Hi, I’m Kelly Wilkinson.
Crafter, journalist,
middle sister, more...


adventing along

When I grew up, my parents had a Christmas tree farm, we played the Osmonds Christmas record non-stop, and we actually invited friends over to re-enact the whole Bethlehem thing. So what can I say, this is my time of year. And so far, so good: The house smells like a Christmas forest and I just found glitter on the kitchen counter.

We got our tree last night, poured a Lillet, and had a slow-cooked chicken dinner to celebrate. But best of all, I finished my advent calendar. My sister and I started these together last year, but I only made about half the felt ornaments. I took the whole ensemble with me to Ireland where I had visions of cutting felt by a turf fire. Of course, that never happened. But last night I made it across the finish line, so it's shaping up to be a good season.


win a free craft book!

You've likely heard a sniff in the media that this holiday season will be extra-crafty, as more people turn to their craft stashes instead of department stores for presents. Well, craft publishing pioneer Melanie Falick of
STC Craft|Melanie Falick Books wants to know what you might whip up this holiday season. In return, you'll get a chance to win an STC Craft book of your choice for answering 3 questions -- and one them is what book you'd like to win!

Find the questionnaire here.

As for me, I've been coveting Lena Corwin's Printing By Hand for some time now. Bon chance!


get your craft on

I can feel the holiday craft freak-out welling up inside of me. There’s too little time already! If I could only pretend I’m French and take December off instead of August so I don’t have to go to work, and can instead bake and sew with my niece on my lap and sit around a fire with friends and family and a constant supply of tasty, festive cocktails.

But alas, we all have other crap to get done. With this in mind, here are five projects I designed for the SF Chronicle that don’t require much time, expertise, or special equipment. You can find step-by-step instructions and materials right here.


hopped up on gratitude

Just back from a Thanksgiving holiday in Virginia, where 16 adults, 2 kids and 3 dogs invaded my parents’ barn. We slept in every nook and cranny, pushed tables together in the middle of the house for turkey, took walks, drove the tractor, played the drawing game and murder in the dark, sang around a blazing fire, and drank Old Fashioned cocktails with my 92-year-old great aunt Judy.

All of that is par for the course at the barn. But the most unexpected and hilarious activity was creating characters that looked like each one of us for Judy’s Wii. She bought one for physical therapy and we loaded it up with our avatars so she could see us all when she exercises back at home. Did I mention she is 92? She’s got a mean tennis backhand and no patience for the instant replay.

When I got back to California, I returned to a fresh crop of emails and comments from many of you. Reading through them when I was so hopped us on Thanksgiving gratitude reminded me how thankful I am for this blog and the growing community of us who love to make, grow and gather. That means you. Thanks to all of you who take the time to keep me company, fortify and inspire me with great ideas and motivation to keep this going. You guys are the best.


happy thanksgiving

Alive Together, by Lisel Mueller

Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard's woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pope
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master's bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrong-headed angel,
or Mary's friend. I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah's Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who--but for endless ifs--
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.


hold on tight

Like most people, the collection of photos and notes and postcards on our fridge is beloved and food-splattered, and we keep cramming more on there and asking too much of our magnets. So I decided to make some more with some pebbles and rocks that I have on hand (who doesn’t?) and a pack of magnets from the craft store. I tried a hot glue gun but the glue peeled right off, so I ramped up to my new favorite glue: J-B Weld epoxy. One little dab gives these magnets Hulk power.

I kept a couple of the more interesting rocks plain, and added rub-on transfers onto the smooth ones. The  whole collection kinds of adds some serenity to a overstuffed filing cabinet that otherwise would be right at home at the IRS.



the world is a generous place

I posted about pomanders and the very next day, Show Me How from Derek and Lauren showed up on my doorstep. And wa-la, number 41 is this image. I didn't know that you need to let them cure but these clear, clever graphics told me I better hustle if I want these ready for the holiday season. I'm on it.

Then I flipped to number 482 and I'm no longer stumped for what our entry for the Thanksgiving Talent Show entry should be. All we need are some coconuts, sheet metal and a narrative to tie it all together. The book includes 500 things you should know, like how to fold a galette correctly, twist a ballon dog, and repel backyard pests. The whole effect is an addictive combination of straightforward information packaged in cheery graphic panels.

But beware if you crack this book open as you walk in the door. If you're anything like me, an hour later, you'll still be bent over the kitchen island, pawing through the pages to see what other wrinkles you can add to your brain.



here's what became of that still life

Everything in the world is now neatly divided into two categories: would it make a good Sunprint or no?

You have to try this little bit of magic. I got a Sunprint kit from a local kids museum store and plucked leaves  from neighborhood trees. The transformation from 3D to 2D was so cool and worked so well that it felt like some kind of after-school special that makes science fun and beautiful.
The simple, four-step instructions on the package are completely sufficient. How refreshing is that? But I realized only after I made the first batch that some of the plants I was most excited about actually came out kind of murky and dull. Then I realized it's the outline that creates the image. Duh. So I'd recommend finely textured leaves with positive and negative space if you're looking for a delicate print. I love the inky, deepwater feel of these.

And if you were watching too much Welcome Back, Kotter to ever notice Sunprints the first time they came around, it's not too late. You find them here.


handmade joy

When we grew up, holidays smelled like hot glue and acrylic paint and that’s no different now that I’m older. This time of year, I start bristling with thoughts of what to make for the holidays. I would divulge, but my sisters read this blog so my lips are sealed.

As I narrow down my contenders, here are some of the places where I’m gathering inspiration.
This one’s a great resource, and one of my sisters just told me about this one too.

Our whole family is piling into a big, wooden house in Tahoe this year and it’s hard for me to keep a lid on how manically excited I am. I even crumpled at the Starbucks counter the other day and handed over $12.99 for their new holiday cd. No doubt we’ll want to barf within hours from over-listening, but I couldn’t help myself.

Two things I want to try for certain to go along with the music and roaring fires: making pomanders and pinecone firestarters. Both projects will indulge my new addiction of sniffing every little-known essential oil I come across.

PS, I have a piece coming out in the SF Chronicle about making modern homemade gifts that don’t require special expertise. I’ll pop a link up when it comes out next weekend.


accidental still life

My normal approach to crafting tends toward messy and manic. It’s the same way I cook: gathering ingredients on a need-to-use basis and running to the corner store mid-whisk if I realize we're out of eggs. But for an upcoming project, I had to gather everything ahead of time, and this accidental still-life emerged. The project isn’t done yet but I thought this made good botanical eye candy for the weekend.


jewel (case) in the rough

Remember when CDs were a luxury instead of a necessity? Back when they held things like music instead of documents and work files?

I, for one, admit to teetering piles of obsolete CDs that will probably never see the inside of a computer again. I’ll skip over the frustration of how wasteful they are, and zip right to the conclusion: recycle your old CDs through one of these places and turn some of the leftover cases into little tabletop art displays that double as candleholders.

Once the telltale edges of the cases are covered in ribbon, no one is the wiser that this wasn’t picked up in some artsy, in-the-know boutique. But I’m such a dork that I'll take any chance to blurt out, Isn’t this cool? I made it from CD cases!

Step-by-step instructions and images here. When you're done, put a candle inside a glass votive and place inside the cube.


satisfaction and craft

quilts from Denyse Schmidt QuiltsLast night I covered the election. I got stopped in traffic as people spontaneously poured out of their apartments to bang on pots and pans and cry and chant Yes We Can and not know exactly what else to do, so they jumped around and hugged each other and did it all over again.

There was a woman at City Hall who ran in and asked what happened. When I told her Obama won, she covered her face with her hands and fell back against the wall. Look at my shoes, she said. I looked at her shoes and they were dirty and split at the sole. I ran to catch the bus to vote, she said, I ran and ran and now he won and I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my body, off of my heart.

This morning, I heard from a friend who thought she might make cookies and frost them blue and red and white. Someone else might start a quilt. There must be an impulse to make something when people are satisfied. To mint something in the kingdom that we pace through every day, as Billy Collins says.

I sit at the sometime-strange intersection of journalism and craft. But today I remember these are not disparate worlds. Like baking or sewing, or quilting – a great piece of journalism is a craft. A gathering up of a mood or experience that reflects something back to us. Like this.


rainy days and mondays

photo from judithprise via Flickr

When the rainy season finally started this weekend, we were feeling a little sloggy ourselves after a particularly wicked Halloween combination of champagne and candy corn. We rallied for the grocery store and then took our time making big batches of cozy comfort food (split pea soup with a smoky ham hock, lemongrass curry, and milk chocolate creams) while listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and Neil Young. Then it was onto the couch with our spoils and a new disc of 30 Rock.

It’s a very happy thing when the weather matches your mood.


spaghetti and pumpkins

I love weird little tricks like this, courtesy of inchmark which happens to be a goregous blog. I automatically love her for putting a wig on her baby for Halloween.

Hope you enjoy your tricks and treats!



I got to pet a hummingbird

Yes, that’s a hummingbird drinking from my finger. Moments before this photo was taken, my husband rescued her. Apparently she took a wrong turn into a house we rented at the Russian River and Mike found her, totally and utterly exhausted from beating her wings like bejesus while trying to fly out of a sealed skylight.

Mike has a proud history of daring bird rescues that I get kind giddy about, and this time was no different. He sprung into action, calmly scooped the bird onto the end of the broom, and brought her outside. When she wouldn’t fly away, he made up a sugar-water mixture. And when the bird wouldn’t drink it herself, Mike started dipping his finger into the water and dripping it onto her beak. After pounding the sugar-water like it was Natty Light on Spring Break, the creature finally got her wits together and hummed off, back into the wild.

Sir David Attenborough himself couldn’t have done any better.


toothbrushes, cappuccino and sisterhood

I met Kate at a yoga workshop and we both felt we should know each other.
I feel that even more strongly after seeing this. She and her sister are working on a year-long illustrated narrative about sisterness. It’s perfect. When I read it, my brain and heart and body all fluttered in that happy-resonant way: hey, I steal my sisters’ toothbrushes! And yes, sometimes I want to be the little sister, too.
I love that the illustrations are floaty and dreamy while the message is totally sturdy.


more stuff to make with recycled sweaters

Cross my heart I didn't see this before I made the felt beer coozies. And as far as this is concerned, well, I guess I'm the target demographic: I'm all for recycling and I love my dog. But I think it's downright creepy.


october podcast

Join me as we sit down with Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith to talk about where their ideas come from, and why you shouldn’t be scared of crafty disasters. Derek and Lauren have been called the DIY Royal Family: they own the Curiosity Shoppe, Derek is an editor at Ready Made Magazine, and together they post weekly DIY projects at Design Sponge. Join us!

The podcast includes a quick overview of making felt beer cozies, perfect for enjoying a cocktail outside as the temperature drops. To make a pair, you’ll need a 100% wool sweater from your closet or a thrift store. Set your washing machine to hot, add the sweater, and let it agitate, but stop the cycle before it spins. Check your sweater to see if it’s felted. You’ll know it’s done with you can’t see the stitches anymore. Let it air dry, then simply cut the sleeves off a few inches below the wrist. Embellish or leave plain, and stash the rest of the now-felted sweater for another project. I'll post a collage of inspiration soon!

And remember, you can now find the Make Grow Gather podcasts in iTunes. Please subscribe to help my fledgling show, and thanks for listening!

click here to download podcast!


I have such a crush on this idea

check out what Oh Happy Day did on a pier right here in San Francisco. I love it so much it hurts.


on and off the page

When I was little, I used to copy house plans from the back of my mom's Country Living magazines and add 12-year old flourishes, like towers and and moats and secret closets. Sketches are so pure like that. Clean little representations of potential.

Take this garden plan. Yes, cats may trample a few onions and earwigs may invade my cauliflower and who knows what else. But here is The Plan. Before I get schooled by all the messy, great things that happen off the page.