A Simple Rhino Tale

It started as a simple craft done at the kitchen table.  The kids had been given this gingerbread man cutout that was laminated so they could bring it home and trace it, play with it, make more gingerbread men…You get the idea.  But this made them want to make other shapes that they then traced and colored, like the gingerbread man.  There came from this simple day of play, a collection of rhinos.  Large and small, bright and bold, with fierce horns, and bowed heads.  Some even had two heads…one on each side!  (Just to represent the monstrous side of things!!)  They were so precious.  The kids cut them out, colored them, and turned them into puppets with popsicle sticks.  Like many things born in this way, they were all too soon forgotten, having fallen under the table, or stuck behind a chair, and they were no longer interested in playing with them.  That is when my inspiration struck!  IMG_5970

You see, I had been experimenting with fabric design, and playing around with my own doodles for a couple of weeks, trying to get the hang of the graphic nature of online fabric design.  In a moment of brilliance, I saw these sweet, disregarded rhinos for what they were…Complete and total inspiration!   My kids might have been finished with them, but I was only getting started.  I deconstructed the popsicle stick version, and layed them out on a white surface to photograph, and the rest is history.  I now have a collection of ten or so fabric designs, all featuring the rhino stick puppet cut outs.  I love them.  When I look at them, I am instantly happy, rejuvenated, and transported back to that magical day.  I know it was a magical day because I have tried over and over to recreate the experience with no luck whatsoever.  They can tell I am onto them now, and like the tap-dancing, singing frog, they just sit there and ribbit at me when I suggest in my most cheerful voice, “Who wants to make some stick puppets with a new animal today!?”  I IMG_3911know it will come back around one day, but for now, I am utterly smitten and happy with our little rhino collection.
Each time an item sells with the fabric they helped design, I tell them about it, and give them a little cash for their piggy banks.  It has become a source of pride and joy for them to see their drawings made into something lasting and tangible.

Then one day a few months ago, I receive this letter through Etsy:

“Hey there,
I am a Zookeeper with the Toronto Zoo and I am organizing a fundraiser through our AAZK committee to help raise money for Rhino Conservation! Last year we were able to raise over $17,000!
We are currently looking for any Rhino related items that companies/ organizations would be willing to donate as auction items for our event! All funds go directly towards the facilities that support Rhino Conservation!
If you would consider donating a Rhino blanket I also have an official letter I could send you along with more information need be!
We REALLY appreciate every little donation and will definitely advertise what companies donated items for our auction in hopes that it would also help you get more business!
I hope to hear from you soon and am happy to answer any questions you may have!
Thank you!”IMG_9886

I thought that was so awesome.  Awesome in so many ways…the conservation of rhinos?  CHECK!  The pleasure of meaningful donations? CHECK!  Getting our family business all the way out to Toronto? CHECK!  And my favorite one of all…Talking to my daughter about the significance of this project?  Check.  I let her read the letter and asked her what she thought.  She does have a sense of ownership over these blankets and quilts with her drawings on them, and if I was to give one away, I wanted to know how she felt about that.  It meant I wouldn’t get paid for it, which would mean she wouldn’t get any dollars for her piggy bank either.  Did she even hesitate for one, single second?!  Of course she didn’t.  She thought it was amazing and awesome too.  We looked into the organization together and IMG_1513did some rhino research, and we became even more aware of the issue than we already were.  When I shipped the blanket off to Toronto, I made sure she knew it was on the way, and we celebrated the moment together.

I guess the moral of the story here is this…You never know where an idea will take you.  You never know what small thing will one day become a very big and important thing.  You never know when a laminated gingerbread man made from blue construction paper and sent home in your child’s school folder will change the way you do business.  You just never know, and isn’t that amazing!  Now I see rhinos everywhere.  Mostly they are sad stories about poaching, or declining populations, but I hear them.  I am aware of them, and I donate to the cause as I am able because it feels like the right thing to do…and the kids think so too!

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Today’s Featured Item: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Quilt

il_570xN.602463201_byuyToday’s featured item is a fun and different way to expose your little ones to music.  Featuring notes from only the treble clef of the song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the notes are all correctly rendered and positioned to reflect the tune.  It is a whole cloth quilt, meaning that the top of the quilt is not pieced, but consists of one entire cut of fabric.  The back is straight black, and it has black binding as well.  I wanted the quilt to reflect the simplicity of sheet music, so I chose to only use the white and black colors on this one, although I did an Amazing Grace quilt and added colorful binding, which I preferred once I saw it as a finished project. It is 100% GOTS organic cotton, with organic cotton and bamboo batting inside.  I really enjoyed making this quilt, and can see it going in so many cool directions…For example, with someone who writes their own music and wanted to give a personalized quilt as a gift…So funky and unique!!  To see the Etsy listing, click here.

Today’s Featured Item

IMG_5186This quilt is one of my new creations of 2015.  It features hand dyed organic cotton muslin and wonky, perfectly imperfect circles.  What I love about this quilt is that I had never used circles before…Never actually sewn circles, to tell the truth.  When I imagined this quilt and drew it out in my notebook, I never thought I would have so much fun with the circles.  First, I cut out my large squares and large circles.  I cut them all into quarters, and layered the quarter circle on top of the quarter square, and then traced the circle shape onto the square and cut it out.  I actually wanted the circles to be wonky and improvisational looking, and was surprised at how uniformly it all turned out, even though I didn’t use a template or anything to trace out my circles!  Raspberry Pie, make your big debut!

Plus Sign Quilt and My Discovery of the Red Cross Quilt Project

I wanted to make a plus sign quilt, which led me to the internet for some research.  We are flooded with images, stories, and blips that we register as cool or nostalgic.  We file it away in the back of our minds, thinking one day I will try that, or that reminds me of something I had as a child, or evokes some other nameless emotion.  So it was for me with the new rage of plus sign quilts everywhere.  It is the new symbol of gender neutral and packs a powerful stream of thoughts and emotions, but whose idea was it originally?  This was something I wanted to find out before I actually made anything with this design, as it has become increasingly important to me to be as completely original and authentic as I possibly can with everything I make.  IMG_2831So of course, I went to Wikipedia and various quilt indexes to see who made the FIRST plus sign quilt.   I found that while the notion of a “Plus Sign” Quilt might be a modern one, the symbol of the Red Cross is not even remotely new or original to anyone living today…Especially quilters.  The sign of the American Red Cross, an organization founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, is very well known and recognized as a symbol for humanitarian aide and distaster relief.  So much so that in 1917 during World War I, in an effort to raise money to help with recovery at home, a quilt campaign was established that called anyone who could make and contribute a quilt featuring the symbol of the Red Cross, to do so.  The quilts were auctioned off to the highest bidder and funds were used to help purchase ambulances and other emergency equipment.  A lot has happened since that time, and now plus signs are everywhere.  I felt pretty safe in assuming that I would not be infringing on anyone’s rights to make a quilt featuring plus signs, but the symbol reminds us that there is always growth that can happen after something traumatizing happens in our lives.  It reminds us to have hope for more and to stay strong.  My research led me to realized that the symbol is bigger than me or my creative juices, or one person out there who may have made a plus sign quilt.  It is a symbol, almost universal, to make this world a better place and to help one another.  I decided to try a simple screen print for this initial project.  I really enjoy the process of screen printing, but as with most new techniques, it still remains a bit of a mystery to me.  I printed a large, whole piece of organic cotton muslin with black water-based, non-toxic ink, and made it into a double thick playmat, measuring 60″ x 60″.  Organic hemp denim went on the back, with two layers or organic cotton and bamboo batting inside.  This project sold last year, but I want to make another one day.

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Jane’s Wedding Tree – Part Two

Jane’s Wedding Tree stitch art began with a very simple drawing and picking out colors based on photographs she had provided for me.  All of these colors are organic cotton scraps from my hand dyed fabric collection.  These make the prettiest range of colors, which are rich but also soft, perfect for this project!  Next, I made the “streamers” for the tree by ruffling LOTS of little fabric strips.  Some of these strips were originally one yard long, and ended up being only 10 inches!  Putting this together involved cutting and placing the pieces where they should go to make the stitch art resemble the Wedding Tree as much as possible.  I ironed everything to keep it in place before securing it with the stitches.  Drumroll, please!  Here is the finished product!  I am really happy with the way it turned out, and I think it captures the spirit of Jane’s Wedding Tree pretty well.

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And here she is again, the beautiful Jane under her wedding tree!  Congratulations on the two year mark, dear friend!!  Here’s to many, many more wonderful years!  Cheers!

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Jane’s Wedding Tree – Part One

This is my friend Jane’s wedding tree.  I love Jane.  Jane is a straightforward girl with a head full of words, and a heart full of love for kids.  Jane is a teacher.  I love Jane.  Now that my very simple tribute is over, let me say that when my friend Jane came to me and told me that she loved my stitch art so much that it gave her an idea, I couldn’t wait to hear what she had come up with.  Trees speak to us all in different ways, and this tree was a thing of beauty for Jane.  She wanted to get married beneath it’s soaring branches, and so she did.  Her sister decorated the tree with these colorful streamers, and it has since become a very special symbol of their marriage.  For their first anniversary, which is symbolized with paper, her darling husband made her a picture of the tree with tissue paper and glue.  What a lucky pair!  While touching, sweet, and oh-so-meaningful, the paper didn’t hold up so well over time.  Her second anniversary is rolling around the corner, which is symbolized with cotton.  How perfect!  I had no idea that my most favorite medium was cornerstone of second anniversary gifts, but Jane did.  And she knew what she wanted to give to her guy for their second anniversary:  A stitch art picture of their wedding tree.  Today I will make Jane’s Wedding Tree, and I am so excited to get started! 

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Hand Dyed Organic Muslin

I have a new love for fabric dying!  I love the art of fabric dying because you are in complete control of the type of fabrics used (it is really hard to find organic solids in a wide range of colors…they are mostly bright primary style colors), the depth of color, and the relationship of one batch to another.  For instance, the range of colors you can get by varying the amount of time the fabric stays in the dye results in this pleasant gradiant of color that is going to be beautiful in quiltmaking!  These colors are so rich and subtle, powerful yet gentle at the same time.  The dyes are fiber reactive, non toxic, and can be mixed and matched to create custom colors as well.  The possibilties are endless.  All cotton used is 100% organic, but I am currently in the process of experimenting with PFD (prepared for dye) fabric, verses regular unbleached fabric, because there is a better variety of options available if you don’t limit yourself to the PFD.  I am also experimenting with different fabric types, such as muslin verses poplin, fleece, silks, canvases, dye concentrations, and anything else I can think of!  This was the first collection of fabrics, and they came out beautifully!! I bought the dye from the Dharma Trading who also sells a really nice variety of ready to dye projects for the do-it-yourselfer!  As indigo is one of my most favorite dyes, and I really love the historic relevence of the “color that seduced the world”, I would like to try that next!  But first, to fully explore this style of fabric dying.

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