Happy little trees.

Did you ever watch Bob Ross and “The Joy of Painting”?

When I was about 10 years old, Bob Ross was my hero. Every time we went to grandma’s house I would channel flip until I found him, in all his afro’d glory, painting his mountains and lakes and barns. And trees, which he always referred to as “happy little trees.” He’d take his palette knife and his fan brush and–without using any reference photos–come up with what I thought were incredibly realistic leaves and branches. I was incredibly jealous of his painting ability.

When I got older I decided to have more discerning taste and poor Bob was deemed too kitschy. I still don’t disagree with that classification, but I have to say that at least he enjoyed what he was doing. I mean, if you had the choice between a depressed artist who plumbs the depths of his soul to create tortured masterpieces and cheerful Bob Ross, wouldn’t you rather be friends with Bob?

Anyhow, all that to say that I painted some happy little trees and a happy little bird the other day, and I found the process very satisfying. The original is now in the shop for $12, which I think is pretty affordable. ;)

The Little Forest.

I needed something happy because, quite frankly, this has been a very stressful week at work and there’s just no end in sight. Way too much to do + way too little time = lots and lots of stress. And it’s not just me, which makes the situation worse…I look around my office and every single person looks as though they’re doing as much as they possibly can, so I can’t really try to redistribute the work.

I’m also a little put out that two bloggers haven’t taken the time to respond to some emails I sent them. I was hoping one would write up a little shop feature before the holidays, but it looks as though that might not happen. Kinda disappointing.

Buy hey, we’re getting a Christmas tree tomorrow! And I’m going to put up lights and garlands and light candles to make our apartment smell like cranberries. So it’s going to get better, right?

Have a good weekend, all.

New-Sew Felt Trees, Part 2.

We’re back! (And ready for round 2.)

Much to my relief, the finished trees turned out to be pretty cute. If you missed it, part one of the tutorial is here. The final steps are…

Step 4: Glue flat edges together so that they overlap.

New-Sew Trees 5.

This is definitely the trickiest part, as it can be difficult to match the edges up before the glue hardens. I found that it works best to start with the bottom, as it’s most important to line that part up. It also helps to glue in 3-4 inch sections if you’re working on a larger tree.

New-Sew Trees 6.

Edges don’t match? Not a problem! Just cut the extra off, being careful to leave the bottom as round as possible so the tree stands up straight.

Step 5: Stuff (if necessary).

New-Sew Trees 7.

Tall trees might need a little stuffing to keep the sides from buckling, but the short ones seem to do fine without it.

Step 6: Enjoy!

New-Sew Trees 8.

I spent a very happy half hour setting up little tableaus in our dining room and our entryway.

New-Sew Trees 9.

There are so many possibilities…see what you can come up with!

Illustration Friday: The Zoo.

I’m interrupting the felt trees tutorial because I set them aside last night to finish this week’s Illustration Friday theme: The Zoo.

It may seem strange that, when I thought about “the zoo,” monkeys and hippos weren’t the first things that came to mind. So you have to understand that when I was growing up my family had lots and lots of animals. Small animals, mind you – we weren’t horses-and-cows people, seeing as we lived in town. But what our animals lacked in size, they made up in quantity.

The Zoo

The pets shown are only a few of my favorites: our loyal family mutt, a selection of our dwarf hairy-footed hamsters, one of several hedgehogs, the boa constrictor that my brother found in the school parking lot, a few fish (Bert? Ernie?), the lovebirds that let out the loudest shrieks known to man, one of our budgies, and a lonely little finch.

Animals not shown include a lot of cute (but smelly) mice, more hamsters, a gecko, some anoles, all manner of tropical fish, more snakes, a few more budgies, and a little lady finch. Perhaps my siblings would like to chime in with some of the ones that I’m missing…? (And yes, my mum was very, very patient.)

I did the drawing from memory instead of using reference photos, which isn’t how I usually work, so I know that there are some inaccuracies. (The hedgehog isn’t actively biting anyone, for one.) But it seemed fitting to me that the Marston family zoo be depicted from the memories of a 12-year old child instead of reconstructing the animals from photographs.

And I had many, many fond memories to draw from.

P.S. The original drawing will go in the shop this afternoon.

New-Sew Felt Trees, Part 1.

I had planned to write a nice post of a more thought-provoking nature, but when I went to download the photos off my camera during lunchbreak I was missing the autumn-leaves-and-branches set and had lots of felt piles instead. So you’re getting a little decorating tutorial, and the big thoughts will have to wait.

My primal Christmas decorating urges surfaced full-force the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve been humming holiday ditties for the past few weeks and smiling at all the early-bird ornaments in stores, but I didn’t have the time to do anything to our own home. However, in my two precious free hours last Wednesday morning I managed to: 1) run out and buy some goodies, 2) cut festive red oilcloth for our table and credenza, 3) hang an advent ornament holder (photos coming soon), and 4) scheme a lot about all of the other things I want to do. High up on the list were a bunch of felt trees.

First, I want to say that these aren’t really my idea. Stephanie Barnes created a soft tree pattern last winter that was much loved and used by all manner of crafty bloggers (there’s even a flickr set with a lot of great display ideas). I think her pattern is awfully cute, but it has the disadvantage of creating a lot of bulky items that need to be stored every year until Christmas. My first thought was to make Stephanie’s trees and just leave the bottom seam unfinished on one side so I could remove the stuffing. And then I realized that felt, being the great stuff it is, is stiff enough to stand up without needing to be sewn underneath.

And then I realized that, while I enjoy sewing as much as the next girl, it’s possible to make the trees with just the help of my trusty glue gun. And since I have friends without sewing machines, I thought I’d post a little tutorial for y’all that involves the bare minimum of accessories:

  • some felt
  • a marker
  • scissors
  • a round object
  • a glue gun
  • (optional: some stuffing)

(And then I decided to start posting before I’ve finished the first tree, so I really hope this works!)

New-Sew Felt Trees Tutorial, Part 1

Step 1: Cut felt circles.

New-Sew Trees 1.

I poked around my kitchen and came up with a plate, a pan lid, and an Ikea tray to start with. Note that the height of your tree will be half the diameter of your plate, so it takes really large circle to make a tall tree (my biggest tree won’t be any more than about 16 inches tall).

Trace all or part of your round object onto your felt using a marker, and cut the circle out. (If you’re using a Sharpie, be careful not to mark your plate or tray.)

New-Sew Trees 2.

Step 2: Decide how wide you want your trees to be.

New-Sew Trees 3.

I tried doing this a couple of ways: by rolling the felt until I got the shape I wanted and cutting that section out, and by arbitrarily cutting my felt circle into sections. I found that cutting the circle into quarters gives a moderately skinny tree, while cutting it into thirds or larger gives a fat one.

Step 3: Press felt (if you haven’t yet).

New-Sew Trees 4.

It would probably be a good idea to do this first, but I didn’t…so just make sure to iron your pieces before you start gluing.

Final steps and results coming soon! (tomorrow?)

——- 

As I was photographing this last night, I had the rather depressing realization that the time change has left me plodding home in the dark every night from now until March. Wait, that occurred to me earlier…it was the thought that I will do all of my evening work by artificial light that really got to me. Denizens of Alaska, how do you do it? Our apartment is pretty dark anyhow, but even a hint of daylight coming through the curtains really cheers me up.

So much for taking photos with natural light. :(

Good mail.

The postman finally delivered my long-awaited giveaway from Little Orchard. Look what I got!

Presents from Little Orchard, part 1.

If you haven’t read Charlotte’s blog, Anknel and Burblets, you’re missing out. Her photos (and her baby!) are gorgeous, and I was really looking forward to getting the cards and putting them up in my craft room. Each image is so peaceful and lovely.

Presents from Little Orchard, part 2.

She also included some neroli + emerald face and body mist that smells delicious – I can’t think of anything quite like it. (If you’re in the US, don’t forget that Charlotte’s in New Zealand and that all prices are in NZ dollars.)

Thank you Charlotte – I don’t think I can bear to give any of it away!

Thank you all for the kind feedback about the new cards, by the way. I had a lot of trouble photographing them (they look kind of washed out, huh?) – I think I need to fiddle with the calibration on my Mac. I get photos to look fine at home, but when sneak a peak from the office I’m not as happy. Hmm, maybe it’s my work monitor that’s the problem. Or my camera. Anyhoo, the cards look a lot nicer in person than they do in my photographs and I hope that people can guess that.

In other random news, Thanksgiving is in the air over here. We’re leaving to drive to the Seattle area tomorrow and I can’t wait. I like Pullman + Moscow a lot, but it is just so nice to drive away sometimes. (It’s especially helpful when I’m on vacation, ’cause when I’m not in town there’s almost nothing to remind me of that big pile of work on my desk.) Hooray! Just a couple of days of driving, cooking, eating, and spending time with family.

My mum says that Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday because it comes without the stress of finding presents for everyone, which is a very good point. This year I decided to really try to decorate the table, but it’s nothing compared to wrapping a bunch of gifts. Believe it or not, I usually don’t plan ahead for these things: I pull out a tablecloth that afternoon, see what dishes are clean, and run around outside gathering leaves and branches. But this year I’ve got simple placemats, name cards, votives, napkins, and a few other details all planned out (thank you, Martha Stewart). I even went to the craft store last night and spent money on things that will only be used once. Gasp! Now you know I’m serious. I’m the kind who wanders around Michael’s for half an hour looking at all the ideas and muttering “I could make that myself,” and then never getting around to it. But not this time…this time I’ve got a plan. Will post some photos Thursday evening for the family who can’t be there.

Oh, it snowed again this morning – lovely, lovely flakes that filled the tree branches with white but melted on the pavement. It was strange and beautiful to have the ground look normal (albeit wet) and the sky full of white as I walked to the bus this morning. Almost winter!

Busy like a bee.

Saturday turned out to be a very busy day at the Gibbs apartment. Husband filled out a job app and did schoolwork, and I packaged lots of cards.

Lots,
Quail cards.

and lots,
Quail cards.

and lots,
Sparrow cards.

of cards.
Sparrow cards.

(And took photos, obviously.)

Yup, the envelopes finally arrived for my quail and sparrow notecard sets, so I’ve added them to the shop. They make great hostess gifts for all of those holiday parties, hint hint.

Holiday tags.

I also added this little photo to my holiday card sets to show the gift tags that I include with every order. The little cardinal is especially cute – he looks like a little Christmas bandit who might just steal your presents when you’re not looking.

After I finished my flurry of hole-punching, ribbon-cutting, packaging, and photo-taking, I came to the kind of depressing realization that it takes a long time to get my orders ready to go out the door. So much time that I didn’t get to draw or paint anything new. This didn’t seem very distressing on Saturday because I really like all the little organizational details and had a great time putting card sets in plastic sleeves, but at the end of the day I didn’t end up with enough time make art. Saddoes.

Okay, that’s enough Etsy-talk for a while. Sick of hearing about my shop yet? Must be time for my only real piece of news for the day…

It SNOWED!

Flakes started drifting down yesterday morning, but they didn’t look like they’d stick around for very long. So I was shocked when I peeked between the curtains this morning and found a nice half-inch blanket of white over our car. It’s not very much (to the disappointment of every local school child), but it’s white! And it’s wintery!

Time to break out the JJ72.

Hats, hats, hats.

I walked to the campus Post Office outpost in the pouring rain today. My packages were safely wrapped in a plastic bag, but I–alas–was not. There’s a very peculiar smell to wearing damp clothes and having damp hair, and a very peculiar feeling to having one’s jeans and sweater slowly dry out. It doesn’t rain here all that often, so it’s been a while.

As the title suggests, I’ve been thinking about hats. I’ve almost finished a hat I’m knitting for husband and I blocked one I made for myself, so I’ll probably have photos of those in the near future. Hats are such a satisfying knitting project for me: simple (at least mine are!) and useful.

I also put a print of Hats-the-illustration in the shop.

Hats.

I’ve got two versions, one with the text of the little story printed on it and one without. I have to admit that I wasn’t initially all that thrilled with the painting, but it’s been growing on me.

The last hats item has to do with a little piece that fell off the magnolia tree in our backyard. (Timu-san, this is for you.)

I picked it up the other day when I took the dog out and was amazed by how much it looked like a little elf cap.

Hmm, this looks like a little hat.

I immediately had a vision of closing the cap in my hand…

What happens if I close my hand?

…and opening it to find a startled little elf staring back at me.

Oh my!

Happy weekend!

Holiday cards are (finally) in the shop!

I got round two of my holiday cards back from the printer, and they’re in the shop!

Holiday cards.

The cards are offset-printed on lovely, glossy cardstock and come with cheerful red envelopes.

Holiday cards.

The price is $10 for a pack of 6, and I will throw in a pack of cute gift tags (which I forgot to take photos of) with every set.

I also picked up some prints of Hats yesterday, so I think those will go in the shop tomorrow. There’s so much Etsy in the air!

Meet Milly.

Dollies in a row.

And Molly.
And Marta.
And Manda.
And Madeleine.

These little ladies are the last in a line of Handmaid dolls that I began a year ago as a packaging/promotion project for a university class.

Molly says hello.

My patterns have changed a little since the first two, but they still have  handstitched details, embroidered faces, and crooked little smiles. Oh, and the dresses are still reversible, too (Milly’s dress reverses to Molly’s, Manda’s reverses to Marta’s, etc.).

Dress details.

I made an effort not to include any buttons or embellishments that can fall off and get swallowed, so these dollies should be appropriate for smaller babes. (Although, as always, it would be a good idea to make sure that baby isn’t chewing off dolly’s arm.)

Best friends.

Each of them is spoken for except for Milly. I thought about keeping her for my future babies, but I think that when the time comes I will be perfectly happy to support another seamstress and buy a new handmade doll. So, Milly is currently for sale for $40 + shipping…leave a comment below if you want to give her a new home.

I don’t plan to make these again, which will (undoubtedly) make me a little sad when I put them in the mail. I love you, dollies, but you took a lot of time to make and caused your fair share of stress and frustration.

You’ll just have to find new friends and sisters elsewhere.