Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

from the Owl and the Bunny Rabbit

Happy Brothers

The details:

Charlie Rabbit

pattern: McCall's 8953 (includes options for bunny, cat, lion, bear, and kangaroo), size 3
fabric: white anti-pill fleece
mods: didn't put elastic in cuffs of sleeves or pants (running short on time!); had to pin the suit in the back because it ended up running way big, put styrofoam in the ears to try to keep them standing - didn't work (there are no instructions in this pattern for making the ears stand up - and they are huge - I even cut them down a bit and still couldn't get them to defy gravity)
verdict: the tail and the ears were a big pain, but they are what make the costume work;
he loves it

Halloween Bunny

Halloween Bunny, in profile

Halloween Bunny, the flipside

Halloween Owl

pattern: McCall's 8953, sort of
fabric: anti-pill fleece
mods: no spats, no mitts, didn't line the hood, made small owl ears, added fabric to the sleeves to make them wings, added an owl face, inspired by this sleep mask
verdict: he loves it (and I'm a little proud of the owl face)

Owl hood

Flying Owl

Whoo!  Whoo!

Halloween Hoot Owl

Bouncing Bunny, Hooting Owl

Bouncing Bunny, Hooting Owl

The Owl and the Pussycat and the Bunny

Happy Halloween, from the Owl and the Pussycat and the Bunny

Oh, and if you were as crazy about the Vampire Bunnies as I am, Felicia is having a contest giving one away. Check it out.

now back to my previously-scheduled, freaking-out, deadline-knitting

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween :: by etsy

When it comes to Halloween decorating, I'm a minimalist. A jack o' lantern, a few small gourds on the dining table, maybe a couple of extra pumpkins here and there, and I call it done. I just can't stand so much of what I see in stores, and so I have these lofty ideas of making all kinds of Halloween decorations myself, but that never seems to happen (when it's a choice between finishing costumes and making decorations, the costumes always win). Enter etsy.

First, there were these:

Bunny Vampires!

Vampire Rabbits from Fluffy Flowers
These were theoretically gifts for my boys, but I have to admit that I have sort of co-opted them for the living room. The boys like them, but I LOVE them. Love them beyond what's reasonable. Love their big eyes and their little fangs. Love their fabric. Love everything about them.
I'd admired Felicia's work for awhile, but these little bunnies just had my number from the beginning. Love 'em.
Aren't they SO FREAKIN' CUTE?!?

Owly Shadow Puppets - bats!

Bat Pack from Owly Shadow Puppets
As soon as I saw these guys over at Hillary's place,
I knew I had to have them.
This is a pack of four bats, different sizes,
laser-cut from heavy mat board.
They are crazy-fun.
This year, I have them spread out around the living room,
in different corners.
Next year, I am definitely going to hang them on a tree branch mobile, like this.

My house still has a very minimalist feel, in terms of Halloween decor. But the little bit that is there is Really. Cool. Stuff. And I love it that my money is going to independent artists as opposed to, say, Target (which still gets a large portion of my funds, I assure you).

So I'm riding the Etsy train these days, and you couldn't really expect me to get off after those two brilliant purchases, could you? No. Because next I saw Amanda's Autumn Ode to Etsy, and the yarn she featured simply stole my heart. (you must remember that I am extremely susceptible to the Power of Suggestion)

Pancake and Lulu

100% handspun merino
from Pancake and Lulu
in "Cinder Ella"
I think it's going to be perfect for a Zeebee for Little Buddha. I've been wanting to make one for awhile, and this yarn just screamed "Zeebee!!" to me. Seriously, look at that yarn, and listen hard. You will hear it too:
I think it'll be a great match for his black-and-red winter coat.

I'm still looking for the perfect yarn for a hat for Tiny Dancer, whose coat is navy and olive green. I've been searching Etsy, of course. But it is quite an overwhelming place. The truth is, I tend to buy stuff there that I have seen featured on other people's blogs. Because if you type in "yarn" you get, like, 1013 items. And if you type in handspun yarn, you still get over 100. So if anyone wants to point me to some great yarn with blue and green in it, my mouse is standing by to click over.

What about you people? What are you loving on etsy these days?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pot O' Gold, After All

You guys are the jiggiest. Because of your unanimous encouragement for me to try option #4, I did contact Knit Nouveau to see if maybe, possibly, per chance, they just might have that other megahank of Handmaiden Sea Silk in "straw" that they had way back in July. Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, the owner (and designer of such knits as the Retro Redux Shrug and Refined Raglan), emailed back immediately to say that they did still have it, she was setting it aside for me, and if I called with my credit card number she would put it in the mail right away. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I couldn't. I felt like such an idiot inquiring about it (because #1 I should've bought enough for the project in the first place and #2 since I didn't buy enough I should've modified the project to work with the amount of yarn I bought and #3 who expects a single perfect hank to still be in stock 3 months later?). Well, I don't feel like an idiot now! Okay, I do still feel like an idiot. But an idiot with a megahank of Sea Silk on its way to me! Word.

[see, if you start a paragraph with a word like "jiggiest" it is not nerdy at all to end by saying "word." right? who's with me?]

Knit Nouveau is officially my all-time favorite Local Yarn Shop, if by "local" you mean 800 miles away. Seriously, favorite yarn shop ever. You've probably read the stories I have, of terrible visits to yarn shops (most horrifying was Alison's account last June). Most of us have had at least one bad experience - I know I have. Stores where you feel like you're not part of their club. Stores where you feel like you're an intruder. Stores where you are steered to the acrylics if you enter with a baby or child (or, worse, frowned at if you enter with a baby or child).

My first experience with Knit Nouveau was last summer - you can read that story here. The woman working that evening went way above and beyond the call of duty. A couple of weeks after my visit, the shop moved to a different part of town - precisely two miles from my BIL's home. So of course you know where I spent a few hours while I was visiting this summer. The first time, I took Little Buddha with me, and Jane, who was working that day, was so kind - when he got bored and restless, she just played and played with him, leaving me plenty of time to sniff yarn and drool. I came back a few days later and dropped a wad of cash, purchasing, among other things, the glorious megahank of Sea Silk (it was my first upclose encounter with this yarn, and I simply couldn't resist).

I also got this:

Tofutsies, for making socks for the boys

Farmhouse Silk Blend
Farmhouse Silk Blend, DK, in "seabreeze", on sale
Jane was making a Baby Surprise out of this yarn in a different colorway, and I was so taken with it that I had to get some myself, with plans to make the same thing. No baby in mind, just wanted to make a Baby Surprise. And I found the perfect buttons for it. (sorry, no picture)

Of course neither of these yarns have yet seen the light of day, since I really really must be practicing knitting monogamy right now. The race to the finish is on now (we leave for the wedding two weeks from tomorrow). But the knitting gods have clearly been smiling on me this week, so here's hoping they keep it up just a little longer!

Thanks, friends, for holding my hand during my freak-out, and for giving me such good - and effective! - advice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rainbow of Happiness, Pot O' Golden Disappointment

But not in that order. Better to end on a happy note, yes? But first, that Golden Disappointment:

Gothic Leaf Stole (a Sivia Harding design)
in progress

So I have 16 repeats done, 8 to go, and the wedding is in 2.5 weeks (yes, I seem to prefer a race to the finish). I am very happy with how it is turning out, and can't wait to wear it with my bridesmaid dress. However, I have known from the beginning that I didn't have enough yarn. I bought the megahank (600m/650 yds) of Sea Silk on a whim at Knit Nouveau (a place I absolutely adore) in Birmingham, Alabama. I had no idea what I was going to make at that point, just that I loved the yarn, so I snagged some. After an intensive Ravelry search, I decided to go with the Gothic Leaf Stole, though the pattern calls for 1000 yards. At first I thought I would make it narrower than the pattern so I could have it still be long enough. Then I decided to knit it as written, and simply buy more Sea Silk. I should've known better. The hank arrived today (ordered from and while it is certainly pretty it does not compare to the original yarn in shade, variation, or luster. Perhaps it will look better once it is wound, and maybe it will match up better than I fear. But I am disappointed that I have put so much effort into this only to have it compromised by my own poor planning (I guess the only way to avoided this would have been to shell out the money for the 2 megahanks at the time - without knowing what I wanted them for - or to have made the shawl narrower, as I originally intended). My choices now seem to be:
1 - keep going and hope the yarn isn't as obvious a mismatch as I'm afraid
2 - stop when I run out of the original yarn, and call it a shawlette (am thinking I have enough for maybe 2 more repeats at most - so less than 50" in length, rather than 73", not quite the dramatic evening accessory I had in mind)
3 - go ahead and start the new yarn, alternating with the old yarn, in hopes that the difference will be a little more camouflaged if it's a gradual change
4 - call Knit Nouveau in Alabama and ask if they still have the other megahank, from 3 months ago, and then pay for it to be shipped, quick-like....

What would you do?

In unrelated but spectacularly disappointing news, we heard back from the data recovery place in California today. They cannot retrieve any data at all from My Old Man's hard drive. Nothing. Not his manuscript. Not his book notes. Not his quote file. Not his reflections following Little Buddha's accident. He is taking it like a champ, but WOW. Seriously unpleasant news.

But I did get a little rainbow in the mail today. I simply couldn't resist:

Color-Wheel Quilt Bundle
from Purl

Because when I dream, I dream big....

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Old Knitspot

Given how many potential blog posts I have running through my head all the time, it's a bit odd that I haven't actually blogged in 10 days. I've decided not to apologize for that because I'm trying to see my blog as a fun thing and not as yet another obligation, and an apology implies I feel obliged. Truthfully, I do feel a degree of responsibility to post and concern about not posting (will people forget me? will people think I've forgotten them? won't I lose readers if I don't post regularly? how can I aspire to be the kind of blogger I myself like reading, if I can't be consistent?). But I'm working on maintining a sense of freedom and play when it comes to my blog, because honestly, the last thing I need in my life is one more anxiety-inducing obligation hanging over my head. So no apologies here (though I do apologize if that seems rude).

Pretty freakin' long non-apology, eh?

Yeah, so a few weeks ago, Becca tagged me for the 8 Random Things meme. I've posted so many random things about myself in this space that I think you must know them all. But since I've been thinking about blogging and where my time has gone lately, I thought I'd post 8 Random Things I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging:
  1. Being sick. Like all of autumn, so far. For the last 4 weeks, I have had some variation of head/chest funkiness (including an ear infection that caused me no pain but sent me to the doctor for unrelenting vertigo). I'm really, really tired of being sick.
  2. Worrying about a spider bite. I got bitten by a spider about a week-and-a-half ago. I didn't see it happen, only found the bite later. Of course I can't be sure it was a spider, but I think it was. Then I started worrying about it being a Brown Recluse, thanks to Googling my symptoms. (my bite looked a lot like a lot of the pictures I saw) My ridiculous hypochondria led to one sleepless night and the death of two spiders that turned out to be Grass Spiders (sometimes confused for Brown Recluses). I'm pretty sure now that it was not a Brown Recluse.
  3. Dealing with Mac problems. While My Old Man's hard drive sits at a data recovery place in California, waiting for his manuscript to be retrieved, my own Mac G5 continues having ridiculous and irksome problems. Sometimes this affects my photo uploading abilities, which totally messes up my blogging groove.
  4. Practicing an unusual bout of knitting monogamy. Our niece's wedding is 3 weeks from tomorrow, and I have 9 repeats left (out of 24) on my shawl. It would be going a lot faster if it weren't for the beading. I love the pattern (and the yarn), but it is seriously bumming me out to be so focused on one project when there are so many others I am itching to get my hands on. But I am determined to wear the shawl to the wedding, so that means monogamy till I'm done. (to guess how I feel about this, see my first paragraph about obligations - it applies to self-imposed ones too)
  5. Paying people lots of money to fix broken things. Toilet (which overflowed into the basementt and ruined a few things). Sewing machine (worth every penny). My Old Man's MacBook (see #3, above).
  6. Drowning in email. I can't keep up, and I feel bad blogging when I don't consistenly respond to my blog comments (blogger does make that especially hard). Meanwhile, I am steadily trying to whittle down the 4000 emails in my gmail inbox by using the label and archive functions. I am trying to archive two pages' worth a day....
  7. Working on uploading and categorizing my photos in flickr (made more difficult by #3, above).
  8. Re-doing our living room.
Which brings me to the title of this post - My Old Knitspot. In my adult life, I have owned 6 sofas, 2 loveseats, and 4 recliners, and not a one of them was new to me. They were all either hand-me-downs or yard sale purchases. Well, this week, for the first time, I actually went out and bought brand-new living room furniture (possibly a stupid move, with 2 little boys and 2 cats in the house). But the deal I got was unbeatable (yay! for World Market) and it is high time we quit being embarrassed to have people over because of our stained and cat-scratched furniture. We are still working on getting everything set up, and I hope to show pictures soon. But I have been surprised at the nostalgia I have been feeling about one of the pieces we got rid of: my old, stained, not very pretty recliner.

It was the best place in the house to knit - the arms were in just the right place, not too close but close enough that I could rest my elbows there while knitting (didn't realize I even did that till I didn't have the option). Turns out I also prefer to have my feet up while knitting, and a light directly over my head. It may take me awhile to adjust to my new knitspot.

But I also discovered that my attachment to that ugly recliner was more about nostalgia than function. That recliner was where my old dog Mocha, now dead three years, used to curl up and sleep (an 85-pound Rottweiler, she considered herself a lap dog). It is the recliner I used to elevate my very swollen feet during the last hard months of my pregnancy. It is where I nursed my babies. It is where my little boys liked to sit on my lap together.

I know we'll be making new memories with our new furniture. But for now, I miss my old knitspot/dogspot/nursingspot/sitspot. It has made its home (along with a matching recliner and a sleeper sofa) in a house where 23 college students live.

My Old Knitspot
red recliner, Cozy on the back, Scrunchable Scarf in progress (last October), favorite mug (Michigan Radio), autumn candle

How about you? Do you have a sacred place in your home? (or, if you're a knitter, a favorite knitspot?) What makes it so?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Culture of Creativity

fall afternoon, wooden books, mama's quilt, a little shut-eye

You people rock. Thank you so much for the time and thoughtfulness you put into responding to my contest question, about how to nurture a culture of creativity in the home, especially as relates to children. I am so inspired and encouraged by your great ideas, and I hope to be doing some blogging in response to some of what was written. If you haven't gotten a chance yet to read through the whole list of responses, do yourself a favor and read them. I'm really honored that so many of you so thoroughly engaged the question.

I don't want the conversation to end. I've started a flickr group, Culture of Creativity, with the hope that you (and others) will post photos (and discussion) related to the issue of nurturing creativity - in our communities, our homes, our families, our personal lives. I'd love to see how people interpret this concept photographically - whether it's a picture of a child engaged in some sort of art or craft, or of some creative community venture (festivals, fairy doors), or something that you personally simply find inspiring.

I also want to say thanks for all the quilty-love. You guys make me feel so good. I really have to give some credit to a few folks who have inspired me in that particular venture. Sarah's was the first incarnation of the Easy Lap Quilt that I saw this summer, and I adored it (actually way more than the one pictures in the book). Ashley's quilts have all blown me away with their beauty and freshness and craftswomanship. And it was this post of Rebekah's that finally encouraged me to take the leap. (When I found out that it was only a little over a year ago that she had done her first quilt, I was floored. I've been stalking her blog for almost that whole length of time, and had no idea the first quilt of hers I ever saw was the first one she'd ever made). Thanks again, craftblog community, for inspiring me and encouraging me to try something I don't think I would've attempted otherwise.

Okay, enough of that, I know what you're here for. Who won the contest? I did this great little photo shoot this afternoon, with Little Buddha drawing a name out of hat (followed by a shot of him putting the hat on, promptly dumping the all the other little strips of paper on his head)*. But my ridiculous Mac problems continue and suddenly my computer will not read my camera disk. So without further buildup, the winner is:

Yay for guy knitbloggers. And y'all, dickie is hardcore about Malabrigo, so you know it'll be in good hands. (If you haven't checked out his blog before, you really must - his fab photography makes knitgoods look edible). Thank you again, all of you, for participating in my contest. And please join me over in the Culture of Creativity group!

*For the record, I do try - and regularly - to get shots of Tiny Dancer, but he refuses to be photographed these days.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

At Long Last....

Number of years I've been wanting to try quilting: ~5
Number of years I've been kind of obsessing about quilting: ~1.75
Number of quilting-related books I own: 10
Number of quilting-related books I have checked out from the library: 9
Number of times in a row I checked out Your First Quilt Book: 29
Number of times I actually referred to Your First Quilt Book while making my first quilt: 0
Number of flickr groups I stalk, in hopes of seeing more quilts: 5
Amount spent on materials for first quilt: $24
Actually making my own quilt?

pattern: Easy Lap Quilt from Bend-the-Rules Sewing
fabric: solid cottons - pink, chocolate brown, caramel brown
prints - Tracy Porter
dates: September 21 - 29
  • I loved everything about making this quilt, from beginning to end. This book made me really believe I could finally actually make a quilt, and the process was so organic. In fact, I think that's what helped me take the leap - the fact that I could design as I go, rather than following (and trying to get right) someone else's quilt.
  • I went into the fabric shop knowing I wanted to do a quilt in pinks and browns, and then I just went from there. I played with possibilities in the store (which took a very long time), and finally settled on these three Asian-inspired Tracy Porter prints. I love all three prints - the delicate pink one with the brown tree branches, the bold red/gold/brown/pink one with litttle splashes of blue, and the brown with light blue wavy branch-like things. The backing is a brown with little red and tan and white diamonds on it.
  • I cut the strips as the book instructs, and the I just played awhile, till I found a design I liked - I loved this part. It really worked for me, and I see myself making quilts like this again in the future. The quilt top came together very quickly. The basting went pretty quickly, too. The actual quilting took longer than I expected, partly because I did some trial-and-error at this point (testing out thread color options, trying to quilt without drawing lines on the top first - which did not work for me!, trying to decide how many lines to quilt). This part was really fun, too - deciding where all the lines would go. Again, very organic.
  • Finally, all that was left was the binding. Amy Karol suggests that, though you may be tempted to do the whole thing by machine, it will look much better if you do the binding in two steps - machine for the front, hand for the back. I should've listened. Instead, I followed the method in The Modern Quilt Workshop - I got myself a bias tape maker, made the binding, and then machine-stitched it. And I messed up a lot. Part of this was due to machine problems, part due to operator-error. I didn't notice the biggest problems till I'd already washed and dried it (like a couple of places where the binding didn't get fully attached in the back!). For now, the problems remain, but soon I do plan to go back and do the whole thing by hand.
verdict: I am beyond thrilled with this. I love everything about it (except the binding, till I fix it) - the colors, the prints, the combinations of colors and prints, the size, the way the quilting came out, and the fact that, at long last, I have made myself a quilt. There will definitely be more of these in my future. And I would highly, highly recommend Amy's method to anyone who has been hesitant to give quilting a go.

You can see more pics here. (Yes, I have finally fallen completely, madly in love with flickr).

And don't forget! Today is the last day to enter my contest. I'll draw a winner in the morning and announce it in a blog post tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fall is for Raspberries

My culture of creativity contest is still running - keep those comments coming! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them all.

Many of you have touched on the role that getting out in the natural world plays in opening our imagination. I couldn't agree more. My boys' Co-Op Preschool is grounded in a play-based philosophy and includes a lot of outdoor time. About once a month, we go on a field trip, starting last week with an adventure in raspberry-picking. Y'all, I am crazy about raspberries. I may decorate and dress myself with cherry-print fabrics, but my favorite fruit in all the world is raspberries. Love, love, love 'em. My little dudes do, too. I ended up bringing a lot fewer raspberries home than I expected.

I only brought home a quart, and by that afternoon they were half-gone. Still, I had just enough to make Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Pancakes. I have always loved Chocolate Chip Pancakes (thanks to IHOP and their face pancake on the kids' menu - ever had one of those? I always try to get my boys to order those so I can have some too. That whipped cream face never fails to make me smile). There was a week in my 20s following a bad breakup that I ate chocolate chip pancakes for dinner every night. Serious comfort food. At some point later, it dawned on me that I really needed to toss some raspberries in there. Is there any combination better than raspberry and chocolate? I think not (though some friends did recently serve us some Vosges Bacon Chocolate, and y'all, it was good. I kid you not. Bacon +Chocolate = surprisingly tasty). Still, for me, nothing beats the pairing of raspberry and chocolate.

Fall dinner - Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes,
fresh Raspberry Sauce, Tempeh Crumbles

Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Chip Pancakes
adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

1 C plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1 T cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 C water
1 C rice milk
2 T canola oil
3 T pure maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 C semisweet vegan chocolate chips
1 C fresh raspberries
canola oil for pan (using oil instead of cooking spray makes for yummy, slightly crisp pancake, which compliments the chocolate chips and raspberries really well)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powdeer, and salt. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add all the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, fold in chocolate chips and raspberries. Batter will be thin, the way I like it. If you prefer a thicker batter, add more flour and/or more cocoa.
Oil and preheat a large skillet over med-hi heat for about 2 minutes.
Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into pan. Cook until bubbles form on top. Turn pancakes and cook until bottoms are browned and pancakes are cooked through. Sprinkle with fresh raspberries and serve with Raspberry Sauce (blend raspberries, a tiny bit of sugar, and a little lemon juice in blender; strain seeds). Makes about 12 pancakes. Happy comfort-eating!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Photographer

Last spring, in a desperate attempt to get a shot of myself in a shirt I had just made, and with my tripod nowhere to be found, I handed my expensive digital SLR camera to my then 2 year-old son, Little Buddha. He had been begging to use my camera for awhile, but I had been hesitant to put such a pricey piece of breakable equipment into his hands. I was pleasantly surprised with his best shot. When I blogged it, Rachel suggested that perhaps I could get him some cheapy digital camera to practice with. I passed this idea on to my parents who were asking what to get the boys for their 3rd birthday last May. The gifts were a hit, and Little Buddha became an instant shutterbug (Tiny Dancer likes the camera fine, but not in the same sort of obsessive way as his brother and his mother).

It has been a delightful thing to see LB's developing eye for composition and color. Of course there are hazards to handing a camera, even a cheap and theoretically indestructible one, to a 3 year-old. Most notably - he is at the perfect height to get numerous shots of people's backsides, as well as tummy rolls and the underside of double chins. Not pretty, my friends. Not pretty. Still, I'm thrilled to support his new hobby.

He took his camera on our vacation this summer, and played the role of the tourist quite well.

Little Buddha and Tiny Dancer at the National Zoo

Then one afternoon at the beach, he got out his camera and simply went to work with it, without any of the rest of us noticing him quietly clicking away. When I uploaded his pics, I was astonished not only with the quality of the composition, but with the fact that he clearly actively worked to develop several different compositions of the same subject matter.

The Coca-Cola Series

In the next set, he manipulated not only the objects in the photo, but also his own perspective. What I love about these is that I personally rarely think to photograph a person without their face (unless I am doing a shot of myself modeling something I made and am specifically trying to focus on the handmade object). It is hard for me to think outside my own conventions on this count, so I was particularly impressed to see what he came up with here - much better, I think, than if he had included my face. I also really love the combination of the white tabletop, white mug, and white MacBook, with the little bit of pink top (handmade, of course!) and the unexpected black plastic beetle.

The Mommy-Mac-Mug-Bug Series

I don't know that I would ever have thought to get a camera for a 3 year-old if it hadn't been for Rachel's encouragement - yet another example of how the craftblog community is supporting me in my own efforts to support my kids' creativity.

So keep those ideas coming. The contest is still on, till midnight October 8th. So please make sure to leave your idea about nurturing a culture of creativity in the home. Creativity is however you define it, too - it doesn't just pertain to crafts, or visual arts, or music. I've gotten great comments so far, so if you haven't had a chance to read them yet, check them out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Kids, Craft and a Culture of Creativity: A Contest

or, earthchick loves alliteration

With all the blogland goodness I myself have been the recipient of these last few months, it's time and past time I had a little contest myself. I've actually been wanting to do this one for awhile, and now the time is just right. So here goes.

Doing my little crafts and trying to claim, nurture, and use my creativity sustains me in ways I can hardly name. It keeps me sane. It is a form of resistance - my little attempt at revolution against mass-produced ready-made everything, and my small effort at a slow and relished life. Also, it's fun!

I believe that as children we are innately creative, artistic, crafty, curious, expressive. Over time, through the forces of prevailing cultural norms and institutions, we get some of it drummed out of us. We spend our energies trying to fit in, keep up, get ahead. Consumerism and conformity supercede craft, art, imagination. I want my children to find another way, join the resistance, value the things they themselves create. So I believe that one of my primary tasks as a mother is to encourage and nurture the natural creativity, curiosity, and imagination of my children. In some ways this has come naturally to me. Tiny Dancer likes to dance, so I dance with him. Little Buddha likes to help in the kitchen, so I give him little jobs to do. In other ways, it has struck me as more difficult than I had anticipated. Nurturing my little artists means, among other things: being patient, letting them make mistakes, allowing messes, paying attention, thinking outside my own little boxes.

I have learned an enormous amount about craft and creativity from the web of craftbloggers out there. My own creativity has certainly been nurtured and sustained by my participation in the craftblog community, and I have learned an awful lot about encouraging the creativity of my children, some of which I will share in upcoming posts. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the entire craftblog community, and no one more so than SouleMama.

I don't know how I first stumbled onto her site last year, though I'm sure I surfed in from someone else's blog - that's how I've found most of the blogs I read. Amanda's blog is inspirational in every way - phenomenal photography, wonderful writing, extraordinary crafts (sewing, quilting, embroidery, knitting, you name it). But what inspires me most of all is her approach to family and to child-rearing. I am blown away by the little people she is raising, and the sorts of things they create and do. She and SoulePapa are doing one heck of a job at affirming, encouraging, and nurturing their children's native creativity and individual gifts. That's the kind of mama I want to be.

So when Amanda revealed last fall that she had just finished writing a book, The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, I went a little gaga. Began stalking Amazon, watching for a release date. And now, at long last ... well, it's still six months away.

(You're wondering when I'm going to get to the contest part, right?)

I want to share in the anticipation with people. Also, I need something to tide me over till the book is released (you can check out the table of contents and sample pages here). What I need is from you, dear readers. I need your ideas. Your advice. Your links to great resources.

So here's the contest:
Leave a comment between now and midnight on Monday, October 8th, with one idea you have about nurturing children's creativity. How do you build a culture of creativity and imagination in the home? How do you resist convention? What do you think hinders imagination, and how do you deal with that? What rituals and rhythms do you think help nourish the artistic souls of children and families? I do not assume that only parents have good answers to these questions. If you don't have kids yourself, I still want your ideas. Did your own parents do anything in particular to support your creative pursuits? What do you do to feed your own creative self? Where do you find inspiration for the creative life?

Leave me a comment with one of your best thoughts. Next Tuesday, I will draw one name, at random, as the winner.

The prize? I will preorder for you your very own copy of The Creative Family. (Judging from the table of contents, this book would be inspirational even for someone without children, or it would also make a lovely baby shower gift.)

And just so you're not sitting around empty-handed for six months, I'll also throw in a couple of other goodies for the prize-winner:
- one skein of Malabrigo, in Indigo (a sort of blue-purple). A treat to knit with, as many of you can attest. One skein (225 yds) of worsted weight merino yarn is plenty to make a long skinny scarf, a great hat, a Calorimetry or two, a pair of wristwarmers, or a little shrug (like the One Skein Wonder). If you'd like to see how this particular color knits up, check out Lolly's fab sweater.

(prize is one skein; picture shows two)

- a set of custom stitch markers made by yours truly, in your choice of color. You can see some examples of my new little craft here. If you're not a knitter, I could try my hand at a pair of earrings instead (if you don't mind taking that risk!). If you're not a knitter and not a woman (hi, Chris!), well, I guess we'll have to work something out.

There it is. My little contest, with hopes that I don't sound too much like a soulemama-stalker (though her blog is most definitely stalk-worthy). I look forward to reading your ideas. Let the games begin!