Our baby boy

Five months of oohs and aahs, little hands and little feet, interrupted nights, smiles, and warm snuggles. Five months ago, we welcomed our baby boy to our family, and what a ride it has been so far! From a four-day long labor to waking up every hour when he was four months old, we’ve been learning, bleary-eyed, what it means to be parents.

And while I want to share every detail, every new thing he does, and every poo coo he makes, I hesitate because I want to preserve the privacy of this young person; I hesitate because I feel more and more acutely how we all need a little more privacy in this day and age.

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This blog was started to record (ever so infrequently) my crafty endeavors. And so I will try not to delve into too many child-rearing details and instead try to focus on crafts, recycling projects, and other creative stuff. I can assure you of one thing though: I definitely WILL be writing about making baby booties, baby sweaters, baby toys etc. because that’s where my crafty thoughts are these days.

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One more thing… I just wanted to share this great post from an artist and blogger I respect very much (even though I’ve never met her). In this excellent blog post, she is talking about slow blogging (a concept I seem to have grasped a long time ago :))

And what are your news and plans this year?

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From scratch: Beginner’s luck

Do you like discovering a whole new area of DIY/crafts that you haven’t tried before? Sometimes I am reluctant to get sucked into a new area like that because I’m afraid of how much time and money it will take from my already busy crafting life. But this one – oh, this one is a good one and I’m glad I tried it… Curious?

I made my first mini-quilt. And loved it. Here it is:

And I feel especially self-congratulatory because I actually got to use the scraps of fabric that we already had, and didn’t have to buy new fabric (as much as I was tempted every time I visited fabric stores in our town).

Being thrifty on the fabric side allowed me a guilty pleasure of buying and enjoying some of the quilting “gadgets.” A rotary cutter, a self-healing mat, and a quilting hoop, for example, made the process of putting together this quilt a little easier.

I pinned this as an inspiration a while ago – it is a zig-zag quilt from liltulip on Etsy:

And here’s the inspiration for the quilt above (by the way, The Purl Bee is an awesome blog full of inspiration and how-tos for sewers, knitters, and crocheters):

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Because I’ve never attempted anything like this before, I expected a couple of detours and wrong turns along the way, but everything seemed to have gone very smoothly. Of course, the fun part was putting together the colorful top. It’s amazing to see the colors and the white parts coming together to form a zig-zag pattern. But when I got to hand-quilting the three layers together (the colorful top, the batting and the backing), I found the process particularly meditative. In fact, lately I’ve been finding myself attracted to rather monotonous, repetitive and painstaking processes in crafting – this coming from a usually impulsive and impatient person – who whoulda thunk?

Here’s the backing of the quilt, a cute butterfly print that I embellished with some embroidery details.

Working with the thread and needle like that reminded me of a piece of old-timey advice from a crafter and designer who never stops to uplift and inspire me:

Hold the doubled thread between your thumb and index finger, and run your fingers along it from the needle to the end of the loose tails while saying, “This thread is going to sew the most beautiful garment ever made. The person who wears this garment … will wear it in health and happiness; it will bring joy and laughter.” Continue loving  that thread, wishing it all the good that you can think of, and running it through your fingers again and again.

- Natalie Chanin, Alabama Stitch Book

I want this quilt to bring warmth and ease to the little baby who I made it for.

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Renewed: Embellished laundry bag for my sister

Sometimes, I take months to formulate and execute my creative projects, only to discover that, at the end, I hate the look, the idea, or the execution, or simply the time it took to make something very simple. And sometimes, it just works – there is a raw material or a starting point, there is a perfect idea and the thing is finished in no time. And I’m happy with the results. I wonder if these things happen randomly or if I gravitate towards certain types of  creative activities that allow me to move from idea to finished product in a matter of hours or days.

Some time ago, my sister got a gift that was wrapped in a fabric tote of sorts. Brilliant blue with a yellow drawstring. Here’s what it looked like:

Took me a little while to figure out the fabric that it was made of. It’s a non-woven fabric with a velvety feel. Some stores have reusable bags made of similar fabrics and some types of fusible interfacing also feel similar. I don’t have a close-up picture, but a fellow blogger does:

From she-wears-flowers.com

And finally, eureka! The name of this glorious, low-maintenance fabric is non-woven polypropylene. How’s that for a mouthful?

The bag was a perfect size for a laundry bag, but it desperately needed ventilation. I thought about some sort of lacy, filigree design and was prepared to painstakingly cut dozens of little squares to recreate something like this. But, in the end, I found a more feminine and fluid design to draw and cut. Here’s the inspiration:

Metal Leaf Pendant from Overstock.com

Using a Sharpie, I drew the leaf outlines freehand on the inside of the bag. Then, using my manicure scissors (was it completely silly of me?), I cut out the leaves. Here is the result:

Another view:

And here’s what the finished laundry bag looks like:

What types of projects come to you quickly and are finished quickly as well? Let me know and happy crafting!

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Want some warmth in the winter: Nostalgic kitchen towels

Looking at kitchen designs in my my nesting magazines and blogs recently, I realized that what seems appealing in the summer and spring – the clean-lined, uncluttered counters and stainless appliances – becomes cold and overly sparse in the fall and winter. Instead, I crave a little clutter, spices, fruits and vegetables on display – and some cozy kitchen textiles.

I made these cozy, nostalgic kitchen towels with crocheted toppers for Mike’s grandma when we visited her in California about a year ago. Here is one of them on the right.

They are many tutorials around the Web on how to make these towel toppers, so I decided to leave it to other talented crocheters and knitters to explain all the details.

In a  few words, here’s what I did. I bought a small towel at Target (the size of a hand towel, but not as fluffy – the towel on the picture above felt like it was microfiber), cut it in half across, and blanket-stitched the raw edge. Here is a great explanation of how to do blanket stitching. In other towel-topper tutorials, people just punch holes in the fabric with a big needle, or a nail, and crochet directly through the holes. I used the blanket stitch “loops” as a base for a row of single crochet. Then, gradually decreasing in each row as I went, I crocheted single crochet or double crochet rows. The resulting shape of the topper is like a paddle – wide at the base and tapering into a fairly narrow strip at the top. At some point, I also made a vertical buttonhole at the top of the narrow strip and finished with a rounded edge. The last step was to attach a button small enough to pass through the buttonhole easily, and – done!

Here are a couple more pictures of that towel from last year:

And here are two pictures of a twin towel from Massachusetts, scheduled to be shipped to California in a couple of days.

Of course, if I am to be completely honest, my kitchen is always filled (cluttered?) with produce, cookbooks, appliances and other stuff on display, no matter the season. But, a girl can aspire, right? What is your kitchen style? Does it change depending on the month of the year?

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Our first grown-up bed…

As a child growing up in Ukraine, I always slept on a convertible sofa bed. Every night, our children’s room went into the night mode when we click-clacked our couch into horizontal position and put pillows and blankets on it. Every morning, away went the linens and the bed became a couch again. A couple of mattresses and box springs were my family’s first purchases for our empty apartment in Brooklyn when we came to the US. They were nestled in the obligatory metal bed frames, no headboard, no footboard.

When I moved to North Carolina, I spent $600 of my meager grad-student stipend to buy a new mattress, box spring and, you guessed it, metal bed frame. Finally, when Mike and I moved to Massachusetts almost three years ago, we moved our combined grad-student-style stuff, mattresses and bed frames in tow.

A week ago, we got four heavy boxes delivered to our doorstep and spent an evening putting together this bed:

We got it on big sale for just under $360 with free shipping! Here’s how it looks in our room:

Our bedroom is gigantic (we think) and doesn’t quite feel warm or cozy. The poster bed helps balance out the room a little bit, but still feels a little cold and hotel-like. So, I am thinking about adding a canopy, either covering only the top or curtain-style. Here are some canopy bed ideas that inspire me…

chiccoles.com

apartmenttherapy.com

apartmenttherapy.com

apartmenttherapy.com

My dilemma is this: the bed is black, the walls of our bedroom are sky-blue (partially contributing to the cold feeling), the curtains and the dresser are brown, and for a while now I was planning on putting up a burnt-orange blanket on the wall at the head of the bed. What colors should I use for the canopy fabric? I guess I can treat the black of the bed as a neutral and match the canopy color to the rest of the room’s colors.

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What RenewStuff’s been up to…

So… what have I been up to? Planning fall and winter projects, cleaning up the house, and trying to start the dark, cold, wet season on a good note. I hope to have a little more on the winterization bit in one of the future posts…

My Market Stand recycling yarn demonstration was a blast! I met some talented and interesting people and learned a bunch of new things. Here’s a recap of my experience on the Urban Homesteaders’ League blog and some photos…

Mike and I have also visited my parents and sister in NYC. My sister has just moved on her own to her very first apartment – and it’s a big deal! I got all excited about helping her decorate (read – coming up with all sorts of ideas for her place before I even had a chance to see it!). I asked her what her color scheme was and heard in response, “What’s a color scheme?”  Funny how I’ve adopted a whole new vocabulary ever since moving into our apartment and starting this blog.

But worry not – I got a chance to share my DIY obsession with my sister. We helped her paint an IKEA dining set. For those of you who paint/refinish furniture – isn’t there something very satisfying in finishing a simple piece that doesn’t require too much repairing, sanding, and detailed painting? These IKEA table and chairs were so uncomplicated to paint that I was just dying to add a little something extra, a little detail that both garners attention and does not clash with the simplicity of the lines (Little Green Notebook had a nice post about details in furniture design) . In any case, here’s what we started with:

and here is what we got after a couple of hours of collective effort:

I have also joined the ranks of other DIY bloggers in creating a color-field inspired painting, described (with instructions) on The New Domestic blog. Here is my take on the project:

Moving to one’s own place for the first time is always exciting – it is how I started to learn about design and domestic crafts. My sister’s apartment allows me to think of a different decorating style than the one we use in our old drafty house (I realize that she might disagree with my vision, though!). For those of you who have had a chance to decorate several of your living spaces, how have your tastes changed from your first place to your current one?

What’s coming up for me? A quick craft tutorial to share with y’all and a couple of homesteading projects to do and photograph for my next posts. Until then – happy crafting!

 

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Save the Date – UPDATED

My dear readers,

If you will be in or around Boston area on Saturday, October 9th, please stop by the Union Square Farmers’ Market in Somerville. The Urban Homesteaders’ League is hosting a Market Stand, an experiential learning space where visitors can learn skills for sustainable urban living and creative domesticating.

I will lead a 15-minute tutorial (or skillshare) about recycling yarn from old sweaters .  There will also be speakers who will share other homesteading and creative DIY skills. You can also bring something that you’ve made or grown to trade at a Swap Table. Local graphic designers have designed an informational broadsheet with all the information covered in each of the skillshares and each visitor will be able to take a broadsheet with them. Please come by to chat, learn something new and meet other people interested in DIY and urban homesteading. (Plus, I hear that there will be cookies for skillshare attendees).

Here are the details:

When: Saturday, October 9th,

10:00 a.m. Developing Eco-Friendly Habits with Kat Friedrich
10:45 a.m. Lactofermenting Fall Vegetables with Alex Lewin
11:30 a.m. Recycling Old Sweaters into Yarn with me
12:15 p.m. Backyard Chickens with Tessa Desmond

Where: Union Square Farmers’ Market, Union Square, Somerville, MA (Google Maps link here)

For all you knitters out there who cannot attend on Saturday, my tutorial on yarn recycling is available here.

I leave you for today with some colorful knitting inspiration from Flickr… Hope to see you at the Market Stand and happy crafting!

Photo credits: socks – Bibbiw, yarn – timiat, lace – osloann.

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