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Upcycled Cards

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Craft | 4 comments

Valentine's day card

I cut up a card from my mother-in-law.

Card

It wasn’t anything against her – she writes the sweetest little notes. I just happened to see it when I was thinking about cards for the Love Letters project, and I decided the balloons on the front were just the right colors to be upcycled into Valentine’s hearts.

So the card got cut up to make more cards. I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law would approve.

Upcycled cards

Have you found any interesting things to repurpose lately?

PS If you wanted to participate in the Love Letters campaign, making cards for housebound seniors, you have until 2/10 to mail them in. Sign up at dosomething.org/loveletters for details.

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Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival Wrap Up

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Craft | 0 comments

The Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival is a 3-day expo focused on quilting and textile arts. It takes place in several western U.S. cities throughout the year with local vendors in each location adding variation to the pattern.

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Backing Up

With 350 booths, the Phoenix event is actually the largest of the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festivals.

It’s held annually at the Arizona State Fairgrounds with 2 exhibition buildings bursting at the seams with booths and a third dedicated to seminars.

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I went last week with veteran of the festival and quilter/sewer/fabric crafter Cyndee (a.k.a. my mom) as my guide.

We arrived well before the 10am opening time, and there were already lines at the entrances. That’s because this is a tenacious crowd, unafraid to fight for a giveaway or stake out seats at a seminar or interrupt a demo until their questions get answered.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that quilters are scrappy.

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The show program is available online (as well as onsite), so you could piece together your schedule ahead of time or just improvise when you get there.

We blocked out time to attend a seminar and spent most of the rest of the day threading our way through the crowds in the exhibition halls.

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The Top of the Class

Seminars

Each day there are seminars on topics like quilt wall hanging, embellishment, and shortcuts, as well as some focused on specific products. They repeat at the same time each day of the festival, so you can catch everything you want to.

We went to a seminar called “Recycle It!” with Linda Winner of Winner Designs and sewing tool manufacturer Martelli Enterprises. She was a fun, engaging speaker, getting the class involved and moving quickly through a lot of projects.

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She defined “recycling” really broadly to include using leftover fabric, and that’s what most of the seminar turned out to be about, but she did include some upcycling and repurposing tips too. The emphasis on using leftover fabric meant ample opportunity to plug her products. She’s designed some really useful-looking templates, but I just felt there was a bit more pitching than the topic warranted.

Again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Someone whose job is selling tools for fabric is bound to have some bias.

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Make and takes

Some exhibitors offer open make-and-take projects – needlepoint, Japanese braiding, a beaded fob to keep you from losing your scissors, etc. – with a small materials fee (usually $3-5). The one whose project we had planned to do had forgotten her materials, but we did see several other make-and-takes in progress. Since the exhibitor will probably be splitting time between instruction and running the booth, allow a little extra time for your project.

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The Sandwich

Food at all the festivals comes from the fairgrounds or venue where they’re located.

In Phoenix’s case, that’s C and C Concessions, which has permanent operations at the Fairgrounds. Offerings included pizza, baked potatoes, roasted almonds, and flame-grilled burgers. Also, the ice cream stand sells sandwiches (like chicken salad. Not like ice cream sandwiches. Or quilt sandwiches.), salads, and some really good pita chips with red pepper hummus.

There are lots of picnic tables, and you also have the option to bring your own lunch.

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Exhibitor Sampler

There were brands demonstrating sewing machines, longarm quilting machines, and furniture, as well as individual quilters and pattern makers selling their own work.

Of course, I’m always interested in the makers.

Many of the exhibitors we met not only had interesting work and a passion for what they do but were also friendly and happy to talk about it.

I shouldn’t be surprised when people surrounded by quilts are warm.

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Some highlights:

Lauretta Crites is a pattern-maker and one half of A Couple of Old Broads, the company she runs with her friend Cindy Meyers. She showed us her handy cross-body bags made with a pattern you can customize to fit your stuff.

Quilt show booth

the-sampler.com had a super colorful booth with fabrics, patterns, and quilt kits.

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Joyce Teng of TSC Designs had stamps, ink, and lots of shades of glitter. I associate stamps with paper crafting, but we also saw quilts with stamped designs at the show.

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Gale and Carl Carlson, the couple behind Stitch in Time has spent years building relationships as far away as Thailand and Bali, bringing back textiles like intricately folded Thai appliqué and beautiful sari silk, which Gale incorporates into jackets. You can also buy the textiles separately for your own projects.

Thai textiles

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Quilter Wayne Snyder of Bear Quilts does longarm quilting for Quilts of Valor, a volunteer organization that provides quilts for veterans. He also sells kits for quilters who want to piece together a quilt top that he can finish with the longarm.

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Bob Miller makes custom beaded earrings with craft-themed charms (think tiny sewing machines or scissors) and steampunk jewelry.

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Mary Fatula of Lumenaris designs tons of inventive felt kits for purses, pillows, coasters, cozies, decor, and perfectly adorable petit fours.

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Pam and Tom Keenan of Pocket Change Fabric sell colorful handmade Mola shoes, Ghana baskets, quilts with bold designs, and fun fabrics.

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The Splinters & Threads booth featured stacks of beautiful wooden printing blocks hand carved in India, as well as paints and quilting supplies.

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This show is the only thing that Chuck and Karen Nolke will drive their RV out to Arizona for. He fires lightweight, one-of-a-kind porcelain pieces, and she makes them into jewelry.

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Robin of Bird Brain Designs had a booth with full size and mini quilts with her funny “robinisms” expressions, lots of vintage sewing items, and even a purse made from a gourd. She just published Snow Happy: Whimsical Embroidery Designs to Mix and Match.

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The Lacey Ladies of Arizona (chapter of the International Organization of Lace, Inc.)  was there working on beautiful bobbin lacework. They hold regular meetings for lacemakers and will be celebrating Lace Day this November.

Bobbin lace making

Tying Up

There are lots of great resources and inspiration at the festival for anyone who quilts or does any kind of fabric craft.

If you’re in Arizona and didn’t make the Phoenix show, the smaller, less-crowded Tucson show happens in November. Check quiltcraftsew.com for the full festival schedule.

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We were guests of the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival.

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People Like Deserts and Dessert

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Travel | 11 comments

According to the Nine app, these were my best 9 Instagram photos last year.

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I don’t know why, but I was a little surprised by the results. While I like these photos and they bring up good memories, it doesn’t feel like they sum up the year or represent the range of things I posted. It’s pretty heavy on the desert scenery.

Of course, the app doesn’t – can’t – measure those things. It just makes a collage of your photos that have the most likes.

What people like, apparently, are hot-climate plants. And whipped-cream-topped waffles.

Waffles

Location of collage photos (l to r): 1. Silly Mountain Botanical Walk 2. Usery Pass Park 3. My back porch. 4.  Silly Mountain Botanical Walk 5. Cabazon Dinosaurs 6. Usery Pass Park 7. Center for Creative Photography, Tucson 8. Summer of the Waffle party 9. Tucson, before heading up Mount Lemmon

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Love Letters on Wheels

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Craft | 6 comments

Did you make construction paper Valentines as a kid? Well, I just found out about a great reason to dust off the Fiskars and start cutting out paper hearts again.

Meals on Wheels will be delivering handmade Valentine’s Day cards to housebound seniors, as part of their Love Letters campaign on DoSomething.org. While the card-making part of the campaign is definitely targeted to kids/teens, I don’t see any reason we can’t all channel our inner child and join in too. (Someone who’s 90 probably sees the rest of us as kids anyway.)

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Sign up at DoSomething.org/loveletters for guidelines and a list of participating locations with mailing addresses, and then make your card(s), put them in envelopes (if you don’t have enough on hand, here’s how to fold your own envelope), and mail them in by February 10.

A volunteer used to deliver Meals on Wheels to my grandpa and even bring treats along for the dog – making both of their days.

If you’re outside of the US and Canada, I bet there’s a nursing home or senior center in your area that you could deliver handmade cards to.

I think this is a beautiful way to spread some love.

[UPDATE: Cards don’t have to be in individual envelopes.]


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Where to Celebrate Australia Day in Arizona

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Travel | 0 comments

Mr. Big is a 90-year-old eucalyptus tree outside of the town of Superior, AZ. Not every tree has a title. But, at 8 feet thick and 140 feet tall, Mr. Big gets your attention.

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It (He?) is the largest tree in one of the largest collections of Australian plants in North America – at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

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To celebrate this forest of outback transplants as well as the cultural roots from their native soil, the Arboretum celebrates Australia Day with walk-a-bout tours and didgeridoo jam sessions.

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Phillip and I went last year with friends Anne and Jameela. We watched a demonstration on playing the didgeridoo, and then Phillip tried it out. Meanwhile, outside there was a guy swinging a bull-roarer over his head. Because, I guess, that’s the kind of thing that can happen on Australia Day. So Anne and I gave that a try.

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Then we caught up with the tour through the Arboretum’s eucalyptus forest with Australian native and horticulturalist Paul Chambers pointing out different types of Australian plants, telling stories of his work importing them to the U.S., and sharing aboriginal traditions.

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We left for a bit to get lunch at Jade Grill in Superior (my fave!).

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Afterwards, we came back to the Arboretum, and there was a didgeridoo concert under the eucalyptus trees. We could still hear it from across the Queen Creek as we hiked the High Trail.

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Australia Day 2016 is coming up this Saturday. You can check out the schedule of events on the listed on the Arboretum’s website.

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Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Travel | 2 comments

Yesterday was a free entrance day for US National Parks, and there are several more scheduled this year. 

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One of the first fee-free days we took advantage of fell on the same day as our nieces’ dance recital a few years ago. We searched “find a park” and saw that there was one – not exactly on the way – but in the right general direction.

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Even though it’s just an hour south of Phoenix, I had never been to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge (not, incidentally, in the town of Casa Grande). Phillip hadn’t been since he was a kid, so we planned a pre-recital detour. 

Casa Grande Monument

The “big house” it’s named for is a centuries-old adobe structure that’s still standing, now covered by a large metal roof constructed in 1932 to help protect it. Parts of walls from the surrounding complex remain, as well as an oval ball court.

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It’s always fascinating to confront history like that and think about people living their lives within those same walls 600 years ago.

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And then we went to watch our nieces dance their hearts out.

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