Saturday, September 17, 2011

Yarn Love

The latest collection of yarn porn WEBS catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. I've been thumbing through it looking at the tweeds trying to hit upon one for the Belted Pant Coat in The Crochet Closet by Lisa Gentry.

Before I purchase anything else from WEBS I will definitely need to go through my stash yarn to see if there is something appropriate. Or at least finish half a dozen other WIP before I take on another!

I wish WEBS was closer so that I could pop in and out when the fancy struck rather than having to take a day and drive two hours each way out to Western MA. I am a big fan of touching yarn before I buy it and seeing the colors close up in person.

In the spring during WEBS giant annual sale my mother and I made the trek out there. We met up with friends who live in the area for lunch and I was able to roam the back storehouse to my heart's content. Mom wanted me to crochet her a cardigan with the colors of the Southwest desert. We finally settled on Lang Colora in dyelot 5929. It was on sale and is now sold out so I sure hope we purchased enough for this sweater! I'll be doing her second fitting in it later today. We also purchased some gorgeous Sublime cashmere merino silk aran that was also on sale in shade #0132 but we have yet to agree upon an appropriate pattern for the yarn.

My one complaint with WEBS is that it is so knitting focused. I feel a little like a kid eating my cake with a spoon while everyone else is using a fork. But I can't be alone in this... there have got to be more people out there like me who only crochet. I'm not opposed to trying to learn how to knit... again, but crochet is so very pleasurable for me and knitting never was.

Perhaps I'll go downstairs and console myself with gleefully going through my beautiful, beautiful stash of yarn.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wedding Retrospective - Stationary

After we became engaged Thom took me away for a fantastic weekend in Charleston, SC. While there we walked on the beach, collected seashells and basked in the glow of newly engaged love.

We were so enamored of our engagement rings that we took this photo with them:
Yes, we both wore engagement rings

Once we had our date nailed down and our "elegant, coastal New England" theme running through our minds we started chatting with friends about plans. Over a fantastic, red wine fueled dinner our uber-creative friend Jon offered to DIY our stationary as his wedding gift. All of it. Needless to say, I jumped at the offer. We gave him a few ideas based on our theme and a couple of weeks later we had these lovely postcards combining our photo from the beach with Jon's design skills.

Save the Date postcard
This was only the beginning of Jon's incredible gift to us. Over the next few months Jon would send me his design WIP and I would make notes or suggestions. Eventually he produced an incredible custom design featuring a stylized hydrangea in a batik-esque band that represented Thom's eastern European roots combined with our New England wedding. Surrounding the "flower" was a rope-like effect for our coastal theme. I was blown away by Jon's work.

Meanwhile I researched printing and cardstock. We finally settled on using paper products from Cards & Pockets which has an incredible selection of elegant and luxe looking DIY and semi-DIY paper products.

I adore the look of pocketfold invitations. Love. Love. Love pocketfold invitations. I knew immediately we would base the invitations on the 5x7 Signature Pocketfold card in a beautiful metallic champagne shade. We used creampuff colored cardstock for the printing and accented with a lovely sky blue invitation mat and reply envelope. We also added a contrasting metallic sand colored belly band with a monogram. The monogram was the only item we had printed; everything else we printed at home. A long and tedious day was had by all printing, cutting and gluing the invites together. But in the end we had a stack of these lovlies:

Invitation minus reply envelope
As sealed in envelopes
Next up: Jon's custom design band "ties" it all together.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Retrospective - Wedding DIY Projects

In honor of the first anniversary of our wedding I have decided to put together a series of posts about various DIY aspects of our wedding.

There are dozens of brides whose DIY spirit astonishes and impresses me. I gleaned insight and inspiration from countless websites, blogs and posts on LiveJournal and TheKnot. I dedicate these posts to all the unnamed brides (and a few grooms) whose creativity inspired me to get crafty.

I should preface this by saying that I was absolutely, positively, not the little girl who dreamed of her wedding day. In fact, I was fairly well convinced that I would never get married simply because I had no interest in it all. How time changes us! When I came to the conclusion that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Thom I looked forward to our marriage. The marriage; not the wedding.

Living downtown I kept saying to him, "City Hall is right down the street. We could just go there and be married." Each time he would respond, "I don't know honey... I always pictured myself having a traditional wedding."

Another day I might say, "we don't need a big cake, right?" And he would quietly say, "I don't know honey... I always pictured the traditional big, three-tiered cake."


About six months into our engagement I started looking at the wedding in a different light. Here was an opportunity to create the biggest, bestest, most wonderful event I would ever create. I started looking at our wedding day as the day that would be the most about us - what we love, who we are, why we chose each other - and to make a public declaration of our commitment to each other in front of those individuals who matter most to us. When viewed in those terms, who wouldn't want a wedding?!

We started thinking about what best describes us. We both love being on and near the water so we immediately thought "beach." We also love our New England region and I was adamant that our wedding - this "biggest, bestest, most wonderful event" be elegant. This all brought us to our ultimate theme: elegant, coastal, New England.

The inspirations came flowing like water. Coastal... sand and water... our colors would be beige and blue. Elegant... silver and gold. New England... classic, vintage. New England coastal... hydrangea. If you've ever been to Cape Cod you can't walk 10 feet without seeing another hydrangea shrub. Conveniently for us they are naturally blue.

We found our venue a mere eight months before the wedding. Save the date cards had to go out the next month! Enter the first DIY project...

DIY School Daze

Even though the days are still sunny and bright, there is something about September that brings visions of autumn leaves scurrying down the street as we walk with the wind at our backs. What could it be that evokes this sense of change? Is it the slight chill in the air? Is it the pumpkin lattes at Dunkin Donuts? No, it's the start of school.

For many of us, parents or not, September means the start of local school events - whether it's baking treats for the local bake sale or going to watch your niece in her soccer games - September is always back to school month.

I'm involved with a local school in Boston that serves primarily low and moderate income students. Finding funding for activities is always a challenge and every penny saved is a penny earned. At our annual fundraiser this year we had it all figured out - we were ready to make thousands of dollars for arts programming with an elegant cocktail party & raffle. We had secured donations from the Boston Red Sox and Celtics, dozens of local businesses including wine and had a fantastic caterer lined up. The only thing missing was decor. How on earth were we going to transform our school cafeteria into an elegant space? I needed a classy way to wear my DIY skills with school pride. 

Enter A.C. Moore.

After being turned down by every florist we contacted for a donation my friend and fellow event planner went on an absolute spree with me in the floral department the night before our event (less than ideal, but I work well under pressure). She was not convinced that I could make the faux florals and inexpensive vases look luxe enough to tempt our moneyed guests into opening their wallets. But with a little waving of my imaginary pompoms I coaxed her through the process and convinced her I would make elegant floral arrangements in the school's blue and yellow colors overnight.

I won't lie - our caterer made our lives immeasurably easier by donating cocktail tables and beautiful linens. That alone made the room appear more like a party and less like an after-school special. We had five cocktail tables so I needed five small centerpieces. We had two registration tables and a bar so I wanted six large arrangements to flank the sides of the tables. My vision was natural florals - blue is tricky to pull off naturally so I knew it had to be hydrangea and delphinium. Luckily my local A.C. Moore is always well provisioned with a wide selection of styles.

We started with five small square vases and six tall cylinder vases. I wrapped a large leaf around the inside of each to hide the stems and the foam. I used the blue hydrangea - short and bushy - in the small square vases. Yellow wildflowers were added and a white poppy set off the colors.

faux hydrangea and wildflower cocktail centerpiece
For the large cylinders I used delphinium combined with curly branches, eucalyptus, bright yellow peonies and tall grasses. I staggered the heights to create an effect that continually drew the eye higher as each color popped off its background.

floral arrangement on the bar

registration table

Unfortunately the photos don't quite do the centerpieces justice, but trust me, folks there kept asking when the centerpieces were going to be raffled off!

For just under $172 I was able to create 11 reusable arrangements for the school. There is no way we could have purchased fresh centerpieces and vases for less than $16 each. In fact, we had up to $250 budgeted for decor but were hoping to get most of it donated. Considering we walked away with with over $7,300 net profit for the school's art programs I'd say it was money well spent. I look forward to seeing these arrangements again and again at school functions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Channeling Grammie

My Grammie was one of those grandmothers. You know, the kind who not only knows the names of your dolls but can hand sew your teddy bear a robe that matches the one she made for you. The kind who makes melt-in-your mouth cookies, knits blankets to keep you warm when she isn't there to hug you (and are so well made you are confident you will wrap your someday children in them) and whose Sunday dinners are... wait for it... legendary.

When I was about eleven I asked Grammie to teach me to knit. She very patiently tried to teach me something that I just. didn't. get. We ended up making one neon watermelon headband (hey, it was the 80s) and I abandoned knitting forever.

I just wasn't crafty. Unless, of course, you count worming my way out of trouble, in which case my brother would say I was the craftiest kid in the neighborhood.

Speaking of my brother... that kid came out of womb painting like Rembrandt. OK - not really, but to my envious heart there was no point in even trying anything artistic because my big brother was better. A lot better. I saw my own attempts as childish, which, considering I was a child was being pretty tough on myself. My hands could not create what I saw in my mind's eye. To make matters worse, by the time I was in high school every art teacher I'd ever had expected brilliance since I was "John's little sister" and was almost as disappointed in my attempts as I was. The horrible part? I loved being creative. I went to art camp, took pottery and photography classes and was elated by the process - every time was a new opportunity to bring my vision to life... and many disappointing attempts were then stuffed in a drawer, the closet, or the trash.

Not until 2005 when two friends were pregnant did I really attempt anything creative again. I wanted to be able to give these brand new babies something made just for them to welcome them into the world. My then-boyfriend's mother was an avid crocheter and over several afternoons she succeeded in teaching me some basic stitches and how to read patterns. We started with two Anne Halliday books: Afghans by the Dozen: Shells and Love Me Tender Baby Afghans. From then on I was hooked (no pun intended. The boyfriend and I broke up but I kept on crocheting. And to my surprise... I didn't suck at it! I rewarded myself with Donna Kooler's Encyclopedia of Crochet and went to work learning different stitches.

Fortunately I met and fell in love with a man who not only supports my yarn and craft habit but is pretty handy with a set of tools himself. So here we are - a couple of newlyweds in a two room apartment in the city on our great big DIY adventure.

Things I Love