January Thoughts

As January comes to a close and I reflect back on this, my first blogging month, I have a few thoughts….

I completed just three projects, the table, the terrarium and the unscheduled lamp project. I did not get around to the leather cuff or the notecards as I had planned. In a typical month I probably get around to three or so craft projects so, in fact, I didn’t complete any more than I usually do, however I feel more accomplished. I suppose its because I took the extra time to plan out my crafty ideas, as well as give them enough brain power to write something and then finally taking photographic evidence that I actually did what I set out to do.

Yes, I feel accomplished and maybe even like I might pat myself on the back….

Alrighty…enough of that! Time to move on! For February I’m considering tackling another craft book. Rather than focusing on one specific craft for each month, I like the idea of bouncing around, working my way through books I’ve had sitting around for ages. These books, loaded with beautiful pictures and inspirational stories, seem like they might be just the right guides to motivate me. A few I’m contemplating….

The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule

One Yard Wonders

Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts

Im going to think on these three for the next few days and see which one speaks to me.

The Joys of Dirt

I cannot think of my grandma without thinking of dirt. NEVER was there a time when she was not deep into a gardening project. Ma’s garden was enormous with winding pathways that begged for slow walks and further exploration. I never knew what I would come across…ground cherries with their paper thin skins, bleeding hearts, tiny birds cautiously sipping at the birdbath, called by its ever-present slow drip of clean, cool water.

Some years there was a vegetable garden, but even as much as my Ma loved gardening, she grew weary of the deer, persistent in their goal of eating the harvest before it could be picked. Fences would go up only to have the deer find its weakness, and infiltrate once more. The vegetable (and fruit, for there were strawberries!) garden was eventually left to be taken over by nature and Ma spent her gardening time pursuing other, more worthwhile endeavors, splitting the Iris bulbs, rooting tiny branches, fertilizing azaleas and rhododendrons and of course, forever fussing with the watering system.

She even had dirt indoors, by way of her African violets. Growing in a narrow hallway, lit by a fluorescent system my grandpa rigged up, the violets flourished. Delicate pinks, purples and yellows, all with their tell-tale fuzzy leaves, that all the grandchildren were told not to touch, but did when no one was looking!

I never had a chance to ask what it was about gardening my grandma liked so much…was it the sense of accomplishment? The stillness? The smell? The beauty? The creating something from nothing? I will never know.

When I saw the terrarium project in the Weekend Homemade book I knew that I had to try it. A month or so ago, I picked up an inexpensive terrarium from Ikea. It sat, empty, on my hutch waiting for inspiration. Yesterday I picked up 3 small plants meant for indoors, and activated carbon from the pet store. I already had the gravel and soil.

I layered the carbon and gravel, placed the plants and then filled in all around. I may add some moss to the top, although it would just be for looks as certainly, in a closed terrarium, it’s not needed for water retention.

The end result is a little piece of my grandmothers world, ok I didn’t create something from nothing, but I did feel the dirt in my hands, I did enjoy the sense of accomplishment, and maybe that’s enough.

I discovered my grandmothers leaf press when I was somewhere around the age of ten. My “Pa” made it according to my “Ma’s” specifications. Simple in its design, just two pieces of plywood connected by four screws that tighten sheets of cardboard to preserve even the most delicate leaves and flowers. In true crafty fashion Ma added a peaceful scenic picture to the top, sealing it with shellac, keeping it looking new forever.

When I first saw my Ma using this contraption, it was being “pressed” into service preserving ginkgo leaves and fragile queens Anne lace. I was invited to choose some leaves from her expansive garden and give it a try. In my naïveté I choose oak leaves. Little did I know that they would just be brown and crackly, not holding any of their lovely-on the tree color, when they came out of the press weeks or months later. I was thrilled just the same though. It wasn’t about the leaves or even the press, but more about entering a little piece of my Ma’s world. Learning the plant names and maybe hearing the history of where she found certain plants, how to best tend roses or perhaps how to deter the many deer that eagerly gobbled up many of her fruits and vegetables. Ma isn’t around anymore, but her impromptu lessons sure are, alive in my head.

For this project I will be using bits of nature that my daughter, Sarah, and I pressed back in October. Simple supplies…Notecards, maple leaves, tiny flowers, modge podge and perhaps a bit of fancy ribbon to tie them up into gifts. But no oak leaves! 😉

Finding my inner Martha…I mean MYRNA!

EVERYONE knows about the Martha (Stewart that is), but not many know about my grandmother, Myrna, for whom this blog is named, she too was a crafty woman. I don’t think she would have categorized herself this way, but as a child this is how I saw her. Painting, flower arranging, needlepoint, sewing, macramé, pottery and a host of other genres. But mostly she was a hooker….a RUG hooker that is! She would comb through thrift shops for the ugliest wool blankets and coats and then run them through a hand cranked fabric slicer and dicer (no idea what it’s technical name is!) rendering the thinnest slivers of wool ready to be dyed into an array of hues. The pots of dye and wool simmered gently on the stovetop producing colors with names I’d never heard of…cerulean, ochre, cerise, russet, goldenrod, a rainbow of color cooling and drying on the counter ready to be made into small rugs or enormous wall hangings. All of the intricate designs were “Myrna originals” always starting out as soft pencil sketches, ending in works of art, the shading and deep color layering giving an almost 3-D effect to the finished work. A large piece could take up to a year, but the final product was always ready in time for the county fair, bringing home more blue ribbons than I could count.

Yes, my grandma was crafty, a regular DIY’er (if the term DIY’er had been around then!) . But mostly she was a my grandfathers wife, my moms mom, an accountant by trade, a homemaker and my squishy soft-Avon smelling “Ma”. She didn’t have to “find the time” to enjoy the crafts and hobbies she loved, they were just part of her everyday, as much as cooking the pot roast and paying the bills.

As I make my way through this year, exploring different crafts or hobbies, one each month, I’m hoping to channel my grandmas can-do spirit. And seeing if maybe, just maybe some of her creative genes trickled down to me. Many long to be Martha, but not me, I’d take being Myrna any day.