The California Casita

I've landed and my home base for the next three weeks is my home town - the place of my birth and breeding - Paso Robles, CA. I'll be staying in a little mother-in-law suite, situated in the back of a family home. This has been lovingly named "The Casita" and was built by my brilliantly talented step-father and mother. (Remember them on Houzz HERE, HERE and HERE?)

The Casita has a judicious floor plan that includes a perfectly appointed tiny kitchen, a bathroom with stand-up shower and closet, and a ship's ladder that takes you from the bathroom up to the coziest loft bedroom known to man.

The main living area has just enough room for two club chairs, a TV and a fold-down table that can be pulled out if needed for a meal. A beautiful stone hearth at the center of this wee house is the sole source of heat. The home has a distinct Arts & Crafts vibe with wood beams, mission style furniture and leaded glass light fixtures.

(Thank you Mama, for making such a beautiful place for me to land 
during this crucial time of renewal and healing.) 

Sashiko Embroidery

Lately I've been drawn to simple repeated patterns. Whether I'm sewing or painting or setting the table, I like the calm and ease of repeated natural forms. Sashiko is a Japanese style of quilt stitch that dates back to the 1600's. It's simple, but disciplined pattern is so beautiful and meditative.

Shashiko translates as "little stabs". It's a reinforcement stitch meant to strengthen places of wear and tear on garments and textiles. It's traditionally seen as a running pattern using white thread on indigo cloth, but I see it used everywhere now, especially in multicolored Kantha cloths.

I have some mending to do on my son's denim jeans, all of which have blown out knees. I think I might try this stitch to shore up the rips.

Fallen Log Postcard Holder

Texas has already seen its share of storms this fall and our neighborhood is littered with fallen tree limbs. So this weekend, my son Walker and I set out to harvest some of these limbs for a little craft project: photo and postcard holders. The idea came from Amanda Soule's book, Rhythm of the Family: Discovering a sense of wonder through the seasons.

Walker, 6 years old, was very keen to use a real hand saw. We picked out a few lengths of wood and cut them into small and large lengths to be used for our holder. Then we cut a 1/2 inch score into the top of the branch to hold the photo. After some light sanding (a job that Walker really got into) our holder was ready to display photos and postcards.

Not only was this a fun and short project my kiddo thoroughly enjoyed, it was also a great opportunity to explore our neighborhood, notice the flowers and take in some autumn air. These little holders will make great Christmas gifts as well - hand made with love by a proud six-year-old.

Handmade Gifts

Part of my Radical Homemaking journey involves reusing materials I have on hand. I am very conscious of what our family is throwing away and I love to give tired household items a second, third or fourth life as something new.

Now I'm extending this thinking to my gift giving habits. In our family, summer is the season of birthdays. If I headed to the store to buy new for all of my family and friends, I would be broke. I would have also overlooked some wonderful gifting opportunities. Here are some great hand made gift ideas that I want to try! Each of them can be accomplished with items I already have on hand in and around my home.


Drop Cloth Clutch

This clutch was made using canvas drop cloth from an artist's studio. When the canvas had served it's purpose, the artist used left over paint to cover the canvas and cut it into swatches. It was then stitched up into this awesome fold over clutch.

Materials I already have on hand:
  -  old canvas drop cloth
  -  paint
  -  vintage zippers purchased in bulk at a thrift store
  -  sewing machine

Mandala Paper Weights

These flat stones have been decorated with Mandala style markings, just like you'd see Henna artists make on skin. I think they're gorgeous!

Materials I already have on hand:
  -  flat stones
  -  Sharpie


Mismatched Pillow Cases

Pillow cases don't take much material and they are exceedingly easy to construct. Even someone with the most basic sewing skills can accomplish this patter. These have a fancy crochet edge, but ribbon or vintage lace would be just as nice.

Materials I already have on hand:
  -  scrap material and vintage sheets
  -  sewing machine

Knitting | Wool from Five Green Acres

I am not a knitter. I just want to get that out of the way before I begin today's post. But after spending four days in the woods with knitters of all walks at the Squam Arts Workshops, I've decided to try my hand. A lovely roommate sat down one night with me and showed me how to cast on, knit, purl and correct my crappy work. Thank you, friend.

I also came home from Squam with one beautiful aqua hued skein of wool from my friend Mary Jo, a sheep whisperer and homesteader who hails from Wisconsin. You can find her blogging at Five Green Acres. Her wool is exquisite and was the sole inspiration for my current knitting project. It's a cowl. There is no pattern. I just made it up as I went. Here are the results...

How did this lovely length of wool come to be? Well... Mary Jo plays midwife to her yews. Then she raises them, shears them, cleans the wool, dyes the wool, spins the wool and then sells it in a lovely bundle to you. She's a ground-up kind of girl, that Mary Jo. It's astonishing, really. Check out her impeccable handiwork below...

And here is Mary Jo and her family on their homestead in Wisconsin...

If you're interested in knitting while at the same time time laughing your ass off, you should definitely pick up any book written by the talented Stephanie Pearl McPhee, also known in knitting circles as the Yarn Harlot. You won't be sorry.

DIY Embellishments

I'm feeling crafty this week, combing Pinterest for some small but fun projects. 
Here are a few that I'm tucking away in my idea file for those times when I have a free moment. 

Dress up an outfit with a top sewn patch pocket.

Hand paint some flat stones as paper weights or garden treasures!  Great to do with my son. 

Upcycle my grandmother's old watches with photographs in the clock face. 
source unknown

Here's one for father's day crafters: turn an old tie into glass cases!  

Freshen up your summer bed with new pillowcases, 
which are super easy to sew up if you have a machine. Add some vintage trim!

Summer Reading

I got inspired by the book wish list over at Decor8 and thought I'd pull together my own little summer reading list. Here are some books that I would be more than happy to dig into this summer. Happy 4th everybody! I hope you're all enjoying beautiful weather, BBQ and yummy frothy drinks!

Getting Organized

I've spent the last week collecting supplies and preparing my home for our new arrival - I'm 37 weeks along today. We're having this baby at home, so there are a few more things to consider this time around. Being organized and getting all my stacks in order has been a high priority this week. I've been picking up all sorts of weird odds and ends: inflatable birth tub, food grade hose, tarp, oversize garbage bags, Depends (yes, adult diapers), Chux pads for fluid absorption, plastic drop cloth or sheet, flashlight, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol. My supply list reads like something out of a Cohen Brother's film - I could be preparing for a home birth, or murder or the search and rescue of a humpback whale. My mother-in-law says that if I come home with a wood chipper, she's calling the police. I'll post some photos of my "get organized" projects soon, but until then, enjoy these perfectly appointed spaces.

Weekend Project

Oh, it sure feels good to start and finish a weekend project. Usually, I begin a project with gusto and get sidetracked by something. Then three months later I pick it up out of shame and do a half-assed job finishing it up. Not this time, my friends! Here is the diaper bag I stitched up for myself this weekend. I've made this style bag before - remember this? I made it for my brother's girlfriend and used the Amy Butler 'Birdie Sling' pattern. As for this new bag, I particularly love the fabric I found for the handle. It's a dictionary print with words like "faith", "noble", "peace", "courage", "hope", followed by their actual definition. I thought this would be a good print for someone who is about to be lugging an infant around. You like?

I cleaned my office!

Okay, here's the scoop. My office is the only room in my house that I haven't changed one iota. When we moved in six months ago, the room was yellow with pinky beige carpeting and I simply moved in all my stuff and left the rest as-is. This room serves a multitude of purposes: playwrighting, interneting, crafting, sewing, reading, file storage and baby nap headquarters, among other things. I take care of a baby four days a week who needs a quiet place to crash so that my son doesn't take a marker to her head while she snoozes. One day, I'll do my dream office overhaul, but until then, this is what it looks like. The good news, and reason for posting is that yesterday, my sainted husband took my kid out for the morning so I could clean and organize my office! Here are the results. YAY!

I grabbed this thing from IKEA and decoupaged it with
wrapping paper (from Paper Source) to spruce it up a bit!

Circle Game

I'm 19 weeks pregnant now - almost half way through my pregnancy. I'm starting to think about the quilt I want to make for this little beanlet. I made one for my first child and it turned out great. For this kiddo, I'm thinking about a circle quilt. Aren't these lovely?

Basket Case

Remember last season when Pottery Barn did that big basket display? They used mostly French country bread baskets. I wasn't all that into it. I kept having visions of my Great Aunt Ruth's kitchen where she hung baskets on anything that would stand still. The baskets had covered the ceilings and walls collecting dust since 1972. However, bad 70's decor aside, I'm loving these hand-woven African baskets.

Christmas Garlands

Michelle of Crafty Asian Girl recently asked about Christmas decorations for her home. She has the opportunity to be home for the holidays this year and wants to celebrate by decorating the house for her daughter. Something simple, something beautiful, something that says "Its the holidays!". My first thought was an inflatable Santa bounce house on the roof with a motion sensor that yells "Merry Christmas" when cars drive by, but then I thought "No, that might be too much." My absolute favorite decoration for Christmas is garlands. They can go anywhere, you can make them out of anything, and you can get your crafty kids in on the act too!

This coffee filter garland looks really easy to do and is so beautiful. This is on my project list this week. Find the how-to here.

Postcards from the edge.

I have two vintage postcards framed and up on my living room walls. One is of my husband's and my honeymoon spot, Vernazza, Italy in the Cinque Terre, and the other is a photo of Mills College in 1921, my alma mater. I have dozens of other awesome postcards but lack the number of frames it would take to hang them all. But looky how lovely these displays are below.

Tush Tush

I found this artist through one of my favorite crafty blogs, Art Nest. The talented Tali of Tush Tush has a bevy of mini masterpieces available through her shop on Etsy. Her work is so detailed and evocative. I want them all. Just lovely!