Monday, December 31, 2012

What I Made in 2012

Well, here it is December 31st, time for the retrospective of the year.
This post will be dedicated to things that I made in 2012. 
I was feeling a little unproductive, so it's nice to see that I did actually finish something this year. Unfortunately, as I look at this mosaic I also see some things that I did not finish (the granny square afghan), or finished and took out (the blue vest with the lace yoke), or finished and then it broke (the Hello Kitty backpack), or finished and then never learned to use properly (the spinning wheel).
Even with all of those less-than-successful items on the list, the most successful was the sweet Youngest up there in row 2 in the right-most photo. I can safely blame any unproductive time on the hours upon hours of baby-worship that went on this year.
What great things happened to and for you in 2012?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Cookies

A couple of years ago I was feeling strapped around Christmastime and I started baking assortments of cookies as presents instead of buying gifts. 
This year was a particularly strapping one for our family, what with the new baby and the medical bills and whatnot, and so it was cookie time again. 
I went through my collection of Christmas cookie magazines which I seem to buy every year and chose the ones that looked the most fun to bake. 
I settled on the Martha Stewart holiday cookie guide from 2010, chose 6 things that looked delicious, made 3 of them and ended up with the 5 delectable comestibles below as well as a batch of caramel corn.
Starting from high noon in the photo, I made marshmallows and cut them into graham cracker-quarter-sized pieces and made a s'more-like cookie sandwich with melted chocolate and peanuts. Then I took the remainder of the marshmallows and dipped them in the remainder of the chocolate. Down there at 4:00 there are chocolate peppermint cookies. The recipe calls for dipping the cookie entirely in the chocolate twice to give it a smooth finish. but I just spread melted white chocolate on the top and then dipped them into a bowl of candy cane bits.
At 7:00 in the photo we have glazed lemon cookies from Martha's website. The other flavors were all pretty dark, so I thought that a little citrus would brighten up the mix. I followed the recipe for the first batch, she says to drop globs of dough like a chocolate chip cookie, but the dough was pretty tight and they didn't spread at all.
So I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with a glass. Then I double dipped them in the glaze (which I opted to omit the lemon zest from because I thought the cookie would look nicer with a smooth finish) and let them stand to cool.
I think I would have been better served to put those in the fridge, they took a long time to set up.
The last sweet treat was a cocoa spice cake. It was intended to be bars, but my 9" x 9" pan was occupied at the time I needed it, so I baked a round cake and cut it into wedges. There is a lot of flavor packed into that little wedge, and I think it would be for the best if anyone concerned drank a cup of coffee while sampling that particular treat.
Christmas Cookies by fifthlampdown
There weren't many left after I packed up the boxes, just a few of each for us to dig into here.
It's always a little scary trusting new recipes for gift-giving, but these all came out quite well.
I hope your Christmas day was full of family and fun, ours was a good one. 
See you soon

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Little Tree

This year we have a wee one on the move, and so we opted to have a table-top tree.
There are no glass or metal ornaments allowed, due to choking and bonking hazards, so we ended up with all handmade ornaments from the past 6 years of swapping.
As the Elder and I were putting up this little tree I had this poem running through my head.
The Singers are singing a setting of this for our Christmas concerts, and it's by far my favorite sing.
little tree
by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)
ITTLE tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

"little tree" was originally published in The Dial Vol. LXVIII, No. 1 (Jan. 1920). New York: The Dial Publishing Company, Inc


My music, snow and art-loving girl is 9 years old today.
What a joy she is.
Happy Birthday, my dear Elder

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Some Carols for a Chilly Day

I probably talk about it all the time, but if you didn't know, I am singing with a wonderful group of people right now: The Singers - Minnesota Choral Artists.

 We just got some video from our last concert and I thought I'd share them with you out there in internetland.(you can see me in the dip in the harp)
These were all arranged by our director, Matthew Culloton.
Here are Still, Still, Still,

 In Dulci Jubilo 

(We were in the middle of a 16" snowstorm at this concert, and you can hear the rumble of snow falling off the roof about halfway through)
and Angels We Have Heard on High.
Just a little something to put you in a Christmas-y mood.

We're singing once more on Sunday, Dec 16th at 2:00 at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul.
It's free and open to the public.
Please join us if you're able!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012


It's time to swap! I love Christmas ornament swaps, and I have been a part of at least one for the last 5 years, making this my 6th in a row, and I am super excited to see what I get this year.
With The Youngest on the move, and putting everything in her mouth, we'll have a small tree this year, and nothing breakable will be allowed.
Most of what comes in these swaps have been paper, yarn or fabric-related so we may be able to decorate the entire tree with swapped ornaments this year.
I made a mosaic of my past ornaments, and now that I look at them all, I have duplicated each theme once.
Gotta come up with something new next year!

1. Ornament Swap 2012, 2. Santa Face Ornaments for the Swap, 3. Wooden Bird Ornament, 4. Tiny Stockings, 5. Santa Hats, 6. Gone away is the bluebird

On another Christmas-themed note, The Elder, Younger and Youngest had their Christmas Portraits taken by my awesome neighbor

Merry Christmas, Sweet Ones.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sewing With Kids Week, part 2

Another large part of the work I did at the school this week was these quilt squares.
I have 25 here, and there are still probably about 15 more to come.
My idea for this was flora and fauna of Saint Paul.
So we have a fox, a heron, a cardinal, squirrel, oak leaf, acorn, maple leaf and maple samara (which I recently learned is the real name of the helicopter seed).

You can see that they had some great attention to detail (these letters notwithstanding). They chose their own colors and stitches. Again, they could choose from a running stitch, a wrapped running stitch, a back stitch or stem.
Mostly they used back and wrapped running stitches.
These are so sweet, I love the expressions on the faces of the animals. Each one has a different personality.
For the transfers our helper mom printed out my images on parchment paper in an inkjet printer and simply ironed them on the muslin.
She got 4 transfers per sheet.
By far the most popular square was the cardinal, with the oak leaf pulling up dead last.
We got through the first 32 squares, and the kids wanted to do more, so I ended up tracing 10 or so more with pencil.
A couple of the kids were so excited about the stitching that after they finished their first square they took a plain square and drew their own image to stitch.
Now to get the rest of the squares (some were not quite finished, so I'll gather them at the end of next week) and pull the 25 nicest and stitch up a quilt.
I am so excited to share the finished projects with the kids. They have so much to be proud of here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Sewing with kids week

This week I have been spending my afternoons working at a local elementary school teaching embroidery to some talented and delightful children.
The first project that the kids did was a Thanksgiving card, which I neglected to take any photos of.
It was a hand-turkey. They turned out pretty cute.
The next project was a felt leaf.
Each kid made a leaf or two for a tree wall hanging.
To make the wall hanging I took inspiration from this beautiful tree in my neighborhood.

I love the negative space in the center. 
I drew up a plan on the computer and then I cut out the trunk and branches, and appliqued it to the background fabric.

The leaves are each a little different. 
The kids used back, running, and whip stitches on them. 
I love the different colors and textures they used.

I found a quote by Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the poem Youth and Age which seemed so appropriate to their project. I plan to embroider the words  "Friendship is a sheltering tree" in the open space below the branches.
I'm still in the experimental stages for this wall hanging, I think I need to add some length to the branches, and I the bark needs some definition.

The kids did such an amazing job this week.
We met every day for about an hour, and they were so diligent, creative and focused. They really accomplished a lot.
Besides the leaves, they also completed squares for a full-size quilt like the mock-up I did a couple of weeks ago, and a group of them made applique felt hearts which I think will make a beautiful garden of flowers for a second wall hanging.
It's very late, and I am suffering from a little sleep deprivation, so I'll sign off now.
Happy weekend

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Keep Calm and Craft On

Time for Keeping Calm and Crafting On with Nicole!
I have been doing a lot of embroidering lately, this is the heron square for my 2nd grade embroidery project. I had planned to have a loon and maple leaf and samara for the quilt as well, hopefully I can finalize those tomorrow or Friday.
Yesterday was my first time in the classroom with the kids and it was so fun. They were all excited about the project that we did, which I'll share this afternoon.
This weekend I'll make the final plans for the projects that are on tap for next week -a couple of wall hangings and the bigger version of the quilt.

Now than I am in the swing of doing a little hand sewing every day I was super excited to see this book on another blog this week.

Those eyes are embroidered, and I just can't wait to try them out. I would justify making a bunch of dolls by saying that they were for The Youngest, but the truth is that she has two favorite things and they are green block and any block that is in her other hand 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Quilt mock-up for Artist Residency

Quilt mock-up for Artist Residency by fifthlampdown
I finished up this sample quilt  today for an interview this morning with the 2nd grade teachers at the school where I will do my artistic residency in sewing and embroidery.
I am really excited about this project, and there is another part to it which I will share next week, since I forgot to take a photo before I brought it to the school, and they kept the prototype.

For this quilt I did something a little unorthodox, I lined it with flannel instead of batting.
This summer when I was teaching a kids' sewing camp at Treadle we were making quilts and as we were using stash fabrics and there was not enough batting in the bins we tried using flannel instead.

It made for a light weight quilt, but he finished product wasn't any less warm than a light-weight batting might have been.
The big bonus for me is that flannel doesn't need to be contained the way cotton batting does, so the quilting can be minimal, if any, and since I am not a very proficient or speedy quilter, nor do I enjoy it at all, this seemed like the perfect technique to use with this little mock-up.
We may go for flannel lining for our finished product as well, since I don't want to quilt over the children's embroidery squares, but if we use cotton batting it usually needs to be quilted fairly densely so it doesn't come apart in the quilt (and I am a fabric snob, and would prefer to use natural fibers at all times).

I began sketching out forest animals and the four above were the most successful thus far.
To fit our theme I thought we could add turtle, loon, otter, bear, deer, and maple leaf and seed.

As an aside, we call maple seeds helicopters, but it turns out that the correct term is samara. Do you think anyone would know what I was talking about if I labeled it maple samara in the quilt block? or should I just go with maple seed?

Happy Thursday to you all, I hope you're enjoying as beautiful day where you are as we are!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First Snow

Yesterday it snowed for the first time this fall.

There wasn't much, but what there was made driving the kids to school a harrowing experience.
Usually it takes about 12 minutes door to door to the kids' school, but with the icy roads and multiple accidents to go around it took 30.
It took another 30 to get 3/4 of the way back, so I stopped off at my parents' house and hunkered down until it melted.
It was nice to have a little impromptu time with my mom, and we chatted for a couple of hours.
By lunchtime the Youngest was getting cranky, so I packed us up and we went home.
There was a big traffic jam on the way, and so I sat back and prepared myself for more bad roads.
Turns out that the jam was because of this -

I think this big tree was on its way to Rice Park, to start off the Christmas season super early, though who am I to talk about early, since I spent Saturday caroling in a local mall...

Time for me to make up some ornaments, I think!
Happy Tuesday

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Embroidery with kids

I have been quite lucky in my life to work with creative people doing creative things.
Whether sewing, knitting or making music, I can look forward to spending time with people who, for the most part, want to be where they are and want to do what they're doing.
In my newest endeavor, I am planning to teach embroidery to 2nd graders at a local elementary school.
I couldn't be more excited to plan the lessons and projects that we'll do together.
One of the ideas we had during the planning session was to do a quilt and have each child embroider their own square. 

Doodling with embroidery by fifthlampdown
I drew up a few animals and am putting needle to cloth for some examples to show the teachers.
We had thought of forest animals, but I think it might be fun to do animals we see in the neighborhood.
These are, admittedly, a little wrinkly, the Youngest was having her way with them, but I think they'll be sweet in a simple patchwork with solid shot-cotton squares.
What fires you up about your job?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Frenzy

It's a good thing we're paring back our spending, because the last thing my house needs is more clutter.
Though if money were no object, I would definitely get all of this new stuff that I just saw at Target this morning.
It's all knit themed!
The platter looks like a cable sweater, though you have to look close at this photo, and wouldn't you love to sip hot chocolate out of that knitted tree mug? 
There are times when I realize how very much I am the demographic that they're aiming for when I go in there.
I was almost tempted to buy the set of Disney princesses, too. 
Christmas frenzy begins...