut, etc) for a sweet cold coffee drink!

—–>Click here for the interview with Lee Meredith<——