I have been collecting materials for the handmade gifts workshops Midtown Friends is hosting on the Sundays in November and December leading up to Christmas. They are going to be set up kind of like an old time sewing circle with a modern urban twist. Each week has a theme medium/material. Anyone who likes to work with that medium/material can bring their projects and supplies to work on while hanging out and listening to good music. If you have extra supplies that you are interested in sharing or bartering, please feel free to bring them and take home anything that doesn't get traded or used. If you don't usually work with the medium, come anyway and learn a few techniques from others. This is a swap of resources and talents. We all have something we are good at! I

 have been collecting materials for the first two weeks and I think I over did it a little. The first theme material for Sunday 11.14 is yarn I have yarn for a cute yellow crib blanket, a gray man scarf, and a blue blanket (but I have to learn to pearl to make that one. I can knit a basic garter stitch scarf or blanket, but I don't really know how to crochet well (just a chain stitch). I am interested in learning how to crochet, so I would probably take my yellow yarn in hopes that someone might want to teach me, but bring my gray yarn to work on my scarf if no one is available to teach me to crochet. 

The second theme material for Sunday 11.21 is fabric. I have material to make lovie blankies for my 11 month old son Cohen, who loves soft minky fabric, and silky satin edges. I also have fabric to make a cool cape for my four year old nephew and a tutu for my almost three year old niece (her birthday is the day after Christmas so I have to make her two gifts). I am not great on a sewing machine, as I said in the previous post, but I know enough to make the base for the blankies and probably even the cape (I will have had some practice as I am making five capes for Halloween this year - our group is dressing as superheroes to trick-or-treat for canned food to restock the River City Food Bank that burned down last week). I think the binding on the blankies (like on the green polka dot one) is going to be my challenge, but I am hoping we can get some better seamstresses out that Sunday to show me what to do. The tutu is a no sew project that I can do if all else fails.
I really encourage you all to join us if you are in the Sacramento area on Sundays (beginning 11.14) from 2-5 pm. If you are not local, don't fret! Host your own crafting exchanges! they don't have to be themed, just have a place for people to craft together and swap resources and materials! 

Hey there, I'm Alena. I am a mom of a wonderful 10 month old named Cohen who doesn't know the difference between brand new toy store toys and thrift store, yard sale, hand made toys. I also have ADD and love to start new projects. My latest is felt toys. I bought a few hand made patterns from Bugga Bug's Etsy shop and got to work. I looked up some stitches on you tube (basic runningblanketwhipbackfrench knottying off). I was hoping to find felt through a second hand source, such as craigslist or buy 100% fair trade merino wool felt from this site, but I got impatient and went to my local craft store to see what they had. To my surprise they had eco-fi felt made in the USA from 100% post consumer materials! It only cost $.27 a square (9"x12"). I bought all the colors I needed for my first project: Pancake Breakfast. My first receipt was $19.20 and that included a bag of eco-fi fiberfill and a craft size sheet of eco-fi batting that will both last through 4 or 5 patterns at least. The felt itself was only $4.23 (and I didn't even use a coupon)! I already had a small pack of embroidery needles, needle threader, straight pins, and a bag full of embroidery thread (greater variety of colors for less $). The other investment I made (on a separate shopping trip) was a designated pair of Fiskars fabric scissors (I paid $12 for mine) to keep in my sewing bag so other members of my household will not be tempted to use them for opening boxes or cutting tape and paper that will dull them to the point of unsuitability for fabric. If you have any friends who sew they might be able to lend you some of these items, or you can check estate sales and yard sales (especially ones that advertise quilting supplies). I decided to start this particular project because I knew I already had some of the items I needed and I also have access to my grandmother's quilting stash. I have not done much hand sewing since my grandmother passed in 1995 (when I was 10), so I was a little bit nervous, but like riding a bike, the technique came back to me. My stitches were nowhere near perfect, I had to watch the blanket stitch video every time I started with a new piece of thread, and my thread tangled more than a handful of times, but I got much of the first project complete in about three evenings time (babies tend to be attracted to things that can hurt them so i leave my needle and thread stashed away while he is awake). The little "flaws add so much character, and come on, what diner makes perfectly round, cookie cutter pancakes?  I forgot how relaxing hand sewing is. If you are awesome on a sewing machine, much of this stuff can  be done on one, but the 1/8" seams keep me away for now until I have some easy projects on the machine successfully completed. My next project I hope to tackle is some easy baby "lovies" (blanket squares made out of minky fabric with silky edges). I would like to teach my child from an early age that the best gifts are gifts of love and that other children have to work to make a lot of the "cool toys" and clothes he thinks he wants rather than getting to play or go to school. My best advice is to start early on your handmade projects so you can enjoy advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, with your friends and family.
Alena Jeckswright