One of the things I love about hand crafts is that the process of doing the craft reminds us that we are the element of change – we are the magic that transforms one object into something greater than its original state.
On New Year’s Eve we find ourselves hoping there will be some magical force that will change the days ahead into something better than the days of the past. In recent years, it seems we cannot even make it through a full week into the new year without having this hope diminished.
When we realize the magic is inside our own selves, then we begin to understand that the hope for a better new year is a hope that can be achieved.
One of the easiest but most enthusiastically received gifts I have given over the years is the simple gift of homemade hot cocoa mix. In a world where hot chocolate packets are readily available and fit so nicely into the novelty mug, why would anyone take the time to make their own mix? Yet, the personal touch of mixing cocoa powder with just the right amount of sugar to achieve a rich, dark, but sweet blend of flavors simply can’t be beat. When this gift is coupled with the Mug Rug, a whimsical version of the traditional cup coaster, the simple gift is elevated to another level. The mug rug may be basic in nature, or elaborate and personalized, yet it is the effort and thought that makes it a token of well wishes and seasonal joy.
As I show in my Vlogmas 2021 video, there are many ways in which the simple mug rug can be made, and I am sure a quick internet search will provide endless ways to stir up a batch of hot cocoa mix. As with any gift giving, the most important thing to consider is the person you are giving the gift. One of the reasons I like the cocoa mix I use is that it is very basic, leaving the choice of milk and of any additional flavorings up to the individual. I find this helps avoid pitfalls associated with food allergies, etc.
One note on my preferred hot cocoa consumption. I add the cocoa mix to an empty cup, then I will add any additional flavors to the mix. (Peppermint oil, Butter Rum Extract, OR a blend of dried Cinnamon/Clove/Ginger – these are three of my favorite flavoring.) Then before I add in the milk, I add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream to the mix and stir/whisk vigorously. This will transform the dry mix into a wonderful paste that is ready for the milk to be added. I will add cold milk, and then microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, stir again and check to see if the liquid needs an additional 30 seconds of heating. Of course, I could preheat the milk, but I tend to only do that when making a large batch to share with others.
Sharing our joy with others helps us find our own inner peace, but we can only find this peace when our hearts and minds remain focused on the sharing and not on the receiving. The moment we fixate on how our handmade gift is received, we have shifted our focus from our act of giving and are now concerned only with the gift we expect in return – the recipient’s gratitude.
Giving a handmade gift to someone we know personally, as opposed to an anonymous donation gift, often leads to concern over how the gift will be received. This concern has the potential of undermining the joy the process of making has given us. Expectation of gratitude is a dangerous path to enter when we are on our handmaking journey. It is fraught with pitfalls which can cause us and the recipient of our handmade item emotional harm.
When we treat all gifts as we treat the anonymous donation gift – in essence, when we simply hope that the item will find itself being loved, even if it must pass through many hands before it finds its home, then we can hold on to the joy that is the byproduct of our making and our giving.
The guiding principle I live by when I give a handmade gift is this:
If I make the gift with love and the intent to give it unreservedly, then the joy that I gain in the making and giving is the only reward I will expect.
Living by this principle is not always easy, and even the best efforts can still allow in feelings of disappointment, but focusing on the joy of making will usually fend off such disruptive feelings.
Our desire to share our creativity, our time, and our talents with others is a worthy desire. When we make a gift for someone, and we make it with love, the joy we get from the making is the greatest reward. It is the process of doing, of making, of giving, of serving – it is this process that blesses our lives with joy and helps us find the inner peace we need.
My daughter thinks I may be a bit more eloquent in the last section of today’s video.
For many, YouTube Vlogmas has become a way to “break out” of the restrictions of a quarantine and travel without leaving the comfort of one’s own home. I particularly love to follow vloggers on their trips to see holiday lights and visits to Christmas markets.
For many, these vlogs help replace the sense of belonging and community that they feel is lost because of changes in society (changes that may have even happened before a pandemic). For some, simply sharing in the joy of others, even virtually, removes the cloud of loneliness that often accompanies infirmity and illness.
Whether its watching them decorate their homes, knit sweaters and scarves for gifts, or prepare their favorite holiday food, I feel a connection with these vloggers, and not because I now vlog. For me, the connection with these vloggers comes because I feel they share both my love of the holiday season and my love of sharing joy with others. The vlog, much like the physical items we give, becomes a gift from us to whomever is in need of the gift.
So this year, I have decided to make my own vlogmas contributions. I doubt it will be an annual tradition for me, but this year I hope to share holiday joy and inspiration through sharing some of my handmade treasures (many made by my own hands, and some made by the hands of loved ones).
While my first vlogmas video is on the longer side, the subsequent ones should be a shorter and contained to a specific theme.
Time slips by, often without our notice. Goals made in January tend to be forgotten until we find ourselves contemplating the end of another year. In the crafting world, the chant of Keep Calm and Finish by Christmas may not always be heard, but it is seldom not running through the mind of the crafter. Fortunately, most crafters understand that if it is not finished by Christmas, it will still be finished by the following one.
This year I set a personal goal of making some simple, beginner-friendly patchwork projects available for family and friends. While it was not my first set of patterns to make available, it was the first set that I would highlight in video form and share with the world.
One particular pattern would have to wait until the end of the year since I so very much wanted to make it Christmas themed.
Leaving any bigger project until the end of the year is flirting with danger in this particular crafter’s home. Ideas for holiday projects flood my mind the moment the temperatures begin to chill and the leaves on the trees begin to fall. This year was no different but with great determination, I managed to get this project wrapped up despite the unexpected hurdle of having a minor injury to my right arm (It is hard to hand quilt when your hand is not cooperating).
The journey of bringing this project from conception to fruition has been a joy. Soon this tree skirt will be in the mail, traveling thousands of miles away to its destination, and providing joy to its recipient. With a bit of luck Christmas Logs Under the Tree will arrive just in time.
As the big crafting season begins, I have been thinking about one of the most important lessons life and aging teaches. Be Kind to Yourself – it is such an important thing to do all year long, but as crafters, it is something we often neglect to do as we scramble to make just one more item before the holiday deadline.
In my latest video, I talk a bit about how bad I am with this lesson life keeps teaching me. After showing of few of my latest projects, I change gears (around the 20:57 mark). Even when I am trying to be kind to myself and not over-do it, the unexpected can happen and force me to slow down even more. Learning to find peace and joy when the brain and body war against each other is not always an easy lesson to learn. It is, however, a worthy lesson to learn.
I hope you enjoy my video – pieces or the whole – I have enjoyed sharing it.
The free pdf pattern for the placemat I share in the video is here for your enjoyment if you wish to download it.
It has been one year since I began making and sharing videos, and it has been a year full of so many wonderful adventures. Now with the beginning of another Tour de Fleece at hand, I took some time to select the fiber I hope to spin and reflect on the stories that accompany most of my fiber. Like many other spinners, I enjoy purchasing fiber from the breeders who know and love their animals. It is such a joy to learn of the animals, and in some cases meet the animals that provide me with such lovely fiber.
It has been a joyful year of fiber, filming, and fun. I look forward to another year yet to come, and anticipate all the new challenges I will give myself in order to keep growing as I unwind with fiber and fabric.
Every year when Tour de Fleece nears, the chatter includes discussion of challenges and goals. Tour de Fleece (TdF) is a wonderful opportunity for personal challenge, and for growth as a spinner. In years past, I have spun through large quantities of fiber and tackled challenging spinning techniques. This year I plan to take a different approach – to go Wild & Free – to keep it simple.
In its own way, this will be the challenge.
The only prep for this year’s fiber has already been completed – everything has been through a bath (except for some of the alpaca which may or may not get spun this TdF). I have Angora, Pygora, Cashmere, Alpaca, Bison, Mohair, and many different sheep breeds to choose from. Each day I will spin 1 ounce of fiber (different animal every couple days), and will ply the singles every 4-5 days. Certain fibers will spin up fast and others will take longer – 1 ounce of fiber can take a long while to spin when it is ultra fine Angora, but is a breeze to spin when it it Leicester Longwool.
No carding, no combing, no dye, and maybe some time spent spinning in nature – 23 days of keeping things simple.
I put together a short video of my sample spin. This sample helped me decide that 1 ounce rather than 2 was wiser if I hoped to get anything else done each day. Plus it reminded me of just how much I do enjoy spinning Wild & Free.
A creative splash of inspiration can be shoved aside when stress dominates. It is easy for creativity to be subdued by lack of energy, health issues, worries, and demands on our time. Yet if we think of those splashes of inspiration as miniature pieces of art unto themselves, we can treasure them up until the right moment allows us to develop them into something much larger.
This week a couple of my splashes of inspiration finally found their way into completed items. A pattern designed, a technique tried, a task completed – all in their due time.
As I near the anniversary of making my first video, I find myself amazed at how much I have learned. Certainly video making has had its learning curve. Yet, it is what I have learned about myself that amazes me the most. When I began this new adventure, I would have been anxious and even horrified by the silly video-short that wraps up my latest vlog.
Covid-quarantine hair notwithstanding, a year ago I would have struggled with accepting the person I see on the screen. Now I can find joy and whimsy in the person – the whole person – who allows herself to be filmed.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of a major turning point in my life. I went from being/feeling healthy to something else entirely.
As with most who find themselves challenged with trauma, tragedy, and underlying health issues, I travelled through many phases of adjustment, including anger, denial, and the belief that I could control the outcome. Finally in this past year, I gained a greater understanding and perspective of just how much I have faced in these last decades, let alone, what I faced in the earlier years of my life. With a more clear understanding of the past, I was able to feel at peace because was able to stop longing for what I could not have, and instead, I began to truly celebrate who I have become.
None of us want to believe we are vain. Although vanity is not always a bad thing, it is a crippling thing when it prevents us from embracing life and from sharing our life with others.
Aging is a part of life, and for some, the events of our life speed up the aging process. It certainly has in my case, but then again, my body and mind have never really been in sync.
As I compiled this latest video, I recognized that vanity and fear of aging could prevent me from sharing a silly video-short with the wider world. This gave me pause and had me reflecting all that this past year of vlogging has taught me.
After reflection, I decided that I would continue embracing the joys of life and the pressing onward with my healing. Yes, my healing. Being able to see myself as I am and not as I have wished I could be is indeed a sign that I am healing.
My Mid May Vlog
In this video, I share updates on what I have been doing, provide a quick fiber dyeing tutorial, and share a ridiculously silly demonstration of basting a king-sized quilt with my husband on a breezy day.