Category Archives: handmade=happiness

In My Mailbox: Traveling Mail Kit

My penpal Nic sent me this fabulous traveling mail kit just in time for our trip to Japan last year. Her mom made it and is hoping to sell them, so Nic asked me to “test” it out and see what needed to be changed or fixed. It’s made from this gorgeous orange gradient Japanese fabric with metallic gold accents. My pictures aren’t doing it justice! Inside, she used an accent fabric of orange, black, and gold. There are pen loops and pockets to keep stationery and stamps and little extras organized. She thought of everything! Nic tucked in some postcards and stamps to get me started……and some stickers and a playing card holding some washi tape. (Isn’t that genius? The washi tape comes right off the coated playing card! It’s such a perfect way to carry a little bit of washi without the bulk of a whole roll!)I carried my little kit with me everywhere on our trip. It is so light and compact, perfect for long days of being a tourist and walking all over Tokyo. I tucked postcards inside, along with Japanese stamps, my travel address book, a pen, and some ephemera that I picked up along the way.

Now that I’m home, I still tuck the mail kit in my bag when I’m out and about in case I have time for a postcard or a quick note. It’s held up beautifully through all my travels, so I’m confident Nic’s mom can start production when she’s ready!

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KimberlyAH in Embroidery

KimberlyAH logo embroidery by KarenI can’t believe I’ve never shared this here!

Karen made this embroidered logo for me two Christmases ago. Isn’t is fabulous? It sits on top of my metal drawers that hold all of my card inventory and supplies, but I think I need to hang it on the wall above my desk. I’ve collected some new things to add to my wall, and this will fit right in. I’ve managed to collect another hoard of art that needs to be hung, so that’s a project for me this week in between work, chapters for book club, governor debate watch parties, and cleaning the bedroom. I have a plan, but I’m sure my indecisiveness will take over and delay things more. I just can’t seem to hammer a hole in the wall without a lot of hand-wringing. Anyone else have this problem? (And if you don’t, want to come over and help me hang some stuff up?)

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Postcards from Okaasan

postcards from okaasanMany years ago, Naoto’s mom sent us a couple of postcards. First the one on the left, and months later, the one on the right arrived. Naoto explained that doing colored pencil-by-number was a hobby of his mom’s. These are postcards that she had colored. I was so impressed. They were so good that they almost looked printed, especially the fruits on the right. I kept them in a little drawer and when we moved, I put them in frames and hung them in the kitchen. (You can see them hanging in this post about the kitchen.) When I met Okaasan back in 2010, I enjoyed listening to her talk about her colored pencils. At that time, she had won an award for her skills and she was really excited about her hobby.

Two weeks ago, Naoto’s mom passed away. It was very sudden and it took us by surprise. Naoto was back in Japan all last week to handle the arrangements and attend the funeral services. (I stayed behind. It just made sense logistically and financially for him to go alone.) He got back on Monday and we are slowly getting back into our routine here at home and at work. We are beyond grateful that he got to spend so much time with her when we visited in March. But obviously it is a very sad time. postcards from okaasanWhen they were cleaning out her apartment, Naoto and his sisters found this postcard book of cats that his mom had colored. They decided I should have it, which was really touching. The original postcard is on the left (or top in some cases) and the postcard Naoto’s mom colored is on the right (or bottom). Both postcards are perforated so you can tear them out and mail them. Here are a few of the pages. postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasanAren’t they beautiful? We haven’t decided yet if we are going to keep the entire collection in tact or if we are going to choose a few to frame. Either way, it’s just nice to have a little piece of her here at home.

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Hello Sandwich Workshop

Kimberly Ah Hello Sandwich WorkshopDo you know of Hello Sandwich? I’ve been reading her blog for quite awhile now and I’m a big fan. Ebony Bizys (THE Sandwich) is an Australian artist and designer living in Tokyo. She’s had all sorts of creative jobs, and now she is working for Martha Stewart crafts in Japan. I love how colorful and quirky her crafts are. No one can mix patterns and color the way Hello Sandwich can!

For my birthday, Naoto gave me the Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide, a zine all about Ebony’s favorite spots in Tokyo. We used it quite a bit while we were on vacation, mainly for hitting up some great craft and stationery stores. And, I have the Hello Sandwich Craft Book. It is packed full of fun things to do in an afternoon. It’s written in Japanese, but the pictures are enough to follow along. (Though I do make Naoto read some of it to me just so I can hear the stories behind the crafts. He loves doing this for me…)

When we planned our trip to Japan, I kept an eagle eye on Hello Sandwich’s blog and twitter feed with the far-fetched idea that she would be giving a workshop around Tokyo during our stay. Imagine my surprise when she announced that she was hosting a Martha Stewart Crafts workshop at Isetan (a large department store) on the weekend of our visit!! I made Naoto call Isetan and reserve my spot right away. (Ah, the perks of living with a Japanese speaker!) Marta Stewart Crafts at IsetanThe workshop was all set up in the crafts and stationery section of the store. Naoto and Hisae came with me, and we were thinking that Naoto would have to stay and translate. But, lucky for him, Ebony delivered the workshop mostly in English and had a Japanese translator interpreting. There were four of us in the workshop and the other ladies and I had a wonderful time creating and playing with the lovely Martha papers and punches. We used the Martha Stewart Circle Edge Punches to create and ornament and added layers of pictures and other punched papers. We finished off our ornaments with lovely ribbons. (My creation is below…I have to admit that mine was the worst looking one in the class! I have a hard time making things not all matchy-matchy, and I’m definitely out of my comfort zone when black and grey is not involved!) Martha Stewart Crafts punchWhile I was in the workshop, Naoto and Hisae (freed from their interpreting duties) went to lunch. They weren’t back by the time the workshop was over so I wandered around the stationery department at Isetan. Isetan had some really gorgeous stuff. I’d highly recommend a stop there to any stationery lover! I was starting to get a little nervous that Naoto and Hisae abandoned me when this sweet, tiny, older woman (who worked at Isetan) dashed up to me, breathed a huge sigh of relief, grabbed my arm and escorted me back to the crafts department. Naoto and Hisae were there waiting and chatting with Ebony. All was well.

Thanks for a fun afternoon, Hello Sandwich!

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(Belated)

Lily of the Valley embroidery pattern from Wild OliveToday I’m making the drive down to shop and have lunch with my parents. I haven’t seen them since they came up to visit with my grandma (and I didn’t have the Mother’s Day gift ready then) so I’m finally delivering the gifts for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

I worked on this embroidery project over the 30 Days of Creativity in June. The pattern is from Mollie’s blog, Wild Olive, and can be found here. I really loved stitching it–it was a nice mix of back stitching and French knots (I love stitching those knots!) and I finished it in an evening. embroidery backingYesterday, I typed up a little message on blush paper and pasted it on the back of the embroidery hoop. I know there’s a nicer way to do this (where the fabric tucks around the larger hoop and the paper backing goes back into the smaller hoop), but sadly, I cut my fabric just a bit too short to make it all happen. So, I glued the fabric down to the back of the hoops and glued the paper backing on top. It looks fine, but the perfectionist in me is annoyed at the fact that it could be better. But, the important thing is, the front is lovely, the back is fine and the gift is (finally) going to be delivered this afternoon!Mother's Day gift wrapping

Here it is all wrapped up in a flat paper bag with some twine, a Martha Stewart flower sticker (from my huge sticker stash, collected over the years) and with a tiny piece of tape from Oh Hello Friend. Simple.

And, in case you’re curious, for Father’s Day we got my dad a Blackhawks cap and these fancy County Fair Field Notes (the Illinois ones, of course!)

Off to central Illinois for some thrifting and dining!

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7th Anniversary Gifts: Copper & Desk Sets

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When Naoto & I exchange anniversary gifts, we use the traditional and modern gift ideas as guidelines. I buy or make something for Naoto from the traditional list, and he buys me something from the modern list. (I wish I could tell you what we’ve gotten for each other in year’s past, but I don’t remember all of the gifts…we should have written them down.)

So since it was our 7th anniversary I got to work with wool or copper (ah, if I only knew how to knit!) and Naoto had desk sets for me…seriously…could he have HAD an easier gift for me?! (I even have a Pinterest Board dedicated to desk stuff!)

I really like to make things for Naoto. He never has a wishlist (I married the least materialistic person on the planet.) and I like to try out new things. My first embroidery project was an anniversary gift (year two is cotton). I’ve been wanting some more art for our home and have been looking online for different mobile type ideas. Through my search, I found this tutorial from Smile and Wave for a copper pipe himmeli. I was a little bit intimidated by the project at first. I don’t make a habit of poking around the plumbing section and I’ve never cut a pipe before. And parts of the tutorial didn’t make sense to me until I actually started working with the materials. But I have to say, Rachel’s tutorial ended up being perfect. Locating the materials was the hardest part (mostly because they didn’t have the right pipe size at Menards and then Lowes put my paid order back on the shelves) but once I got started, I really enjoyed this project–so much so that I plan to make a few more. I’d love to have a little cluster of them with a plant or two in the corner of the bedroom. I’m going to make that happen. (Because one looks lonely and ridiculous.)

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I used a slightly different pipe than Rachel used. Because Lowe’s put my original order back on the shelves (I guess that was a happy accident), I had a chance to poke around the copper pipe section and I found a skinnier pipe–1/4″ Type OD. I have no idea what that means, but it’s skinnier than the 1/4″ Type L (even though they are both 1/4″…don’t ask me, I’m not a plumber). It worked like a charm. Also, it was very satisfying to cut the pipes with the little pipe cutter. It took some practice and some patience. (First I smooshed the end of the pipe because I was too impatient and tightened things too quickly. Then, I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere as I turned the pipe cutter round and round, but then one last little twist and the pipe was cut–like magic.) I think the whole project took around an hour and the hardest part was threading the twine through and then getting it all lined up at the end. Mine is quite imperfect, but I hope to get better as I make a couple more. I think Naoto liked it. (Or is that his what-the-heck-is-this-well-she-made-it-so-I’d-better-smile face?)

IMG_2288And I know Presley finds it quite intriguing…

DSC_0051(Maybe hanging it at the side of the bed was a bad idea??)

DSC_0005For my gift, Naoto got this sweet wooden cat pencil holder and this planner from Paper & Type. I think I’m going to use the planner for scheduling blog posts because I don’t want to wait until 2014 to put it to use! My Letter Ledger is from Paper & Type and I just think her products are so unique and useful. Thanks for the lovely choices, Naoto!

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Monogram Tea Towel

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I whipped up a quick tea towel for my parents last night. It was a last minute craft, one where I didn’t even iron all if the wrinkles out of the tea towel…

I keep a stash of plain white flour sack tea towels in my closet for craft emergencies. (Mine are from Target, but you get the idea.) They are the first things I learned to embroider (I made a sushi towel for Naoto) and the fabric is thin but not too thin for little stitches. My mom has several of these towels that she’s had for years, and like most things, the ones made today are much thinner than the old ones. (They don’t make things like they used to.)

Because I wanted to keep things simple with a monogram (A for Adami, in case you didn’t put that together…), I just practiced writing a few cursive A’s until I found one I liked, then I traced the A onto the fabric with a Pilot FriXion Pen. I use the FriXion pens in my calendar, I love they way they write and the eras-ability factor. So imagine my delight when I heard from Mollie and read a great tip here that the ink disappears when it’s heated, making the FriXion pen perfect for embroidery and quilting (and probably other crafts). I didn’t have to worry about heating up my A to remove the lines because my 6-strand split stitch covered the thin (0.5) line perfectly.

Sidenote: I do have first-hand experience with the disappearing ink. I left my FriXion pen on my balcony on a sunny summer day last year and when I went back to use it again, the ink flowed clear instead of black. Huge bummer for me, but thankfully I had about ten back-up pens…

I think my parents liked it–my mom told my dad he should use it when he bakes bread–and I think the red variegated floss (Anchor #1206) matches their kitchen just enough. All-in-all I think a quickie tea towel makes a nice little gift, don’t you?

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new business card stamp!

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I’ve been wanting new business cards since I changed blogs last spring. I didn’t need them…it’s not like I have a business or anything…but I wanted a little something to stick in letters (and Christmas cards) to spread the word about the ol’ blog and my new-ish cell phone number (I’ve hidden the last few digits). I thought a stamp would be fun because I can change up the inks and the paper with my mood (which changes often, though grey always seems to be in season around here).

In my months (I don’t take decisions lightly) of scouring the internet for options, I was happy to find Ampersandity again. I love Cathie Hong’s work and we have an address stamp done in her calligraphy. (I actually won it, and she uses it on her site as an example stamp.) I love the blend of her calligraphy and the sans serif typeface and I love the dots…the dots pretty much sealed the deal for me. I’ve already purchased some peacock, paper bag and gravel business cards to get me started.

Fun times will be happening tonight while I stamp up some business cards and Christmas cards (because that stamp just arrived, too!) Never mind the fact that the house is a mess and the Christmas decorations are still strewn about…paper projects are priorities!

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handmade is happiness #2

Our first autumn here, I asked my dad for one of his handmade bird feeders for a Christmas gift. I thought it would make a great addition to our balcony and it would give Presley and me some birdwatching opportunities during the winter. My parents have several feeders in their yard and it’s always fun to spot new birds when we visit. It turns out he was already building me this feeder and he brought it up to me that Thanksgiving! We didn’t fill it this summer because the birds are messy, leaving seed shells all over the balcony. (And, between you & me, last summer, some of the bird seed fell on the grass below our balcony and grew into crabgrass! Oops!) Once the temperature drops, we will fill it up again. Presley and I are already looking forward to cardinal-watching this winter!

Here’s a close-up of the little chickadee drawings on the side.

My dad has been building bird feeders and bird houses for as long as I remember. And he is generous to give them to our family and friends. Besides the feeder, we have three of his bird houses on the balcony.

The one made with reclaimed wood,

the barn-style

and the Colonial house-style (also made with reclaimed wood). This one sits on the floor, and is meant more for decoration than an actual bird home.

And, even though no birds have taken up residence in any of the houses, I still have hopes that someday we will have a little neighbor or two out there!

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handmade is happiness #1

Naoto likes to joke that my iPad is my favorite gift (Presley gave it to me for my birthday this year. She is very thoughtful & generous.) While I do use the iPad quite often, I would never consider something hard, cold and electronic as my fave…no matter how much I use it.

But he did get me thinking, what are some of my favorite gifts? So, I’ve decided to share some of my best-loved gifts here on the blog…

One of the first gifts that came to mind are these kitchen towels that my mother made for my wedding shower.

Growing up, I knew my mom had embroidery supplies, but only because we pilfered the floss for friendship bracelets. It never occurred to the childhood me that she actually could embroider…so imagine my surprise when I opened such a heartfelt and handmade gift!

When visitors see the towels hanging in my kitchen, they are sometimes surprised that I use the towels. (What else am I supposed to do with them? Keep them folded up in a drawer?) Well, I do use them, a lot, for everything from drying dishes and drying herbs to sopping up messes (everything I do in the kitchen results in a mess lately) and wearing them as aprons. And every time I use them, I think of my mom, the ultimate mother & homemaker. xoxo

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