Friday, April 5, 2013


Mommy camp rolls on. Our Easter holidays are three and a half weeks long, so we've been doing our best to find a balance between unstructured downtime and guided creative play. The other day Charlie asked out of the blue if he could make a book, and I was totally game. Like so many craft supply hoarders I know, I happened to have a stash of bookbinding supplies in my studio that I'd yet to use, and finally got to crack open. 
In my craft library, I also have a copy of, "At Home with Handmade Books", by Erin Zamrzla. Like a lot of craft books, it gives basic instructions for simple book binding techniques and then a bunch of projects that use variations of those simple steps. Since we're newbies at this particular craft, we kept it simple, and made cardboard covered (and backed) journals filled with blank pages, bound with a traditional Japanese four hole binding. You don't need to buy a book to tell you how to make this book; Google abounds with videos and tutorials. Supplies are pretty basic: paper, an awl (or hole punch), glue, and some binder's thread (or any string, really).
We went into the recycling bin and dug out some cardboard to make our front and back covers, and cut them down to the size with a steak knife that never gets used since we never seem to eat steak.
Charlie chose a piece of pretty origami paper from my paper stash for the cover, which got glued on. He also wanted patterned paper for his inside pages, so we stuck them inside and laid them flush with the edge of the book. I do have an awl, and a self healing mat, so punching the holes was quick work.
Though I do have a package of binder's thread, any string, yarn, twine, whatever you have lying around, will work for a simple book like ours. I used my binding thread, but wonder if colorful yarn would've been a better choice here.
I followed the steps for threading the pages and covers (which was trickier than I thought it would be, since I don't really like reading instructions all the way through before starting a new project).

And Charlie had his new book. He wanted the title to be "Nevero's Land" for reasons I can't understand, but, okay. He wrote the story inside in his own special secret typography, so I'm not sure what its about. But I hope someday he'll tell me.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter 2013

It was on Easter, two years ago, that I first started this blog. I am amazed, looking back, at the changes I've made in that time in my life, both personally and creatively. I have continued to try to make more, buy less, and cultivate the creative spirit of my family life, and this blog has helped me stay true to that pledge to myself. I've also had the amazing fate and fortune to find myself living some sort of crazy city girl's dream; of settling into life on the farm here in beautiful England, and raising my boys among our growing menagerie of farm animals. All of which means that this year I colored my Easter eggs without the help of Craypas, and with eggs laid by my very own chickens. Right off the bat I must credit Megan Anderson of radmegan for the inspiring post she did for Easter last year on natural egg dyes. I used several of her recipes, and experimented with a few colorants of my own.

First a word about the eggs: our hens are Light Sussex and while they're beautiful birds (see two photos up), their eggs are kind of meh. In the box above, the tan colored ones are from our chickens. But just for some variety I also tried some Old Cotswold Legbar eggs (readily available in the supermarkets around here), which have a slightly blue tint to them. 
In addition to the red cabbage leaves, yellow and red onion skins, tumeric and beet dyes that Megan suggests, I tried a moss bath, hoping for a lovely green egg. Henry is the one who suggested this to me, swearing that Scottish wool dyers used urine soaked moss to get their best green tweeds. I couldn't quite bring myself to get a sample from anyone, and lo and behold my moss dye failed completely. Then I googled "moss dye urine", only to discover that Henry was totally right. (Never doubt an anthropologist whose uncle lives on a sheep farm in Scotland.) Look for a future post on green textile dye baths.
Above is a tumeric dyed egg, below it is one dyed in both tumeric and paprika. The blue came from red cabbage leaves, the brown from (I think) yellow onion skins.
I can't remember the dye I used for this amazing speckled creation, which makes me think of a dinosaur egg. It was my hands down favorite. I think its from a combination of Nigella seeds, tea bags and onion skins.
This chalky looking egg was dyed in a bath of blackcurrant tea. All eggs were dyed for about twenty four hours.
I also made the boys some new easter baskets this year, using the pattern I already had from designsmayamade on Etsy. The pattern is for four different sized baskets, I used the medium one here.
We had Easter lunch with Henry's brother and his wife and their kids, and broke from tradition by roasting a leg of venison. Henry shot this deer himself a couple of weeks ago, and we've been eating a lot of it lately, buying less and less meat from the grocery store. We're so lucky that we have easy access to local meat that's raised by people we know, or in this case, wild game.
Obviously, we couldn't have lamb for easter lunch. But we did take them on a walk.