Tag Archives: D.I.Y.

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Slow News Day: Front Yard Gardening in Benicia and Beyond

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While wandering around the town of Benicia, CA, one late summer day, I encountered this exuberant example of front yard gardening. This person is really making the most of every square inch. It was a treat to see, especially after posting about the trend of front yard gardening earlier this summer.

I’ve been following some fun and inspiring blogs about front yard and even balcony gardening. (As a longtime deck gardener, in the deer-populated (read: lettuce munching) woods as well as in Manhattan, I’ve always been interested in doing the most with the smallest plot of dirt. Good small-space gardening and urban homesteading blogs include Beyond the Lawn, Leda’s Urban Homestead, Balcony Gardener, Life on the Balcony, Free Range Living, and Path to Freedom.

The last is an especially exciting farmsteading site that I just learned about this weekend when I saw an independent movie called HomeGrown. HomeGrown features a family of four living by the freeway in Pasadena, CA, raising all their own food and completely sustaining themselves and others on a small residential plot of land. The family is very winning and passionate, and they really make a go of urban homesteading, practicing extreme simplicity, conservation, community and resourcefulness — They use a hand washer, make their own biofuel, sell their produce to some of the area’s high-end (and appreciative) restaurants, and often do without. Learn more about them at Path to Freedom.

Still curious about Benicia? In addition to having great sun and soil, I learned that the bayside town was California’s first capitol, predating Sacramento and California’s gold rush. After going inside the old building (now part of a CA state park)¬† and pretending to legislate, we got to lock the old capitol’s giant door for the weekend with an outsized, cartoon-like key. Benicia also has a charming main street for shopping, antiquing, and taking a self-guided historic walking tour featuring old homes and businesses. I will post a travelogue soon.

In the meantime, like me, you can enjoy looking at this special, bountiful yard and wondering if its owners are still harvesting yummy corn into the fall.

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Calling all Plush Fans and Crafters: Plush Show at Schmancy in Seattle

A few years ago, my family and I found ourselves in Seattle and at a wonderful, whimsical store called Schmancy, in the Belltown district, that specializes in all things plush, most of which are hand-made. Shelves were lined with plush cupcakes, benign monsters, felt woodland mushrooms, large-eyed sandwiches, and storybook elves, many of which took their fun sensibility from Japanese art and design.

My daughter has always loved to sew and to make whimsical plush objects (in addition to her own eco-friendly totebags.) She struck up a conversation with Schmancy owner and artist, Kristen Rask, and she ended up having this abstract applique- designed piece in the store’s annual Plush Show.

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The Plush Show is happening again, with receptions and activities¬† this weekend and displays throughout the month. In addition, the Northwest Film Forum will be screening Faythe Levine’s film, Handmade Nation. This documentary about the D.I.Y. craft movement will be appearing in other cities; check the film’s website for details.

If you’re crafting at home, there’s plenty of inspiration and instruction available. Kristen Rask’s own book is called Plush You! Loveable Misfit Toys to Sew and Stuff. Another book my daughter Anna has really enjoyed is Softies: Simple Instructions for 25 Plush Pals by Therese Laskey. A bonus of plush-toy crafting is that it can often be done with felt. Felt is so tactile and pleasing to work with. Handmade felt is great but, for children and others wishing to experiment, bright squares and pieces of felt are relatively inexpensive, as well as easy to use.

Another cute fabric-crafting book I recently came across is Betz White’s Sewing Green: 25 Projects Made with Repurposed & Organic Materials. Not strictly oriented to plush, this book has lots of cute ideas for easy, green D.I.Y. sewing projects like sweet pillowcase dresses, mans-shirt aprons, screen printing, a fall-leaf felt scarf, and more.

Be warned: a visit to Schmancy or a poke into one of these books will make you want to start crafting every cute thing inside.

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Top Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Lost Arts: Bookmaking

Our family recently took a wonderful class in Bookmaking, with Eva Shoshany at W.I.G.T. Printing in Mill Valley. Eva supplied the cardboard forms, lots of recycled papers for covering them, ribbons and comb bindings to bind them, pages for the insides, and tons of ideas and inspiration from her and her business and life partner, Barry Toranto, and from their wonderful print shop, which churns out posters, brochures, business cards and more from a Tudor-style storefront in Mill Valley.

Here’s Eva, getting us started:

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Inspiration:

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Anna places the pages into her book:

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Careful with the paper cutter, Dear:

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Lippy plans his book:

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Now, that’s a comb binding:

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I’m getting biz-zay collaging on my book cover:
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I was inspired by the traditional papier-mache strip shape:

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Eva started a photo album for a honeymooning couple:

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We enjoyed being around the ink and presses in the print shop:

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I love Eva’s filing cabinet, which was originally used for sewing patterns:

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Anna began her own colorful collage cover:

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Lippy’s books turned out beautifully, inside and out:

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He plans to make his own sketchbooks from now on:

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Eva is leading at least two more Bookmaking workshops, if you want to learn to do this yourself:

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Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman & Eva Shoshany

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