Category Archives: She’s Crafty

An ever growing collection of projects which I conceived. Should anything posted here bear a resemblance to anything posted or written about elsewhere, the collective consciousness is the source and I am one of the conduits.

Pleasing Evergreens – An All Natural Craft Project

It’s the time of year when I used to go totally wild with holiday decorations.  Sadly, my enthusiasm for such things has suffered a significant drop off, and right at the time when I’m supposed to be creating magical traditions for my boy.  Perhaps this post will light a spark…

I believe that it was last year when an idea finally struck me, and I think that it’s good enough to share in cyber space.  Here’s what happened.  I wanted to come up with a way to countdown the days till Santa visits our humble abode.  My husband has a really sweet set of miniature tree ornaments which are Taiwanese knock-offs of these ones.  Knowing that he would appreciate creating a new tradition with some cherished ornaments from his youth, I decided that we needed a tree to hang them on day by day.  Knowing further that my husband appreciates thriftiness, and that if there’s anything that I posses in surplus it’s craft supplies, I set about figuring out how to make a tree from in-home materials.  And I did.  Honestly, it’s still a little rough around the edges, but it works for now and I’ll spruce it up in years to come.

advent tree

In the meantime, I decided that if I could make a tree I could make a wreath.  I have a few wreath frames on hand from a wedding project that didn’t come to fruition and so I got busy.  I had stumbled upon a color combination with the wool roving at our local yarn shop that I wanted to see more of during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  So I made a bunch of balls and my wreath took shape.

wreath complete

Apart from being composed of things that I had on hand, I am especially fond of this technique for creating evergreen decorations because there is no plastic or other strange substance involved.  All natural craft materials are all better, if you ask me.  Both my tree and my wreath can use a bit of filling in, and I’ve still got plenty of yarn pieces left for that.  So much in fact that I’m thinking that a garland may be in my future.  For now though, it’s just a matter of pulling those ornaments out of the basement and hanging them up day by day.

Here are the step by step photos for making your own wooly evergreen.
If you are lucky enough to have some of these in home, they prove useful for all sorts of applications.  You’ll need some green yarn, scissors, and whatever form to which you plan to attach your yarn.

wreath 1:10

Wrapping your yarn around a few blocks and then removing the center two in order to make the cut is a speedy way to generate a large quantity of strings of a similar length.

wreath 2:10


wreath 3:10

wreath 4:10

wreath 5:10

Now it’s just a whole bunch of cow hitching until you have your desired fullness of foliage.

wreath 7:10

wreath 6:10

Here’s to a season of good cheer and merry making!

Ideas for Merry Making

As the season of making merry is nearly upon us I thought that I’d share a couple ideas for throwing a studio party that I’ve developed over the years.  Nothing big, but still worthy of sharing, I think.  Originally, this party would happen in early December, but in time I realized that late January was a better time.  The holiday crunch time was over and since January tends to be a busy time in the studio it ends up being a good way to celebrate new beginnings, old friends, and to light up the darkness of mid-winter.  This also keeps the celebration holiday-neutral and more seasonally based which I like.

As is probably clear, I’m a crafty kind of gal.  This means that for me, parties are all about the decorations.  My annual studio party involves hundreds of snowflakes that I cut out of paper, strung together along fishing line, and taped to the ceiling.  In the dark evenings, the snowflakes cast shadows all over the walls of my studio, it was quite magical.  The decorations were up for the party only.  I didn’t want them to distract from our work in the studio, and I wanted to keep the magic of the evening contained.  As the years went on and people wanted to learn how to make their own snowflakes, I started another tradition of a snowflake cutting party.  This one happened in the fall and involved homemade donuts.  (Because we also like to eat).  Decorations, are clearly not needed for a party.  But I do think that some kind magical tradition makes such events more special over the years.  (No photos of the blizzard exist, seeing is the only believing in this case).

I also developed a menu for the party that I tried to stick to throughout the years.  This involved home-baked goodies (alfajores in honor of Sari, dried fruitcake because it’s delicious and nutritious, snowflake cutout cookies for obvious reasons, and a special chocolate mint cake from my own family’s tradition), and a minimal mezze.  I chose to keep the offerings fairly healthy, and alcohol-free.  I wanted to strike a balance between sharing holiday fun and honoring the goals of a healthy lifestyle that go along with maintaining a Pilates practice.  (Yes, I realize that alcohol is a standard within the Pilates tradition, but I’m not much of a drinker and many clients over the years have indicated that they prefer alcohol-free social events).

In the first couple years of this tradition, because my clients all had individual relationships with me, everybody wanted to talk to me, and only me.  I invented a Pilates quiz game to serve as something of an ice-breaker which we’d play for a few minutes every twenty minutes of the party.  As the years went on, my clients developed their own relationships amongst each other and the community surrounding my studio took on a life of its own.  At this point the games weren’t necessary and I could relax and enjoy the fun rather than be the center of attention, a role with which I never felt completely comfortable.

Lastly, I want to share the idea for converting my reformers and high mats into party seating.  Seeing the benches at Brooke Siler’s studio many years ago gave me the idea.




1).  With your final layout plan, place cleaning towels on the floor underneath where you plan to have the benches so that the wheels of the carriages won’t leave marks on the floor.  2).   Remove the handles from the straps and disconnect the straps from the rear wheels.  Keeping the clean parts facing out, wrap the straps around the shoulder blocks.  3).  Undo the springs and lift the carriage out of the frame, place it carefully on the towel.  4).  Move the frame over the carriage.  Fold in the foot bar.  Place strips of a yoga mat along the frame for some stability.  Place a high mat on the frame to make a bench.






Up later this week two recipes from our annual celebration to light up the dark season: delicious and nutritious dried fruit cake, and chocolate mint squares to enjoy only once a year.  One of the things that I love about the Pilates community is the level of creativity that it boasts.  I’d love to hear other folks merry traditions!  Please share yours in the comments.

The Universality of Creativity

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and bones. -Henry David Thoreau

Romana encouraged us to lead full and diverse lives.  I remember that clearly….
During my years of study at university, when I was doing a lot thinking before having much real world experience, I became enamored with the idea that everything is connected and that no matter what a person studies there are common grounds of concluding thought.  Put another way, there are many courses of study to arrive at the same general ideas about living life.

Mostly because of this over-arching idea, but also because I have always tended to be a creative person with many interests, I often end up seeing similarities and common threads where others don’t.  I have learned to hold steady on my course despite not always being well received when sharing my thoughts.  Mostly because I’ve got to stay true to myself but also because in the instances where I’ve had the fortitude to inquire further into why my thoughts were received flatly, generally the person in question’s perspective is so different than mine that it’s obvious we wouldn’t have the same viewpoint.

Since delving even deeper into myself with my foray into motherhood, and occasionally peeking out into the broader world to see what others are up to, I’ve come to realize something about ourselves, we are pretty disconnected.  To me this disconnection takes on many forms, from nature, from ourselves, from our close relations, from our colleagues, from our kids, the list could go on.  I believe that a symptom of that disconnect is to compartmentalize how we express ourselves.

If there’s one personal theme that has come up again and again for me as I work together with my husband to lay the foundation of our family life, it’s integration.  Everything all together under the roof of our home.  Everything of ourselves in the dynamics of our relationship.  Everything that we care about must have a place.  Every aspect of our bodies, minds, and spirits must be served and cared for.  Every person, every being if we include the cat – which we do, has an important role to play in the theater of our family life – and in the world beyond.  Everything is everything.  That’s the sort of life that I strive to live everyday.

What I write about here, hopefully reflects that.  Because in many ways this space is supporting me in fulfilling that vision of a whole life lived in the community of loved ones.  Toward that end, I want to make a point which I’ve attempted to make before about the connection of creativity and our place in the natural world.  I admire greatly people who craft regularly, and people who live more in communion with nature than I do.  By in large, those are the bloggers who I follow here in cyberspace because that type of blogging seems to be the most prevalent.  With my Pilates Body Boost project, I began to connect with others from my own profession of Pilates online.  And now, I feel something of an obligation to regularly write about Pilates here.  Believe me, I’ve got plenty to say on the topic, with new ideas popping up daily in the studio.  But right now, something else in me is asking for a little bit of room to express itself.  It seems that the part of me that loves to sew is really demanding these days and everywhere I look, a new project presents itself.  So fair warning, there may be some clothing posts coming up.  But Pilates is always in the mix.  Even if it’s just in my daily mat.

And since I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out all the ways that practicing Pilates is a creative enterprise.  If there is a group of fundamental human activities (I’m sure that somebody has put such a list together), then creating is surely on it.  I cannot think of a more important expression of the human spirit than creativity.  I’m thinking of this excerpt:
“In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”  – Toni Morrison, Sula

And I’m thinking of the wonderful sense of satisfaction we each feel when we make something happen.  Our bodies are rich material for creating, they are literally putty in the hands of our minds.  Its just that mostly we are ignorant to this.  Instead of being conscious about how our bodies reflect our thoughts and deeds, we are moulding them unconsciously.

This became very apparent to me when I began more serious dance training in college.  Looking at myself in the mirror, in skin tight clothing, amongst bodies already more finely tuned than my own, I realized that everything was there to be interpreted.  Unconsciously, we each do interpret each other based on the physical language of our bodies.   (I mentioned my favorite TED talk on this topic a while back).  It was back then that I became interested in bringing the moulding of myself to the forefront of my mind.  In making that change, I changed everything about my life.  Because of that I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned.

Being that I want to share what I care most about, it’s important that I continually come up with new ways to present the information.  Part of that is being open to the insights that come from all directions of this multifaceted life that I’m living.  Today, the theme is creativity, and the idea is that no matter what the medium, creativity is the common thread that binds us all in this human experience that we’re all having.  Given my recent insight, the slogan “do something creative every day” feels like a worthwhile call to action rather than a trite way to sustain a business selling paper.

Which gets me to the point of acknowledging all of the creative things that we do which don’t fall under the typical definition of “creative”.  So here’s to embracing the fullness and diversity of our creativity.  In that we will find fulfillment beyond what we could imagine in a world strictly defined categories.

Notes on Making Dresses at Home

I realized that this dress of mine deserves its own post.  Because it’s been a while since I took on such an ambitious project (necessity is indeed the mother of invention), and it turns out that I’ve learned a thing or two since then.

When I was learning to sew as a girl, I would often reach points of such frustration that I’d throw in the towel.  My mother would kindly pick up the pieces and help me complete the project.  When I moved to California I had a lot of time on my hands and my very own sewing machine (my graduation gift from my mom).  I began to sew all sorts of things, and I even worked as an assistant to a seamstress for a spell.  I learned a lot during that time.

By the time I reached my thirties I was most comfortable sewing without a pattern, something that I’d never thought was possible when I was a child watching the beautiful dresses that the adults around me whipped up.  (To be fair it was only my step mother’s mom who impressed upon me the great feat of sewing without a pattern, as far as I know both my step mom and my mom were more comfortable with patterns).  Regardless of how I went about a project, there was often a fair amount of cursing involved.  (I’ll never forget the day that I was working in the seamstress’s shop across from a repair man who was at work on one of her other machines.  He and I were both cursing to ourselves as we went about our tasks.  Frustration seemed to be the unifying experience for us that afternoon).  It is a wonder that I’ve sewn as long as I have, because for the majority of the project hours that I’ve logged, I’ve been in a state of frustration.  Determined, focused, frustration.  I am an intense person in the midst of a project:  the house gets very messy, I eat whatever food is most readily available, I don’t shower or brush my teeth.  It’s an ugly business making pretty things.

Getting pregnant really mellowed me out (if you don’t count the fact that I gave myself about six months of nasty wrist pain with all the sewing and crocheting that I was doing).  And now that I have my kid around while I’m sewing I’ve noticed something interesting.  Like most moms at home with kids, my time for sewing is sporadic.  This turns out to be a very good thing for me.  I end up completing projects in much more digestible chunks.  And while the frustration is still there, the moments are much briefer because I inevitably have to move on to the next thing.  Perhaps that’s why the cursing has subsided, which is a very good thing because my boy is in the repeat-everything phase of language development.

Being a mom agrees with me in so many ways.  I’m always grateful to find yet another one.  And to embrace the fact over and over again:  my beautiful boy is my teacher and I am his willing and eager pupil.  (Mostly).

Here are a couple notes on this dress in particular.
1).  I managed to do a fair job of shaping the bodice but still the overlapping side didn’t stay put.  So I’ll have to add a hook and eye for the next time out (luckily the bride had some double-sided skin tape on hand that did the job for the wedding.
2).  It was Theresa Laquey who taught me about darts and I will be forever grateful:  darts ADD volume, they don’t reduce it.
3).  I’m not sure that I should ever make clothing out of non-stretchy fabric.  It’s just so much better in so many ways.

Looking at these photos, and forgiving the fact that I felt incredibly awkward and my husband found that fairly annoying because it made me a difficult subject, I see all sorts of room for improvement in this dress, I am truly my own worst critic.  But here’s the important thing:  I made myself a pretty (enough) dress out of fabric that I had on hand.  And I danced the night away in complete comfort.  That’s a double win for a project that I only took on under duress.

I’ve got plenty of other more pressing projects than sewing ones.  But there are still many in the queue and somehow I just managed to purchase fabric for five of those tops I mentioned here a while back at, you guessed it, Piedmont Fabric.  How does that happen?  Hopefully I’ll get back behind the machine before too long, it really will be lovely to have some flattering tops in my closet.  Compared to this dress those will be a snap.

dress rear

dress bodice

Happy Halloween!

Our garbage collecting boy heads out for his first trick-or-treat experience in just a couple hours.  Great fun awaits us!
Happy Halloween!  2013Halloween is by far my favorite holiday as a crafter.  Sure, there’s Christmas and Valentine’s Day, but something about conceiving of and making a costume from scratch really appeals to me.  I have some sort of code of conduct as a mom which dictates that my child must have a costume every year, and that it may only be store-bought in the most extreme circumstances.  Last year our boy got his first superhero costume to match my own – that was before he had a choice in the matter.  But this year I knew that I’d have to be a bit more cooperative since he could very well refuse to wear something if it weren’t to his liking, after all that nearly happened last year with his super-baby suit.  So a garbage man vest seemed like the perfect thing.  I was able to put it together in about two hours and he is so very happy to have the suit to outfit him while he performs one of his favorite tasks.

Here’s to an evening of Happy Haunting!

Do You Miss Poppy Fabric?

I don’t and here’s why.  Just a hop, skip, and a jump from my front door the best of what Poppy offered me is thriving under the Piedmont Fabric awning.  That’s because Lan Nguyen is still working her magic, outfitting us Oaklanders with plenty of fabrics and notions to make our visions reality.  I cannot count the number of times that Lan has given me an idea that has come to full fruition.  Were I a more skilled seamstress the results would surely be even better, but for me, it’s good enough to keep up my life long sewing habit.

My favorite thing about Poppy was standing at the cutting counter asking other customers what they had planned for their beautiful purchases.  Truth be told, Poppy was always something of an indigestible feast for my eyes.  I simply could not fathom the full extent of possibilities that it housed and that overwhelmed me (I am consistently put off by big stores of all kinds).  Piedmont Fabric is perfect for me – not too much, not to little, just right – every single time.  It bears mentioning that the prices are always very fair, clearly the proprietress is a seamstress herself.

Today Adele and I breezed in for some ribbon to finish my dress (by the way, both fabrics were purchased at Piedmont Fabric a while back).  I promise to post pictures soon, even in the likely case that not one-hundred-percent-pleased with the finished product.  Literally, there was exactly the amount of 100% silk ribbon that I needed on the spool.  Perfect every time!

I had to drag Adele out of there because I really must get this dress sewn!  (Brooklyn, NY or bust this Sunday!  I’ve got a wedding to attend.  Adele will be joining me for the trip and my boys will be staying at home with my mom.)  Adele’s got good taste, she went right for the Liberty cottons and was discussing some curtains for her place with Lan as I checked out.  Next time Adele….

Adele and Lan talk curtains

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a few of my fondest memories of projects that came to life in conversation over the cutting table, Lan is quite the visionary.  There was the dress for our flower girl that I ended up making because my mom was not willing to tackle the, perhaps unconventional but prefectly princess-esque) lace adventure that Lan proposed.  There was the ideal lacy fabric for my wedding ball dress (it’s far more fun to dance in a proper dancing dress rather than an elaborate wedding gown, yes?) that took a serious effort on the part of many to get into my seamstress’s hands.  There was the nursery fabric that became all the accessories to the changing area and bassinet.  The fabric that became my boy’s first superhero costume to match my own (before he knew to have a preference for his halloween costume).  The two dresses that I simply had to make for myself while I was pregnant in order to avoid buying fabric for cute little baby dresses since in my heart of hearts I must have known that I was having a boy.  And much much more.  Piedmont Fabric constantly fuels my inspiration from start to finish!  I feel so grateful to have such a great shop so close.  Now all I need is a little more time to sew….

PS  If you love Piedmont Fabric as much as I do, please leave a comment with “Oakland Fabric Shop” in the body of your comment.  The more people who express their love, the longer we’ll have our fabulous shop!

Introducing…She’s Crafty

An ever growing collection of projects which I conceived. Should anything posted here bear a resemblance to anything posted or written about elsewhere, the collective consciousness is the source and I am one of the conduits. Which is my way of saying that I did not nor would not knowingly claim “credit” for somebody else’s idea.

Today, I share a project that is not only crafty, but also nifty and thrifty. Our little bundle of joyous energy recently turned one year old. Given my love for a good party, I went all out which meant that I needed some party favors. Having already enjoyed the first year festivities of some of my son’s friends, I realized that this party favor business is something special. While there are many factors to consider that did not even occur to me, I was focused on the following: our offering must be something that we would like to receive with respect to quality, origin, and usefulness. After much deliberation, I settled on making felted rattle balls. Here’s how I did it:

I got some whiffle balls from The Sports Authority, some very small pebbles from the floral department at Michaels, and some wool roving from our local fiber arts shop. I stuck several pebbles through the holes in each ball and then wrapped them in the wet/soapy wool. Then, I followed the directions for making dryer balls that I read in this post. I ended up doing the last step twice to be sure that there were no bald spots. Now we’ve got a whole bunch of rattle balls (because, of course I made far more balls than we needed.) I just love it when my craftiness yields fun far into the future!