Wednesday, February 03, 2016

More Lambs, Kittens + Fantastic Things I Have Found

We're still busy with lambs arriving. Every time we think it will slow down, there will be more. It eventually will end. These two little lambs were so cute - I couldn't stop taking photos of them. Here are two photos because I couldn't decide which I liked better. 

The kittens are leaving this weekend. What a lot of fun they have been. We are going to miss them but they are going to wonderful homes. 

I found this amazing video of embroidery done with wood veneer on dresses for the Chanel Spring 2016 Collection. Really innovative. Not only do they cut the veneer into small pieces and sew onto fabric, they painted it with markers. Further on in the video, you can see the veneer pressed into a pleated type fabric. Exceptional. Watch it if you have 2 minutes. 

Anthropologie is featuring sunflowers in their window. Check out some of the displays here

Speaking of sunflowers..... if you are thinking about ordering some for your summer garden, SunflowerSelections has 3 new varieties. Check them out here

I'm a big fan of illustrator Phoebe Wahl. I first discovered her through Taproot Magazine. Abby Glassenberg has a great interview with her on her While She Naps podcast. Check it out here

These singing sheep and talking Border Collie are pretty cute. Wonder where they shot it and how they did it? Wow. 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Lambing 2016 Continues

Things have been busy here at the farm. There are a lot of lambs now. Not sure how many though because we had a deluge of 25 lambs on Wednesday and it was all we could do to just get it all under control. We know it is in excess of 150. The Farmer was doing such a good job with the records and then it all went to pot. 

We've had a lot of successes and a few failures but we expect that during lambing season. Most of the mamas are doing a great job with their babies. There are only 2 bottle lambs at this point! That is great because there have been years when there have been 11. Lambs do so much better when they are fed by their mamas as opposed to being fed by a human. 

The weather has been with us and compared to last year, it has been a day at the beach. This week it is going to be in the 50's for a few days so the lambs will be loving it. 

Here are few photos from the field where the lambs are being born. It looks funny to see all the brown ground as opposed to the normal snowy scene. 

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

You're Going to Be Inspired

I just found this new video produced by the fine folks at Houzz. You've just got to watch it. This is the house of artists/sculpters/mosaic artists/painters Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran in Venice, California.

You can learn more about the artists Cheri and Gonzalo and their Mosaic Tile House here on their websiteHas anyone been to visit it? Looks like you can for $12. 

Thanks to Houzz for bringing this home and couple to my attention and for spreading the word about creativity and color. Fantastic.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cuteness Ten Fold

Lots more lamb photos today. It has been bright and sunny and this whole week it is going to be nice and warm. The little lambs love to sun themselves. 
This set of twins is just a day old. They are still following their mama closely. I love to watch them run on their spindly little legs. 
We are up to 99 lambs. I'm hoping lots more will be born during this warm spell. We never know when the weather will change and we will face below zero temps and snow and ice. So far, so good though this year. 
We're hoping it won't warm up too much though because then the mud will happen and that makes everything so much messier. 
Some of the lambs are getting rather large and they are starting to hang out together on one of the mounds in the field. They run and jump. The Lamb Races are starting too and I will try to get a new video of it if I can. 
As if all the lamb cuteness weren't enough, Petunia has a litter of 4 kittens. This litter has been so much fun - all cuddly and sweet. Serious snuggling with all of them. I'm sharing some of my favorite photos of them here. They are all spoken for and I am sure they are going to be awesome cats when they grow up. 
The other day I said to Julia - "I hope when you grow up and move away you remember all of this." As a kid, I would have loved to be surrounded by kittens, puppies and lambs. I'm not sure she is thrilled by any of it - except the kittens. She calls herself The Catfarmer and is just crazy about them all. And I'm pretty positive she just thinks this is the way everyone lives. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's All About That .....

Bass - isn't that what Meghan Trainor sings? That song is so catchy but in my head it keeps going round as "It's All About The Lambs, The Lambs, The Lambs!"

Yes, it is happening again here on our farm. Lambing season is in full swing. We are up to 80 lambs as of yesterday. Here are the ewes on the upper plateau. They are all waiting for their babies. 

Please excuse me for not posting so much of the cuteness yet. Julia has been down with some kind of strange virus for the past 10 days which has kept me off the computer and playing nurse. She is fine now - back at school this morning - but it has been a long road. She had something similar last January so next January when if it happens again, I hope I remember that it will pass. 

It's only been the past few days that I felt comfortable leaving her and helping out some at the barns. Thus far, our numbers have been decent and we haven't lost too many lambs at all. We were lucky to not have the massive snowstorm that so many on the east coast did. It certainly would have complicated things. 

So I will try to be better at snapping photos and writing lambing stories in the next couple weeks but today, I've got to try to catch up with my life. Have a great week everyone! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Big News + Happy Birthday Crafting A Colorful Home

Last year on January 15th, Crafting A Colorful Home was published by Roost Books. Hard to believe it has been a year - and quite a year it has been. I want to thank you all for your support of me, my work, my blog, my family and our farm and this book. 

Last January, I wrote this blog post about how a book is made why it helps readers to buy directly from an author. The response was so positive and I received many, many orders. I think it helped to clear things up with readers about why I (and most likely many other craft book authors) write books. Last February, I was kept busy with shipping books and lambing and snowstorms. It was so heartwarming to read each buyer's name, sign their book and send them off into their home. With each book I shipped, I hoped that I would inspire the reader to decorate with fearlessness, color, and the handmade. 

Crafting A Colorful Home was embraced by the print media. The book or projects from the book with photos by Rikki Snyder were featured in Yankee Magazine, Mary Jane's FarmTaprootWhere Women CreateThe Houston ChronicleThe Greenfield RecorderThe Northampton Gazette, Small Spaces/Big IdeasCountry WomanRomantic HomesBohemian HomeMollie MakesCottages and BungalowsLibrary JournalFlea Market DecorWoman's World, The Houston Chronicle, and the Boca Raton Observer. I'm not sure what happened with the on-line community where Crafting A Colorful Home was concerned. It got zero interest from design bloggers. I had high hopes but I guess it didn't speak to bloggers. Oh well - disappointment can make one work harder. 

Crafting A Colorful Home has been the vehicle to introduce me to a world beyond the world of knitting. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity and that my work and art is being so well received. 

Last summer, I shared our farm with many students who came from near and far. I taught them fabric printing, about color, knitting (no - I haven't given it up), and crewel embroidery. What great creative days and new friendships with lovely women were formed. 

In May, a film crew came from California and Houzz produced a video about our farm. You can watch it here. It has been viewed over 96,000 on YouTube alone, not to mention everyone who has watched it on Houzz's website. 

I began making and painting pottery again and opened up a second Etsy shop for mail-order sales of my art. I painted several oil paintings and colorful lampshades - they are for sale on my Etsy shop too. 

In December, our home was featured in Yankee Magazine. You can read that article on-line here. In early December, I opened up our home for a Holiday Open House along with two friends of mine. It was such fun to share the color and decor with those who came and see them excited about decorating with color. I'm hoping to repeat the event again in 2016. 

So what more is on the horizon here at this little old farm? Once again, I will be teaching Creative Retreats here at our sheep farm to small groups of students. I've got to get that organized and scheduled so that you all can think about coming. 

Anyone have anything particular they would like to learn? Any interest in a weekend of learning to oil paint or a weekend painting your own dinnerware? Anything else? Embroidery? Knitting? Color? Fabric printing? SPEAK UP!

Here is my big news...... I am writing another book for Roost Books. What's it about? It is a continuation of Crafting A Colorful Home but it will be a stand alone book too. I'm super excited to begin. My deadline is November 2016. The new book will not be released until 2018. Boy that seems so far away, doesn't it? Best thing is I spoke with my editor Jenn and she said she doesn't mind if I include small bits and previews from this upcoming book here on the blog with you all. I know it is a long time to wait to see the book in print but at least I can include a bit of what I will be working on here on the blog. 

This is what I need from all of you. If you have any ideas for me - about projects and techniques you would like to see included in my new book - shall we call it CACH#2? - please send them on in - leave a note in the comments or shoot me an email at kristinnicholasATgmailDOTcom. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

This post is a bit of My Year in Review. I've never done a post like this but I thought that documenting 2015 here will be a reference for me in the future. I thank you all for your support this past 2015 and I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016. I am still selling signed copies of Crafting a Colorful Home on my website here

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding Focus

Focus. That word. It is so important for any artist, blogger, writer, whoever - to be able to find focus. Focus is so necessary to produce good work. 

That is what I have been trying to do since New Year's. Focus. 

There are so many distractions. Family, kittens, lambs, cooking meals, sick kid, washing dishes, snow, ice, sand and salt. So many things that draw me away from what needs to be done. 

When I have been able to, I've been sitting down alone with piles of books, magazines, post-it notes and my favorite yellow lined pads. I'm writing lists, jotting down ideas, putting stickies on pages with beautiful photos and ideas which might inspire a project. 

Everything seems possible in the New Year, doesn't it? It's a good feeling - thinking towards what is to come, to be made, to be done. I wish you lots of focus as you journey into your New Year too! 

If you have a free 8 minutes, watch this amazing short film about an artist who combines water, paint, photography, plaster and more. Stunning work. Learn more about Kim Keever here

Studio Visit: Kim Keever from Robert Knafo on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Julia and Dr. H

On Monday, Julia and I headed to Tufts Medical Center in Boston for her once every two year check in with her neurosurgeon Dr. Carl Heilman. For those of you newer to the blog and our lives, Julia was born with a condition called aqueductal stenosis, a form of hydrocephalus. 

When we first met Dr. Heilman, I was still pregnant and less than a month from our due date. We had been told by other medical professionals that the likelihood of our child surviving was very slim. I had had a high level ultrasound which revealed that there was no brain tissue in the baby's skull and that the baby was most likely anencephalic. We had been called into Boston by Dr. Heilman's office. 

The doctor we met was boyishly handsome in his white coat and blonde hair, soft-spoken, kind, and matter of fact. He had a plaque on his wall saying that he had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania - the school my Dad and sister Laurie had gone to. By the date, I could tell that he was younger than Mark and me. We sat down in his small, wood paneled office and he told us that he thought there was a possibility that our child may have a condition called hydrocephalus. He pulled a white piece of plastic tubing attached to a small oval object from his drawer and explained that it was a shunt and it could drain fluid from the brain. He gave us no promises but told us to keep working with the OB doctors at Tufts and to deliver the baby in Boston.

We had already been grieving for the eventual death of our unborn child at birth. Mark and I walked out of his small office, looked at each other, and didn't know what to think. We went outside and cried together. What did he mean? 

As the weeks went on, it was emotional roller coaster. The baby inside me got the hiccups a lot and that made me cry. Mark was a rock - he had already lost his father at a young age and his mother a year after we were married. I'm not sure how I got through the next 3 weeks. I do know that my work at Classic Elite kept me going. We were in the end stages of desktop publishing our fall collection of patterns and I had a lot to do to get my part ready for the printer. I remember finishing up my last pattern and handing it off to Lori Gayle who would take care of sending all the files to the printer. 

That evening, my water broke and I went into labor. We drove to Boston and checked in. We were met by a huge team of people including doctors and NICU nurses. It is all pretty much a blur to me although I do remember Dr. Sabrina offering me the chance to deliver naturally. I had already known that I would not physically be able to get the baby's head out because it was so huge so that wasn't an option for me. Mark and my sister Laurie were there with me. I just wanted this part of my life over with thinking that the outcome was going to be more sadness. 

The baby was delivered by c-section. I remember a kind NICU nurse bringing the baby to me to look at. It was a little girl wrapped in that white pink and blue flannel blanket that every hospital seems to use. Her head was incredibly huge and swollen although her little eyes shone beneath the misshapen forehead. I didn't know what to think or feel. The nurse said to me - and I will always remember it - "Your baby is going to be alright."

The NICU at Tufts was an amazing place. The nursing staff kind and supportive. Julia had surgery on Day 4 because she had been born over a weekend. Dr. Heilman, with his gentle manner, came to my hospital room and explained what he had done. Then it was time to wait to see what would happen after surgery. Julia's head began to shrink due to the slow loss of all the fluid which had been blocked from leaving her brain at the aqueduct of Sylvius in the ventricular system while in the womb. We were there for 10 days. They sent us off into the world with no hopes of a normal child, nor no predictions - good nor bad - of what our child would be like nor our lives after. Wait and see. And that is what all parents do, isn't it? 

We have been visiting Dr. Heilman now for 17 years. In the beginning, we seemed to live at the hospital next to Chinatown in downtown Boston. Julia had 8 surgeries before she was 2. Her last revision, I was told the other day, was in 2004. Our appointments are down to once every two years. Last week, when Julia and I were planning our trip, the three of us talked about Dr. Heilman and how he was the reason she was here on the earth. He is our hero and shining star, along with all the other kind people - doctors, nurses, teachers, special ed coordinators, school administrators, family and friends who have helped Julia along and helped Mark and I navigate the waters of having a child with special needs. 

When Dr. Heilman walked into the room the other day, he was the same soft-spoken kind man. His hair is no longer blond but white. He is now the Head of the Neurosurgery Unit at Tufts Medical Center. The office has grown under his guidance - there is now a large waiting room full of patients. There are residents learning to be neurosurgeons, multiple secretaries..... it's a busy place full of people navigating the medical system wondering what is to come. 

As I sat there in the small white office, I couldn't help but tear up. Here was this beautiful young woman sitting on the table she was laid down upon all those years ago on the 7th floor of a hospital in Boston. Julia asked Dr. Heilman good questions about her shunt, about what to expect as she got older. She told him she is afraid her shunt will pop out of her head and he quelled her fears. We talked about her starting to learn to drive a car (we haven't begun that part of the journey yet) and about school, her favorite subjects and things that she isn't good or comfortable at, about sports activities that she hasn't ever been good at - due to her condition. We asked about the ability of a woman with hydrocephalus having a child. It was a good appointment. Dr. Heilman said "I'll see you again in two years. When you are an adult, I no longer need to visit unless there is a problem." We talked about how she would recognize a shunt malfunction and problem. 

It's been 17 1/2 years since I first met this kind and talented surgeon. It's hard to fathom the impact his talent has had on our family. I know there are other doctors, researchers, and medical implant companies behind the success of Julia's life but for me - Dr. Heilman will always be our hero. Thank you kind man. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Back Again And Life Moves On

It has been over two weeks since I last opened my laptop. Gee whiz - how awesome! I actually forgot about the keyboard! I never feel totally disconnected because of my smartphone but I did try (and quite successfully) to not look at it too much. I am now jumping back into work and on-line life with the holidays over and life back to semi normal. Most of the Christmas decorations are still up and they will stay up for at least another month. I love the twinkling lights and glitter at this dark time of the year and I see no reason to put it away as it adds much visual cheer. 

We had a nice couple of weeks. I cherish the time we get to spend time together without the interruption of Julia's school schedule. The three of us visited my mom and my sisters in NJ and Julia and I went to Boston for a quick trip. Otherwise it was low key. Farming never stops for The Farmer. He is only able to be away for 2 evenings after getting the animals all stocked up with food. He never really relaxes when he away and I know he keeps thinking about all that needs to be done to get ready for lambing. He couldn't believe that it had been a year since he last was at my mom's house. Time certainly does seem to fly by the older you get, doesn't it? 

The Christmas Holiday Season is always bittersweet for me. My Dad passed away on the Winter Solstice eleven years ago. I always dread that day. I will never forget the early morning call from my sister Jenn sobbing and crying. That Christmas was a sad one with the silver lining of having the whole family together to remember Daddy's life. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences around the holidays losing loved ones. There was an article in the WSJ about this same subject. This December, we lost two dear family and farm friends and we still are adjusting to thinking about life without them on the earth. 

We had an ice and snow storm shortly after Christmas. I am still hacking away a path through the thick ice. Now we are in a deep freeze. It is "pipe freezing weather" and "lamb killing weather". I know - most of you probably don't think of these things but that is the gist of the general conversation when you live on a farm - the weather - the animals - and what is for supper. Luckily, most of the lambs are not due for a week or so. We have had 4 so far and when I get a chance, I will post some photos. I have light bulbs next to the the pipes in the kitchen which always seems to help. We have been hauling wood for the furnace but it is still chilly in the house. Good thing for wool sweaters and hats. 

Boy oh boy, I just re-read this post and it sounds like such a bummer and downer. I do not mean to sound that way and try to keep this place happy and upbeat but life is not all wine and roses. Sometimes it is best for me to share the good with the bad so that many of you reading who live in different places and dream of living a beautifully bucolic farm life, don't get the wrong impression of perfect life on the farm. Frankly, life is not perfect on a farm - just like it isn't perfect where you live. We are all faced with challenges, heartaches, sickness, death mixed amongst the happiness. On a farm it swings greatly between the two emotions of joy and sadness more frequently. 

On the 23rd, we lost our dear Border Collie Nessie to cancer. She was 10 1/2 years old and was the hardest working dog we have ever had. We miss her constantly. I keep saying to Kate - "Are you ready to be in charge? Ready to be top dog?" She looks at me with the most quizzical look.

Ness on our last walk through the fields on December 18th
The fact of the matter is I have seen a distinct change in Kate the past couple weeks without Nessie being around. At first she was trying to figure out where Nessie had gone. Then she realized that she doesn't have to fight at the food bowl anymore because Nessie was always laying next to it guarding it. She is more in tune with The Farmer's every move. She is always waiting for him to go outside to go to see the sheep. She used to love to ride in the car when Julia and I were out and about doing errands. Not now - she is all business just waiting to hop in the truck and go with him to do chores. Try as I might last night, she would not hop in and ride with Julia and me. 

Kate has been The Farmer's main working dog this fall because Ness was failing. She has a long ways to go and still scatters the sheep in the wrong direction at times. I think as she matures more and hangs around the sheep at the barn she should hopefully figure it all out. She is incredibly agile and quick and very sweet. During the winter, there is no herding or moving to be done because the sheep are all tucked into the barns. 

We will have to think about getting another Border Collie puppy soon. We have not been without two dogs in the house in over 30 years. I am missing the routine of having two dogs in the house with us daily. We have lost 3 dogs in the last 13 months - Phoebe, Winston, and Ness. Boy oh boy. You love them so much and then they are gone. And then you miss them and think about them every day. I call their names out of habit and then realize they are not here anymore.  

The LGD puppies Beau and Sadie are doing great outside. They are getting huge! They definitely know their place and reason for being on this earth - to guard the sheep and our family. There has been a lot more barking during the dark evening hours which is what they should be doing. Their coats are so thick and curly and beautiful. They still are not doing too good in the "not jumping on people department." Shoveling snow and ice and gathering firewood is one of their favorite activities. 

As Garrison Keillor says, "That's the news from Leyden Glen Farm today...." I'm not much for Year in Review Posts nor New Year Resolutions. It's best for me to just jump back in where I left off and start organizing what needs to be done. The photos in this post were taken on December 18th and I have not wanted to download them onto my computer to look at them until now knowing that this was the last nice walk I took with Ness. 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to sharing lots with you this 2016. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from Our Farm to Yours

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Joyful Holiday Season. Thank you all for your support this past year. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016. 

I just found out the Yankee article is now available on-line. Check it out here

This is too good not to share. Enjoy! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fabric Design and The Spoonflower Handbook + a Giveaway

A couple years ago, I thought I wanted to be a fabric designer. I thought I might have a chance at having my art licensed. I have seen many artists take this route and so I decided I had better figure out how to build a pattern repeat. Most of my surface design is rather random and doesn't repeat. It is printed or painted by hand and when you are designing that kind of fabric, there is no need for motifs to be ordered and repeat exactly. 

If I was going to design fabric, I knew I was going to have to learn how to properly make a pattern repeat. I decided to teach myself fabric design using Adobe Illustrator - part of Adobe's Creative Suite. I have worked in Illustrator for years, but mostly for drawing charts for my knitting patterns and books and schematics. I knew that Illustrator worked with "vectors" which means that any design you draw can be increased in size a million times and the different bits and pieces would not become pixelated. If I were to design in Photoshop or simply scan an illustration, when it was blown up, there would be the chance of pixelation. 

I spent about 3 weeks, off and on, teaching myself how to design repeats in Illustrator. There was a steep learning curve and lots of frustration but I wanted to conquer it. I used this book and this book and this video. And then I uploaded the designs to Spoonflower, the digital fabric printing website. I ordered some 8 x 8" samples of my fabric designs and once I was sure that the fabric was the color I wanted them to be, I got a couple of the designs printed. I used them for projects in my book Crafting a Colorful Home. You can see and order my fabric designs on Spoonflower here. If you do, I will get a commission of 10% of the fabric sale as a credit towards my own fabric purchase. These are some fabrics that I had printed of my own design. I made them into Tea Towels to sell at our recent Open House. 

Like with lots of things I learn, I lost interest. Some things I continue with but some things I just drop. I knew I was not well-connected within the quilting industry - that is an understatement - I know pretty much no one. I also got wind that the fabric designers that do get licensing deals really don't make that much money. You can read a good article by Abby Glassenburg about that here. And so I dropped the idea and moved onto other projects that I felt had better payback and prospects for me. 

This fall a new book was published by STC/Melanie Falick Books called The Spoonflower Handbook. Boy, I wish this book was out when began teaching myself fabric design. It would have been the perfect starting point. I got a review copy of it and thought it would be a great time to share it with all of you. I know that many of you are interested in fabric and that after the holidays are over, you might spend time sewing. Maybe you might like to try your hand at fabric design too. 

The Spoonflower Handbook was written by Becka Rahn, Judi Ketteler, and Spoonflower founder Stephen Fraser. It is meant to be a beginner primer for those new to fabric design. The first section of the book explains what you need to know to design your own fabric. They discuss the different fabrics they print on. Both vector and jpeg files are explained and how and where to use each one. Working with color and the Spoonflower website is also explained. And then there is a section on working with repeats. 

The second part of the book gives thirty different project ideas. These ideas include how to design fabric and then sew projects out of the fabric you would design. They have some cute ideas - scanning found objects, using photo images you already have on your computer, working with type and more. These are my favorite project ideas from the book. 

The Spoonflower Handbook is just the beginning for those of you interested in designing your fabric. You and I might not get rich designing our own fabric, but it is a way to have unique fabric to use in your home or wardrobe. And now Spoonflower also prints wrapping paper and removable wallpaper too. 

Contest is over. The winner is Spejo on Rav. Congrats! Here's what she wrote: 
I love the idea of this book. I had already set aside a drawing one of my daughters made of birch trees. I 'd love to use it for birch tree fabric, which I would use to make a set of napkins and a table runner. It would make a lovely wintery tablescape. I really hope I win the book. Thanks for all your inspiration. 

So here is what I have for one lucky reader.... Their very own copy of The Spoonflower Handbook donated by the fine folks at STC Craft. 

Answer the following question in the Comments section of this post:

If you were to design your very own fabric, what would be the object you would make with it? 

US residents only. Contest ends December 21st at 11:59 p.m. As always, please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - blogger id, email, or Rav id.