Sock Critter Inspiration: Beyond the Sock Monkey

After sharing about my recycled sock kitty, I started cruising the web to see what else I could make with socks. I found some great ideas.

The classic sock critter is of course the monkey, but I’ve never really liked the traditional pattern (those red lips freak me out).

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Nightmare fuel.

However, people have taken the sock monkey in lots of interesting directions. I love Pippa Joyce’s colorful sock monkeys.

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Not nightmare fuel. (Sock monkeys by Pippa Joyce)

I was really wowed by this sock gorilla but I can’t find any reference to who made it. The post also includes links to some daring sock monkey variations (click at your own peril). My favorite is the Sock Monkey of Willendorf.

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This sock monkey makes a statement. (“Get out of my face!”) [Maker unknown]
Many of the really nice looking sock critters are available as kits, made from brand new and cool looking socks. While this isn’t recycling, it does produce some lovely toys. Sock Creatures in the UK has a particularly nice set of rainbow-striped kits. My favorite was the snail.

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Sock snail (kit available from Sock Creatures)

Zarzak makes clever use of toe socks, and is available as a book and kit (Stupid Sock Creatures Box Set) as well. (I first saw Zarzak on Anita LaHay’s web site and have used her picture below because it is so great.)

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Anita LaHay’s interpretation of the Zarzak pattern.

There are also brave souls making something cool with their old socks without a pattern. I really love Karin Emsbroek’s original designs. Where does she buy her socks?

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Sock whale by Karin Emsbroek
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Sock bat by Karin Emsbroek

Or if you love the unique but are too lazy to make your own, you can commission one. I would go to Jayme at Rawr because her designs are all wonderful. Below I show my favorite, her owl.

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Sock owl by Jayme at Rawr.

Now that I have insulted sock monkeys everywhere, I’m ready for your input. Nightmare fuel or not? Let me know!

A T. Rex Dressed As Elizabeth I

For Halloween this year, Tiny the T. rex decided to be Elizabeth I of England. She looked through books until she found a dress she liked (the jewel encrusted gown of the Ditchley portrait), then asked her Aunt Rexie if she could help her with her costume.

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The Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I (ca. 1592)

Aunt Rexie took one look, sighed, and then got out her sewing kit. After all, she adores Tiny. She spent days putting “gems” and ribbon on fabric before she could even begin sewing the dress, but the end result, and the happy look on Tiny’s face, was well worth the effort.

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Tiny LOVES her dress! (Thanks, Aunt Rexie!)

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Note: This is probably the most elaborate costume I’ve ever made. What was yours?

How Organization Improves My Studio Time – Still!

It’s been nearly seven years since I overhauled my studio space using the methods in Organizing from the Inside Out and I am still reaping the benefits.

Even I can hardly believe it. Often, my studio looks like a wreck. I have a tendency to spread out when working on something.

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Construction zone! Fortunately, I don’t need a hard-hat.

When it’s time to change projects, I’ll spend an hour or so putting away everything that is sitting out. But I confess I have never done the “Equalize” step in Morgenstern’s SPACE system for the studio, which is supposed to enable you to not only stay organized but improve on your system over time. Instead, I’ve just added piles as more materials get added to my stashes and I’m coming to the point where I need to figure out how to integrate all the extra stuff — or throw something out.

Despite this, the underlying organization still works. My recent foray into stitch meditations has proven that I can easily lay my hands on an item in my studio when I think of it, even if it’s something I haven’t seen in ages. In fact, I’m finding stitch meditation really fun because I can use whatever pops into my head. If I decided I needed a metal key but then spent an hour looking for it, it wouldn’t be very enjoyable. In fact, I’d probably give up on doing the meditations at all.

I’ve especially appreciated the organization during my recent beading frenzy. When I organized in 2009, I took the time to sort my bead collection. Things are labeled and grouped in ways that make sense to me, so when I want to put fringe on a book, I know exactly where to look for the sort of bead I need.

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All my beads, right where I can find them.
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Making this fringe was fun because I could quickly find the beads I needed.

I am not a neat person. I like abundance and stink at keeping things tidy, which is why I am astonished that my studio is still organized after all these years. It reminds me that Morgenstern’s system really works, and that I should apply it to some other rooms in our house.

Does organization help or hinder your creativity?

Stitch Meditations: Don’t Box Me In

For years, I have been searching for a form of mediation that really works for me. As someone with a busy brain, sitting still and trying to think of nothing borders on torture. I do a little better with guided meditation, unless I’m asked to make decisions. Visualizing my favorite place or the last time I was deeply happy stop me cold — I spend so much time trying to figure out the answer I miss the instructions that follow.

One thing that does work for me is moving meditation. Anything that requires me to focus in and stay on task can help quiet the rest of my mind if I let it. Combine it with an activity I love like sewing, and I’m in. Hence, my interest in Liz Kettle‘s daily stitch meditations.

I’d seen examples of Liz’s stitch meditations on Facebook but it was only after she posted a video on how and why she does them that I was inspired to try it myself. I took notes on the few simple rules she follows and made plans to put together a box of supplies so that I could sit down and sew-meditate without interruptions.

The only problem was that I couldn’t figure out what I should put in the box. I have a room full of sewing supplies. How to get down to just the essentials when I couldn’t be sure what I would need? Clearly, I needed basic tools: needle, scissors, thread, thimble. But what color thread? What size needle?

I also needed something to use as a base. Liz uses flannel, but I don’t have any right now so I cut up some felt. My fabric scraps are already in a clear plastic jug where it’s easy to see them. It didn’t make sense to transfer them to the box.

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My scraps (in a handy see-through jug)

One thing went in the box without any thought: my entire (tiny) collection of perle cotton. Decorative stitching looks much better with nice fat thread.

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My incomplete stitch meditation “kit” (L to R): Finished meditations, sewing thread, needles, felt bases,  and perle cotton.

Even though my kit wasn’t ready, I decided to start in on stitch meditations. I would learn what I needed as I went, and after a while, I would be able to fill my meditation box with confidence.

I’ve only been at it for a week, but I’ve learned two things already. First, I quickly developed a step-by-step process for my meditations.

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Second, I found out I like having access to my entire studio. It’s not overwhelming, like I thought it would be. I look at the piece and think: “I need red thread” and I go get some. Or “I need something spiky” and I dig through a drawer of found metal objects until I find just the right thing. I have an idea of what I want and can quickly find what I need, or something very much like it.

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From pretty to gritty: as I got used to stitch meditation, I started letting the pieces reflect my mood.

The colors and materials that appeal to me change a lot from day to day, especially now that I am starting to actually settle into the moment and express my emotions instead of just making something pretty. I’m using colors and materials that are not my usual choices. I may be able to make myself a travel kit at some point, but right now, I’m still learning what sort of things I need. I imagine they will change with time.

The best part of stitch meditation is that I am devoted to it. It’s fun. There’s no thought of skipping it. The half hour (or less) that it takes doesn’t feel like a waste of time. My first meditations weren’t very restful because I was figuring things out, but by the end of the week, that had changed.

I make all my choices based on gut feeling, then think about why I made them while I sew. What does this color mean? What does that remind me of? How am I feeling today and why? I am still playing around, trying to be as relaxed and easy going as I can with every stage of the process, but already it’s starting to talk to me and tell me things I didn’t know.

Only time will tell if this is truly the meditation method for me, but right now I’m thinking: this is it!

What about you? Do you find sewing meditative?

One Way to Finish Quilts Faster: Downsize Your Project

One of the many unfinished quilts I found when I took stock of the projects in my studio in 2014 was The Fish Quilt*. Inspired by a luscious fish print fabric, I selected fabrics to co-ordinate with its colors and made blocks using the traditional pattern Ocean Waves. I love the complex interplay of shape and color in the Ocean Waves block, especially when you put a bunch of them together, but I quickly discovered that they are a bear to piece.

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The fabric that started it all
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One block… with lots of pieces in it.

See all those little triangles? To look just right, the points need to come together perfectly. This is where the agony pain challenge is. In my mind, it’s the most difficult sewing out there.

My original plan was to make a quilt with 24 blocks in it. When I found this UFO**, I only had 14 blocks done. I knew how long it takes to piece just one of these blocks and I was unhappy to realize I was only halfway there.

So I employed the second strategy on my “What to do with my unfinished projects” list and went with a simpler plan. I decided a smaller quilt of 12 blocks would look just as nice as a big one of 24. So what if the quilt didn’t match anything in my living room? It was going to be the best sofa throw ever. In order to use all the blocks I had made, I decided to use the extras for pillow covers.

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Once I put the top together, I knew I’d done the right thing. It’s not as big as I’d planned, but the illusion of motion I expect from an Ocean Waves quilt is there. I’ve finished the pillow covers, and I even experimented with the quilting on them, trying different patterns I might use for the quilt itself.

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Having the pillows out on the sofa where I see them every day makes me smile. I thought that being reminded that there’s a quilt that needs my attention might be annoying, but it isn’t. Instead, I’m eager to get to my sewing room, and looking forward to the day when the throw joins the pillows on our sofa.

*”The Fish Quilt” is just the working title. I’ll probably call it something else when I put a label on it. Like “Be Amazed By The Pain-In-The-Ass Piecing, People!”
**UFO: in the quilting world, this stands for “Un-Finished Object”. The kinder term is WIP “Work in Progress”, but I’m geeky and love that it sounds like I have spaceships in my studio.

Getting Organized Without Buying A New Purse

A few years ago, I made myself buy a bigger purse. For years I resisted carrying a purse at all, and then when I did start, I kept them as small as possible. Keys, wallet, and sunglasses were all that fit, because that was about all I needed. Eventually, I wanted to carry a notebook for scribbling in during otherwise wasted time. I didn’t want to carry two bags, so I bought a lovely hand-woven Peruvian purse from ClothRoads as a birthday gift to myself. A friend who had one assured me that the material wears “like iron” and looking at the bag today, I have to agree. I’ve used it for two years and it looks new.

My big purse, hand-woven in Peru.
My big purse, hand-woven in Peru.

I’ve gotten used to carrying a bigger bag, and I think that caused my next problem — not being able to find anything. A big bag means plenty of room for extras, and I’m in the habit of carrying all sorts of stuff I didn’t use to bother with. In the last month, I’ve had multiple moments of frustration where I nearly dumped my purse out in order to find what I was looking for. I started thinking it was time to buy a new purse, but because this one is still in such good condition, that seemed like an unnecessary and wasteful solution.

Fortunately, I thought of Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I checked the section of the book where she tackles different sorts of things that need organizing, and sure enough, there was a chapter for briefcases and purses. A quick skim of it told me what my problem was: items did not have a home. There’s a small zipper pocket inside that I put my cell phone in, but otherwise the purse is a single large compartment. There was no way to sort or organize my belongings inside the bag.

Since I didn’t want to go shopping for a new bag, I decided to make smaller bags to collect like things. The rule I made for myself was that after reaching into my purse, I should only have to open one thing to get at what I wanted. This meant that my prescription sunglasses, which travel in a hardshell case, could just go in the bag as-is. But most everything else could be inside a second bag.

Following Morgenstern’s advice, I sorted the things I carry in my purse into like items. I wound up with three piles: money-related (wallet, discount membership cards, checkbook, pen), personal care (chapstick, eyedrops, gum, etc.), and planning (calendar, pen, shopping lists).

The contents of my purse. (No wonder I couldn't find anything!)
The contents of my purse. (No wonder I couldn’t find anything!)

Next, I needed bags. Since I used to make the little purses I carried, I was willing to make the bags that would go into my purse. My favorite purse pattern is the Runaround Bag by Lazy Girl Designs. Although it includes a zipper, the construction of the bag is designed to make inserting it a breeze. So I used the trick from the pattern to put zippers in my much simpler bags for my purse.

The bags I made to organize my purse.
The bags I made to organize my purse.

I chose the fabric to suggest the contents, hoping it will help me remember my new system. Money is green (of course), personal care has geishas primping on it, and the butterflies on the planning bag are symbolic of time passing.

I’ve used the new bags for only a few days, but already, life is much, much better. Every time I’ve had to go into my purse, I’ve found what I was looking for without effort, and I no longer have to apologize to the cashier for having to wait while I dig for my wallet. It’s taken the frustration out of carrying my big purse, and I can love it again.

Do you prefer big or small bags? How do you keep things you carry around with you organized?

Past Projects: Beaded Pony

Before I made my Sorrow Angel, I made this little beaded pony.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore

I love the pony’s chunky shape and stubborn feel of her stance. I made the body with machine-quilted fabric, then hand-stitched beads on over the quilting lines to get the flower design.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

To give the static pose more energy, I used wire for the mane and tail.

Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony, detail, by Kit Dunsmore

The pipe cleaner armature was stiff enough to make my pony stand, but in the future I’ll use stiffer wire just to be sure. Beading can add a lot of weight to a piece.

Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore
Beaded pony by Kit Dunsmore