Thursday, December 24, 2009

What We All Can Take From Kwanzaa

(crossposted at BlogHer)
Last week we gathered at a friend's house to learn about and celebrate Hannukah. It was a great fun evening which we will be repeating. We left a little wiser about this particular celebration and with a much deeper appreciation of any holiday that emphasizes fried food (latkes and donuts) and gambling (dreidels) as part of its celebration.

It got me thinking about the other celebrations happening this time of year and how we ALL might embrace some of the messages these holidays hold as their center.

Every year those who celebrate Christmas get emotional about about "good will toward men." leading people to remark: why are these emotions only endorsed at this time of year? Why can't we work on these positive expressions all year round?

I think that is an admirable thought -though it is not easy to sustain such emotion all the time. I suspect that when a person says that, they want other people to carry that emotion; if it were simply up to someone deciding to hold goodwill toward all men all year, they could simply do it, right?

So instead of hoping that we and others can carry unreasonable emotions for a long term, how about we take a couple days and totally immerse ourselves in all the holiday spirits that are floating around now.

Which, after my brief celebration of Hannukah, led me to Kwanzaa :a non-religious, non-political reaffirmation of basic values wrapped into a celebration of the African-American life.

These values: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are NOT values that should be limited only to African-Americans; these are principles and values that everybody can embrace. Again, they should be embraced and practiced all year -like loving our fellow human beings. But, since the challenge of this commitment is a wee too hard to contemplate, let's focus on just a week.

So why not look at these principles and see small steps we can ALL take?
  1. Meeting a friend over the holidays for coffee? Instead of heading to StarBucks or another coffee chain, find a locally owned cafe or coffee shop to meet at instead. This is cooperative economics.
  2. Thinking about a holiday gathering and anticipating friction? For just that one day, give up your expectations and simply relax into day vowing not to participate in any of the family/friend drama. That is unity.
  3. At the same time, volunteering with your family over holiday break can strengthen your ties as a family and bind you in a unique way to your community. This is collective work.
  4. Spend some time considering your New Year's Resolutions? As a family, spend some time discussing things that each of you need to commit to in order to make your family unit stronger. This is self-determination.
  5. With children home from school for up to 2 weeks, a craft day is certainly in order. Hello, creativity!
You get the picture. There are steps we are going to be taking anyway this week, why not take them with a eye to expanding understanding of another December Holiday?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Launch My Line

I watched the first episode of Launch My Line this week- and I'm not sure that I'll watch anymore.

The initial concept sounded interested: pull a number of successful professionals together in a Project Runway style competition; the winner gets his/her line produced and sold (somewhere). Each of these professionals is paired with an experienced designer to mentor them along the way.

While the concept it intriguing, the reality is less so. Many of the hopefuls are incapable of sewing -a vital skill if you and you alone are working at designing a line. Some of the professionals do no meld well with their mentorees.

And then there are the restrictions the show has put on these people.

In the first episode, each person had one hour to choose a line name, a line logo, and a signature piece. ONE HOUR. Ignore the fact that in reality many companies may take months to come up with these items while working on developing a line. They had one hour.

After that hour all designer teams were taken to a fabric store. Obviously the store did not wish to develop the type of fondness that many of us have developed for Mood and Mood-LA, because almost as soon as the teams entered the store they were told that they would be selecting all the fabrics they will use for the entire show.

Ten fabrics.

Without knowing what the challenges will be - they have to decide on all the fabrics they will use -and the quantity that they will need.

The first night at least one hopeful started over from scratch -using new fabrics and a new design. Will that choice mean that later she does not have enough of the discarded fabrics to create the proper design?

These feel even more artificial than the demands placed on hopefuls in other shows. The individuals are not terribly compelling and I'm just not sure that Launch will catch my imagination.

Think I'll pass on the whole line.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Five Tips for Crafting a Holiday Wreath

I believe in "short time" holiday decorating-limiting the exposure of Thanksgiving and Xmas decorations to something close to 10-14 days. It's a personal choice that makes seeing any of these items appear much more dear to me. The one exception to this rule is the door wreath. Wreaths can decorate doorways years round - either changing the actual wreath by the season, or changing some element of it to indicate the seasonal changes.

Wreaths are one of the simplest items for anyone to make and decorate themselves, making them a perfect crafty project for a winter afternoon.

Some wreath making basics:
  1. Wreaths begin with a form. This can be styrofoam, straw, wire frame, dried grapevines or willow, or even the lowly wire coat hanger. The easiest places to find forms is your local craft store or thrift store.
  2. The form is wrapped or covered with a base material. This might be fabric, ribbon, garland, silk or real leaves, anything to disguise the base material and give the wreath some color and substance.
  3. Layer decorations over the base material, spreading them evenly around the wreath or weighing it more heavily at the base. These are aesthetic decisions that you as the designer make.
Let's see how we can apply these basics to different Wreath designs:

Idea #1:Soft and Simple
Savers is the website for several thrift stores that offers some exciting instructions for using materials found in their stores (or in your own closet). They created a charming Festive Felt Wreath (PDF) using several felted (mostly) wool sweaters cut into squares plus some craft wire and scrap ribbon to create a charming, simple wreath.

Idea #2: Ruffled, elegant and recycled
This elegant ruffly wreath belies it's humble origin. Lindsay created this from a cheap romance novel after spotting her inspiration (on sale for $40) at a vendor's booth at her citywide garage sale. The wreath is timeless as it stands, but substitute some gold or silver paint for the brown/gray paint Lindsay used to tint the edges and a festive holiday wreath could appear too. Would it be wrong to tear apart a worn copy of Dickens' Christmas Carol for this? (via Dollar Store Crafts).

Idea #3: Christmas Ornaments
A lot more colorful and traditional that either of the previous wreaths, HazelRuth's Christmas Ornament Wreath should only take you a couple hours to complete -after you choose your ornaments. This look could go old-fashioned and colorful as she did or take on a totally different look with a limited color palette. Add meaningful personal ornaments to make it all your own.

Idea #4: Pom Poms. Perfect Kid-Friendly Activity

Somewhere soon you are going to need that one crafty project that will occupy the kids (or the kid in all of us) for an afternoon. Prepare yourself in advance the simple supplies for making this pom-pom wreath, then let the fun begin. Bleubird Vintage provides great photos in her tutorial and includes a pom-pom tutorial to get it started.

Idea #5: Button it Up.
I love buttons. Touching them, sorting them, decorating with them. So of course I'm going to share a project that lets me do all that! Craftapalooza shares her simple tutorial for making these button wreaths. I can see different colorways being used for different season -or something like this white/off-white one filling in year round.

A Bonus Wreath:
Capadia Designs created charming three-dimensional wreath cards using her cricut. Not necessarily wreaths you'd hang on your door or your wall, but framing one of these and setting on a table or giving it as a hostess gift? Love.

How do you craft a great a wreath? Share a link to your favorites in the comments.

(photo credits and copyright remain with the owners of each website).

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.