Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas Eve! NORAD says Santa is on his way to Kazakhstan and has already delivered almost two billion gifts. It’s not even the middle of the day yet!

Merry folk, you’re welcome to read this post, but can I talk to the folks who still haven’t found their Christmas cheer? Mine shows up late, but when it does show up I don’t forget about everybody I was on Team Grinch with just last week.

There are two Christmas songs that just aren’t as cheery to me as the others. I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The first makes me think of everyone who can’t get home to family or friends for Christmas. It actually makes me cry a bit when I hear it. I couldn’t put my finger on what made Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas sound sort of melancholy for a long time, though. I love the song! It’s one of my very favorite Christmas songs. It just makes me feel like you should be alone with a tumbler of whiskey when you listen to it.

I looked it up. It wasn’t written to be a cheerful song. Even after a request to make the original lyrics less depressing, it had lines like “Some day soon we all will be together/ If the fates allow/ Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow”. It was “jollyed up” a bit more when Frank Sinatra wanted some lyrics changed so he could include it on one of his Christmas albums.

It’s really a song about life sucking right at what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and struggling to do the best with it that you can. It’s about getting yourself through and hoping it’ll be better in the future. It’s about reaching the end of your rope, tying a knot in it,and hanging on.

My favorite version is Rolf and John Denver singing it.

Have as merry a Christmas as you can, friends!

December Totally Useless Stitch-A-Long

Have we really been doing the Totally Useless Stitch-a-Long since June? Wow! It’s time to see how full the jar is this month.

I think things are settling again, so it doesn’t look like it gains much each month. I like seeing how the layers become more compact, though. Layers of sedimentary thread.

Since this is the last photo of the ORT jar for this year, let’s compare to the first photo back in June.

If that’s how much thread ended up being discarded, imagine how much we’ve used in our work this year!

 

 

3 Last Minute DIY Gifts

I’m not sure how we did it this year, but Christmas gifts for family have been sitting around ready to go (other than needing to be wrapped) instead of us working on them right up until Christmas Eve. I don’t know if that will ever happen again, but I’m pleased that it happened this year! Maybe you’ve realized you still need a gift for someone, though, and you want it to be something nice, but who is Cousin Marvin, anyway? And can you really give the person your brother just started dating the gift you had intended for the person he was dating until last week?

There’s this fear that a last minute handmade gift won’t be very nice. That it’s taking the cheap way out. No! You’re investing more time and energy than money. Anyone who thinks that means you’re “being cheap” probably doesn’t deserve a gift from you anyway. Here are three options for gifts to give to people who will appreciate the personal touch.

Bleach Pen DIY T-Shirt Art – Our tutorial was a follow up to a tutorial on drawing mandalas, but you don’t have to stick with mandalas for the shirt. You can trace shapes from a plastic template, write a message, or just personalize the shirt with someone’s name. You’ll need a plain T-shirt that is not white, a bleach pen that is not safe for colors, and a little baking soda.

DIY Golden Snitch Ornament – Tutorial from EPBOT. You don’t have to make 30 like they did, but they did get all 30 done in one night. Quick, inexpensive, and I just love how they turned out! We may need to make one for our tree next year.

Embroidery Floss Ornament – I love what Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun has done with some of her thread bits! This would make a great gift for a crafter. Some of you are thinking, “Sure… but I don’t keep a jar of thread bits around.” I think one filled with buttons would look pretty awesome, too!

Don’t let the last minute details stop you from enjoying gift-giving!

Guest Post on Slow Stitching

Have you heard about The Slow Stitching Movement? It’s about enjoying your craft and making it a real part of who you are, not just a thing to tick off on your To Do list. Everything from how you choose your materials to appreciating every step of your process.

I have a guest post on the Slow Stitching blog in which I talk about my process as an artist. Where my ideas come from, why I’m so passionate about doing original work, and how healing the process is for me. I was really honored to be asked to write over there, and this movement is something I really believe in.

Important Reading – “Stop the Hustle”

I am primarily responsible for our Instagram account, and David is primarily responsible for our Twitter account. You’ll find us both posting in both places at times, but we make sure nothing falls into the “I thought you were keeping up with that” gap by agreeing on who is responsible for each. This means I sometimes look in on our Twitter feed and find that he has posted something I really love but wasn’t expecting.

A couple of days ago, it was this post on Oh My! Handmade Goodness.

I absolutely despise the way the word “hustle” gets thrown around these days, and I didn’t know why until I read this. I hate being told creative small business owners “need to hustle”. I hate seeing other people pat themselves on the back for how they “hustled” that day. I don’t have the same reaction to seeing, “Go me! I worked hard all day and deserve chocolate!” I do understand the word is being used in the “hurry, hurry” sense, not in the “hustle a game of pool” sense. Something about it just turns my stomach and makes me feel anxious.

I love how Jessika Hepburn breaks the word down and discusses the historical use of it. I truly believe we send ourselves and each other unintended messages by not carefully choosing the words we use. She also talks about some mental health issues that hit very close to home for me, and at a time of year when stress and depression are known to become deadly for too many people.

This is my hexie box. It’s my safe place when I just can’t take any more of the day. I can get lost in my hexies and work on them for as long as I want or need to. I don’t even have anything specific that I’m making them for. (I want to say they’ll be a quilt one day, but raise your hand if you’ve started a hexie quilt and never finished it. Wow! That’s a lot of hands!) I hide in this box because it’s the very opposite of “hustle”. It’s slow, calming, and the work happens for as long as it happens.

Take a few minutes to read “Stop the Hustle”. Maybe you’ll think about the words you choose and the messages you send yourself. Maybe you’ll give yourself permission to stop and breathe. This is the only life you get. Some people believe in the eternal life of the soul beyond mortal existence. Some people believe in reincarnation. This is, however, the only time you will be you – in this existence you have right now. Slow down and enjoy it.

And if you are one of the many, many people who finds themself over-stressed and/or depressed during the winter, remember that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real thing and not everyone has had happy holiday experiences. You’re not just “being a Grinch”. If things get really bad, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I also give virtual hugs on Twitter to anyone who tells me they need one – no explanation for the request necessary.

Stitching Thorin’s Map from “The Hobbit”

It’s been a while since I really got to do some embroidery work. If you follow us on Instagram you’ve seen there is all kinds of creative work going on around Casa Craftypodes, but very little of it has been my embroidery. I’ve really been enjoying working on EPP hexies in my time between projects (yes, I have projects to work on while I’m taking time off from working on projects). I’ve made a few gifts for friends, and we’ve managed to get Christmas gifts for family finished before Christmas Eve this year! We won’t be releasing more patterns until next year, so I have some time to work on something that does not come from one of our To Do lists.

There’s this map I’ve been in love with for a very long time. In fact, it’s the map that made me realize how much I love maps as pieces of art. I’ve wanted to stitch this map for some time now, so the first step was to draw it.

Yes… THAT map! I know some people will question my geek cred for saying this, but geekdom is huge and there’s plenty of room for variety… I don’t like Tolkien’s writing and have never managed to read his books. I’ve tried! I have The Hobbit , the LotR trilogy, The Silmarillion, and a very small companion book titled Understanding Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. My grandfather gave them all to me when I was much younger and I’ve kicked myself for years for not being able to just force myself to keep reading until I finish them.

The story is wonderful! I have enjoyed the movies, and I’d love to be able to compare and contrast them with the books the way I do with other movie adaptations of literature. I have a lot of feelings about individual characters like Boromir and Gollum, and I’m very firm in my opinion that Samwise Gamgee is actually the hero, not Frodo Baggins. I just hate Tolkien’s writing style. It puts me to sleep. I much prefer reading his friend C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

But that map! I’ve spent hours just looking at Thorin’s map inside the cover of the book. The maps in Tolkien’s books were the first fantasy maps I ever saw and I’ve always been disappointed when other fantasy novels don’t have maps, or the maps just don’t really stand up as a piece of art.

Here’s my drawing of the map after I finished going over it in ink. I need the lines to be very dark so I can use a lightbox and trace over them again on the fabric with a special washable pen.

It’s especially frustrating to me that I can’t force myself through The Hobbit (I last tried just a couple of years ago) because it’s really about the dwarves. I love dwarves… they’re tiny barbarians! I’m really not a fan of elves. That doesn’t apply to House Elves or Christmas Elves, who are really brownies. One could point out that Tolkien’s elves aren’t really elves, either. He reluctantly used the word because of other trends at the time, but had been calling them fairies before. Yeah… I don’t trust fairies, either. My feelings about various fantasy creatures have largely been shaped more by folklore and mythology than Disney movies. (Though I do love Disney movies, and let’s not forget Maleficent is not a friendly fairy!) I’m really more of a sword-and-sorcery fantasy fan than high fantasy. If it weren’t for dwarves, I might not care about high fantasy at all. So in the eternal battle for dominance between elves and dwarves, I will always be Team Beards and Hammers.

I love Tolkien’s world, even if I don’t love his actual writing. I like discussing characters and events with people, but I do caution that I’m only coming from the point of view of having seen the movies and played LOTRO. I cannot discuss the books. I have friends who would say anyone who wants to stitch Thorin’s map has a place somewhere in the fandom. Maybe my place is just a little hole.

“Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

 

Helpful Shipping Resources

I was just having a Twitter conversation the other day that made me think about shipping for the holidays. Back when we were first looking at how viable it would be to ship internationally, I spent a LOT of time researching how just about everything related to shipping is supposed to work. In the end, a lot of what I found was confusing and unhelpful, but I eventually found what I needed.

There is a nice handy pdf with all the tables for how USPS prices things. for all shipping priorities. I know that can be confusing to process at first glance (it was for me), but if you know what zone the person you’re shipping to is in, you just find that number and follow it down to how much what you’re shipping weighs. In most cases, you’ll probably be using First Class or Priority, but if you need something else, the table is there.

Shipping outside the US can be a bit more complicated. In all cases you’ll need to fill out a customs form declaring what’s inside the package. This can be found at your local post office and is a fairly straight-forward form. Any additional customs fees will fall on the recipient to pay for when they get the package. Each country may also have additional limitations on what can be shipped, as well. You can find all of that, and what international zone each country is in, by finding the country name in this list.

Finally, if you already know what weight the item you’re shipping is, and what package you’ll need for it, USPS also has a tool to input all of your information to try to get you exact costs. Personally, though, that tool has been nearly as accurate for me as finding what I needed through the charts I linked earlier. Hopefully this will help clear up any holiday shipping confusion!

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