I’ve been wanting to try cross stitch design software for a while, and this month I found the perfect reason: &Stitches’s Fictional Villains Stitchalong.
Using Ursa Software’s MacStitch program, I referenced a photo of my chosen fictional villain and freehanded her into the program. And I am super excited with the result – which is still in progress, but you’ll get the gist.
I knew I had to go with my favourite Harry Potter villain, the saccharine, pink-loving Professor Dolores Umbridge. Her most insidious student punishment at Hogwarts is the black quill, a horrifying thing that makes me shudder just to think about! So obviously I had to work that into the pattern as well …
Umbridge: “Not with your quill, you’re going to be using a rather special one of mine. Now I want you to write, I must not tell lies.“
Harry: “How many times?”
Umbridge: “Well, let’s just say, as long as it takes for the message to — sink in.“
I loved the MacStitch program, even working in the most basic demo version, and am now the proud owner of it. So look out cross stitch world, I’m going to be pattern-happy for a while now I imagine!
A fun selection of floss for this pink extravaganza. I do so love working in a monochrome pallet and fits the bill nicely. I’m so excited to finish off with the “blood” stitched words, “I must not tell lies.”
And then I was off to the stitch races, watching heaps of bad shows on Netflix and stitching away! Pure contentment. I think I’ll have to watch Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while I finish her up this weekend, it’s be gruesomely satisfying to to have to tiny-stab her hundreds of time through her Aida cloth canvas!
Fallow: (Of farmland) ploughed and harrowed but left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility or to avoid surplus production. – Oxford Dictionary
After an intense fall and winter of stitching, stitching, stitching products for my Pocket Alchemy lines of baby things and little felt matryoshka dolls, I set that work aside and shifted my focus abruptly and dramatically when an amazing opportunity presented itself.
I’ve been busy with my dear friend and fellow maker Laurena Green, developing and opening Spool Lounge, a proper brick and mortar sewing studio and shop in downtown Barrie, Ontario. We opened just four whirlwind-months ago in early March!
Our story is told beautifully on our Sunday Crush profile so I won’t repeat it on this blog. Suffice to say that a lot of stars aligned suddenly and we leapt off a cliff and landed with a lovely shop and a buzzing business.
Then a mere six weeks after opening Spool Lounge, I missed a step while going downstairs in the 3am-darkness to grab a diaper for my wee lad and ruptured my achilles tendon. Which necessitated a major slow-down and has been really, really good for me, though challenging – particularly the mothering on a dodgy leg bit! Three months later I find myself here, just able to take my first unassisted steps on my nearly healed but now weak and tight left foot. Small mercy – it wasn’t my driving or sewing foot, whew!
I couldn’t resist embroidering my initial emergency room splint since it was wrapped in flannel and I had four days of waiting around to see a surgeon, soft tissue not being as urgent to treat as broken bones. I was then cast in a “pointy cast” – much to my dancer-self’s amusement – and the tendon was left alone to heal back together over six weeks. No surgery! Amazing. Now I’m in a walking cast and am slowly stretching the tendon back to a 90-degree standing position. Lots of physio and pilates to stretch and strengthen my depleted left ankle and side.
I’ve been doing lots of hand embroidery (heavenly!), teaching classes at Spool Lounge, learning to be a merchant (Wholesale Accounts! Customers! Marketing!) and balancing mothering and achilles rehab (with grace and success all the time, obviously!).
My boys are enjoying being shop kids and have adjusted remarkably well. They are now stitching up a storm themselves in fact!
And so now, after a delicious and required fallow period on my “own” work, I’m turning my weather-eye back to my matryoshkas, going to photograph the ones I have done and finish up some of the bigger dolls that I started in the fall. My embroidery stitches are refined and I’m excited to get back to my little ladies, who I’ll be able to work on in my new studio space!
I was shocked to see that it’s been over 2 months since my last blog — the days have melted into weeks and here we are, snowflakes flying and craft fairs happening!
I’m going to be selling my work at the Christmas Made by Hand Craft Show in Hamilton on December 6th and 7th. It’s my first big fair, they expect about 3000 people over the 2 days! I am excited/nervous. And I have absolutely no idea how much product to make, not knowing the lay of the land at all. So I’ll either sell out (which would be amazing) or I’ll have product for my Etsy shop afterwards (which would be fine). Either way, I probably won’t want to sew another stitch for a long time by the time next week rolls around.
I’ll be carrying small and large matryoshka dolls, treasure maps, baby quilts, burp cloths, soother/toy straps, mitt clips and lavender sachets. Whew! I’m on the strange high most textile artists and makers will recognize: a heady mix of sleep deprivation, terror as the production schedule gets modified down to match the slipping days, and excitement at the possibility of sharing my work.
It was a year ago this month that I casually shared a photo of my latest project – these little dollies – on social media, and had an overwhelming response! I sold about 60 custom dolls last holiday season. So I got ahead of the ball this year and made a bunch already!
If you are in or near Hamilton, come to the Made by Hand Show on December 6th or 7th! I’m sure there will be many wonderful treasures. I’ll aim to share some of my new quilts and burp cloths before next weekend so you can see what I’m up to while the midnight oil burns … til then, cheers!
This spring I accepted one of the most heartfelt quilt commissions I’ve ever had the pleasure to receive. In my head I call it the Berlin Baby Quilt — but really, it should probably be called the Euro-America Quilt since it represents 11 friends in 11 cities: Helsinki (Finland); New York (United States); Paris (France); Murnau (Germany); London (England); Montpellier (France); Vienna (Austria); Copenhagen (Denmark); Munich (Germany); Bordeaux (France); and Berlin (Germany).
I received the commission from my dear friend Lisa from dance school days –she was the one who tucked my unsure-and-2000-miles-from-home-in-a-big-city-self under her wing on the first day of classes, offered me her unconditional friendship, shared a locker with me (which we wallpapered in floral drawer liners, obviously!), filled me in on years of complex history and dance politics for that community, got me my first independent costume commission, and danced in my first piece of Toronto-student choreography — that kind of friend. Solid. The kind you never forget however brief your time was together and always feel warm and grateful towards.
She’s one-of-a-kind and is now a rock-star level arts educator and administrator in New York City (lucky city to have her, they have no idea!). But I digress.
So Lisa called me with this commission idea from her and a tight group of European friends … these friends of hers are part of a circle of 11 who all met during their studies and travels. Each lives in a different city scattered across Europe and America.
And they have the most beautiful tradition: whenever one of them has a baby, the rest commission a quilt for the baby that represents each of them, geographically scattered though they may be, and thus the new family has a charming and practical daily reminder of their dear, faraway friends.
The problem was that the couple from Berlin were the ones who always arranged the quilt, but this time they were the pregnant ones, and none of the others had that quilter’s contact info. But Lisa remembered that I sew and so I “won” the contract — and I’m so glad! We decided on a quilt that represented each friend via the main river or water body of the cities they lived in, along with the 3-letter IATA code for the airport of that city. And lastly, I added little pieces of transportation, nature, animal, whimsey and shelter for contrast and interest.
I finally got to use the applique stitching functions on my new sewing machine and also got acquainted with double sided, peel and stick interfacing for the detailed appliques. All together it was a learning experience and the most charming process. I loved researching the cities for their rivers and choosing an archetypal bit of the river for each quilt section. Embroidering the IATA’s and river names made me feel like the secret 12th member of their lovely friend circle. I kind of didn’t want to finish I enjoyed the making so much.
And once baby Ella was born in Berlin, I added her name and birthdate in the 12th piece (I love that they wanted to wait til she was born for the quilt to be finished, no chickens counted before hatching), and off went the quilt. Canada Post and Deutsche Post, bless/curse them, had some communication issues and I tracked the package helplessly online as it bounced around German cities for no apparent reason for about 6 weeks, but eventually the slightly more mature Ella received her international quilt. She’s snuggled in the arms of her parents’ friendship circle every day no matter how far away their actual arms are.
I have been busy as the busiest bee, designing and sewing up a costume-storm for dance and theatre productions these last few months. However, I still happily make time for felt Matryoshka commissions when I’m able to spare a day for doll-making – it’s a great way to catch up on some TV while creating a new little dolly-friend to send into the world.
Meet Harriet, the Venn Diagram Matryoshka! She’s science meets craft, and it’s a beautiful thing! In the 4-to-5-ish hours it takes me to make a Matushka Matryoshka (one of my larger matryoshka dolls), I feel like I get to know the little lady and then I have a bit of a hard time letting go!
And Harriet was no exception — though I can trust she is bound for an appreciative home. I love her mix of purples and I added a wide, shallow herringbone stitch in a dark salmon pink to jazz her belly up just a wee bit. I like that her Venn diagram has no details, Harriet will allow you to demonstrate almost anything with her unmarked Venn!
I may or may not have received the best Little Felt Matryoshka order yet last week: to make She-Ra, yes I do mean the Princess of Power herself, and the Mother Mary, yes, that Christian matriarch of matriarchs. Together. One order. So awesome! And they are beautiful. And funny. Especially together.
As a not-Catholic person, I didn’t know about the myriad of symbols for Mary and in researching this gal, found out about the pansy/trinity symbolism. So I used that for the belly instead of the sacred heart, which could have worked, but I like the metaphor (I always go metaphor if there’s a choice, let’s be honest!).
If you want to order a custom felt matryoshka brooch or doll, you can visit my Etsy shop! Just let me know, the possibilities are endless … as you can see here. So much fun! Truly, they are my favourite thing to make these days. And I dare you to find a more awesome pairing then these 2 ladies!
For more examples of my Little Felt Matryoshka brooch ladies, click here.
I am so thrilled to be able to share the official video for Parasite, a song by my friend and singer/songwriter Christa Couture! It’s been a long time coming, over a year since filming this, the first music video I’ve ever worked on. It was very exciting, a learning curve indeed. And it involved unitards. My world is complete!
There was a wind machine, which was fun, beautiful, intense and also funny! Christa was amazing, walking through flying debris, singing at super-speed (so that it would look slow, a film magic trick that I don’t quite grasp!) and dealing with hair and various flotsam and jetsam that stuck to her glossy video-lips.
As you may have figured out, I adore Matryoshkas. Those little, detailed nesting Russian dollies, utterly kitschy and charming. Yes, they stole my heart long ago.
I have been making felt ones, and they have become wonderfully popular. I am currently working on my 48th one! You can order them from my Etsy site.
There are a few that are made and ready to sell but mostly people are loving the custom order, where they can choose eye and hair colour, and the flower or emblem for the tummy. I think birth-month flower is a lovely choice, but I’ve done a football, musical notes, a little bird, a moustache, even stethoscopes for some nurses! And they’re pretty flat so they mail easily. I figured out that they fit in those tiny manila envelopes making for ultra cute packaging. Below is an order I recently sent off. So much fun right?! It makes me squeal a bit.
I add a little pin on their backs so that the ladies can be a brooch if you wish, and a little loop of embroidery floss so she can also be a decoration. Either way, it’s a whole lot of charm in your hand. And each lady if unique, a wee friend. I just had to share. And now back to stitching my little ladies.
Well, it’s been brewing in my head and hands for ages but I am finally, truly open for business on Etsy! Last week I did my first craft fair, a small affair here in Barrie, Ontario, but it lit a fire under me that I needed lit and I built up a stock of Baby Burping Cloths, Soother/Toy Straps and added these charming Littlest Matryoshka dolls to the Pocket Alchemy family!
These little ladies caused a bit of a sensation when I posted them on social medial last week. I’d been concocting them in my head for a while after making their bigger mama earlier this year. They are decorations or broochs, coming with a loop to hang and a pin back. I currently have about 27 dolls commissioned right now an am still accepting orders, so message me if you’re interested! The fun thing that people are doing is personalizing them for recipients, choosing hair and eye colour and the belly flower or emblem.
And so fair friends, go go to my Etsy shop! Finish your holiday shopping with me. If you know someone having a baby I am your lady! And please tell your friends, spread the word far and wide, Pocket Alchemy is open for business.
Oh my gosh, I just realized that this is my 100th blog post. How appropriate.
Of course we would hit this all important milestone when I was not particularly prepared. But it is here, 5-and-a-half-year-old Rudi lost his first tooth on the weekend. I knew it was loose but it didn’t seem that loose. However he managed to hit his face on a chair and the tooth popped right out. He was so surprised that he even forgot to cry about the face-hit! A very thrilled and proud boy is he.
Happily, luckily, I had the foresight a while ago to buy charming little blue tooth envelopes from Wildhorse Press (one of my absolute favourites, I highly recommend their cards and prints) for him to put his first few teeth into. Because I have not yet made a tooth pillow — it’s on the list of “Things I’m Determined to Do.” You know that list? Yeah …
For the actual tooth fairy work, I did some late-night googling to see what other people are doing. So much fun, I do love charming, mini things. And I shamelessly, happily sourced some creative and free printables from other artists, because they have done an amazing job and I am not a graphic designer. The tooth certificate is from Toys in the Dryer, I just downsized it when I printed it, and the little yellow tooth fairy envelope is from Handmade Charlotte.
The note I wrote myself using a 9-point Snell Roundhand font. I made sure to get in a reminder about eating fruits and veggies since fairies hold a lot more sway than I do in that department! I wrapped a book and added a Loonie (that’s a $1 coin in Canada) and we’re off, catapulted into yet another realm of growing-up-land, spinning some more magic.