Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blockprinted Prayer Flags

Friday marked the New Moon in Taurus. As we gathered, we each began creating our own interpretations of Tibetan Prayer Flags. The idea was suggested by Mama Bird, who was inspired to try some mindful crafting.

Prayer flags are visual and tactile reminders of intentions, of wishes, of prayers to be carried by the wind. I did some research, and found that there are Eight Auspicious Symbols in Buddhism. The parasol symbolizes protection, and the pair of golden fishes represent happiness, flow, and abundance. Together these symbols embody my wishes for our family in the present moment.
I found an image that spoke to me and drew a pair of similar fish, with their fins forming the lower half of a circle, and the dome of a parasol forming the upper half. In each of the four corners I drew our initials. I brought this design with me to the New Moon Circle, transferred it with carbon paper onto linoleum, and began carving the night away.After finishing the block yesterday morning, Papa and the boys accompanied me to the fabric store, where I found gauze in variations of the five traditional prayer flag colors: blue, white, red, green, and yellow, representing the elements and the Five Pure Lights. I cut the gauze into 9" squares, then applied black blockprinting ink onto my linoleum and pressed the block onto the fabric. This morning I woke up to fifteen ready and waiting dry prayer flags, which I sewed and strung up with garden twine. I had no idea where I might hang the finished flags, until I went out into the backyard this morning and remembered the two oaks from which our family hammock used to hang. The length couldn't have been more perfect, nor could the location. Each time we sit at the family table, we will look out onto our prayer flags, whispering our intentions to the wind.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kid-made Paper and Block Prints

In honor of Earth Day yesterday, Big E and little e (our fabulous next-door neighbors) joined us for a lot of backyard April sun-soaking, and a fun recycling project--papermaking. Loosely following this tutorial, we all worked together to make one finished piece of paper, and a big ol' fun mess.

STEP ONE: Make a frame for the paper. This time we used a wire coathanger and pantyhose.
STEP TWO: Tear a bunch of newspaper into manageable squares. Put a couple of hearty handfuls into a blender or food processor with about a cup of water.
STEP THREE: Keep adding paper and water until you have a big grey glob with no readable paper left. Mix for two more minutes.STEP FOUR: Fill a sink about 4" full with water. Add two tablespoons of glue, and the grey glob that was in your blender. Mix well with your hands, until all of the pulp dissolves. STEP FIVE: Place the wire frame at the bottom of the sink, then slowly lift it out of the water. The tutorial recommends counting to twenty to ensure slowness (and therefore more paper on the frame), but we simply drained the sink, and it worked well.STEP SIX: Hang it out in the sunshine. STEP SEVEN: Allow it to dry completely, about 24 hours or so.STEP EIGHT: Carefully peel the paper from the frame. If you wish, iron to set it and flatten it, using the highest steam setting on an electric iron.LESSONS LEARNED: Next time I think I'll use two frames sandwiching some nylon or mesh. The wire hanger was too flexible and our paper, albeit a lovely first attempt, is rather wonky. It's also on the thick side, so the mesh, or fine screen, might result in a thinner paper.

After our prideful success, I helped Big B make his very first block printing stamp, using simple foam shapes and craft glue. We talked about a symbol that might represent our two families living next door. This is what he came up with.
This was a fun project all the way around. A true collaboration, the finished result is lovely, and celebrates creating new beauty from old things. Both the newspaper and the foam shapes we used were within days of the trash can or yard sale pile; yet because of the spirit of Earth Day, they were given new life by the hands of four special little people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,
we borrow it from our children."
~Native American Proverb

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On Children and Weddings

Last night, we attended a beautiful wedding for a beautiful couple at a beautiful place. Several children we know were invited, and Big B and little b absolutely adore the bride, so we decided to make it a family affair. Our boys have had to sit through a lot of must-be-quiet events lately, and we've learned a few tricks for ensuring success.

1. Make a game out of getting ready. We like to say the word 'fancy' a lot while getting ready; fancy clothes, fancy manners, etc. It's fun to be over the top with it--when Papa got home, Big B answered the door in his fancy clothes with a semi-British accent, saying, "Welcome home, Dear Papa. Lovely evening for a wedding, don't you think?"

2. Expel energy.
Yesterday, this happened accidentally; we arrived at the wedding an hour early (my bad), but took advantage of the mistake by going to a playground. It seemed to help get a few of the wiggles out.

3. Pre-fill little tummies. If we forget to bring healthy snacks for the ride, we hear "I'm hungry!" forty-seven times during the ceremony. An obvious caveat: protein, good. Sugar, bad.

4. Bring a digital camera. This is the best trick I know for keeping Big B entertained in close and quiet proximity. Last night he snapped shots of the guests, the food, several way-too-close body parts, and these great ones: his camera duel with the photographer, and his and Papa's together-shadow.5. SuperDad. When all else fails, it's sometimes necessary to remove a little one from a situation that expects too much of him. During the vows, little b expressed, rather loudly, that he'd had enough. Papa quickly and graciously took him far enough away from the ceremony that he could be distract-ed, instead of distract-ing. It worked beautifully. Papa knows I'm a sucker for weddings, and his kindness allowed me to enjoy the sweet words of our friends. Thank you. 6. Don't forget what we came for. We talked to Big B last night about love, marriage, the parts of the ceremony that were our favorites, why people cry when they're happy, and what it must feel like for the bride and groom to have all of their friends and family together. He asked a lot of questions, we gave a lot of answers. Instead of being shhhh-ed a lot, he felt like he was there for a reason, to be a part of their special day, and was able to act respectfully.

So here's to love, to lifetimes of happiness, and to Dr. and Mrs. D. Aren't they beautiful? And Big B's version: the bride is on the left (with her fancy dress on), holding hands with her groom.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bloggers Quilt Festival Entry

The first annual Bloggers' Quilt Festival is underway. Amy at Park City Girl has asked quilters to post about their favorite completed quilt project, and the story that goes with it. For me, this was an easy request. This log cabin quilt was finished just days before my little b was born.

I have blogged about this quilt before, so therein lies the partial story; but what this quilt means to me is a different tale altogether. Early in my pregnancy, I went shopping for fabric. Little b was born on the Winter Solstice, so I had a wintry palette chosen. Then I went to a new fabric store in our town and absolutely fell in love with the selection of batiks there. I shelved my other fabric for holiday projects and chose a rainbow of batiks, and decided to try my first log cabin quilt.

After piecing the top, Sue was kind enough to let me use her short-arm quilting machine. I loved it.
This quilt was my first attempt using many things: batiks, a log cabin design, free motion quilting, a quilting machine, and hand binding. Although lately I've been enjoying more improvisational quilting, I still smile every time I look at this gift to my son. Stitching the last of the binding just days before little b's birth was a powerful exercise for me, and it seemed to absolve my fear about not being able to shower my new baby with the same level of attention I had grown used to giving Big B. This quilt was a gesture, however symbolic, of my intention to cover this new soul with warmth, with brightness, with love, and with careful attention.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mission Organization: Sewing Station

I have finished organizing my disaster of a sewing space, in honor of the new fabric chest I scored a couple of weekends ago. It was so much fun. I organized every notion and tool. I organized the buttons, the ribbons, the rick-rack, the thread. I personalized the lid of the chest with the fabric I won from Sew, Mama, Sew. I can't stop opening up the drawers.I organized the fabric by type, size and color. I have several drawers for cotton fabric, a drawer for flannel, a drawer for corduroy, and a drawer for upholstery fabric. I even have a drawer for tiny scraps and selvages. Oversized backing, batting and polyfill are neatly stored in stacked bins next to the desk, creating a bit more surface area.
This move may be detrimental to my career--all I want to do is sew. At least I'm making an effort to sew responsibly: I have joined Spring to Finish at Tallgrass Prairie Studio, with the goal of finishing half-completed projects before beginning new ones.

For now, I am satisfied with a workspace that is efficient and lovely, the perfect environment for my chosen creative outlet. On a child-sized desk, I have enough space for one current project, my iron, my sewing machine, my cutting mat, and my knitting basket. I owe it all to the fabric chest. Thank you, yard sale gods. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Everything, There is a Season

Easter and its season truly embody the spirit of rebirth. The symbolic egg with its promise of life. The warmth of the soil and the planting of the new. The abundance of green and the brightness of color. The sweet simplicity of enjoying the sunshine together, once again.

We have returned from our annual Easter trip to south Georgia, skeeter-bitten, road-weary, happy and replenished, and I am grateful to have witnessed this spirit of rebirth all around me. There is a time to every act of nature, and a time to every purpose.

A time to search high, A time to search low,
A time to gather, A time to share,A time to give, A time to receive,A time to teach,
A time to learn,
A time to be young,A time to be old,A time to look forward,
A time to look back,A time to plant,A time to bloom,A time to play,A time to rest."For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."
~Alice Freeman Palmer