A parliament of stuffed owls…

But since I’m only making eight, I guess it’s more like a jury?

A friend asked me to make her a few owls to add to her wedding gifts-for-other-people, and I made some of them tonight.  I thought perhaps I’d record the process here.

1.  I have a notebook where I doodle out ideas.  I took the basic shape for this one from a book named Doodle Stitching.  I tend to work with simple shapes because I think stuffed felt translates well to cartoons, but there are some amazing felt artists out there who can do just about anything. I’m not quite there yet…

2. I translated my idea into two patterns, one for the outside shape, and one for the inside.

3.  Then I got together the materials I needed:  various colors of embroidery floss, felt, stuffing, embroidery needles, and scissors.

4.  Then I cut!  I saved the scraps to use as stuffing.  I cut out all eight owls at once so that it was a veritable owl assembly line.

5.  Here they are awaiting embroidery.  I sewed the beak onto the paler felt first, and then embroidered lines of split-stitches for eyes and feathers.  Then I sewed the paler felt down onto the darker felt.  The bow idea from the sketch above totally didn’t work, so I made little hearts instead, bound down with french knots.

6. The very last step was sewing the front part of the owl to the back with a blanket stitch.  I sewed from one ear, down the body, to the other ear.  Then I stuffed it and finished up the top.  I think the most interesting part is doodling different personalities onto the owls with the thread.  I like the happy-looking black and grey one best, so far.

So there you have it!  Four owls down, four to go…

[Like felt?  I make stuff with felt. You can see the other projects here.]


Easter via Instagram

My family really enjoys being able to share holidays with Khunyai (grandma) Tui and Khuntah (grandpa) Jack. Their daughter, my cousin Theresa, is half-Thai like I am.

I brought a certain Monkey down to enjoy the holiday, and we had a “traditional” Thai-western feast cooked by Khunyai Tui.  After that, an egg hunt for the Monkey, and a lot of relaxed chatting around the table on the porch.

Here are a few photos from our lovely day at this traditionally-untraditional Easter.

Last minute Easter goody bag

T’was the night before Easter, and a card suddenly appeared on the table.  It was from my daughter, and it read:  “To the Easter Bunny.  Happy Easter!  You are Osome.”

Oh no, I thought, staring at the very polite card.  We’ll be going to an Easter party, but she expects something from the Easter Bunny first thing in the morning!

So the Easter Bunny enlisted my help to create a small treat bag, which I filled with a few items from my secret  present stash.   Here’s what I did late, late last night.

Materials:  Blue, light pink, orange, and dark pink felt.  Blue, orange and dark pink embroidery floss.  Needle, scissors, a length of ribbon.

1.  Freehand a design, then cut.  I used various Sanrio beasties as my inspiration.  Since this was last-minute, I didn’t cut a pattern first, but just cut the felt.

2. Stitch it all down!  I used different colors of embroidery floss for this, and a simple running stitch instead of a split stitch or anything fancy.  My order is usually to stitch the details first, like eyes and bows, so that they don’t move around, and then the rest. Quick, quick!

3. Fill!  Then I tied it with a ribbon and made a tiny card from the Easter Bunny.

So yes, that small gift stash.  At Christmas and birthdays, when I’m shopping, I will pick up a few extra tiny things to keep around for those “oh no! I forgot!” moments.  I stow them in a drawer and it totally saves my butt.

“Mama. You made that!”  Said my perceptive daughter.

“Yeah, the Easter Bunny asked me for help, since he was busy…” I coughed.

I hope your Easters are much better planned than mine! Have a lovely day!  😀

[More of my felt adventures are in the “Making Stuff” category, or if you like, you can go look at this Dalahast.]

For the Sassy generation

Are you an American woman in your (slightly) late 30s?

…Then you probably feel much the same way that I do about Sassy. We liked it before all the advertisers pulled out due to the much-too-realistic discussions of teenage life and it became a watered-down alternative to Seventeen. We liked it when it was part and parcel with grunge and riot grrl, and the magazine was as game-changing as that music and those politics.

A few writers from Sassy have new projects now, and they’ve grown up with us too. It’s awesome to find that they’re still speaking just as clearly and confidently for 30-(40-, 50-) somethings as they did for teens.

So this is awesome:

  • Everybody already knows about XOJane. My pal Marianne Kirby regularly writes blog posts for XOJane. I’m still not sure how I feel about XOJane (much like all of Jane Pratt’s post-Sassy projects, including the thankfully short-lived talk show), but I do adore Marianne’s writing.
  • I’ve loved Christina Kelly’s blog, Fallen Princess, for a long time. She’s become an insightful, wry, witty suburban mom. This blog is balm for my soul.
  • And now, Kim France (of the infamous pants that everybody remembers) has her own blog too. It’s called Girls of a Certain Age, and the logo features Pac Man. She absolutely gets it:  Girls of a Certain Age wanted to be Tatum O’Neal in Bad News Bears. Or Brooke Shields in Endless Love. They read every word of Go Ask Alice and believed it. They wept to Carole King, rocked out to Blondie, and made out with their boyfriends to Led Zeppelin II.

She forgot about crushing on Bo Duke, but I’ll forgive her that one.


Mother-daughter teas, Kelly Black, bittersweetness, memory…

My post title is taken from my note to myself to remember to write this.

When I moved to Atlanta in the mid-90s, I was naive about many things, but one of the most interesting was Southern culture. Once I got to know it, I realized that this culture is not much different from Thai culture, or Jewish, or any culture in which matriarchs are strong and social traditions are fiercely upheld. Southern culture seemed full of hidden rules, and the person who helped me decode it (in the sweetest way possible) was a friend and former co-worker, Kelly Black.

I met Kelly at my first job at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We were both poorly paid advertising helpers, and our job consisted of trotting print ads up and down the hall between the dingy room where the advertising executives sat, to the rooms near the enormous clanking machinery of the printing press where the layout artists sat.

The entire process of putting together the newspaper was complicated, and we worked in the final days of exacto knives and layout boards and wax for sticking things onto other things. Kelly and I spent many a day begging layout artists to laboriously apply changes to print ads, and occasionally there was a change so epic that we’d get our supervisor to tell the ad supervisor to tell various other people to STOP THE PRESS. It felt like being in the trenches with someone, and we got close.

Kelly had a busy life back then. Sometimes I’d ask what she was up to, and she’d say, “Father-daughter day at the baseball field,” or, “bachelorette party for a friend,” or “I had a mother-daughter tea with my mother and some friends.” She had two sisters as well, and I have a vivid memory of Kelly describing how she helped her littlest sister choose some makeup. “We got her soft browns to highlight her eyes.” Kelly was a good sister and daughter and friend… and as you might have noticed, I’m using the past tense.

A few months ago I wondered what Kelly was up to. It had been over ten years since I’d spoken to her. Life before Facebook made keeping in touch a lot less orderly, and I’d broken up with a boyfriend who somehow got to keep the friendship. Then I moved cross-country to Oregon, and Kelly and I lost touch. Right around the time that I was wondering about her, the ex-boyfriend sent me a message. “Tanya, I just found some bad news on the internet today. I’m sorry to be the one to deliver it.” Two news articles about a car accident. One obituary.

The terrible thing is that it happened years ago, when Kelly turned thirty. She was with her new husband and one of her sisters in a car in Colorado, and someone rear-ended them. Kelly died. Nobody else was hurt. It happened just as I was moving back to Georgia to attend graduate school. The problem with finding out about a death years later is that people have already mourned and are trying hard to move past it, but luckily, a mutual friend and I could mourn together. I wondered how her sisters and parents are faring. She was such a good person that I know that she’s left an aching spot in many lives.

I found out about Kelly’s death right before I found out about my own cancer. These two things combined to completely shift my perspective about staying in touch with people. It strengthened my resolve to be better about this, and to take all of the old Southern (or Thai or whatever) traditions of connecting more seriously. I’m not great at this. I’ve moved around a lot, and because of this, I tend to narrow my focus to wherever I am. I cope with everyday life and spend time with the people around me or the people who share my current interests (whatever they are). Therefore, I’m thankful to social media for helping me to reconnect to people across the world that I’ve known, and I’ll definitely take grand old traditions like Mother’s Day a little more seriously.

It was tea that reminded me of Kelly today. I was reading through an article about Mother’s Day presents, and someone posted about a lovely tea set. It was formal yet cosy, and the blogger suggested that it could be used for a mother-daughter tea. I might have to get this for my mother, and we might have to use it together, in memory of a girl who took great care of all the people she loved.

(Images are all from the internet.)