Friday Finds: One More Step to Martha-dom

There are many ways that I wish I were like Martha Stewart. She has exquisite taste, a seemingly endless amount of energy, and really cool ideas.

Plus, when you know how to make everything from scratch, your post-apocalyptic life can be really tasteful and lovely.

Here's something that I never (in a million years) would have considered making from scratch and yet...

A simple recipe that is pretty and would be really impressive to other people (and has the added benefit of being customizable to your taste):


Have fun and happy holidays!

- Alex

Where are the elves when I need them?

I love that story of the cobbler and the know, where the cobbler goes to sleep and the elves come in and finish his work for him by morning. Yeah, that would be killer right about now. I am up to my eyeballs in knitting needles, cooking pans, and wrapping paper.

Oh yes, there are many crafty things I have to talk about. But they will have to wait for me to come up for air. In the meantime, I am going to leave you with an old post of mine from last year. It's about an inspiring artist who's art is enchanting and so fitting for this imagination-filled time of year. Take a minute during this frantic time and search out some of her actual films on YouTube, it's totally worth it.


Years ago, when I was an art student, it always bummed me out that we spent such a small amount of time on women artists in art history class. Now, please don't misunderstand me here, I don't feel the need to root for "the ladies" just because they are my people. It's simply that I connect with the artistic process of most women artists. Most likely this is because on some level we have a shared life or possibly emotional experience.

I have to say, I sort of understand Camille Claudel's crazy.

Lee Krasner ran with the big dogs.
To supplement my college education I would sit for hours in the library pouring over big books that included the work of well-known female artists like Cindy Sherman, Lee Krasner, Camille Claudel (my daughter's namesake), Frida Kahlo, etc. In the days before the interwebs this was really the only option. Nowadays online, in a few click-throughs I can stumble upon a mind blowing artist that I never knew existed. It was on the herzensart blog of a German handmade art toy designer the other day that I was introduced to Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger (1899 – 1981).

Lotte at work.

Wow...I kinda love her work, if I had to put a name on her style/meduim it would be: Paper Silhouette Animation Artist. The first of it's kind. Her work is both enchanting and dark, I think largely due to the fact that most of what I have seen is inspired by fairy tales. It has a hand-made feel to it that I find so appealing and yet (especially for it's time) it is amazingly technical. She had talent and brains. Love.

This is really inspiring. I am particularly taken with the idea of mixing my crafty pursuits with my highbrow art training. Hmmmm...I need to stew on this for a while.

Here is a brief video showing her inspiring creative process. Enjoy!

The Art of Lotte Reiniger (1953-1971) by baraqueafritz


Accentuate the Positive

This morning I told Cassandra that I didn't want to go down the rabbit hole.

The weight of last Friday's tragic shooting in a Connecticut elementary school has been suffocating me for three days. I spend a lot of time in denial - actively not thinking about it and forcing it out of my mind when it tries creeping in again. One can only cry so much.

But, when you write a blog and are committed to posting on a regular schedule, it's often hard to avoid talking about whatever is consuming you. I honestly thought I'd be posting about The Hobbit in IMAX 3D today since I saw the movie on Friday. Unfortunately, I saw it WHILE the tragedy was taking place and when I came out of the theater and realized that something huge had happened while I was enjoying Middle Earth, it made me feel horribly guilty and took the wind out of the Hobbit sails.

So, I don't want to go down the rabbit hole any further. I don't want to wallow in the incredible pain I feel when I think about what happened. But, by the same token, I don't want to pretend it didn't happen.

Enter my wise friend Cassandra who said, "Talk about positivity."
She's right, you know. She and I both believe that we create our own experience through how we approach the world. What you focus on grows. If I'm a Negative Nelly all the time, I will only see more negativity in my world. If I stay positive and focus on the good, more good with come with it.

How do we find the "good" in something this devasting? One ray of positivity came from a reprint of an old Mr. Rogers piece on talking to kids about scary things. This has been making the round on Facebook since Friday and, while I'm sure that many of you have already seen this, I think it bears repeating (over and over.)
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mothers’ words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
Full of wisdom and always looking for the positive in the world, Fred Rogers kept us (children and adults alike) focused on what mattered - love and light.

I'd like to encourage you to visit the Fred Rogers Company's page "Tragic Events in the News". It's full of wonderful guidance for how to help your children deal with tragedy. Frankly, it's advice that we can all use.

Chin up friends. Stay positive. Look for the helpers.

- Alex

Friday Finds: Chocorooms

Chocorooms. Gorgeous little chocolate and cookie mushrooms. As pretty as they are delicious.

St. Nicholas left some at our house for the kids on the 6th...and we had to go to World Market a few days later for some for the big people. They are that good.


Creative Community

We makers tend to find each other. Before the interwebs, we had knitting groups, sewing and quilting circles, and canning parties. But, with the advent of social media, we've REALLY come together.

Knitters meet, share, and create on Ravelry. Aspiring home chefs find friends on Food52. Crafters of every ilk convene on Craftsy.

And the best part is that physical boundries don't matter! I can do a Knit-Along with people from all over the world. I can learn how to make perfect Birani rice from someone living in India. And I can get sewing tips from that cool quilter I met who lives the next state over. The only thing we're limited by is our abilty to communicate. The Internet makes me want to learn ALL the languages.

Let me take this small space to thank all the people of the world who have chosen to learn English as their second language. You're spoiling us but I really appreciate that I can talk to you. :)

This brings me to what I want to share with you today -

I totally stumbled on this site when I was looking for an example of how to make something that I wanted to make as a stocking stuffer.

Here's what I love about Instructables:

1. If you can conceive of it, there are probably instructions on this site about how to make it.
2. The site is VERY simple - more of an expanded forum than a slick social media site like FB.
3. There are tons of opportunities to connect with other makers - provide feedback, get help, etc.
4. And there are so many projects that I want to try, I don't even know where to start!
5. It's a deep well of inspiration.

A couple of things I'm not crazy about are:

1. In its simplicity, it can also be a bit clunky and a little difficult to navigate.
2. There seem to be a lot of ads that are not clearly ads (ie: they're mostly text and are, randomly, in the middle of the instructions sometimes.)

That being said, right now I'm lost in the Play section. There's a whole "channel" called Handmade Toys with instructions for everything from making your own Play-Doh to how to make your own light saber. This is holiday heaven! My next stop is going to be the section on holiday crafts.

Oh! And I totally forgot to mention that YOU can contribute to Instructables (of course) and they have contests that you can enter or participate in by voting for your favorites. I'm thinking about entering the Soups and Stews contest or maybe the Reuse contest or maybe the Holiday Gift contest or... yeah. All the contests.

So, if you're looking for a last minute project for the holiday or you just need some inspiration, check out I promise you won't get bored.

- Alex

Woodland Creatures Redux

Hi gang!

I have recently decided to update our popular Woodland Series Embroidery Templates. There are small copy tweaks to make the directions clearer, the artwork has been fussed with a little bit here and there, but the biggest change as been the addition of a second design transfer option. Each animal can now can be embroidered in a rectangular or a circular design. Here is an example of both versions of Fox:

The amount of downloads and mentions for this series we've had across the online crafty community makes us blush with pride. The thought of someone taking the time and effort to stitch one of our designs is really an honor. Please don't hesitate to send us pictures of your finished objects! We'd love to see them.

Speaking of finished objects. I've chosen to sew a little fabric around my embroidery before framing. Sort of like it's matted. Here are some quick camera-phone photos I snapped in Little Bear's room this weekend.

So, if you're a stitcher, check out all four updated designs from the Free Patterns tab above. Bear, Fox, Hare, and Owl are all available individually as printer-friendly pdf downloads. Also, if you're new to embroidery, please check out our Embroidery Lessons to help you get started.


Friday Finds: Comfortable and Cute

Yeah,  yeah. I know we're supposed to be shopping for gifts for other people right now but, even if you decide that one of these awesome skirts is perfect for someone's holiday gift, you are TOTALLY going to want one (or more) for yourself.  Embarrasingly, I now own four of them and have my eye on two more. And I bought one (guess which) for Cassandra for her birthday. :)

Ladies (and gentlemen who buy gifts for ladies), I present the Best.Skirt.Ever. from RecreativeCrafts.

Okay... the pictures don't really do them justice. I picked the top photo because it shows the "waistband" (which is just a wide piece of elastic). But, trust me when I tell you, once you put one of these on, you'll never want to wear anything else. Made from t-shirt material, with aforementioned elastic waistband, these comfy-cute skirts are hand silk-screened with original designs. And, they wash up beautifully. I get so many compliments when I wear them too!

I've worn my bare-legged with flip flops, with tights and boots, and over a pair of leggings. They come in XS to XL (I'm a solid size 12 and wear a large comfortably). If I had one modification, it would be to add a lining. When I wear them with tights, they tend to stick so I've been wearing a 1/2 slip with them. I may just grab some material from Joann Fabrics and pop a lining in them at some point.

The next time I have one on - probably tomorrow - I'll take a pic and update the post. :)

Happy shopping!

- Alex

Creative Update

Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day, and as a rule, I try to fill my children's pots and pans (see a previous blog post on that) with fruit, a small amount of chocolate and something handmade. My plan was to make them some adorable knitted animal finger-puppets and a zippered pouch to store them. Yeah well, that was before I decided to knit my boys new holiday sweaters. Total knitting time-suck. This mama only has so many hours in the day she can devote to her pointy sticks. (More on these sweaters when they're finished!)

Sweaters in process.
Being the project-oriented gal that I am, I soon hatched a plan B. A simple sewing project. My boys are always trying to wear my "big people" aprons in the kitchen so I decided it was time they had some of their own. For a couple years now I have been eyeing the free child's apron pattern from Sew Liberated so I went with that design. Total smart move. Easy and turned out super-cute.

Aprons are the perfect opportunity for novelty fabric.
The two best features of this pattern is the elastic at the neck strap and the velcro at the hip for fastening the waist strap. Both of these features ensure that a child can put this on without assistance. I love that. All-in-all I think it took me about 3 hours to make both aprons. I will try to update this post with a picture of them modeled by little boys after they are gifted tomorrow.

I feel really, really at home doing applique. Who knew?
And of course, the quilt sewing goes on. I am on block 3 of the 6 applique blocks required to complete what I need to do in order to assemble the neverending quilt. Lucky for this project, it doesn't get too neglected during the holidays because it's not "sneaky sewing" (see above aprons that had to be sewn in the wee hours when little people were fast asleep). My sewing area is next to the playroom so I can sew while keeping an eye on the shenanigans that go on in that den of crazy.

When the holidays are over, my main thing is going to be getting this quilt finished. Because I have two other ones to start! Hopefully I've learned enough during this process to make the next two go faster. :)


UPDATE: Some quick snapshots of the aprons this are a little blurry because the kids were so jumpy!

Hillcrest Handmade Bazaar

This weekend Mighty Distractible participated in the Hillcrest Handmade Bazaar, hosted by our amazing friends Gael and Ginny. They have a perfect house for this type of sale - lovely, open, and beautifully furnished. And, because they are both wonderfully creative people, they have a large group of wonderfully creative friends who could contribute. It was an honor to be in the company of such talented people.

Having only participated in a few of these kinds of events in the past, I was amazed by the turnout for this one and with how many sales we generated. Granted, some people sold significantly more than others (one woman is walking away with about $700!) but everyone sold something and we had a steady stream of people through the house all day Saturday. Sunday was a little lighter but we did have a couple of good rushes of folks and, actually, generated more credit card sales than on Saturday. It's also important to note that this was the first year that Gael and Ginny did this sale so it's not like there were people waiting for it to happen.

I thought I'd share some of the tactics we used so, if you participate in a similar kind of sale, you can try them and see if you can replicate our turnout. Obviously, we would need to do this a few more times to prove that these tactics are what contributed to our sucess (and not just that the weather was nice that day) but, logically, I think that this particular combo of things certainly helped a lot.

  • Facebook Event - Gael created an event and each of us were tasked with inviting people from our Facebook friends list to the event. Cassandra created a flyer which we used as the avatar for the event and we could each copy that flyer and post it occassionally into our Facebook stream to remind people of the event.
  • Pinterest Page - Ginny created a Pinterest page with photos of the items that were for sale. We posted a link to the Pinterest page on the Facebook Event and we were all tasked with "pushing" the Pinterest link out to our friends/followers on social media.
  • Craig's List - Ginny posted the event on Craig's List
  • Flyers/Postcards - Cassandra created a PDF of an 8.5x11 flyer that could be emailed to friends/family or printed and posted at our offices. She also made a 1/4 page "postcard" sized version that could be printed, cut out, and put on the counters of local shops. We each got electronic copies of these and were tasked with doing what we could with them.
  • Yard Sign - Cassandra created a version of flyer for the a yard sign and Gael had it printed at Kinkos.
  • Credit Cards - By using Square (you can get a credit card reader from PayPal too) we were able to take all credit cards - and all it cost us was 2.75% per transaction (no additional fees and the reader was free). When it was all said and done, 39% of our total sales went on cards. Plus, people are inclined to spend more if they can use a card.

Somewhere along the line, someone from Gael and Ginny's neighborhood learned about the sale and posted it on their neighborhood list-serve (email group). A number of neighbors walked over having seen it there.

I need to add that I believe that the mix and quality of available items really contributed to the success as well. The people who had greeting cards, jewelry, accessories, and ornaments did best with sales. I think this is obvious because these items are the most "gift-y".

As often happens with these kinds of events, I find a lot of inspiration and a lot of things to buy for myself. I'm a little embarrased to admit that I only purchased one gift for someone else. Very, very selfish.  Here are a few of the items I walked away with:

Gorgeous silk scarf, hand dyed with botanicals (for me)
The one item I bought for someone else. A pillow for my neice made by Gael.

I'm completely enamored of these beautiful paper ornaments which came with handmade boxes!
How's this for cool "yarn"? This is made from "spinning" fabric.

Overall, we had an amazing couple of days. I met some incredibly talented and good-hearted people and enjoyed the comraderie of a house full of "makers".  If you ever have a chance to do a sale like this, I encourage you to try some of the things we did to generate interest. It really worked for us!

- Alex