Thursday, December 8, 2011

DIY Upcycled Terrariums.

I've long defended our awkward ratio of houseplants to house with the argument that the greenery helps us all survive Minnesota's version of winter.  Which I think is actually probably true.  Aside from us just being happier having plants around us, indoor gardens can help to purify the otherwise stale air we breath all winter, when the doors and windows shut against the cold also keep out the fresh air. 

My finished jar terrarium, featuring some kind of fern, two or three mosses, a found antler and my favorite tiny blue bowl.

But of course my real concern is whether or not it's something I want to look at.  And lately, I'm in love with looking at terrariums.  There are probably a trillion possibilities of awesomeness, and they're super easy to put together and maintain.  (None of mine have died yet!)

I loosely followed guidelines in this book, but you can also visit your local garden store (some offer classes or terrarium kits), or find much more detailed step-by-step instructions here:

Teardrop terrarium with moss and the most adorable vintage squirrel miniatures my genius husb spotted at the thrift store.

Read about my process after the jump, plus more pictures!  (Thanks to the studly T.C. Worley, ace photographer for lending a hand with some of the photos.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This is the time of year I start questioning my small shoulder bag choice.  When you can't fit the strap over your newly bulked-out, winter-coat-wearing shoulders, it gets you thinking.  I haven't settled on a design for my own purposes yet--and let's be honest, between knitting projects and holiday orders, there's not a big chance of me having any time for Selfish Sewing before the snow melts--but this is a style I love.  The strap design is compatible with any size parka, plus, it's awesome to have some extra room for stowing a hat and mittens. 

Check out these ones from my Etsy shop...the Buck Satchel is just listed today!

Just Listed: Buck Satchel

Unicorn Satchel

Very special limited edition satchel!  The Stormtrooper Satchel

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Friends.

I'm not trying to jump the gun or anything (believe me, I'm clinging to fall like the rest of you).  But once I dug out my knitting (and crochet) gear a few weeks ago, I've been obsessed:  going to yarn stores, spending hours looking at patterns on the internet, plotting a ginormous mental list of projects I will never finish, and also actually knitting stuff.  So when I was finishing the hand sewing on these guys, I couldn't resist adding some winter accessories.  Tiny, tiny winter accessories.  All the winter friends (and more details) are available in my Etsy store.

Winter Squirrel wearing a crocheted wool stocking cap.

Winter Raccoon wrapped up in a green handknit wool scarf.

Winter Fox with a knit wool hat to keep his ears warm.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Octopus: Small Recycled Plastic Messenger Bag

It's true, I've been a little caught up in all things fabric as of late.  For handbags, cozies, and toys, it's hard to beat repurposing an awesome vintage--or not so vintage--textile.  But for more rugged or all-purpose uses, recycled plastic is my go-to medium.  These new messenger bags are great all-weather commuters, if you're brave like that, and for the less daring: gym bag, errand bag, overnight bag.  Etcetera. 

Thank You: Small Recycled Plastic Messenger Bag

The small version of the messenger is still big enough for a laptop + miscellaneous, and its generous flap and heavy-duty velcro is designed to keep the weather out.  Get all the details by checking out the individual listings in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Cozies

Radiant MN and Blue Antler Beer Cozies

Two new cozies just made their way into my Etsy shop, wooly and plaid since it's fall.  I both love and hate the season for everything it brings my way.  The colder temps chase me out of the weather more often than not, but I try to get out there whenever I can stand snow on the ground yet!  So for all the true diehards still hanging on in backyards across the Midwest, clutching their beers with icy hands, these cozies are for you. 

Blue Antlers Wool Beer Cozy

Radiant MN Wool Beer Cozy

Both stitch designs come from my MN Love Series.  The state is pretty obvious, I know.  As for the antlers, well, technically I guess you can and should love the antler aesthetic wherever you're from.  But I like to think that growing up in the Midwest, all those trophy mounts my friends' dads had hung all over their paneled basements, nutured an especially soft spot in my heart for the sentimental kitsch of it.  But it's true, antlers are just beautiful.

Radiant MN and Blue Antlers Wool Beer Cozies

 I also chose fabrics that seemed most fitting to my home state and region--wool plaid.  The burly orange and green wool was a sadly moth-eaten (and possibly accidentally shrunk in someone's laundry?  It was strangely misshapen.) jacket, and the grey plaid was a grandma's wool skirt, a homemade one at that.  Since both items were no longer useful in their current states, I was happy to send them on to their next life.   Of beer-hugging awesomeness!

Blue Antlers Detail

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Orange and Olive Wristlet

Etsy is so much better than when I first opened my shop there in 2006.  They've made tons of changes, and the latest one I've been waiting on for a long time: the ability to change your shop name. 

Unicorn Satchel
Tweed Purple Wristlet

Five years ago, I didn't have a business name--was barely even a business--when I started making and selling things on Etsy.  So I named my shop after an old email account and have been stuck with it ever since.  No more.  Last night I changed my shop name to my business name (makes sense, right?), and you can now find me on Etsy under RecyclingisRad.  Whoo! 

Octopus Satchel

All the old links to my shop will continue to work, and the old URL will remain active for the next month or so.  But I promise you'll feel much more special using my new URL:  Yay Etsy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Heart Canadian Thanksgiving + S'mores Whoopie Pies

I have been so busy lately!  Regrettably not taking and/or posting enough pictures of everything due to my ill-chosen love of procrastination.  Sigh.  But yay!  I was able to wrap up a few of the big orders before our annual Canadian Thanksgiving celebration last weekend and totally relax and enjoy the festivities.  And in honor of taking a break, and also Canadians everywhere, God love you, I decided to post a few highlights from the weekend.

I heart Canadian Thanksgiving.  I'm not Canadian or even related to anyone in Canada, so the only reason to celebrate is a pure-hearted love of Thanksgiving food.  That and getting all our friends over before it's too cold out to even huddle around the firepit in the backyard.  This year we planned ahead by brewing a batch of homemade hard cider.  The day of we made two turkeys (one smoked on the grill, compliments of my sis, and one deep fried in the turkey cooker in the backyard), and our friends truly outdid themselves with amazing side dishes.  So much fun.

What might be my favorite part of the event was the art project I started my kids on early in the day to keep them busy:  The Hall of Famous Canadians.  A couple of my favorites from the collection:

Bryan Adams: Canadian!

Neil Young: Canadian!

Another highlight: whoopie pies.  Who doesn't love them?  They're like cake-burgers!  I made two kinds (both recipes from one of my favorite food blogs in the whole world, comma, dessert category: Brown Eyed Baker), a pumpkin with maple cream cheese filling, and my personal favorite, s'mores.  Whoever thought of turning a s'more into a whoopie pie was straight genius.  They. Were. Delicious.  Follow the link below to get the recipe for yourself.  I recommend.  

S'mores Whoopie Pies

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Forest Creature Friends.

Zip-Up Acorn Home with Bunny and Fox Friends.

Today I delivered a batch of creature-filled acorn houses to CorAzon on Lake Street.  The zip-open acorns each hold three little animals, a mixed bag of raccoons, foxes, squirrels, and/or bunnies.  The creatures I made from old sweaters, and wool and flannel shirts and skirts.  And I found some ridiculously plush velour-esque drapes for awesome acorn tops.

Grey Squirrel.

Zip-up Acorn House.

I love making tiny things, so I was excited to work on this project for CorAzon, as always, a fun easy-to-work-with client.  They should be up on the shelves in the store soon, at both the Lake Street and Washington Avenue locations.  Stop by one of them to check the animal sets out in person.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sydelle Wristlet

Just wanted to share this super quick!  It was bright spot in my week when I got an email from a woman who currently owns one of my wristlets.  Her not-yet-two-year-old daughter apparently loves to carry it around, and this smart lady thought if she could give her daughter a kid-size wristlet, she'd get her own purse back.  Even though I'm in the middle of a project involving tiny toy creatures, making a kid version of something as grown up as a wristlet sounded like a lot of fun.  So I took a quick break, and here's what happened:

Sydelle Wristlet

Wristlet with sunglasses for's roughly 2/3 the size of a standard wristlet.

I hope Sydelle loves her new purse, and I can't really imagine anything cuter than a two-year-old with her own wristlet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Ames!

My sister, who is amazing, celebrates her birthday this month.  She's one of my favorite people to make stuff for, and last year I stitched her face onto a beer cozy.  Once you embroider someone's face onto something, there's basically no hope of ever outdoing that.  Well, I  mean, there is, but I didn't really have the time to hand-stitch a fabric mural of her riding a unicorn-wolf across the solar system with her pet eagle.  I'm keeping that one in my back pocket for next year though.  Instead, I made her some stuff for the kitchen in her new house, including these hilarious napkins.

Polite Observation Napkin Set

My screenprint method is completely freehand, involving embroidery hoops, glue, and toothpicks, and is probably murder on my eyesight, but totally a labor of love.  I'm generally drawn to a process that leaves room for imperfections; they're just so much more interesting to look at.   You can see the variation in the print from piece to piece, and I only ruined one in production.

Gross Woodgrain Napkin

Dirty Hands Woodgrain Napkin
 Start to finish, these were super fun to make, and maybe if I ever get all the orders cleared off my table I'll make a few more sets.  For now though, I hope my sister gets the point.  Happy Birthday Ames!

Polite Observation Napkin Stack

Friday, September 9, 2011

Swede Lake Farms + Icebox Pickles

Jalapeno-Garlic Icebox Pickles made with Swede Lake Farms' cucumbers and chesnok garlic.

Yesterday I got to spend the day in Watertown, MN volunteering my super sweet garlic-shucking, bean-picking skills at Swede Lake Farm.  Maybe my skills aren't all they're cracked up to be (more than once I had to have one of the real farmers lift heavy objects for me, hanging my head and my t-rex arms in shame).  But the farm is awesome, and one of my favorite places to spend the day.  Swede Lake Farms is organic for real, and family for real; once I'm there I never want to leave.  The polar opposite of a factory farm, almost every task there is done by the hands of the farmers--Scott and Deanna, and the fantastic interns Colsie and Robert.  And besides being some of the world's greatest people, they grow the most delicious food in the universe.  When we finally dragged ourselves away yesterday at sunset, we left with a backseat full of heirloom potatoes, giant romano green beans, and cucumbers.

The green beans they grow are, I suspect, infused with crack, and I selfishly hoard them so they last till the next market or farm day.  And the cucumbers?  Please.  My often veggie-hating children eat them out of hand like apples, and will mow through a pound in no time.  If those two happen to leave any behind, I make the rest into icebox pickles.  (Oh icebox pickles, I love you...and I'll get back to you in a second.)

If you're lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities area, Swede Lake Farm's amazing produce is within your reach.  Find them at the Mill City Farmers' Market on Saturdays during the warm months, and at the Kingfield Market on Sundays.  Even if you don't live anywhere near Minnesota, you can still reap the benefits of the Swede Lake farmers' garlic crops.  They grow some rare and beautiful varieties for eating and cooking or for seed.  Ordering details available here.

Ok.  Icebox pickles.  We were fated to be together, I know it.  And as it turns out, I married into the recipe, so it actually was fate that brought us together.  Sometimes I eat them straight out of the jar standing in front of the open fridge, but truly the best way to appreciate them is stacked on a medium rare burger you just popped off the grill and covered in piles of bacon and molten white cheddar.   This year I added jalapenos from my garden and some of Swede Lake's awesome garlic to a few of the jars.  So good.  But however you spice it up or not, it's basically the easiest pickle recipe ever.  The most important part is getting a really great cucumber to start with, and I've already told you where to get those.  The word icebox in the title of the recipe is your clue that there's no canning required or allowed for this recipe.  Full recipe after the jump.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I just started a new project for a local store that I'm super excited about.  It's only in the very beginning stages at the moment, so all you get is a peek.  But I'm hoping to have the whole thing deliverable by early October, at which point you'll be allowed to see the finished project in all its (tiny) glory.  Yay!

Check it:

Stay tuned for the full reveal in October!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2 Bow Wristlets.

I don't own as many handbags as you might think, of my own design or otherwise.

(Aside: I have this thing for vintage purses, especially anything leather or just a little bit weird, except that I hate the stab of guilt I feel whenever I happen to be carrying one and someone asks me the obvious, "Holy Craps Girl!  Did you make that?!"  For shame!)

But I've been carrying my current purse (my design) for a bit now and the coming of a new season has me thinking about a new style.  We're still in the thinking phase though; give it a few months.  I like to wait till I've finished up an especially big order before taking the time to craft something just for me...or at least till I come across a fabric I can't go on without.  Until that time, let's look at these two wristlets (with bows!) I just posted to my Etsy store, both in really great fall fabrics.  

Orange and Olive Wristlet...with Plus Signs!

Purple Tweed Wristlet

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Made Jam. Plus Important News.

Yesterday was the first day of school.  Historically, I have not handled this day well for so many reasons: summer's over and, oh crap, i forgot about how hellish winter is; the kids aren't hanging from the tree in the front yard or being hilarious or sprinkling dirt all over the house all day; and, as a lifelong commitment-phobe, I really, really hate schedules.  I might dread the first day of school more than my boys do, which is a lot, and when it finally arrives I'm prone to weepiness and poor decisions about cutting my own hair.  Last year I staved off the crazies by making a gajillion jars of salsa.  And this year, jam.

Pint jars cooling on the kitchen table.

 It is not difficult to make jam.  Unless you consider actually having to measure things trickier than necessary, and maybe math isn't your best subject.  In the past I've foolishly believed that I could just throw a few fruits in a pan with some sugar and a box of that stuff and everything would work out.  (Last year I made a pretty spectacular super adhesive from several pounds of precious wild Michigan blueberries.)  So this time, I put on my apron, got out the Ball Canning Chart, a kitchen timer, and my oversize calculator.


I planned on two batches:  plum and strawberry hibiscus-honey.  Thanks to the totally unfair fractions used by the Ball Canning Chart it was touch and go there for a while (major props to The Husb here for not just leaving when I was following him around with my giant calculator and shrieking "but does that make SENSE?!!"), but through some dark magic both batches set up perfectly, and every single airlock sealed.  Yes.

Strawberry Hibiscus-Honey.

The best news is that for once I remembered to write it all down, so next time shouldn't put either my fragile brain or my marriage in any danger.  Or maybe the real best news is that now I have 10 pints of freaking delicious homemade jam on my kitchen counter.  I did my best to translate them into a normal person recipe, and you can find both of them, plus canning instructions, after the jump.


Important News!  There are only two days of August left...don't miss out on the State-on-a-Cozy sweepstakes going on.  Details HERE.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I can't believe I'm about to use this kind of language, but people, it's 2+ weeks till back to school.  In our house we don't speak of it, and I've been doing my best to put it out my mind completely.  Not easy, since I'm working on an order of hand-stitched fall satchels for CorAzon.  At least, if it has to come, it can come in plaid.

Antler, on a green and blue wool plaid

Antler, Hare, and Barn Owl designs for Fall Satchels

Hare, on a heather wool solid