Squirrel Picnic

Handmade with Love and Stuff


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You Know You’re a Crafter When Your Christmas Starts in August

Whenever the kids go back to school and summer begins to wind down, a little alarm goes off in my brain telling me I better get to crafting if I want to have Christmas presents ready for my family and friends. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started thinking about what to make for everyone.

I probably would’ve just done the same old thing—you know, knit or crochet as many hats, scarves, toys, or pairs of socks and mittens as time will allow—but this year, I found a book that has really inspired me to try something different.

Back in March, I was visiting one of my favorite craft sites (and a second home of sorts for Squirrel Picnic patterns and tutorials), Cut Out + Keep, when I noticed that the site’s founders, Cat Morley and Tom Waddington, had come out with a new book. In 2011, this adventurous couple departed their home in Scotland to take a tour of the US. Around the USA in 50 Craft Projects was the brilliant result. Inspired by everything they saw and experienced on their journey, they created this book to showcase their stories from the road and an original craft project for each state they visited.

CO and K Around the USA in 50 Craft Projects

Having lived in or visited every state in the continental US, I was very intrigued to hear what they would think of my homeland. And they did not disappoint! They experienced the whimsical side of the United States. The things they saw and did make me want to trace their steps and visit all the same places. Continue reading


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Creative Wedding Idea! Invite Guests to Decorate Squares for a Quilt

Mixed Media Quilt Square for the Bride by Squirrel PicnicAt the end of February, I received a letter from my aunt whose daughter, the middle child of three, would be married in late June of this year. The mother-of-the-bride had a great idea that she needed the help of the entire wedding guest list to pull off. She was sending to each of us a 6 1/2″ square of fabric with the instruction to decorate it in any fashion we chose. We could embroider it, paint it, scrawl a simple message on it with a fabric pen, just to name a few ideas. The resulting square was to be sent back to her by mid-April so that the squares could all be sewn together to make a quilt — a wonderful keepsake for the bride and groom.

Taking a pleasant Monday off from work, I hit the craft store and purchased cotton batik fabric in two different shades and a white cotton fabric too. I was thankful I was able to find everything else in my own stash.

So armed with a pile of craft supplies and a notion of a design cooking in my imagination, I got to work. Continue reading


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Charm Exchange Part 2: Working on a Small Scale Poses a Big Challenge

On a bright Sunday morning, Sylvie, Annie, and I gathered at Erikia’s house for the August Charm Exchange. I couldn’t wait to see what everyone had brought, and our little group delivered handsomely with both well-crafted and gorgeous charms and a delicious potluck brunch. There were breakfast sandwiches and pastries from local shops, a yogurt parfait bar, a homemade raspberry gelatin, fresh fruit, a cheese and bread plate, and mimosas!

With our plates loaded, we headed to Erikia’s enchanting backyard where she had a table set up for us under her brand-new canopy. She’s very excited about using the new canopy at her booth in the upcoming Salida Fiber Festival, where she will be selling her vintage tin stitch markers. She’s done an amazing job preparing for the festival, punching out the markers from antique tins and then professionally finishing and stamping them. She used similar techniques to create her charms for Annie’s Birds & Flowers necklace. The red flower is made of copper, which she shaped into a curve before enameling it with powders and a torch to give it its vibrant color.

Annie's Necklace August 2014

I crocheted my charms for Erikia’s In the Dark necklace using No. 10 crochet thread and a size 11 steel crochet hook. Working in this small scale presented a huge challenge for me. It took me several tries to get it right. For my first attempt, I crocheted the spider from the book Itty Bitty Crocheted Critters, but I didn’t really take the legs into account when I was working on the body. Although the body was only about an inch long, the legs made the whole thing over three inches! Then I tried just crocheting small balls to see what I could come up with. Stuffing these balls with Fiberfill revealed that I would need something sturdier inside to preserve their shape. I finally found some bronze-colored Bakelite beads in my stash that I thought would be a good fit both in size and color for Erikia’s necklace. I crocheted around the first bead and fastened off before it was completely covered, allowing the bead to show through. For the other bead, I ended up enclosing it completely and then sewing on small black and green beads to give it a spiky texture.

Erikia's Necklace August 2014

Rosalind used polymer clay to sculpt a mermaid charm and a squid charm for my Coral Reef bracelet. In the squid, she also added oxidized sterling silver chain and some gemstones. Even though she also found that working in this scale has its difficulties, I’m so impressed by all the detail she has managed to include in these charms. Keep in mind that they are under an inch long!

Jennifer's Coral Reef Bracelet August 2014

Sylvie created a tiny diorama inside a mini pocket watch for one of her charms for Rosalind’s Garden of Earthly Delights bracelet. It features a teeny baby with Monarch butterfly wings amid the moss of a forest floor. For her second charm, she brought new life to a piece of broken jewelry with the addition of colorful vintage floral beads.

Rosalind's Bracelet August 2014

Rosalind and I weren’t alone in our struggle with scale. Annie agrees that making charms this tiny poses a challenge, but I think she succeeded handily with her felt and bead charms for Alexandra’s Kokeshi Doll bracelet. All of the stitching is painstakingly done by hand, and as always, Annie’s eye for color shines through.

Alexandra's Bracelet August 2014

Alexandra sculpted her charms for Sylvie’s Eye Adore You necklace in fimo. Most of her experience is with sculpting people or animals, so working with this subject matter was a challenge for her. It forced her to think outside the box, but it also left her inspired to start on the next set of charms right away!

Sylvie's Necklace August 2014

These ladies have inspired me too. I can’t wait to get started on my charms for Annie’s Birds & Flowers necklace. We’ll be meeting again in October, and until then I think I will try working with lighter thread and a smaller hook to see what I can come up with. I might need to invest in a magnifying glass.

Check out previous posts in this series:

Make Jewelry, Make Friends


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A Charm Exchange: Make Jewelry, Make Friends

Charm ExchangeLast week I promised to tell you a bit more about the charm exchange I’m involved in and how it works. A charm exchange is a great opportunity to make jewelry, hone your skills and try out new techniques, learn from your fellow artists, and make new friends. I bet you’ll want to start an exchange too!

Here’s how it works. Everyone chooses a theme for their bracelet or necklace, and over the course of the year, each artist will make two charms for each person based on their themes.

Maybe it will make more sense if I use myself as an example. I chose the theme coral reefs, so to start it off, I crocheted a starfish and attached it to my bracelet. At the first meeting, Annie worked up the exchange list (alphabetically ordered) and we all exchanged our necklaces and bracelets with each other. Now over the next two months, Rosalind will work on my bracelet, while I crochet charms for Erikia’s necklace. Erikia will work on Annie’s, Annie will work on Alexandra’s, Alexandra will work on Sylvie’s, and Sylvie will work on Rosalind’s. It’s a really good thing we have Annie to keep it all straight.

It will be so much fun to see how each piece progresses from beginning to end as we all add a bit of our handiwork. And I’m excited to be able to share our progress here with you. Are you excited to see what we’ve done so far? Here are some photos of everyone’s pieces at the start of the exchange.

Sylvie's Charm NecklaceSylvie is really into eyes and hearts, which led her to create the clever theme “Eye Adore You” for her necklace.

Annie's Charm NecklaceAnnie’s theme is birds and flowers. Can you spot all the birds and flowers she’s added so far?

Erikia's Charm NecklaceErikia’s theme is “In the Dark.” The charms Erikia created to start off her necklace include a bullet casing with an opal-colored glass crystal and a mini test tube with an iridescent green beetle inside.

Rosalind's Charm BraceletRosalind’s theme is “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Bosch’s masterpiece will provide plenty of inspiration.

Alexandra's Charm BraceletAlexandra’s theme is Japanese Kokeshi dolls.

Jennifer's Coral Reef Charm BraceletMy theme is coral reefs, including the animals and plants that call them home.

Charm Boxes

Sylvie’s box (left) for her “Eye Adore You” charm necklace and Annie’s box (right) for her Birds & Flowers charm necklace.

 We can also make a box or bag, inspired by our theme, for our jewelry piece to travel from person to person in.

Z Jennifer's Charm BoxSylvie and Annie made such nice boxes, I decided after the first meeting to try to make a box of my own. Inspired by the Smithsonian Crochet Coral Reef exhibit, I tried my hand at making a freeform crochet reef box. It was my first ever attempt at freeform crochet. You might guess, given my affinity for patterns, that this was a challenge for me, and it was at first. Eventually I was able to let loose and go wild. I’m not sure it’s a success, but it was sure fun to try.

A charm exchange is a great way to make fun things and make friends. You should start one too!

I have Erikia’s charm necklace next, so I’m off to crochet something dark and mysterious. Until next week… keep smiling, life’s a picnic. 🙂


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Recordando a familiares y amigos, Día de los muertos

Muertos Mart

In Mexico, the Southwest U.S., and around the world in other cultures, Day of the Dead (Día de los muertos) is celebrated from October 31 through November 2. With Aztec roots, the holiday celebrates death as a rite of passage, just another step in the circle of life. It is a time to remember and honor family and friends who are deceased and take a moment to reflect on our own mortality.

You can take part in the festivities too with these vibrant traditions:

Build an alter to your loved ones.

Paint your face with calavera makeup.

Make sugar candy skulls.

Decorate your loved one’s grave and have a picnic.

Celebrate with others at a Day of the Dead festival, such as…

The Día de los Muertos Mart at the Pirate Gallery in Denver on Saturday, November 2.  From 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.

There will be a big opening reception with piñatas for adults and children, a candlelight procession, and Aztec dancers.

Your very own Squirrel Picnic will also be in attendance at this year’s mart! I’ll be there with Hodge and Podge (in their costumes), selling sugar skull scarves and appliqués I designed and crocheted. I’m looking forward to meeting some really cool people and sharing the wonders of Squirrel Picnic with them.

If you find yourself in the Denver area this weekend, stop on by. There will be jewelry by Sylvie of Deviled Eggs Designs and Ranee of Autumn Moon. Annie will offer her deliciously detailed fiber art. Trish will sell her wicked aprons (I’ll be wearing mine!). And much, much more!

Skull Scarves and Appliqués by Squirrel Picnic

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Tonight, We Make Soap

Tonight We Make Soap

The first rule of Squirrel Club is you do not talk about Squirrel Club. Yeah, who are we kidding? Squirrel Picnic is nothing like Fight Club, but we do make soap. In case you ever wondered how it’s made, here’s a quick overview. Continue reading


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Mini Rosette Wreath

I’m not entirely certain that this wreath is a winner. This might be an example of one of those situations where you try to re-create something you’ve seen only for it to morph into something entirely unexpected.

I’ve seen several rosette wreaths over the past few years and it seems like all of them have been made with slightly different techniques and styles. I was feeling pretty confident that I could easily create my own with my own unique spin.

But once I hung it on the door, I had to scratch my head and wonder. I had wanted my wreath to have a lot of texture, so I cut the strips with pinking shears, but now I looked at it and thought, Is the texture too busy? I also hadn’t been particularly careful about making the strips even because I thought the variety might be appealing, but now I wondered, Does it just look sloppy?

Even though I’m not overly thrilled with this creation, it will hang on our door throughout this season nevertheless. I feel like it says to visitors, “Welcome. Come on in. Relax and be yourself. We don’t expect perfection here!” And you know, I have a feeling that’s a pretty worthwhile sentiment for me to keep in the coming month.

Materials

7 ¾” x 1 ¾” x ¾” Styrofoam wreath form
1 yard of 1 ½” wide red satin ribbon
2 12″ x 18″ pieces of green craft felt
4″ of red craft felt (72″ wide), divided into four pieces each 4″ x 18″
7″ of green craft felt (72″ wide), divided into four pieces each 7″ x 18″
Sewing pins
Tacky glue for attaching fabric to fabric
Hot glue
Pinking shears
Scissors

  1. Trace the Styrofoam wreath form onto each 12″ x 18″ piece of green felt. On one piece, cut along both the inner and outer circle lines, set aside.
  2. Cut the other piece into a circle that is about 4″ larger than the wreath form, using the outer circle line you traced as a guide. Fold this circle in half and clip a hole in the center. Open the circle back up. Cut eight lines out from the center hole that you clipped to about 1/4″ from the inner circle line. Cut from the outer edge of the green felt to the outer circle line to form eight equal parts on the outside too.
  3. Place the Styrofoam wreath form in the center of this circle. Pull up on a triangle of felt from the inner circle and lay it flat on the back of the Styrofoam. Pull up a piece from the outer circle and lay it on top of the triangle piece. Pin through both pieces into the Styrofoam. Repeat all the way around the wreath, making sure that all the Styrofoam on the front and sides is covered.

  4. Hot glue the green felt circle with the hole in the center to the back of the wreath form to cover it.
  5. Wrap the ribbon around the wreath and hot glue it to the wreath form.
  6. Cut the red felt into 1″ strips, alternately using scissors and pinking shears, so that one side of each piece is jagged and one side is straight. You will have 16 strips of red felt.
  7. Repeat with the green felt. Then take each strip of green felt and cut it in half so that each strip is now 9″ long. You will have 56 strips of green felt.
  8. Roll up all the strips of red and green felt and secure each end with tacky glue.
  9. Attach the flat side of each rosette to the wreath form using the hot glue, alternating placement of red and green rosettes. Depending on how tight you make them, you may end up with a few leftover rosettes.
  10. Hang wreath from your door knocker or wreath holder by tying the ribbon in a bow. Finish the bow’s ends with the pinking shears.