Mollymoodesign: I have a passion for vintage fabrics, buttons and lace and enjoy upcycling vintage pieces to make beautiful gifts for today. I make much of the felt used in my designs myself, using merino wool tops and needle felting tools.
A variety of handcrafted goods are available to enjoy around the house. Soaps and soft furnishings are only the beginning. Knitted goods and polymer clay can add to the uniqueness of your surroundings.
Brenda, at knittedfrenzy, offers shawls, coffee cozies, and cowls, in a variety of yarns in her Etsy shop. I was pleased to find a shawl made of soft acrylic yarn. Most of the shawls that I see are made of wool, which is fantastic if you can wear wool. But I cannot. So finding something warm, and not itchy is always a nice surprise for me.
Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies! I can tell that we are getting close to Easter by the sudden explosion of the stuffed bunny population. It would seem, ahem, that they are multiplying like rabbits.
This week, I have assembled a herd (yes, a herd) of rabbits for your Easter cuddling pleasure. Some are cute, some are quirky, but all are quite clever and very eco-friendly. Enjoy!
Known for their prolific breeding and their propensity for giving birth to large (and in some cases multiple) litters in the spring, it’s no wonder that rabbits are symbols of fertility and of the season itself.
As far as its symbolic tie-in with Easter goes, mentions of the Easter Bunny begin to appear in publications from the 1600s; although it is safe to assume that the origins date back further than that – most likely to pre-Christian Pagans.
Legend has it that the Saxon goddess Oestra (from whom Easter is named) had a sacred rabbit companion and an association with another symbol of fertility, eggs. Considering that, it makes perfect sense that bunnies and eggs are so closely linked with each other at this time of year. (And now you know what to tell your children why bunnies bring Easter eggs, and not chickens. Or, perhaps it’s only my son who is bothered by this.)
Finally, if you will allow me to step up on my “Going Green” soapbox for just a moment, I do need to draw attention to the practice of giving live rabbits for Easter. Just like a dog or a cat, a rabbit is a house pet that requires plenty of care and attention over its 10+ life-span. Every year, once the post-Easter reality sets in, countless unwanted rabbits are set free or dropped at animal shelters. Unless you have given it very careful thought and are willing to make the commitment, I would strongly discourage giving a live bunny as an Easter gift. Instead, why not make someone’s day with a stuffed long-eared, puffy tailed friend from one of our featured sellers? Go on…hop to it!
Top photo: Beeper Bebe – recycled wool suiting & yarn
1. Beeper Bebe – recycled wool suiting & yarn
2. Blue Moon Rose – recycled cashmere & vintage dress
3. Buttercupbloom – cotton, velveteen & upcycled lambswool
4. Chunky Chooky – upcycled denim & batik
5. Second Seed in Stitches – upcycled sweaters & fabric
6. Freedom Rainbow – recycled merino wool
7. LuvKt – deconstructed/reconstructed merino sweater
8. Pouch – repurposed vintage fabric & chemical-free lavender
9. Sleepy King – recycled fabric
10. Woolcrazy – recycled angora wool
11. Protean’s Coffee Shop – felt & fleece
12. Sighfoo – recycled wool & bamboo fibre
Bottom photo: Canoo – recycled angora wool/cashmere
For more information on rabbits as house pets, visit The House Rabbit Society.
4″ hand spun nubby aluminum sphere closed with a zipper and lined in hand felted wool roving. By Guy Ingognito.
Please welcome another columnist with ambitious column plans. The second in the ‘In My Town’ series, Valerie Williams is focusing on the Washington DC Metro area. A former lobbyist and crafter – check out her handbags – she has jumped right in with zeal and enthusiasm! If you know the area she’s writing about, please let her know in the comments if you have any tips about places for her to visit.
Jean Zakotnik is a woman after my own heart. She loves handbags, bright colors, and the soothing power of making things with your hands. She is also the owner, designer, and head knitter of JZ Bags, the home of a colorful and playful line of hand knit and felted wool handbags. I had a chance to visit her Potomac, Maryland studio to talk with her about what inspires her, and to learn more about the process of making her one-of-a-kind handbags.
I love the look and feel of felted wool, but it’s not a craft I have ever tried, so I was excited to catch Jean while she was literally in the middle of felting a batch of small bags in a lovely dark charcoal gray. I knew the general principle of felting: hot water, along with a little soap and agitation, causes the fibers to bond together to form a thick, dense fabric. What I didn’t know was that creating a three dimensional, functional object like a handbag takes much more than just a toss into the washing machine.
Constant vigilance is required to prevent the knitted bags from becoming mangled and unusable during the felting process. While we chatted, Jean repeatedly removed the bags from the hot, soapy water and manipulated the wool by hand, deciding on the fly how each bag should look in shape and texture.
I knew that hand knitted wool would shrink significantly when felted, but I had no idea by how much! I was amazed to see the before and after of two of Jean’s most popular styles, the flagship “Bag JZ” which is a large hobo style, and a smaller shoulder bag with a flap.
An incredible amount of hand labor goes into the creation of each handbag. Jean knits her handbags by hand, without a pattern. Although she has developed a few favorite shapes and styles over the years, there is no set “line” of JZ Bags. Each one starts out with just her size 15 knitting needles and inspiration, and she decides as she goes what colors to use and what shapes to make.
Jean calls each of her handbags a “felix culpa,” or happy mistake, because there is no way of knowing how each will turn out, and she makes no effort to predict the end result. Each handbag is its own novel experience and creative adventure.
Even after the bags are completely felted and dry, there are still design decisions to make. Jean has lovely collection of vintage and handmade buttons (made for her by her father), and has also recently experimented with needle felting and fringe embellishments.
What I loved most about Jean’s story was that when she first had the idea to make what would become the first JZ Bag, she had absolutely no idea how to felt! She was already an experienced knitter, but had grown weary of churning out scarves and sweaters. It was the time of the “It” bag, but the styles on sale at the mall with four-digit price tags left her cold. She had a vision of a big, soft bag that was all about color and texture, something that hundreds of other women in the DC area wouldn’t have. She knew she could make this unique bag, and simply started knitting and felting and hoped that what came out would match the picture in her head.
Although she calls her first attempt “a disaster,” the failure did not deter her, and only led her to embrace the “felix culpa” approach to making her handbags.
Just as each handbag is its own surprise, Jean is constantly surprising herself as she lives the adventure of knitting, felting, and running a handcrafted business. “You learn so much about yourself during this process,” she says, referring not only to running the business but also the specific tasks of creating something by hand.
Jean has discovered she has an eye for color. Her favorite part of handbag production is looking through her yarn stash and creating unexpected color combinations.
She’s discovered she can still challenge herself. After many years in the information technology business, not much about that world was difficult or trying anymore. She would give presentations in front of thousands of stockholders without breaking a sweat. Her first craft show, however? “I was a nervous wreck,” she says. “I was so personally invested in every single bag…how people reacted to them mattered more than I thought it would.”
Finally, what she calls a “very cool and unexpected bonus” is that JZ Bags offers her the opportunity to employ local women who might have few other options. Whether it’s help with the knitting or filing legal paperwork, Jean has had a chance to offer temporary employment to women who are homebound by illness or with children.
Her handbag business may have started out as a way to relax and create the perfect fashion accessory, but it has turned into so much more. You can find Jean’s bags at www.jzbags.com, and at juried fine art and craft shows in the DC area.