Studio + Life

A few photos I thought I’d share from the past couple of weeks. It feels like fall, but the calendar says it’s nearly summer. I’ve been doing a lot of restocks to shops, and working on the design for my new website (that I hope to launch soon!). Lots of projects, as usual!

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Glasses first, eyes second. That’s how everyone gets dressed, right?

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Restocking Wolfbait & B-Girls in Chicago.

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Henry is really into gifting “white flowers” right now. These were my Mother’s Day present ; )

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Trying out a full batch of Andy Warhol puppets. Really diggin’ this design, so I hope to have it online soon.

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Our garden is officially in bloom, including this amazing (no-filter-needed) ombre yellow rose.

And finally, I posted this video on Instagram the other day, but can’t resist sharing it here, too. Because Mad Men.

Spring Photos

Suddenly spring is here, huh? Our lilac bush just burst into flower in the last day or so, and even on rainy days, it’s not the cold rain anymore– it’s the kind that bring breezes and the smell of mud and growing things. I think the season has been good for me. I’ve been feeling productive in the studio, and also finding time for yardwork and kid stuff and some other fun projects. Here are a few shots from Instagram over the past few weeks, in case you missed them.

Saturday Desk

Saturday workspace and list-making.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg buttons

New Ruth Bader Ginsburg buttons. One will ship with every puppet from now on!

Daffodils

Daffodils getting ready to bloom.

Joan Harris puppets

Bringing back the Joan from Mad Men design to honor of “the end of an era.”

Repotting

Growing things.

Henry's birthday

Henry turned three, complete with horseshoe magnet and green frog raincoat.

Bald Ira Glass

Every wondered what Ira Glass would look like bald? Here’s your answer.

Frida Kahlo puppets in progress

Frida Kahlo puppets in progress on my new yellow cafeteria tray.

 

 

Family Portrait

I wrote about Kristina Micotti’s work about a year ago, and have been following her work on Instagram ever since. Earlier this year when I was trying to come up with a gift for Ben and my anniversary a few weeks back, I decided that one of Kristina’s gorgeous ink portraits would be just the thing. I had a portrait drawn of Ben and I for him for Christmas in 2011, but so many things had changed in the intervening four years– new glasses, different dog, and– oh yeah– that thing of a whole new tiny person in your family these days : ) I love Kristina’s sketchy style, and was super interested to see how she’d destill us down into just a few strokes. The results turned out really fun, I think you’ll agree.

We’re pretty cute, right? I love how Henry is captured as this perfect little blend of Ben and me– smiling like his mama, but a little unkempt like his Dad. And Ivy looking as forlorn as always– totally true to life.

Kristina also wins the award for cutest mail of the year, with a sketch of Ivy in sunglasses on the front of the package that she sent the portraits in.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 10.32.31 PMI also really loved that with the portrait, I got the original ink drawings of each of us, as well as a digital composite of the four drawings all put together. I was able to take the drawing of Ivy, which stood on it’s own so well, and hang it up in our newly-rearranged TV room. There she is above the TV giving us the same feel-bad-for-me face she’s giving all through dinner.

TVroom

And I found a nice, sunny spot for it in our living room where the four of us can keep the plants company.

Huge thanks for Kristina for being so talented, and super great to work with. Check out her work if you’re in the market for a portrait (card, print, etc) of your own!

 

Mending

I was thinking the other day that I don’t think I have ever worn out the knees of a single pair of pants I’ve owned. When I was younger, holes in your jeans was a thing (I’m looking at you, Joey Lawrence). My mom was not about to buy me the kind that came pre-ripped, and the knees were just never an area I seemed to wear out. That said, in the three short years my child has been on the planet (only two of those walking, mind you), I can’t count the number of pants he’s worn the knees out on. It’s amazing how hard he is on his pants, and between the climbing onto counters, impromptu break dance parties and sidewalk trips that happen on a daily basis, it’s no wonder.12577787064_01c0719e01_zOver the weekend I decided to tackle two pairs of Henry’s pants that had recently developed holes in the knees. One thing about the damage he does to his clothes, till now he’s generally grown too fast to make it worthwhile to fix them– by the time he’s worn them through, he’s just about on to the next size anyway. But of the two pants that had been the latest casualties, both still fit relatively well and one of them I’ve formed a bit of an attachment to.

Last winter I bought Henry what at the time was a ridiculously long pair of 2T cords in my favorite mustard yellow. They were one of the first items of clothing he could talk about specifically (“I wear my yellow pant, Mama?”) and he’s worn them weekly or more for over a year. He loves them, I love them, so when the knew split last week I decided to try to see what could be done to save them.

When I was a kid, I remember my mom patching my pants with the stiff patch kits they sell at the grocery store. They came in a stock of four or five rounded plasticy rectangles in colors that were supposed to inconspicuous against your pants but never quite were. I remember they always felt sticky and stiff, and after being fixed the pants were never really the same.

There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest on mending pants, and one that caught my eye recently was a Japanese sashiko technique. Instead of trying to hide the repair, sashiko embroidery is meant to be both functional and interesting, embracing the mended portion as something that can add to the garment instead of trying to hide it.

I tried my hand on Henry’s two pant legs, adding stitching little crosses to the knees, reinforced by a layer of felt underneath (I’m all about the felt, no surprise). Overall it was a little tough to get the stitches started, and extra difficult because the legs of the pants are so narrow, but once it got going the sewing went quickly. And the results are pretty substantial as far as patches go, but still flexible enough for Henry to wear without much trouble, I think.

We’ll see how they hold up over the long run. And if it goes well, there are plenty of other pants on the verge of losing their knees to perfect the technique soon enough.

Stuff I Love Right Now

1. Studio on Fire Letterpress Calendar

I like to get a new decorative calendar for the studio every year, and this year I settled on this little letterpress beaut from Studio on Fire. The theme is folklore, so of course I was sold. Every month it’s like a tiny new work of art on my desk– I love it.

2. VeepYou know how sometimes you have those old friends that you take for granted because they’ve been around forever, and then they do something that jolts you awake and you think, “Oh my gosh, were they always this cool?” That’s how I feel about Julia Louis Dreyfus. Rewatching Seinfeld the last year or so, I kept thinking about how great Elaine was, how dimensional and hilarious she made that character. Recently we started watching Veep and I can’t remember laughing so much at a single show. Seriously, every time she comes up with another terrible nickname for Jonah the White House liaison, I’m dying.

3. Brussels SproutsBrussels sprouts are totally my new favorite vegetable– I can’t get enough of them. I’m considering trying to grow some of our own next year, partly because I like them so much and, okay, I admit it, also because they look so extraterrestrial growing on those weird, tall stalks.

4. Teeny Tiny Paintbrushes

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I’ve been experimenting with painting lately and have been on the hunt for the right teeny, tiny paintbrush to make perfectly flowing lines. I guess when I say that right now I love teeny, tiny paintbrushes it’s probably more accurate to say that I love the idea of them, since none of mine seem to be performing to their full potential. Once I find that perfect one, though, you can be sure I’m going to be a happy camper.

5. Oscar IsaacIs it weird to put a person on my list? I feel like a junior high fangirl adding this, but I’m totally into the actor Oscar Isaac right now. Inside Llewyn Davis was one of my favorite films last year, and I found his performance so engaging, I couldn’t take my eyes off him on screen. I’m excited to see that he’s gotten some big roles since (um, Star Wars, what?) and we went to see A Most Violent Year last weekend, which wasn’t great, but he was interesting in it. Also, he looks 20 years older in that movie– it’s totally crazy.

Plans and Schemes

The early part of the year is always the regeneration time for my biz. With the holiday rush over, January and February are traditionally when I make plans, think about new directions and designs, and try out projects I’ve been putting off for too long. I’ve spent the first few weeks of this year setting up goals in a way that I’ve never done before. There were so many things I wanted to tackle, it was clear that I needed to get organized if they were actually going to happen. I spent an evening the other day converting a small wall in the studio into a seasonal goals board, complete with about a hundred yellow Post-It notes and lots of big ideas. Not sure if it’ll actually work, but it sure does look impressive ; )First on the docket, I’ve decided that I want to try my hand at web design. I’ve dabbled here and there, customizing this blog and even starting an ill-fated website project in DreamWeaver a few years back. But this year I decided I would take a few coding classes, since there are so many available online these days. I completed an initial course through Codecademy and promptly got in over my head working on a personal website. After working for a few weeks, I’ve decided to rethink my approach to that one, and am planning to take up an official abbeychristine website in the new few weeks. Unfortunately abbeychristine.com, which I owned a few years ago, is now a bootleg Hollister site (I know, so weird, right?), so my first project is to decide on a url. If you have a brilliant suggestions, let me know!IMG_2062_2_smallerI’m also in the process on coming up with some new designs for 2015. It seems crazy that it’s been since 2013 that I debuted a new design– the last was Louis CK. Picking people to add to my collection is a complicated equation of whether the person can be translated in a recognizable way into a puppet, and of course whether they’re a popular figure that I think people would actually want to buy in 4″ of felt. I’ve only just started sketching for this year’s new class, but I’m super excited to show you new stuff soon.16356026891_d4950d0264_bHowever much I actually finish as planned this year, I’m excited for the new things 2015 has in store!

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of life post-holidays. While I didn’t intend to take a hiatus from blogging, it was the by-product of three family Christmases and two road trips in just 10 days or so, not to mention the blur of buying gifts, opening gifts (okay, mostly watching the kid open gifts), deciding whether it was warm enough to not wear a coat, then freezing our butts off, looking at Christmas lights, eating various kinds of potatoes and cookies, etc etc etc. Oh, and six movies in three weeks– probably a new personal record. Here are some of the other highlights:

 First up, our annual pre-Christmas cheese pimgrimage to Wisconsin.

Untitled design (6)Christmas morning involved bubbled wrap (not surprisingly, the kid was more interested in it than the actual present), and an unimpressed dog.

Untitled design (7)Nieces found my camera at Christmas and left these choice selfies for me to discover later.

We got these vintage circus cake toppers a few months back, but I let Henry play with them at Christmas for the first time and he was enamoured.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.57.13 PM I don’t generally Instagram food, but when I do, it’s probably the B & B from Yats.

You’re funny because you’re true, Cards Against Humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.57.00 PM Just two goofs on New Year’s Eve.

 

I have to say, I’m definitely a fan of a little break and reenergizing before the new year. And now that that’s done, here’s to 2015!

Giving Thanks

I forget every year that my Tuesday/Thursday posting schedule invariably means I’ll be scheduling something to run on Thanksgiving Day. Which is weird, right? Because it’s not like I’m going to do a round-up of recipes or a place setting craft or something, and even if I did, Thanksgiving morning is too late for anybody to care anyway. (I do still like last year’s post of vintage Thanksgiving Day parade photos, though.)

Card via Pioneer House.

This year I’ve decided to just take a moment and say thank you to you. Yep, you. The folks nice enough to read about my blog, appreciate my quirky collection of favorite internet things, follow my work and support my little business. I’m glad you’re out there and thank you for coming along for the ride.

5 Things I Love Right Now

In the spirit of my “5 Things I Love Right Now” posts, I present a modified version– a few things that are just on my mind this week, and one that I love.

1. Election DayIt’s Election Day here in Illinois and a number of races, including the governor, are pretty tight. Voting has always been one of the best neighborhood experiences I’ve had in all of the places I’ve lived– every polling place I’ve ever been to, folks were so helpful and friendly, everyone there for the same reason and proud to be participating. Here’s hoping turnout is decent around the country today.

2. Pumpkin Pie

I’ve always had a thing for homemade pumpkin pie. About ten years ago I decided to try roasting my own pumpkin, and the taste was so much heartier than the canned, puried pies, I’ve never looked back.

This season we’ve been trying out a few different everyday pumpkin “pie” recipes, ranging from something of a pumpkin bake to an way too dense sort of pumpkin cake. Still haven’t quite stumbled on the best option for non-holiday occasions, but it’s been a tastey experiment.

3. DIY Reupholstery

I’ve been eyeballing reupholstery projects for a while now, but am still totally intimdated to take the plunge. Since nearly everything in our house is thrifted and 30+ years old, you can imagine that plenty of the pieces could use a little love. We came across a pretty simple little armchair over the weekend for $15– the fabric is hideous but it’s got good bones, so after the holidays I’m thinking that project may be my first upholstery experiment.

4. Dead ComputersIf there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few weeks of struggling to upgrade my 2007 laptop, it’s to do those annoying updates as they come. Otherwise you end up where I’m at– with a woefully out of date OS that won’t run anything anymore, and a suddenly out of commission CD drive that means I couldn’t update even if I wanted to. Sigh. New computer on the horizon? Right before the end of the year so I can write it off for 2014? We shall see, folks. We shall see.

5. Puff BallsYarn puff balls seem to be the new thing around the DIY internets. I mean, in my opinion they never went away– I’m still a sucker for a vintage 80’s puff ball hat. But it’s fun to see new, updated projects using puffballs, like this ball of puffs from the Purl Bee and the accompanying hat pattern.

#DogBabyRoadTrip

If you missed me last week, my lack of blog post can be blamed on the fact that we just got back in town on Sunday from a whirlwind roadtrip from Chicago all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. It was our first vacation since before Henry was born, and we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been. After some thought, we decided on New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast region. And though there were definitely Griswald-esque moments, overall it was a wonderful getaway. As Ben said when we finally pulled back onto our street at the end, “You know it was a good vacation when you’re as happy to get back as you were to get out.” Amen to that!

Here are some of the highlights from Mississippi, Louisiana and places in between–

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.58.49 PMScreen shot 2014-09-29 at 10.06.44 PM Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.59.57 PMFrom the first photo above you can see that we were all smiles setting out from Chicago. The one next to it shows me (and Henry) getting a little punchy around mile 870. We split the drive to Mississippi into an 8 hour and 5 hour day, though traveling with a tiny person and a whiny dog meant that both days were significantly longer in the end. That said, we tried to make the most of our travel days, including all of our first times seeing a cotton field in person and a stop in Metropolis, IL so Henry could meet “Supe’man.”

15129743088_97f764ceed_z15301200816_46991acd01_c 15169042219_ae48707666_zThis was Henry’s first visit to the ocean, so we spent a good amount of time at the beach. We rented a house in Gulfport, MS, a cute little harbor town with miles and miles of gorgeous white sand beaches. We literally had the entire stretch of beach to ourselves both days that we went, though the weather was gorgeous and warm.

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.56.54 PMScreen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.57.15 PM15314506686_cea3102555_zOne of our sightseeing days was spent around Slidell, where we took a swamp tour. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but it ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. The bayous and waterways were gorgeous, and our tour was the perfect mix of information and tourist spectacle. Sure, they feed the alligators hot dogs and marshmallows to attract them to the boat, but what’s a swamp without an alligator sighting! Later that afternoon we checked out the Abita Mystery House/UCM Museum (“You-See-Em”), the kind of kitschy roadside attraction that I’ve always been a sucker for. Rooms upon rooms of weird collections, folk art, antique and salvage ephemera all pasted, nailed and glued together into a total spectacle. Highly recommended.

15346649042_e2ff899631_zScreen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.54.34 PM 15160243129_3656a9bb50_z 15355825425_8038b606cd_zScreen shot 2014-09-29 at 9.39.58 PMFinally, for the main attraction of the trip, we spent two days bumming around New Orleans, taking in the overwhelming number of sights, sounds, colors and layers upon layers of life to be seen in the city. Highlights for me were the great street band we kept running into around Jackson Square on the day we spent in the French Quarter, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz, and the St. Roch Chapel, full of notes of thanks, ex voto offerings in the shape of body parts and items like crutches and prosthetics offered in gratitude for healing.

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Though the laundry is still to be done, the car is full of snack crumbs and sand, our feet hurt, we’re sunburned and still a little cranky, give me a day or so and I’ll be ready to do it all over again ; )

P.S. In case this deluge of photos wasn’t enough for you, a whole bunch more pictures are on my Flickr and Instagram.