Let me pencil you in.

I woke up this morning and realized that we are now a full month since Christmas and I still have presents to ship and cards to mail. (Sorry, Mom! They’re on their way!) The holiday season was one of my busiest yet. In addition to all of the craft sales that I had to get ready for and participate in, I also had to keep up my end at home, fulfill my obligations at the store AND get settled into a brand new job, which I will go into more details about next week. Needless to say, I got so far behind on doing all of the “little things”, personally and professionally, that catching up became a daunting task, to say the least. (Regular readers of this column will have noticed a certain absence on my part and for this, I apologize profusely.)

I am determined to make a full-recovery from my 8 weeks of total disorganization, though, and it starts right here. The first item on my agenda is, well…an agenda. The key to keeping things under control is a good time-management system and it all begins with a good planner. Some people choose to go the electronic route, but I am one of those people that needs to see it in ink on paper. If you’re like me, this handmade Eco-Planner by Nature’s Cubbyhole (above) is just the thing to keep you organized; whether you are scheduling meetings, play dates, exams, or lunches with friends. The rugged cover is made of 100% recycled rubber, which has been fused to natural hemp burlap; inner pages are 100% recycled banana fibre paper, printed in what is described as a “no-nonsense” font. (This is, after all, serious business!) Keep track of all of your important dates and reminders in this functional and eco-conscious personal planner, and, when the year is up, you can return it to Elena for a refill! How’s that for planned sustainability?

One of the challenges in keeping a household organized is getting everyone on the same page. When it comes to this oversized monthly calendar (above) from Simple Shapes, the “page” is the wall. Not only is this chalkboard wall calendar a great way to keep the family informed of upcoming events and special occasions, it makes for a bold, graphic statement and will complement nearly any decor – from shabby chic to minimalist. The durable, infinitely reusable (and removable!) vinyl wall decal includes the calendar grid (pre-spaced for easy application), a memo section and “This Month” in a bold serif font. Just add chalk!

I am feeling more organized already. See you next week…I promise!

Tractorgirl

Green applique pillow

Julie of tractorgirl and her partner live on a farm, with cereal cropping and sheep and three small children (5, and twins 3), in south-eastern inland Australia. And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, she also sews lovely pillow covers, tea cozies, brooches and makes textured silver necklaces.

From an early age, Julie’s been a maker and a dreamer.

My mum used to work as a dressmaker, and so she would always have scraps of lovely fabric around for me to wrap my dolls in.

At University she studied jewelery and silversmithing, and while she loves it, with small children around, it’s difficult to do, so she’s returned to sewing. While she’s sold things now and then ever since finishing University, she’s always had another job as her main income. Now, however, as a stay-at-home mother – which is definitely a full time job in itself, it’s also one without without an income and she’s becoming much more involved in selling her work.

Green and Teal fabric brooch

I have always felt compelled to make something somehow, and it didn’t seem to matter too much what type of medium – drawing, lino, textiles, metal.

My head is repository for all sorts of wonderful things. I like to keep on open mind; inspiration comes from all sorts of things, everything from nature to architecture. I have a Fine Arts background, so I have a large aesthetic resource to draw on – for instance, I am using classic motifs from various time frames and cultures for my current designs.

I care about my work – the process and the finished details. Each item is unique; I use upcycled materials somewhere in all my work, so I can rarely make the same thing twice.

I always try to be gentle on the earth. For me, upcycling refers to fabrics that are remnants from old projects and other sources, and from clothing, homewares and remnants found in op shops (thrift stores). This saves it from going to landfill, and besides, some things are too beautiful to throw out!

Julie’s favorite item is usually the last thing she made – right now it’s a cushion cover featuring a decorative motif from Pompeii, in white velvet and red satin. Her reverse applique on cushion covers is a beautiful combination of rustic and modern.

Turquoise and red handmade pillow

You can find out more about what’s in her head and on her workbench by following her on Facebook, her blog and twitter. If you’re in Australia you can also find her on MadeIt.

Ideas for Fairytale Fashion

Everyone please welcome Helen Hobden to Try Handmade! She’s a seamstress, artist, writer, renovator, pyrographer… The list goes on – I think she’ll really fit in here. Please leave her a comment on her first post and let her know if you know of any great alternative fashion she should feature. Other than her own shop of course :)

I’ve been wanting to watch Red Riding Hood for ages and I finally have this weekend. I loved it! It was everything I hoped it would be; the snowy village scenes, the mysterious atmosphere; Grandma’s fantastic cabin in the woods, but especially the costumes. (Credit to Cindy Evans for costume design.)

Due to films such as this one and fairies being the new vampires in the literary world, fairytale fashion is getting bigger and better than ever and there are some fantastic outfits on the market. I have never really grown up as far as clothing is concerned and I relish any opportunity to dress up just like I loved doing as a kid. I just wish invitations to fancy dress parties came my way more often!

This is one of my absolute favourites made by Enlightened Platypus; it is surely the ultimate Red Riding Hood coat. Made entirely out of recycled jumpers, this must have taken her hours and hours to sew together all the different pieces in various shades of red. I know her work sells very quickly, so if you’re after one these coats, watch out for new listings regularly.

If you’re on the look out for the perfect fairytale dress to wear beneath the cloak, then don’t be tempted to buy a horrible polyester number in a cellophane wrapper that you’ll feel uncomfortable wearing. Instead look for a creation that will make you feel special and stand out in the crowd.

This lovely medieval style velvet dress with its large bell sleeves and decorated belt is beautiful. Yes, it’s blue, so may not be your first choice for Red Riding Hood, but this is actually quite similar to the dress Amanda Seyfried wears in the beginning of the film. You could easily wear this one to another party without a red cloak and go as a different fairytale character!

This cloak has my favourite hood – I love the pixie-ish shape of it. Although it doesn’t look like it in the picture, it’s actually made from lightweight wool and trimmed with black lace. I bet it takes the chill out the wind when out walking in the woods on the way to Grandma’s.

If dressing up to such an extent isn’t your thing, then there are several t-shirts with really cool designs that give nod towards the Red Riding Hood trend. One of my favourites is this one from limeyts.

Geometrics in Motion

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Geometrics in Motion bracelet by Virginia Stevens: Art is integral to life. The two cannot be separated. Wearing beautiful objects is a simple way to bring art into your life and to connect with it in a very direct and personal way.

Virginia Stevens enjoys working with metals and stones to bring out their inherently unique and striking qualities. Nature provides beautiful raw materials, and Stevens feels the artist’s drive to translate those raw materials into her vision of wearable works of art. Her pieces are designed to enhance the everyday aesthetic of life.

Give Thanks

Vintage fork with hand-hammered message (above) by Wooden Hive.

My business contacts in the US are always surprised when I tell them that my office will be closed at the beginning of October in observance of Thanksgiving. “There’s a *Canadian* Thanksgiving?” they inevitably ask. Why, yes. Yes, there is.

Fall wreath with upcycled tin-can flowers (above) by Custom Created.

Thanksgiving north of the border differs a little from the holiday celebrated by our American friends, but along with the name, there are some traditions that we both share. The similarities include football, family and a propensity towards incredibly cute home and table decorations, as seen throughout this article. You won’t find any pilgrims up here, though; our holiday is an autumn festival to mark the end of the crop season and give thanks for the bountiful harvest.

Handpainted, upcycled record bowl (above) by Eye Pop Art.

While our native peoples have been giving thanks to the land for countless generations before our arrival, the anglo history of Canadian Thanksgiving is a little sketchy in places. The first accounts date back to 1578; when a European explorer held a ceremony to give thanks for surviving a long ocean journey (sound familiar?). In 1872, Thanksgiving was observed in Canada as a civic holiday; however, the date and theme was changed from year to year. Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the second Monday of October, since the passing of an act of Parliament in 1959.

Rustic cutting board/serving platter (above) made from sustainable black walnut by Grey Works Design .

As far as the food is concerned, the Canadian Thanksgiving feast is made up of many of the same foods as the American. Turkey is the traditional main course, although I have seen a few hams hit the table in my time. The roasted bird is, of course, accompanied by sage-spiked stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. Usual side dishes are mashed potatoes, veggies, squash dishes, breads and salads.

Pumpkin made from vintage 1970s fabric (above) by Whoopsie Daisies

Visitors from the US sitting down at a Thanksgiving feast in Canada will probably notice one glaring omission – in 38 years of giving thanks, I have never had to “pass along” a casserole of cloyingly sweet, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. It’s not that we have anything against sweets; we’re just leaving room for pumpkin pie!

Pinecone and wire turkey place card holders (above) by Carrieveau Craft.

I shouldn’t diss the sweet potato casserole, though. I’m sure that Americans need all the energy they can get for Black Friday; an event that, to a casual observer, almost seems to trump Thanksgiving itself in the US. We do not have an equivalent to Black Friday up here, unless you count December 26th (aka Boxing Day), and usually spend the long weekend raking leaves and napping. Oh, the glory of tryptophan!

Cotton/wool acorns with real acorn “hats” (above) by Rose Cottage Boutique 2.

So, there. That’s Canadian Thanksgiving in a nutshell. I would love to hear from readers on both sides of the border – what are you thankful for?