Thursday, September 27, 2012

Introducing "Show Me a Story" by Emily K Neuburger

One of my favorite things about the time I spent at CRAFT was finding and following so many immensely creative folks through their blogs. I love stumbling on new blogs, keeping up with them, and watching them grow over the years, and it's even more exciting to see them make the jump from blog publishing to book publishing. 

Emily with her daughters, Hazel and Leah, telling stories using the Traveling Puppet Theater project from Show Me a Story
One such case is Emily K. Neuburger of Red Bird Crafts, whom I first connected with a couple of years ago after posting about some of her projects on CRAFT. I've followed her work and stayed in touch ever since, and was thrilled to se her new book, Show me a Story, that has "40 craft projects and activities to spark children's storytelling."

The Story Disks project is simple and cute, and will end up providing hours of creative play for kids. 
As a mom, I have to admit that when I've tried to craft with my kids, they don't always jump right on board. They seem to need some kind of additional hook to get going. What I love about Show Me a Story is that the projects have purpose. It's not just about making something cute, it's about making something that you then turn around and use to share creative stories and adventures with others. That bumps the awesome factor right up through the roof for me.

The Storytelling Jar is an adorable project that would look cute on a desk or shelf, and can then be pulled down to use for story telling whenever the mood strikes. 
The projects are mostly pretty simple, and use basic materials that can often be found around your house (even in the recycling bin!) so it's a great book for families to have on hand for rainy days, family activity nights or summer boredom busting. It's also a book that would be a great gift for teachers, because many of the activities would be perfect for the classroom.

Emily's thoughtful and thorough explanations of the mechanics of stories, and her rich prompts help readers jump right in to the story-telling process.
Emily doesn't just provide craft project tutorials in the book, but she also includes incredibly helpful guides for getting kids in the right mindset to fall deep down the story telling rabbit hole. She's prepared rich lists of prompts and explanations that help parents or teachers put the activities in to context for the children. Show me a Story is filled with the kind of projects and inspiration that help create special moments between adults and children, and it's really refreshing to see this kind of take on a craft project book. I like when there is purpose to a project beyond just making it.

If all this resonates with you, you're in luck! I have one copy of Show me a Story to offer for giveaway to an Average Jane Crafter reader. Just leave a comment on this post, telling me how you would use this book with the kiddos in your life, and I'll draw a winner at random on Monday. You have until 9PM CST on Sunday, September 29 to leave your comment. Sorry, contest is open to U.S. residents only.

Hey, wait a minute ... I recognize that name under the quote up there ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Being OK with Being Terrified

straight lines scare me, y'all.
Cutting precise straight lines scares the heck out of me, y'all. 
Last week, I started my first quilting class. I've been meaning to try my hand at quilting for a while, but the right moment hadn't hit me yet. After being invited to teach a hand embroidery workshop at QuiltCon, I decided this was the perfect time. This fall would be the time I finally learn how to make a quilt. 

My initial fabric selection - I thought we needed five fabrics, but it turns out we only needed four. I had to change this grouping up a bit. 
I decided to get my fabrics before the first class, and had a lot of fun browsing through bolts. Though the quilt we'll be making in class isn't my particular style (it's very traditional piecing, and I'm drawn more to the graphic modern quilts) I'm excited to be learning so many techniques, and decided I'd try using more modern-feeling fabrics in the quilt. I figured I need to be in love with the fabrics so I can spend the next eight weeks staring at them, and the next who-knows-how-many-years using the quilt.

Even as enjoyable as shopping for fabric is, though, an unanticipated feeling emerged as I picked up, swapped out and debated different fabrics: terror.

The reworked fabrics for the quilt. I actually like this grouping better! 
You see, I haven't tried any big new skills lately. I've been pretty darn comfortable with my infatuation with hand embroidery and dabbling in other simple crafts, but I haven't really s  t  r  e  t  c  h  e  d  much outside of my comfort zone recently. Quilting is big, and pretty foreign to anything I've ever done. Sure, it's fabric and sewing, but it's also precision, straight lines, matching points, perfect quarter inch seams*, basting, binding and ... quilting! All these things are not in my usual bag of tricks. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of crafter. I take pride in not worrying if my seams are 100% perfectly straight. Quilting is going to take some time and thought and purposeful action. There will be lots of practicing on scrap fabrics, lots of measuring and remeasuring, and most certainly, without a doubt ... lots of mistakes.

I nerded out and used my light box to make a copy of the quilt pattern so I could color it in with different colorways and decide which fabrics I wanted to use in which ways. Don't laugh - it's super handy! 
I don't shy away from mistakes, and I love learning new things, but when I showed up to my class and realized I was the only one who hadn't made a quilt before (hey, it's an *intro* to quilting class, I didn't think it would be so odd that I hadn't made a quilt before!) I felt the terror creep back up. I'm typically outgoing and enthusiastic in a class environment. Instead, I became intensely introverted and ... I'll say it ... scared out of my wits. My quilt ruler was futzy, my machine borked out on me, and there were a million other little things that just made the evening a bit crazy and uncomfortable ... and terrifying.

I made photocopies of the tracing and then colored them in, swapping my light and dark grey fabrics. I'm a super visual gal, so this helped me get a better idea of how swapping the fabric placement would affect the overall look of the quilt. See? Handy! 
It took a stiff cocktail when I got home to try to relax and remind myself: THIS IS ONLY QUILTING. I need to take my own advice and not stress. I need to have fun. I've said this a million times to my embroidery students: The more you have fun, the more inclined you will be to practice. The more you practice, the better you will get. I need to stick with that, but I'm also kind of ok with being terrified. This kind of terrified is a feeling I haven't had in a long time, and it's reminding me I'm alive and pushing myself. Somedays the routine of family life makes me feel like I'm not doing much of those things. And I'm a process gal, which means - even when terrified - I actually really enjoy the process of being a bumbling idiot with something new, and slowly working to a point of comfort. I think it's a good thing for my kids to see, too. They see too many perfect, edited "final results" throughout media. They need to see some of that raw process (even if it includes a few swear words, I'm not gonna lie).

What has terrified you lately?

* Ironically, I'm the youngest person in the class, but I have the most basic, simple sewing machine in the group. Most of the others have super fancy computerized machines with special settings and presser feet that make precise quarter inch seams a snap. My machine ... notsomuch. But I keep thinking, "come on! Pioneers had flippin' FOOT POWERED machines!" and then I feel better. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Give it up for new beginnings, y'all!

Oh, my dear, sweet little neglected blog. I've missed you.

There has been a lot of change around these parts over the last nine months or so, and that's contributed to my lack of posting. Fortunately, I'm getting back on track, and really looking forward to getting nice and comfy back over here.

Leaving CRAFT was bittersweet.
The biggest crafting-related news around here is that, after four years, I left CRAFT at the end of June of this year. I loved blogging there, and am thankful for all the wonderful people I met and inspiration I found, but after blogging and being editor there, I decided it was time to move on to some new creative endeavors. 
One of my project tutorials for Whimseybox
I am thrilled to be working with Alicia and Bri at Whimseybox, which is based right here in Houston. It's exciting to be even a small part of a new and growing venture, especially when I admire the women behind it so much. I've had fun blogging for them and creating project tutorials (something I hadn't done in ages!) and am even more excited for what the future holds for Whimseybox.

I'm also excited to announce that I'll be teaching at the first ever QuiltCon in Austin next February. I'll be teaching basic hand embroidery in the context of studying redwork in modern quilting. I can't believe I'm part of this incredible event. I mean, hi ... Anna Maria Horner, one of my all-time biggest design inspirations and first fabric designer crush, is teaching in the same room I am right after my class ends. Who wants to place bets on me passing out? If you are interested in the class or QuiltCon, be sure to check it out and sign up soon. As of a few days ago, there were less than three spots left in my workshop. The QuiltCon folks have been amazing and so professional. This is going to be a top-notch event. I can't wait!

Speaking of quilting, I'm starting my first quilting class next week. Yep. I've never made a quilt (well, not an official quilt - I've "quilted" a few small things for fun/practice, but I've never done a whole quilt start-to-finish before). Even though my workshop at QuiltCon isn't so much about quilting (it's a basic hand embroidery class) I didn't feel I could stand up as a teacher there, having never made a quilt. I've read Susan Beal's Modern Log Cabin Quilting book cover-to-cover, and am ready to get some real-life action going in the quilt department. Look for updates over the coming weeks as my class progresses!

I've got some great books and craft goodies to share with you, as well as some fun project tutorials, soon. Thanks for sticking with me - even with my sporadic posting. This fall marks the 5th anniversary of Average Jane Crafter, and I'm so glad to still be crafting and sharing things with you!