A Case of the Jollies

While I do make it a point to eat a lot of candy in December, I should note that December is not all candy. In between the pre-requisite holiday automobile troubles, and the myriad other things that make a day go right sour, I find myself invariably returning to craft-as-therapy.

Stitching is very much a part of my work as a designer. But when the designing’s done, and my creative energies are spent, I still stitch. (Or crochet, or sew, or knit…) It helps me relax, it helps me unwind, it helps me reduce stress. Most of the time I’m only conscious of the fact that I craft for pleasure. But it’s so much more than that.

Last week I had a rather sticky situation involving our car and its now time-worn tendency of stranding me by the roadside. There are much bigger problems going on in our precious world right now, but being human, I got a little upset. And a little angry. And a little stressed-out. But there was one big difference between this incident and the ones before it when I got stranded: This time I had my craft bag with me. It’s a pretty Cath Kidston thing, covered with tiny flowers, filled with yarn for my latest crochet project. Instead of falling deeper into frustration, I picked up my hook and crocheted. At first my fingers were tight and twitchy, but after a few minutes, I noticed my blood pressure lowering. A few minutes later I noticed I wasn’t angry anymore. After twenty minutes of crocheting, I actually started laughing. The whole thing looked ridiculous to me. Silly me, stupid car. Oh, is the tow-guy here already? Dang, I wanted to get one more square done…

So, lesson learned.

I, Sosae, will not leave this house without my craft bag, heretofore referred to as my Case of [the] Jollies or Therapy-to-Go Kit. And in this kit I will include the following:

– tools for current crafting medium (yarn & hook, embroidery thread/hoop/needle, knitting needles, patterns, drawing pad & pens, etc.)

– a favorite inspirational magazine or book

– a journal or notepad (because it’s good to write down your thoughts)

– some sweet treats or snack bars (because low blood-sugar happens)

Years ago I made it a point to take my craft bag along with me, always. Then life happened and I forgot to do this. The difference has been noticeable: Whenever I’ve had my “case of jollies” with me, I’ve felt empowered in the face of stress. I’ve handled unexpected problems much more calmly. I think a part of it is just knowing that I have my favorite meditation with me – my tried and true way of finding inner calm. That’s peace of mind right there. And when I’ve actually needed to dive in and stitch or crochet (or knit or draw or whatever,) I’ve immediately felt better. Maybe a ‘Therapy-to-go Kit’ might work for you, too. Or if you’ve got your own crafty way of dealing with stress, I’d love to hear it…

Oh, and just to note: Here’s the beginning of my latest crochet project. It’s a simple scarf, made up of solid granny squares, joined together with a complimentary solid. It’s vibrant, bold, and the perfect antidote to the drab hues of winter. I call it the Rock Candy Scarf. Much more on that later.

Hope you’re doing well this December. Dennis and the kitty cats say hello!

‘Till next time…

Hello, December

It’s wonderful to see December again. It still feels a lot like autumn, though. Trees are covered in gold and red leaves, and the days require a light cardigan. But the nights hint of winter. And winters are cold, foggy, and covered with frost. And somewhere in there I’ll get to wear my knit scarves and mittens, so that’s something. Dennis reminds me that once winter arrives, I’ll resume my annual Winter Lamentation, (something about frozen toes and too many bothersome layers of things.) But as of now, I’m still blissfully unaware of what I’ve forgotten, and perfectly pleased to indulge my wintry daydreams.

I’ve made a bit of progress on my crochet table runner, and I must say, every moment of it is lovely. It’s so sweet and simple and the perfect way to relax after a busy day. To note, I’m working with my two favorite yarns: Knitpicks Brava Worsted and Paintbox Aran. (Paintbox Aran is a touch thicker, but they work up well together with a 4.5mm hook.) These yarns are so divinely soft, snuggly, and buttery-smooth to work with, that this former fancy-wools-only snob is completely sold. Wool still has its place (because adorable sheep!) but quality acrylic is pure yarn-confectionery delight. (Did I mention the intense colors? Heaven.)

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Coolba – our sweet, snowy, indoor-only boy cat – has resumed his wintry tendencies. Early in the morning, when the house is still dark and cold, he climbs out of his bed (an oversized, padded shoebox – fancy, I know,) and nestles beside me, under my chin. I pull the blankets up, wrap my arms around him, and like a big warm teddy bear, I hug him ’till wakeup. Because of his size, he takes up a full 1/4 of the bed. You can imagine how this cramps things. But he is our little prince, and I do so love to snuggle with that poofy, soft, furry, purry boy.

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There’s all sorts of decorating going on around here, thanks to the winter holidays. I’ve brought out the bare birch tree and placed it in a corner of the living room. It’s decorated with rustic silver and gold mercury glass baubles, and shiny brass stars. We call it our New Year’s tree. And then there’s the Christmas tree: a darling little faux pine we bought years ago from Pottery Barn. It’s decorated with red and green mercury glass baubles, wooden cottages, golden pinecones, and our Woodland Fox, Owl, and Hedgehog softies. (I must say, the critters feel right at home in this twinkly, woodsy wonderland.)

At nights, I love to brew a hot cup of tea and curl up on the couch with Nigel Slater’s latest, The Christmas Chronicles. Once in a while I’ll look up, admire our little tree and the sparkling decorations, and enjoy the tranquil loveliness of it all.

And then there’s the canal boat. This is one of our favorite little treasures, shipped from the Sylvanian Families shop in London, brought out for the festive season. We can’t resist a bit of English charm. Nor can I resist a lovely new magazine to pour over and admire. I recently discovered Daphne’s Diary – a beautiful, colorful, artistic, cottage-chic feast for the eyes. It’s published in the UK, but you can find it at all fine booksellers here in the States. Along with my usual crafting favorites, it’s become something I truly look forward to. Inspiration is so important to the creative mind (and I would say, to every mind.) So I make it a point to pause during the work day, and allow myself the time to enjoy the art of others. Whether it’s a new favorite magazine, book, or blog, it’s always inspiring, and good for the spirit.

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In between reading and crochet, I’ve been my usual stitchy self. Have I mentioned how much I love festive stitching? I think I have… Dennis thinks it’s cute how I always love our latest design the most. Isn’t that just how it always is? So naturally, Jingle All the Way has all my attention at this moment. It’s just the cheeriest thing. Small samplers are thoroughly enjoyable. We have plans for many more seasonal samplers like this one – relatively quick-stitches with gobs of charm. (I love gobs of charm.)

We hope you’re enjoying this first week of December, wherever you are, whatever the season in your part of the world. ‘Till next time!

Yarn in Autumn

November is a beautiful month in Southern California. The days are warm, crisp, and blue, with the occasional passing cloud. Leaves are turning all sorts of wild colors, falling wistfully to the ground. By Thanksgiving, the skies will sometimes turn gray and dark, and the nights grow cold. Winter peeks in over the garden wall, promising frost and a peaceful slumber to all the green things. Sometimes I wish I could hibernate in the winter, too. After a long and busy year, the shortened days are a reminder to turn inwards awhile, and tend to the spirit landscape. I try not to fight my body’s natural tendency towards slowing down, resting more, and being still.

In other news…I had to share with you this utterly magical thing that happened: we’re in Mollie Makes! (See the kawaii cuties poking out from the corner of the cover???) This was such a delightful project to work on, and it’s amazing to see our darlings in the pages of one of our most favorite magazines.

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This is the time of year my thoughts turn to yarn. Needlework is my forever love, but on the first frosty wind comes a yarnie passion I can’t resist. My mind races and tries to sort through all the possibilities: stripey knit fingerless gloves, crochet mittens, knit hats, colorblock crochet scarves, shawls, tree skirts, table runners, coasters… In other words, all the beautiful things. I couldn’t decide on my knitting needles or crochet hook, wool, cotton, or acrylic, something for the house or something to wear… So I played with yarn for a bit to see if any colors spoke to me. Then I started a crochet linen stitch square for a possible scarf project. Nothing was clicking.

One day, quite by accident, I discovered this beautiful blog. I think I heard bells then, or birdsong – it was lovely. So I chose a few of my favorite Christmassy colors and got started on the ‘Granny Square Table Runner.’ I’m hoping to get this lovely project done in the next week. (And I foresee one of these for every holiday!)

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November is like a second spring in the garden. All the plants that withered in the scorching summer sun have been revived. The tomato vines are flowering, nasturtiums are popping up everywhere, and the rosemary is covered in purple blooms. In a few short weeks the frost will come and put an end to the green things, but it’s lovely to see a green revival in the meantime.

Cuddles the Garden Cat has put on his winter coat – a perfectly poofy strawberry blond he is, sunning himself on the cinder block wall behind the flower bed.

And the zinnias. Love of my garden life. They’re still blooming away – the hot pinks and reds more ferocious than ever, the whites more stark, the yellows richer, and my heart fuller than ever.

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Ahh…needlework. Happy, soothing needlework. Without it, I would be one very grumpy frumpy girl. (Because why bother getting up in the morning?) I’m making progress on my ‘Jolly Reindeer’ cross stitch. He’s such a sweet thing, and I can’t wait to stitch up his eyes, mouth, and nose. I just need that jolly retro smile of his.

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We hope you’re enjoying these last few weeks of autumn, before winter sets in. If you’re in the States, we wish you a warm and happy Thanksgiving!

‘Till next time!