Guest Blogger

During most of 2013, Whipup.net will be hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova. Today, Alexandra shares her last post for the month. Thank you so much Alexandra for sharing your inspiration, taking us on a tour of your local farmers market and for sharing your great tutorial for making market bags. Also, for introducing us to Annie and her local woollen mill, Nancy and her Macrame and to Lindsay and her pesto recipe (yum!).

 

Last year when Kathreen invited me to be a guest editor for a month on WhipUp, I was deeply honored and jumped at the chance. Though I never met her in person, I considered Kathreen a friend, a kindred spirit and a supporter of the utmost kind. Through her hard work and gorgeous spirit, she brought together a community; fostered art and craft, endlessly inspired and encouraged so many wonderful people.  She made such a tremendous impact on me and I know so many others. She created an amazing legacy and I truly believe she made this world a better place. She reminds us to live life with passion and intent; to live deliberately with love and to continue to follow our hearts.

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I cannot ever repay Kathreen’s kindness to me, though I would like to contribute to her legacy in some small way. The 3 Origami Market Bags from my previous tutorial are up for sale in my Etsy shop 50 percent of proceeds from each of these bags will be donated to the trust fund for Kathreen and Rob’s beautiful children, daughter Otilija and son Orlando.

If you would like to donate in another way, please follow the link HERE.

Thank you and much love,

Alexandra Smith

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will be hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

I feel incredibly fortunate to love where I live. There is so much here that inspires me and influences what and how I make.  Part of that process comes from being a blogger and taking pictures.  I am by no means a “Photographer,” I am just a woman with a camera who enjoys taking photos. When I started blogging and reading more blogs, I was truly in awe of some of the beautiful photos I found on the internet. It rekindled an old flame, photography. I set about improving my skills, which meant taking a whole heck of a lot of pictures. There is no shortage of subject matter out there. I started by taking walks in my neighborhood and capturing things that caught my eye. Then, every outing meant bringing my camera along and noting my environment; shapes, textures, colors and patterns sprung up everywhere I looked.

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I started to see things differently. Everyday ordinary objects took on new beauty and interest. As I would go through my photographs, I would see them again in yet another light.  After a while I started to see a connection between my pictures and the projects I was working on. The colors and patterns of seasons would make their way into my making.

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Winter Barberry some gray and red stitching

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A riot of spring flowers and some colorful quilting

Small moments, little vignettes, places just down the street were captured by my camera and somehow made their way into my making. Even my backyard became full of inspiration.

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A gorgeous little caravan and some fabric printing

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My little red hen Fran and her cohorts have played muse to me many times

Often when I find myself stuck, when I feel I have run out of ideas, I grab my camera and take a walk. It allows me to get out in the fresh air, clear my head and have a good look around. I always, always come back with a number of pictures that get me pondering. Sometimes I do not even realize until much later how much my environment really affects me and what I’m working on.

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This picture has me thinking about making something right now- love those colors!

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And of course going hyper-local, my favorite subject is a constant source of inspiration.

So why not give it a try? Take your camera out and capture whatever interests you. Your photos don’t have to be perfect; it’s all about seeing things differently, noticing the colors, shapes, and patterns of your surroundings. Make it Local in pictures! I bet that wherever you live, there is no end to what can inspire you.

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will be hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

Today, Alexandra introduces Annie of knitsofactoAnnie is a blogger, photographer, knitter, natural dyer, and country girl who lives with her husband, four children, and six dogs in rural north Wales, UK.  She spends her days wrangling yarn and whippets, and dreaming of owning a wool shop and a proper dye house.

Old Woollen Mill #1

There are ancient cottages here, slate roofed and built of local stone, that look to have grown from the soil. That they were once scaffolding and whistling workmen is almost beyond comprehension. They belong to this land, this place, and it is impossible to imagine them existing elsewhere. Much the same might be said of the old fulling mill at Trefriw.

The woollen industry has been economically significant here since Hywel the Good ruled Wales and included in the annual ‘tribute’ paid to the English “one hundred pounds of wool”. But woollen cloth, before it truly has value, must be scoured and fulled to wash away grease and dirt and to close the weave. This was the first part of the woollen production process to be mechanised and is the part that requires the most water.

In Trefriw that water comes from the fast flowing river Crafnant, which also powered the waterwheel that powered the mill’s fulling hammers, and which today powers its turbines. Crafnant, or ‘the valley of the wild garlic’ … even now, when the wild garlic flowers, Trefriw is suffused with its scent. And I can’t help but wonder if, centuries ago, the same pungent fragrance that I smelt while there to take these photographs tickled the nostrils of the village’s weavers as they carried their cloth from cottage to mill to be fulled.

Old Woollen Mill #2

Wild garlic, or ramsoms, and the ubiquitous yellow gorse both proliferate here, the first a food plant the juices of which act as a natural moth repellent, the second a coconut smelling godsend to the dyer (and the maker of country wines!). But where once the dye house at Trefriw might have been heaped with bundles of gorse, today the dyeing process is all about chemistry. The almost-alchemy of the past is consigned to the archived dyer’s ‘receipt’ books, yet the old stone sinks remain beside the modern stainless steel dye vats. And waiting to be coloured, the knitting yarn they still spin here. To knit with yarn from Trefriw, now that’s making it local!

The women of Wales have long been knitters. An 18th century traveller once remarked of them: “I cannot speak too highly of [their] industry … always knitting as they walk along even with heavy loads upon their heads, they must make a number of stockings which I suppose they sell, for they will go bar foot and bar skin as they themselves term it.” He was right, they were knitting stockings for the ‘stocking men’, who travelled from door to door buying the finished goods for a pitiful three pennies a pair and stringing them onto poles which they carried on their shoulders.

This was piece work and these women were poor, so of necessity they knitted as they went about the business of their day, often with a baby or a toddler slung in a nursing shawl at their waist. They knitted – our traveller again – “during the whole business” of taking a beast to market, “though many of them held a horse or a cow” throughout. They knitted without benefit of a pattern, having learnt all the design skills and stitch combinations they needed at their mothers’ knees. And they knitted at knitting evenings held in each other’s cottage homes, nosweithiau gwau, where they would gather together to be sociable and to save on fuel, to knit by firelight and to gossip. Clearly stitch ‘n’ bitch is nothing new!

Old Woollen Mill #3

Trefriw’s principal product in recent years has been woven Welsh blankets not so very different to the traditional wedding coverlets, orcarthenni, that were made hereabouts in the past. Visit when the mill is working and you can see and hear – you’ll need to shout to be heard above them – the carding engines, spinning mules, and looms in action. My paternal grandfather worked in just such a mill, his days measured by the clackety-clack, clackety-clack, clackety-clack, clackety-clack, of the machines at the mill’s heart. He belonged in that mill just as the mill in turn belonged in the valley that supplied the stone from which it had been constructed, the water that powered it, and the generations of skilled craftsmen that kept it working.

If my grandfather had been born and raised in a different Welsh valley he might have quarried roofing slate or mined silver. But he was born where he was and so he did what men raised there did. It was in his bones. And that connection he had to place is something I fear we are losing and something I do not want to lose. The old woollen mill at Trefriw connects me to those who came before me. Men and women who made things local, and with wool, just as I do. Folk who knew where the wild garlic grows.

Old Woollen Mill #4

 

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

bags

Inspired by my last post about the Farmer’s Market, I decided to whip up a simple tutorial for a handmade market bag called “The Origami Market Bag”. The name is taken from its unique folding technique. It makes up in a flash and is nice and roomy for all of your market treasure.

You will need fabric, thread, scissors and a sewing machine.

For the fabric, I suggest something a little heavier such as: canvas, linen, denim, or home décor type weight.

We start off with a piece of fabric whose length is 3 times the width. I found using a piece that is 17” X 51” (43cm X 130cm) makes a good size bag; you can play around with sizes if you like.

Once you have cut your piece of fabric to size, hem all of the raw edges.

(In the following photos I’ve used a smaller piece of unfinished fabric just to show the folding technique)

Start by laying your fabric with your hems facing away from you and follow the folding technique as shown below.

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Now pin and stitch as shown for both sides of the bag. I used about a 1cm seam allowance.

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It is ok if your bag is a little off center, this may happen if your hems are not perfectly even to one another.

Now that you have sewn your 2 seams, you can leave the bag as is for a nice triangle shape, or you can create some shape by sewing boxed corners, or simple angled corners. Now turn your bag right side out and press if needed.

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The next step is to create the handle for your bag. I used some coordinating fabric for a handle.

Cut a piece of fabric that is 3.5” X 6.5” (aprox. 9cm X 16.5cm) turn under and hem the 2 short sides of this piece. Fold the piece in half length-wise with right sides together and stitch raw edges with a ¼” (just under 1cm) seam allowance and turn right side out creating a tube.

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Take one of the long top triangles of your bag and thread it through the tube of fabric as shown. Overlap the other top piece with the bit you have threaded through the tube and pin. Now stitch in place. Slide the tube over the stitched overlapped section and center it.

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Ta Da! You now have your very own Origami Market Bag!

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Go ahead and make a few more, you know you want to!

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Please note, this tutorial is intended for personal use only. Therefore, do not reproduce, sell or commercialize in any form. Thanks for understanding!

Edited to add: My version of this bag was originally based on a bag I received many, many years ago that was handmade by a family friend from the Philippines. That first bag was made from old cotton rice sacks (similar to vintage flour sacks) and the handles tied in a knot. Not long after receiving it, I made my own bag using a couple of bandannas sewn together. In the years since, I have seen many versions of this very simple bag. Many variations of it have shown up as craft trends come and go, then come around again. I have seen similar patterns in vintage craft books, Japanese craft pattern books and high end leather bags on the runway. I have even seen some in macramé!

I make no claim to have “invented” this style of bag; its origins are ageless and elusive. I did sort out just how to make it on my own and put my own spin on it. The only bags I have sold from this tutorial were the prototypes pictured here, after materials cost, 100% of the profit from them goes directly to the fund for the Shugg children. I have no intention to sell any more of these bags.

Thank you,

Alexandra Smith

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During most of 2013, Whipup.net will hosting a monthly mini-series, each month edited by different crafters and designers. Enjoy!

The theme for this month is Make It Local :: with Alexandra Smith of Lola Nova.

Today, Alexandra introduces Lindsay McCoy. Lindsay is a writer/blogger and a self-proclaimed homebody from Oregon City, Oregon who loves crafting, cooking, gardening, and simple living. You can find her writing about all of this and more on her blog, A Wooden Nest.

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When I think “make it local,” I think “make it in my own backyard.” While supporting local businesses and farmers is one of the best ways we can contribute to the health and diversity of our community, taking advantage of the space around us to grow our own food, or make our own artwork, or produce our own goods, can be a huge step toward frugality and self-sufficiency. And, in some ways, it forces us to get creative with the materials that are around us rather than going out and spending money on something generic from a big box retailer.

I don’t consider myself a locavore or a backyard homesteader by any means, but I do try to buy local, and to provide for myself more often than not. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to go about doing this is by growing my own edible garden. I don’t own a lot of land, but I find that using the space I have to grow fruits and vegetables helps cut down on costs for fresh, delicious, and organic food. Plus, I find that if I put a little effort into planning the layout of my garden, I can effectively take advantage of every inch of space I own to grow as much as possible.

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My goal with gardening is to harvest and preserve enough food to last me through the entire year and into the next growing season, and despite the fact that we have a small yard, I find that a little goes a long way. Even back when I was living in an apartment, I was able to grow several containers full of vegetables and herbs on my patio and windowsill. I eventually learned to cook meals based on what I had growing, which meant I had fresher, tastier ingredients to work with, and I knew exactly where they were coming from. Sometimes even a few plants can make a noticeable difference.

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One hidden benefit to growing your own food – and this is something I never expected when I first started gardening– is the joy that comes from sharing your harvest with others. For instance, I love making pickles. I pickle cucumbers, beans, carrots, and anything else I possibly can. This means that when birthdays or holidays come around, instead of racking my brain for gift ideas only to fall short, I like to give away my homemade pickles and preserves. So not only am I able to grow food for my family in my own backyard, but I’m also able to produce awesome homemade gifts from right outside my door. It’s a win-win situation.

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Right now, radish season is upon us, and they’re growing like crazy in my garden. To keep up with the harvest, sometimes I have to get creative with the recipes I use so I can make my produce last as long as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available that home gardeners can turn to for recipe ideas and food preservation. For instance, if you do a search on the internet, you’ll find several recipes from reputable sources for pickled radishes.

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Of all the pickled radish recipes I’ve tried, I tend to gravitate toward those with a sweet and sour brine. I think it complements the peppery flavor inherent in radishes very well, and makes them taste especially delicious as a cold and crunchy component in sandwiches, or over crackers and cheese. Here is one of my all-time favorite radish pickle recipes:

Sweet & Sour Radish Pickles

1 bunch radishes

1-2 teaspoons salt

½ cup white distilled or rice vinegar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Remove the stems from the radishes (set aside the leaves), and rinse them free of any dirt and debris. Slice radishes into thin rounds, discarding the tough ends, and place slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of salt and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain radish slices, and then pour into a sterilized wide-mouth jar.

To make the brine, combine the vinegar, sugar, water, and peppercorns in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved, and bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. Pour brine in jar over radishes.

Cover the jar, and let sit until it cools to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months, and serve in sandwiches, over cheese and crackers, on hamburgers, etc.

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When it comes to radishes, I try to make the most out of the entire plant. One thing a lot of people aren’t aware of is that radish leaves are edible, and they’re especially delicious when harvested young. You can eat them straight-up in salad, sandwiches – and this is one of my favorite things to do – you can make apesto with the leaves to mix in soup, pasta, or as a sauce on homemade pizza. And, of course, you can bottle up both the pesto and the radish pickles with pretty decorative paper, twine, and tags to give as gifts for holidays and birthdays. Your radish-loving friends and family members will love it!

Radish Leaf Pesto

1 ½ to 2 cups radish leaves, washed with stems removed

1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds

1 clove garlic

2-3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Blend together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or store in the freezer.

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