30 November 2013

Book Review: Handmade Gifts


Every year for Christmas/the Solstice my family and friends can count on getting a plate of homemade cookies and candy from me. I've received some great compliments over the years (the best being when my cousin told me my melomakarona--Greek syrup-soaked walnut cookies--were just like our grandmother's) but I don't think the recipients enjoy the treats nearly as much as I love making them. There's something utterly satisfying about making gifts. Taking the time and using your skills and creativity to make something is so much more meaningful than running to the store and picking up some impersonal item that, really, they could just go buy themselves.

Which is why I was more than a little enthused when DK sent me a copy of Handmade Gifts to review. Every year I vow to make more than just treats for the people on my gift list, but I never seem to manage it. Part of it is that I somehow always leave it too late (I swear time accelerates after Labour Day), but the bigger part is simply a general lack of ideas. There are only so many scarves and bath salts a person can handle, and searching through reams of craft books and magazines and blogs for projects gets pretty tiresome. But one solid book of awesome projects? I can handle that.

Handmade Gifts is divided into sections, each focusing on a different category of gifts: For the Home, Jewelry, Bags and Accessories, Pampering Gifts, For Pet Lovers, and Edible Gifts. There are also sections on Gift Wrap and Crochet Basics. The book includes templates, variations for each gift, and (one of the things I love about DK books) lots of detailed photos and clear instructions. The gifts aren't limited to Christmas, either--these are good for any occasion (even for yourself--I promise I won't tell).

As soon as I started looking through the book I knew I'd be making a lot of these projects. More often than not in craft books of the past the projects looked as though they were designed by (and for) Victorian spinsters or five year old kids. I don't know about anyone else but, much as I'd appreciate the thought and effort, I wouldn't be thrilled at being the recipient of a ruffled tissue-box cover or a plastic-canvas brooch. But in Handmade Gifts the projects look great--not only will your giftees be happy to get what you've made them, but they'll actually use it. Even better--the projects are doable. You don't need a degree in advanced soldering or obscure equipment and tools.

So what kinds of projects will you find in Handmade Gifts? Personalized journals, decorated ceramics, mosaics, really cool silver clay jewelry, knotted scarves (for you non-knitters), retro clasp-frame bags, luxury soaps, travel candles, applique pet portraits, colorful macarons (you know--those super trendy cookies that people pay ridiculous prices for), and more. The gift wrap section shows you how to make boxes and containers for your gifts, as well as printed gift wrap.

And if you're not particularly crafty but you have a friend who is? Get them the book. Maybe you'll be lucky and end up getting one of the gifts back!

Handmade Gifts, DK Publishing.

19 November 2013

Apron Strings 3

I just finished another apron using these instructions. I think it turned out nicely, although it's not my favourite apron that I've made. That bow at the top looks pretty but is kind of annoying when you're wearing the apron. I also found the instructions a bit fussy, so it wasn't the most fun to work on. I wouldn't use this particular pattern again but I am glad I used it once.

31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

And Happy Samhain too. May this night bring you many sweet treats, magic(k)al moments, and reconnection with friends, ancestors, and spirits alike...

Our only decoration this year is some bunting I made. Keeping your house ready for potential buyers at a moment's notice doesn't offer much in the way of fun, unfortunately.

30 October 2013


Took my camera for a walk around the neighbourhood. Don't you love autumn?

Apple tree

Leaves by the side of the road


Some type of brassica (Brussels sprouts?) looking like a little leafy tree :)

Photos ©Whimsy Bower

12 October 2013

Pumpkins and Spiders and Ghosts--Oh My

Preparations for the move are coming along. I have packed my last box (until the house sells anyway)! Decluttering really isn't a fun process; not only is it a lot of tiring work but "clutter" is a large part of what makes your house your own. Buyers might like to see a neutral canvas, but I definitely don't like living in one. Oh well. Everything's being moved into storage now in anticipation of cleaning, staging, and (finally) listing. Meanwhile Nova Scotia beckons tantalizingly and I have to resist the urge to run around in circles like an idiot because I'm so overwhelmed with excitement.

I've also made and listed two new buntings for my Etsy shop :) And I re-took some of the earlier photos, which I wasn't happy with. What do you think? (Click on photos to go to the listings, where you can also see more photos.)

Part of the new Pumpkins and Spiders and Ghosts (Oh My) Bunting

Moon button detail

Star Button detail on the new Poe-inspired bunting

New photos for the Bats and Spiderwebs bunting

New photos for the Pumpkins and Ghosts bunting

07 October 2013

Halloween Bunting

I've made another Halloween bunting, this one with a bats and spiderweb fabric. I think the larger bats have a bit of an Art Deco look to them.

The hanging loops are decorated with black cat buttons :)


Back. The bunting looks good from both sides, so it can be hung anywhere.

And it's available in my shop :)

06 October 2013

Exciting News

Well, things are getting interesting around here. I'm still in the midst of a move. We're just finishing the packing, decluttering, cleaning, and staging portion of things and getting ready to put this place on the market. Holy, nerve-wracking, Batman! As if that weren't enough, I've decided to move to Nova Scotia: Canada's Ocean Playground! It's two provinces and miles away from where I'm currently living, and I've never even been there. But adventure and the ocean are calling. More details on that later (I'll be starting a blog soon to document all the awesome).

You'd think that would be enough to keep me occupied. You'd think. But I've decided to open my very own Etsy shop (click on the banner to visit the shop):

I'll be selling handmade (by me) bunting for now, although eventually I'll be adding aprons, pillowcases, and who knows what else. I've discovered a real passion for sewing and this shop seemed like the perfect complement to my love of crafting. I'm quite excited about it and I hope you will be too.

My first listing is for a spooky-cute Halloween bunting (and more will be coming soon):
See the listing and more bunting pictures here.
Wishing everyone happy times and a touch of adventure :)

04 August 2013

Apron Strings 2

Life is on the stressful side these days, mostly due to our impending move. Between getting the house ready to sell, living in the ensuing chaos of packing (4,000 books, most of which have to go into storage), and looking for a new place in a new town, my calm has been fairly well damaged. So I try to take what therapy I can get--mostly Pinterest, reading, kitty cuddles, and, when I can, sewing.

I just completed another apron using Mooshkette's tutorial as a guide. I used ric rac for the first time and made my first pocket (I'm quite pleased with the results). I ordered the fabric online (In My Room "My Happy Place in Pink" from Fabric Spot) and I don't know if my eyes were off that day but I somehow thought--or maybe just hoped--the browns and greys were shades of purple. Oops. Don't get me wrong--it's nice fabric, but the overall effect ended up being a bit...1970s. I still like it, and I'm thrilled to have another cute apron. But next time I'll be a little more careful.

My latest project

A closer look at the pocket. Instead of a flap I went with a bit of ric rac trim to echo the ric rac along the top ruffle.

I love the design but I do wish the brown had been purple and the grey lavender. I could do without the bright orange too. If only I could design my own fabric (Canada needs a Spoonflower! I refuse to pay shipping and customs duties to get fabric from the States--no matter how cute.)
I thought the pointed ends on the ties were a nice touch.

30 June 2013

Apron Strings

I have an obsession with aprons. I've been really indulging it lately with a number of purchases to bolster my collection (I'll write about that another time) but until recently had never made one. As it turns out, making an apron is pretty easy. Maybe a little too easy. I've already chosen the pattern and fabric for my next one. And the one after that...

I used this post for instructions and inspiration, although I didn't follow them exactly. It was fun learning to make gathers and ruffles, and I ended up with a pretty apron that looks good and is comfortable to wear. I think it might even be my favourite one.

This is the inside view of the apron. The ruffles get sewn to the wrong side of the backing fabric so that when it's facing you, you get to see the right side. I thought that was a great detail in the original design.

23 June 2013

Making a Case of It

My latest sewing project had me learning all kinds of new things: how to make a patchwork, how to change the presser foot on my sewing machine, and how to add a zipper. Nothing special to any seasoned seamstress but pretty exciting for a relative newbie like me :) The patchwork and zipper became part of a pillow for my office. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Can't wait for my next challenge!

The fabrics I used for the patchwork

Putting the pieces together to figure out placement

Each row of pieces is sewn together to make three strips

Then the strips are sewn together to make the patchwork.

The fabric on the left (a bonus fat quarter generously sent to me with my order by Jennifer at Dragonfly Fabric) is what I used for the back of the pillow.

Photos ©Whimsy Bower