A Craft Space of My Own

I’ve been looking forward to a dedicated craft space to call my own for years. When our boys were young, Mike and I used our fourth bedroom as a home office. During the grade-school years, we added a pair of desks for the boys. They completed homework in that room and used the computer under my watchful eye. I crafted in a small area on my desk, or I joined friends once a year for a weekend away to work on our scrapbooks.

When my oldest left for university, I planned to reclaim part of this space for my sewing machine. My younger son quickly spread out using all the available surfaces. The room morphed again as a place to hang out with his friends.

In 2018, my youngest son left for university, and at long last, I had a dedicated craft space of my own.

Lindy marveling at the cleared surface

I started organizing my craft space that year, but a few months later, I found myself fully immersed in my volunteer work with Lifted Spirits and started spending a lot of my time downtown.

I put some structure in place at the time, and what a treat its been to have everything I need at my fingertips!

Now that we’re “sheltering in place” in Santa Clara County, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on this room.

My original plan was to set up a sewing area on one desk and a paper-crafting area on the other one.

The table is too deep for my machine and my foot pedal to work well together. Since I like spreading out when I sew, I decided to convert both sides into paper crafting. I can use my dining table when I sew.

Now I have a place for my Silhouette Cameo cutting machines and more surface area for work.

Cameo die cutting machine (a Christmas gift from Mike)

Cleaning up and reorganizing the space didn’t take long, and what a difference it’s made. I enjoy working on cards and assembling craft kits for the curb, and it is a pleasure working with a clean and uncluttered (for now) desk.

My reorganized crafting space

I enjoyed gathering inspirational art for the wall. It’s a collection of mixed-media, watercolor, collage, embroidery, and fiber arts from friends and family. I love having it gathered together and displayed in my creativity corner. I have several pieces from fellow bloggers, including Anne, Kelly, Marlene, Pauline, and Wilma, representing Australia, Canada, the US, and New Zealand.

I’m now surrounded by art created by family and friends.

On the pale yellow wall, the green heart is a gift from my friend, Carrielin. We met in college doing a play together, and we’ve remained friends all these years.

The custom-died monkey sitting on the heart is a gift from my self-described hippy friend, Laura.

All three read hearts we’re machine-embroidered by the talented Marlene, who blogs at insearchofitall.

From Canada, a mixed-media tag by artist Wilma Millette. You can find her gorgeous work on Instagram @creartful-dodger. To the right of Wilma’s piece is another mixed-media creation by the talented Kelly Daye. We met through blogging and have become the best of friends.

On the green wall, I hung Dad’s wooden painter’s palette. It’s a cherished memento. Oil painting was one of Dad’s many hobbies. I affixed three black and white photos to the pallette: My dad in the center, a picture of his completed model of the Golden Hinde, and the storefront of my parent’s flower shop in Seaforth, Canada. They’re all treasures. The Bay Bridge oil painting is also my dad’s work.

Below the palette is a mixed-media piece by Pauline King, a treasured gift for my 60th birthday. Pauline is known in the blogging world at The Contented Crafter.

Next to Pauline’s work are a pair of watercolor teapots by Anne Lawson. Anne is a Melbourne Artist who “captures the beauty of the #naturalworld in watercolour or ink.” You’ll find more of her work @annelawson54 on Instagram.

My father’s wooden oil painting palette

Repurposed wine crate stores stamps and punches

I like being able to see everything at a glance. Assorted cat mugs store my pens and tools. See-through bins store craft ribbon, dies, and acrylic stamps.

I removed the sliding doors to the room’s closet several years ago. It now houses our printer, most of my sewing supplies, extra baskets, and a few other crafting tools. Here’s what it looked like before re-organizing the shelves.

Starting Point: A four-foot closet in the same room stores craft materials, our printer, sewing projects and my Cameo cutting machine

This is what it looks like now.

After: craft room closet sorted with room for a chair.

Have you tackled an organizing project during your time in quarantine?

Scrap Happy Faeries Relax at the Lake

What’s a ScrapHappy post?

It’s an opportunity, or an excuse, to make something entirely out of scraps. Our host Kate, of Tall Tales from Chiconia, encourages the use of scraps to make something useful or beautiful or both.

If you would like to join us, please see the details at the end of this post.

This ceramic container is the base of a former cat fountain. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a pain to keep clean. It needed a new filter once a month, and it was heavy to pick up when it was time to transport it to the kitchen.

Our three kitties now get water from several glass bowls, except Tessa, who waits for a running faucet. Mouse prefers the water draining from Mike’s morning shower. Cats!

So this…

Once upon a time: a former ceramic cat water fountain

Empty container, only three-inches deep

…became this.

A quiet retreat in miniature

I couldn’t bear to throw out the container. I started with the idea of a small garden, but the dish is too shallow. Instead, I created a miniature lake-side retreat for imaginary faeries.

I lined the container with blue painter’s tape. In retrospect, I’m not sure it made much of a difference, as the bottom doesn’t show through. I cut a piece of plastic packaging into a wedge, dividing the container into two. The wedge is held in place with more blue tape.

Container lined with leftover blue painter’s tape

A scrap of stiff plastic divides the container

A few more blue pebbles would increase the depth, but scrap happy is all about using what you’ve got on hand. Instead, I used leftover glass vase filler to create volume. I sprinkled smaller blue pebbles on top. A couple of smooth rocks from my garden act as stepping stones into the cool, blue retreat.

The other side of the container started with medium-sized pebbles, graduating to small gravel (think sandy beach). I’ve used these tiny pebbles to mulch my potted succulents.

Protruding ceramic opening wrapped with leftover jute

A mix of New Zealand seashells adds charm to the pebble beach. Those seashells flew home with me from a fabulous New Zealand holiday two years ago. They continue to remind me of a spectacular holiday as well as time with dear friends.

I added a scrap of jute twine to the tube-like opening on the gravel side of the retreat. It once housed the cord for the fountain’s pump.

Rounding out this faerie retreat are three flowering nigellas. They make perfect, faerie-sized parasols, for sheltering from the sun. Nigella seed pods remind me of a few broken umbrellas with spokes still attached, so I placed the pods in the tube for interest.

Faerie sisters enjoying the view.

Nigella blooms make perfect parasols.

These wee faeries sit on a cushion of French lavender, sharing secrets and tossing their cares to the wind.

It’s been a while since I channeled my inner faerie gardener. It’s been so much fun.

Check out the links below on March 15, 2020, to see the other scrap-happy posts.

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, and Vera

Lifted Spirits: Giving Tuesday Now

I’ve missed volunteering with our homeless clients these past few months. I spent February and March recovering from major foot surgery. Within a week of taking my first steps, Santa Clara County implemented a shelter in place due to COVID-19. As the weeks went on, the restrictions increased.

Though we believe our services are essential, we couldn’t put our volunteers at risk. The majority of the women who volunteer are 60 and up. Asking a group of women at higher risk if they contract COVID-19 to volunteer to serve other high-risk women is untenable.

These past few weeks, we’ve worked behind the scenes so that we can launch Lifted Spirits Lite. While it’s a far cry from our full program of providing a hot meal and respite, a clothing boutique, and other services, it gives us a chance to do something during this difficult time.

We’ve implemented numerous safety protocols to protect ourselves and others.

I sent out the following letter to our supporters today, and I’m sharing it with you, too..

With #GivingTuesdayNow underway, I’d like to tell you about our modified program: Lifted Spirits Lite. While our facilities must remain closed due to COVID-19, our volunteers have been working diligently behind the scenes so we can continue to serve vulnerable, unhoused women in downtown San Jose.

Starting this week, we will provide homeless women a boxed lunch, prepared in a professional kitchen, two days a week. We will also distribute clean socks, new underwear, clothing, and other essential hygiene items.

While Santa Clara County continues to shelter in place, a shelter for many of our clients is quite different: it means a series of tarps in a parking lot or behind some bushes out of view. Providing what we can from behind our gate is essential.

Your gift to Lifted Spirits has a direct impact on homeless women living in our community. Please join me in lifting their spirits with a donation today.

Warmest regards,

Alys Milner
Board Vice-Chair & Volunteer
Front Door Communities,
Home to Lifted Spirits
Front Door Communities, home to Lifted Spirits, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

49 N. Fourth Street, San Jose, California 95112
(408) 600-6654
www.fdcsj.org to donate

 

 

According to Santa Clara County’s Homeless Census and Survey, there are 9,700 residents without a home. 36% of the homeless population are women.

It’s good to get back to work.

Garden Swing Cushions: Version 3.0

Reworking the decorative cushions, along with the cover for our garden swing is now a seasonal tradition.

Let’s stay in bed fingertip towel

The swing sits below an umbrella and the shade of the orange tree but the fabric is still no match for the hot San Jose sun. The swing cover also needs regular reworking as it proves irresistible to the neighborhood squirrels. The cover often ends the season with chew-marks, big and small.

Chewed but still serviceable (former shower curtain)

I’ve reused the same retired bed pillow as a base for several years as it holds up surprisingly well. It’s easily washed and dried and ready for the next season.

I cut the old bed pillow in half and made two smaller cushions for decorative purposes and for impromptu napping.

One year I covered the two pillow halves with a thrift store pillow sham.  The color-coordinated cover is also a thrift store find: a cotton shower curtain pictured below. The squirrels enjoyed working them over as well.

A thrift store pillow sham remade it to cushion covers

The next iteration embraced our mischievous squirrel’s personalities.

I enlarged a couple of my squirrel photos and printed them on inkjet fabric sheets designed to pass through a standard printer. I bought a yard of heavy muslin, cut it in half, and made a simple envelope-style pillow cover. I attached the squirrel photo using fusible tape, then ran a piece of trim on either side.

Squirrel Pillow

My garden oasis (note basket of fabric and fluff as an offering in the nearby orange tree) This year’s cover: a bedsheet with some bias trim

The squirrel pillows lasted four years, but the bedsheet, above only lasted for two. Alas, those cute squirrel faces have faded badly. They look more tatty than vintage so off they go.

Now-faded squirrel print

Faded squirrel photo

The good news is that once again, I’m reusing the same bed pillow and I’ve also reused the muslin and trim. I bought a couple of fingertip towels with a clever play on words last year at a fabric store. I gave one as a gift but I saved the other two towels to once again refurbish the swing cushions.

Muslin finger-tip towels: Let’s stay in bed and Talk dirt to me

Spring 2020: Shower curtain swing cover and reworked cushions

Muslin cushions made with finger-tip towels and recycled trim

My 2020 swing cover is a rerun from last summer: a retired cloth shower curtain. My garden-pun, finger-tip-towels turned cushions give it a fresh new look.

The first time I made a cover for my swing, I spent time and dollars buying beautiful garden-themed upholstery and contrasting trim. I made a bias trim for the peplum and covered cording for the edges. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday with a garden party that year and I wanted it to look nice.

My first swing cover made with outdoor upholstery fabric, contrasting bias trim, and covered cording.

Then a squirrel came along and chewed the entire corner to get access to the soft cotton cording inside. How did she know? I thought at first it would be a simple repair, but she returned to gnaw the bottom half of the swing. That squirrel had a super-soft nest that year.  In the end, the swing cover was a complete loss.

You can’t outsmart nature and you will *never* outsmart a squirrel. Instead, I find inexpensive ways to revive my little oasis from year to year.

Napping on the swing

Serendipity: Wish You Were Here

How’s this for serendipity: While visiting a vintage shop in San Jose, I stumbled across this postcard.

Mike Roberts iconic photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge

Postcard: Mike Roberts photograph of the iconic San Francisco Bay Bridge

The reverse side of postcard | Sunset, San Francisco Bay Bridge

To the average viewer, it’s unremarkable. The card is a reproduction of a photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Photographer Mike Roberts photographed the bridge multiple times in order to capture this shot. He published the photo in September 1959, five days before I was born.

My family moved to the US in November 1966, and a year later my father painted this oil on canvas. Dad died in 1969.

My dad Eric Milner’s oil painting, painted in 1969, two years before he died

Stumbling across the postcard literally stopped me in my tracks. My heart did that strange flutter as I tried to make sense of the photo. I realized at that moment that a small piece of unknown history grazed my fingertips. The postcard photo had been my father’s muse. I never knew.

Returning home with my friend Kelly, we jumped online and looked up Roberts and his work. From there I discovered this book

book cover Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: Mike Roberts | The Life and Times of America’s Postcard King | by Bob Roberts

Mike Roberts was working on a memoir when he died in 1989. According to his son, Bob:

…yellow Kodak boxes snoozed in my basement for twenty years. For reasons financial, literary, and personal it took twenty years to pull together the pieces of Wish You Were Here. The words and photos were rummaged from his early musings, classic transparencies, and drafts. The rest of the story springs from our family, his friends, media accounts, and those yellow boxes. Enjoy! – Bob Roberts, March 2015

A page from Robert’s book describing the photoshoot

Title page of Mike Roberts book purchased used online

Here’s one more bit of serendipity. While thumbing through my husband’s family photos, I came across this snapshot. Check out the art on the wall!

My husband Mike’s family gathered in front of a painting of the Bay Bridge, circa the 1960s | Mike is wearing the burgundy shirt, lower left

I’ve loved reading about Mike Roberts’ life and work. I appreciate his incredible artistry and his love of the humble postcard. Most of all, I’ll never tire of those serendipitous moments in time, when a daughter stumbles upon an old postcard, bringing forth a snapshot in time.

I wish you were here.

A Month into Spring

Time may be a social construct, but Spring arrives reliably year after year. Paper calendars are optional.

Welcome rain for a parched garden

The first bulbs emerge in February, a little pre-season treat. In our garden, that means hyacinth and once-upon-a-time, crocus. I haven’t noticed the crocus in recent years, but given their small size, they may simply be growing out of view.

Pink hyacinth

Soon the narcissus follows, bright and showy and strong.

Harbingers of spring: Yellow Daffodils

Freesias are my new favorite. They multiply year after year, adorning the garden with an assortment of color and an intoxicating scent. I planted one assorted packet several years ago, and have reaped the reward of purples, reds, pale yellows, and the prolific whites. They dazzle our passersby from the curb garden and along the curving ramp to our front door.

A trio of colored Freesia

Brilliant white Freesia

As the flashy bulbs finish for the season, perennials carry on with the show. Bright pinks, lavenders, and yellows contrast against the ever-present greens.

Dark pink azalea

Azalea close-up

Pale pink Azalea

Shiny new growth emerges on all the plants like a chick from an egg, small and tender at first, then vital and strong.

It’s not all fun and games. The weeds emerge, even with our meager rain, opportunistically growing beneath the established ground cover. They grow parallel to the lacy foliage of the California poppy, perhaps thinking I won’t notice.

They’re no match for this gardener.

As I hobbled to and from the car earlier this year, I would bend down and pluck one or two weeds. Now that I’m fairly mobile, I’m methodically clearing them from the garden.

The worst of the weeds gather near the curb, so I sat on the pavement there and got to work.

Over a few weeks, I worked my way down both sides of the drive, around the raised bed known as the curb garden, and then finally into the main garden.

Front Garden

Getting lost in thought as I pull weeds and tidy the beds is wonderfully therapeutic. It helps keep the worrying thoughts at bay. I hear bird song from the trees. I try to count bees, smiling to myself when I lose track. An abundance of bees is essential for our survival. My garden is content to do its part.

Garden Gallery:

Occasionally a lizard darts out of its hiding place and they always give me a start. They too are a gift to the garden, so as my nervous system relaxes, I count my many blessings and carry on with my day.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

Scrap Happy April: Craft Kits at the Curb

Our Little Free Library, surplus children’s books, and craft kits, just off the sidewalk in front of our home.

What’s a ScrapHappy post?

It’s an opportunity or an excuse to make something entirely out of scraps. Our host, Kate, of Tall Tales from Chiconia, encourages the use of scraps to make something useful or beautiful or both.

If you would like to join us, please see the details at the end of this post.

I reorganized and tidied my paper crafting area last week and took a hard look at everything I had. I set aside items that have remained idle. I pulled together paper punches and acrylic stamps, ink pads, and paper, and created small craft kits. In other words, I used some of my scraps and materials so that others could make their own ScrapHappy® creation.

Kate, I hope this still counts.

With children forced out of school for the rest of the year, several Little Free Libraries are offering crafting material to help keep children engaged.

Our library is still open, and at least one grateful teacher has stopped by twice for books. She said she had to leave her classroom and couldn’t bring any of her teaching materials home with her.

In other crafting news, I made a few Easter cards last week.

Would I normally make Easter cards?

No.

Did I buy a packet of adorable paper in 2016 thinking it would be fun to make Easter cards?

Yes.

Card made from Authentique paper, vintage seam binding with inked edges

Now I have time on my hands.

The paper came in a kit, so not technically a scrap, however, all the solid paper, ribbons, and bows are legitimate scraps.

Easter Morn

I’m calling them ScrapHappy® cards in training.

Fingers crossed that I’m not drummed out of all this ScrapHappy® fun.

Here’s a gallery of the Easter cards using Authentique Collection’s Eastertime: (click on individual photos to enlarge)

Check out the links below on March 15, 2020, to see the other scrap-happy posts.

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sue L, Sunny and Kjerstin