Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Gentle Word

Hi! I'm so excited to share this recent painting I finished! Don't we all need this reminder hanging on our walls? That was the intent of my client - to have a fun piece of art that would help her kids remember this verse. I can't wait to hear what they think of it!

I'd love to work with you to create a piece that's special and meaningful for you. Contact me at sara(underscore)hemmeke(at)hotmail(dot)com. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

All is Merry!

Whew! I just finished hosting a dinner party for 8, and I'm wiped out! Looking forward to some relaxing time tomorrow, hopefully with a sketchbook nearby.

Just added this download to the shop. Need a quick Christmas card? Or a cheery print to brighten up a dull corner? Get the high-res jpg here!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Simple Things

In this time of rush rush holiday manic madness, I feel overwhelmed. Too many lists, too many menu plans and special dishes to prepare, too many events, too many projects (with deadlines!). Compound that with four energetic kids whose excitement grows every day closer to Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, the Advent season leading up to it, and especially entertaining friends in our home. It is good work, but extra work nonetheless.

This week I've been struck by simple beauty - the yellow leaves outside our window. They remind me of the Mallorn trees of Lothlorian described in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Yes, autumn is slow to share her colors with us in the Southeast, but she is worth the waiting. So in December, in the midst of stashing gifts out of sight, I walk into my bedroom into a yellow glow. The sun shines through the leaves and it becomes a different place. There is a stillness and awe to the beauty my cheap camera cannot capture. The bustle bends the knee.

And then there's yarn. You all know I knit. Quite a bit, actually. But it never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully simple and elegant yarn is! Today it hit me while spinning on my drop spindle. A simple twist transforms rough wool into a quivering line, hanging in space. Such order, such simplicity. The tangled becomes useful. For a moment, I see a clear purpose in my tangled life. Salmon string speaks.

I will remember these lessons from the leaves and yarn. Pause a moment in the bustle and see the brightness of the humble beginnings of our Savior. The One who brings order and purpose to the tangled mess we are. Keep the simple things.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Brush in hand again!

We did a crazy thing today as a family - declared a "snow day" for our homeschool! There's not a single flake in sight and the sun is shining brightly. Call it playing hooky. Call it a day off. Call it whatever you want, but we all needed a day off so we thought it'd be fun to surprise the kids this morning by announcing there's no school! Hooray!!! 

I spent this morning painting - and oh, it was so wonderful to spread colors across canvas again! Dear brushes, you have been out of my hands for too long!

Bright summery colors were calling to me.
Winter grays are close at hand, but this bouquet will never fade! 

It was so much fun layering color upon color. I have no studio space, so our dining table was temporarily converted into a studio. No paint dripped onto the carpet (yet)! Last year my kiddos gave me a table-top easel that folds up into a neat little briefcase sized package. I feel like Wiley Coyote with his array of expanding Acme products every time I set it up! 

Recently I've been studying Dutch genre art, floral still lifes, and Vanitas paintings. So much beauty there. I was inspired to create my own version, minus the skulls and dead animals. 

Peek-a-boo! Snow days mean it's a no-makeup/don't do your hair day. This is all you get to see, glasses and all. No glam shots today! 

I will be back behind the easel soon; several blank canvases await!

To celebrate our snow day without snow, this painting is FOR SALE!
Find it in my etsy shop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Settling in for Autumn

Autumn's colors are finally touching the leaves in our neck of the woods. I could sit by my kitchen window and marvel at the oranges in one tree alone! There's something about Autumn - a feeling of settling in, drawing comforts around you. The quilts and pillows have been coming out over these past few cold mornings. Hot cocoa consumption has increased. And soups grace my menus more frequently. Everyone is getting cozy for a long winter.

I found our Tufon Quilt I made awhile ago and decided it had been living in the wrong room. It was in my husband's library/office snuggled next to some dusty tomes of theology, but seemed so much happier listening to my kids read aloud on the sofa in the living room. I decided it needed a friend, so I made a quick pillow cover out of the quilt scraps. (I knew I had been saving those for a reason!)

I haven't sewn in quite some months; it was very soothing to create with fabric again. Almost like meeting a long lost friend. I got a bit caught up in digging through my fabric stash, pulling out old treasures, bits of lace, and other goodies. A few other projects are under the needle - I'll show those to you soon, after a few last touches are added.

Other touches of the season are showing up in my house. I never realized how much I used orange in my decorating! The outdoor colors must be influencing me.

Here's a corner of my mantle, slightly Halloween-y perhaps. I look forward to setting out "Cinderella's pumpkin" every year.

This afternoon I drew up this quick chalkboard art to fill a dead spot on a wall. This is chalk cloth, which really isn't that nice to write on. Must remember to find a real chalkboard sometime...

I spotted a small 4x6" canvas at the thrift store - some mama had donated her child's (very messy/abstract??) artwork! Well, I couldn't leave it there, so for $0.75 I picked up the world's cheapest wrapped canvas. I messy-painted over it and doodled a bit - now Jr.'s cast off art project has new life.

What do you do to welcome the fall season? The kids and I want to perfect a homemade hot cocoa recipe, learn to make marshmallows, and do some leaf collecting.

Happy creating!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting organized!

Much of my daily life is taken up with homeschooling our children. This is a full-time job, on top of all the duties that go along with keeping a house! In the early years, school was an extension of play. We'd count blocks, color in shapes, do a worksheet or two. But now that my kids are in upper elementary and middle school, the work is more demanding, for both them and me.

There are about 20 different lesson plans that I need to juggle every day. There is no way I can remember all that! I needed a place to write everything down, plus any other notes for what is going on during the week. I'm a very visual person, so if I don't see it, I won't remember it!

Over the past few years, I've developed a system to keep track of our schoolwork, but everything was written out by hand. This year, I decided to put my graphic design skills to use and make a printable form - and save myself some time! I needed something simple - not an entire "home planning menu grocery list emergency contacts cleaning schedule" type of planner. Because there are so many free  monthly and yearly calendars already on the web, I printed some of those for myself to include in our family's school binder. I don't use these as the "command central" calendar, but just to have handy for school planning and a general overview of the year. I block out vacation time and visits from grandparents, and put that all-important LAST DAY OF SCHOOL on there as our goal!

The end result is these cheery planner pages, which I share with you. (Because I have four kids, everything is laid out in fours. If you have more children, you could print double of each page for each week.)  I use a two page spread for each week - there are spaces to write in the children's names at the top (along with a little check box for a daily task, such as piano practice, devotions, chores, etc), subjects along the left side, and daily assignments in the middle. Little circles provide a space for me to check off completed work. This has become our "home base" - the kids can see what they need to do next if I'm not available to direct them. They really like to see the check marks showing their progress! 

I included a page for planning out which curriculum to use for each child. There's also a page for tracking books that have been read, including space for jotting down pages or minutes read.

The last page is to make things pretty. There are spine labels and encouraging bible verses, plus some blank boxes for your own ideas.

I'm thinking of adding some more pages - maybe to tackle those other jobs we moms do, such as preparing meals and keeping a clean house. Check back soon!

Get your free pdf download and get organized today!

What helps you to stay organized? Any tips for making sure everything gets finished by the end of the day? Do you have a planner system that you love? Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Martin Luther meets Freezer Paper

Hey there! I'm back! My early fall has been chock-full of travels, but I am back and settling down into my normal routines once more. Blogging (and creativity!) will hopefully resume with a bit of regularity as well.

If you've been reading along for any time now, you know I tend to dabble in all things crafty. Since Reformation Day is quickly approaching (October 31), I thought I'd share this tutorial for making your very own Martin Luther shirt! My husband was in need of a costume for our church's annual Reformation Day party, and this was a quick fix. (Not technically a costume, but it kept the spirit of the event!).

For your supplies, you'll need a tshirt, freezer paper, pencil, iron, X-Acto knife, Tulip fabric paint, and a brush.

First you'll need to find an image you want to make into a stencil. I searched the web for a portrait of Luther and then adjusted the contrast in a photo editing program. You want to get it nearly black and white, paying attention to the black areas. These will become your final image, so keep them them big enough to cut out with an X-Acto knife. I tried to keep them connected so it was as few shapes as possible. Feel free to use some artistic license! Size you image to the desired final size and click print.

Here's my work in progress. I used the famous portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder for my starting point.

Next, transfer your image to the dull side of freezer paper. An easy way to do this is to print out the image, then cover the back of the print with graphite. Then lay the print right side up on the freezer paper and trace around the shapes. The pressure from tracing will press the graphite onto the freezer paper, like the old fashioned carbon copies.

Carefully cut out all your shapes with an X-Acto knife. It's a good idea to have a few sharp blades handy. Dull blades tend to tear the paper. 

Smooth out your tshirt and insert a piece of cardboard (such as a cereal box) into the shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through. Center your freezer paper stencil on the shirt and gently iron it on. A low temp setting works well. Test the edges to make sure they're sealed down.
(sorry - no pic of this step!)

Now you get to paint your stencil!! I brushed paint onto the shirt rather thinly because I wanted a worn/faded look to the final piece. Make sure to overlap paint onto the paper so your edges are well defined. Let it dry about 30 min.

Slowly, carefully, peel up the paper.

That's it! Enjoy wearing your new creation! 
This was four years ago, and the paint has held up very well through many washings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

Have some cake! I'm celebrating today - feels like I'm another year younger! (wink)

The past two days I've been painting our two bathrooms, which means everything is torn apart and an utter mess. Painting walls is much less exciting than painting canvases! I'm ready to take a break and celebrate my birthday - after a crazy morning of appointments and general running around town first. I hope to spend the evening with my family - Games, knitting, painting (not walls!). 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Portrait of a House

It has been a busy summer in our house! I hope you are all enjoying your summer (or winter for my Southern Hemisphere friends). We started our homeschool right after the Fourth of July. Where we live the summers are pretty hot and humid - so much so that nobody wants to go outside to play. Since we're indoors anyway, I get us started on the school year. It frees us up to take things a bit easier around Christmas. And the best part is when Spring arrives and we are itching to get out into the sunshine, we're finished with school!

Teaching four kids leaves me with precious little time for art, but I managed to steal some time yesterday to do a house portrait. I saw this photo of this cute little house online. She has so much character she was begging for me to paint her!

To maintain the playful character of the house, I kept my brushstrokes loose.

My kids had fun walking past my easel every now and then to see how the progress was coming. About half way through this my son asked me "What are you painting?" Um, a house?! Seriously, these kids!

I plan to paint more houses - starting with the ones I can see from my front window. (So to my neighbors: I'm not being creepy by staring at your house all day, ok?)

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Celebrating our freedom this weekend! 

Rough sketch/scan - hope to finish and color this one soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Big, Bold Love

Have you noticed the trend in black and white designs lately? I'm seeing them a lot, especially in fashion. Everything from tribal and geometric patterns to the classic LBD paired with white accessories. I love the contrast and timelessness of these colors (yes! I can wear these colors forev-ah and still be "in").

Jumping on the big, bold, and graphic bandwagon, I came up with some designs to express the heart. It's always been tough to find a classy card to give my guy without offending his masculinity with pink, lace, and general foo-fooness. Oh yes, now I'm making up words.

I love the energy in these brush strokes! They were so fun to make I kept going...and going... and going.... The blackness of that ink on the white paper was just making me giddy. Too much fun.

Like them? They are for sale in my etsy shop - and more will be listed soon!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last Chance on Notecards!

There are only a few of these notecards left in my stock - grab yours before they're gone!

They are a generous 5x7 size, printed on glossy stock. The inside is blank with a small flower printed in the bottom corner. I love how bright and cheerful these turned out. I think this would make a great "Hi there!" to brighten a friend's day!

Each card comes with a blank white envelope and is carefully packaged in a plastic sleeve.
Find them in my shop on Etsy. Cheers!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Taking Notes

This weekend has been inspiring in so many ways! We spent the past three days with many friends and familiar faces at a summer retreat which included four churches. The weather was perfect, the kids got to run and swim to their hearts' content, and the after-the-kids-are-tucked-in-bed gatherings were hilarious. There's nothing like a table of snacks and stars overhead to bring people together!

During the retreat we heard four lectures about spiritual disciplines - also inspiring. I've always doodled little pictures while taking notes to help me remember what we've learned, but this time I thought I'd push it farther. I'm a visual learner, so abstract concepts can often get lost in my mind (there's a lot of space in there!). So I challenged myself: How visual could I make my notes and still retain the content?

some content was very easy to translate into images

headlines and main titles of sections became a typography treat

I decided the order of information wasn't necessary to preserve, as long as I kept it in groups of topics or ideas.

Abstract ideas and lists proved a challenge, as well as anticipating how much space to leave for future sections. Our speaker was very organized in his delivery which was a great help!

After one session, I went back and added color to my notes - the tulip poplar trees behind the speaker (we're outdoors at a camp!) were so beautiful I had to include them. Now I'll remember what I learned whenever I see a tulip poplar!

I do think my doodling was a bit distracting to the folks sitting around me, especially my kids. I often encourage them to "draw what they hear" if writing out notes seems too difficult for their young fingers, but that usually disintegrates into drawings of little army guys battling each other across the page. Fun, but not great for later study and recall! My hope is that this exercise will show them how to balance the doodling with the words to make concepts more memorable. 

What's your favorite way to take notes? 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Me Made May 8

Another skirt today! Yay! Seriously, I need to branch out more in my sewing!

Today I needed to wear something that would take me from grocery shopping, baking, be comfy for a long car ride, and be dressy enough for an outdoor gathering tonight. Versatility is the key, and this piece fits the bill. Again, I put a yoga waist band on the top, but just cut off the bottom for the hem.

I'm off to conquer this mile-long to do list!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Me Made May 7

Thought I forgot about the Me Made May Challenge, didn't you? I haven't, but I also haven't found something handmade to wear each day this week. This exercise has really opened my eyes to the gaps I've got in my handmade wardrobe. Apparently, I really like to sew skirts, but tops not so much.

Today was an exceptionally cool day for late May in the South, so I took advantage of it in order to wear a spring sweater! Here's another Me-Made handknit...

The party in this sweater is all up around the neckline - isn't that pretty lace?

The rest, just a plain vanilla stockinette stitch with a bit of a picot hem.

You can read all about the woes and trials I went through knitting this on my Ravelry page. The sizing is really off - it came out much too large around the middle, so I put it under the sewing machine and took in the side seams a couple inches. I'm still not convinced it fits properly, but it's done and I'm 90% happy with the finished product.

I'm currently knitting another sweater - hopefully this one will turn out better!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

MMM day 6 - flower power

Hi again! Just a quick post to show this skirt, made 6 or 7 years ago. It's a basic 6 gore skirt with a waistband and side zip. I don't remember which pattern I used, or if I drafted this on my own. Made from a heavy cotton poplin with a bit of stretch, it's super comfy. This one gets lots of wear during the hot Southern summers!

Friday, May 23, 2014

MMM5 - hand knit happiness

We're having out of town guests stay with us this weekend, so today is full of cleaning and cooking. Having guests means I get to make some extra special dishes that we normally wouldn't enjoy. But when the flour is flying and I need to do some serious scrubbing to clean this joint up, the last thing I want is for my crazy hair to get in my way.

Enter in today's Me Made May article - my favorite headband!

Yes, these curls can be quite unruly at times. I never quite know what they're going to do on any given day. As a kid, I heard way too many Little Orphan Annie and Shirley Temple remarks. As a teen, I even tried chemical relaxers, which didn't work and left me with burns on my scalp. Ouch.
Recently, I've found the book Curly Girl to be of immense help. Oh, why wasn't that information available years ago??? If you have curly gals or guys in your life, buy them this book!

I love this hairband because it's knit! The cotton yarn has just enough texture to hold onto my head without slipping off, and it's nice and stretchy. I made this last year while waiting for my kids during swim lessons - the perfect summer knitting project.

My Ravelry page with all the details is here. This was such an easy project - go knit yourself one today! Don't worry about mistakes, nobody will ever see them once you tie it in your own hair!

(PS - the yarn was leftover from these Cape May socks - so now I literally match from head to toe!)

I'd love to hear about what hand made items you're wearing. Leave a comment telling about your favorites!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

MMM day 4

This skirt started out as a few yards of jersey knit that I found at a thrift store. The deep teal color caught my eye. I love this color so much - I even painted a wall in my house this same shade! Honestly, when I bought the fabric, I had plans to make a drapey dress with it, but it didn't work out. So I scrapped the top half of the dress and turned the skirt into this super comfy maxi! The top is finished with a yoga style waistband.

I need to train my children in photography a bit better! Apologies for the waste bin creeping into the frame.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MMM day 3 - Strawberry crazy

It was strawberry picking day here today! The kids and I met some friends at a new-to-me patch. It turned out to be such a lovely day with breezes blowing in off the water. Just about 40 lbs of berries came home with us.

All those berries means LOTS of jam to be made! So today's MMM is a bit of a stretch - not a garment per se, but something I sewed that I will definitely be wearing a lot over the next few days. I present the humble Chicken Apron.

This fabric caught my eye at a thrift store - isn't it just too kitschy and fun? I think it had been sewn into some kind of wrap around skirt (which I couldn't figure out), so I cut it apart and sewed a quick and basic apron. Not so pretty, but very functional.

Here's a close up of those darling chickens, pecking away at the straw. I have a feeling that this is a vintage fabric. 

And now back to our strawberry goodness! I'm really looking forward to making my great-grandmother's recipe for strawberry shortcake. She was a tough Dutch woman who cooked for a family of six kids. Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it. Enjoy!


1/4 butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk

Sift flour 2 times and then measure 2 cups. Sift salt and baking powder, stir into flour. Set aside. In a bowl, beat the egg then add the melted butter and milk. Slowly add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring as little as possible. 

Pour into a greased 8" or 9" cake pan and bake 25 to 30 min at 400 degrees.

Top with mashed strawberries sweetened to taste with sugar.