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I haven’t posted anything to the blog in quite a while. I’m not sure how that happened. School started. And September birthdays and Halloween and November birthdays and Christmas holidays and somehow it’s February. I have been making things and doing things and even taking some pictures. At first I wanted to go back and post things in chronological order, then I thought maybe I should just do a summary with a bunch of pictures. But I guess it really doesn’t matter.

So here is the decorative shower curtain that I started about two years ago. Seems like an appropriate project to break my break. I have a bad habit of getting stuck on a project and putting it into time-out for a while. I work on other things, hope that a solution will come to me and eventually it will come back around. I’m trying to get myself out of that cycle and just make myself work through whatever difficulties arise instead of waiting months or years in between. When we moved into this house, the little bathroom was bright, shiny and completely white. I wanted to do something fun and seized on this cute fish fabric as my inspiration.

Heather Ross mendocino fish blue orange shower curtain

The feature fabric is Mendocino Swim Class in the Pacific colorway by Heather Ross. I loved this fabric so much I used it previously as an accent in a dress for the girl along with the seahorse fabric from the same line. This time I paired it with a solid Kona cotton coordinated to the tiniest fish and a little bit of navy blue piping left over from this project. I started this so long ago I don’t remember why I had to try the curved piecing. I see that it’s not obvious in the photo but the line between the two fabrics is gently curving.

I lined the shower curtain with extra wide white muslin and that is where the trouble began. For some reason I had a horrible time getting everything square and lined up nicely. You can probably still see crease marks in the fabric from where I wadded it up and threw it in the corner. My other difficulty was that I had my heart set on orange grommets. Dritz does make some colored plastic grommets but they were a tad expensive for my taste. And large. Don’t get me wrong, I like orange. It is probably my favorite color now. (Yes this is strange because I spent the first half of my life hating orange.) But a little orange goes a long way. So I bought the plain little silver colored grommets and dipped them in orange tinted Plasti-Dip. Easy-peasy. I have all kinds of other ideas for this weird but cool hardware store crafting find.

Heather Ross mendocino pacific orange blue navy shower curtain

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These are all angora/merino blend yarns from my parents’ rabbits—Keiser Angoras. I’ve been experimenting with handpainting and I’m excited to see how the placement of dye colors will redistribute when knitted.

hand dyed angora/merino fingering yarn

hand dyed angora merino yarn ball Keiser-Angoras fingering

chocolate and cherries hand painted dyed angora/merino yarn

And this is what happens when you can’t find your skein winder. You raid your kids’ Tinker Toys and jerry-rig one. Actually they were mine as a kid! Some toys are ageless.

Tinker Toy yarn skein winder DIY

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paper hat worn by cat

Paper hat made in the “French style” according to the boy. He had just finished reading a version of the fairy tale, Puss in Boots, with lots of froofy clothing. Hat modeled patiently by Duke the cat.

plumber's tape and water bottles

I have these small water bottles that don’t leak when they tip over and are just the right size for the kids. Unfortunately with much use the lids no longer screw down tightly. On a crazy whim I pulled out the plumber’s thread seal tape, read the box (it is food-safe), and wrapped a length around the threads of the bottle. I screwed on the lid and tested it out. Super, watertight once more. They’ve been through the dishwasher twice and I haven’t had to replace the tape yet. I think they’ll make it through the rest of the summer.

hand knitted lunch bag

I knit this “lunch sack” from a pattern I found on Ravelry. The pattern was written to be knit flat and then sewed up after. Although I don’t mind sewing, one of the things I like about knitting is the ability to create shaping without having to sew seams. So with a little math I converted the pattern to knit in the round, preserving as much of the original details as I could. It turned out pretty well although it is a little too stretchy to hold a full water bottle and a piece of fruit. But it would be just fine for a sandwich and a snack.

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The boy’s class had an Arctic Celebration this evening complete with readers’ theater, songs, artwork, games and snacks, and surprise—snow—so appropriate to the theme and late March in Maine.

handmade cookie cutter polar bear

I had volunteered to bring something baked and at the last minute (not a surprise) I decided that I just had to make polar bear shaped shortbread. Had to. A piece of aluminum roof flashing, a pair of pliers and a few minutes of careful bending yielded a serviceable cookie cutter in a graphically simple shape of a polar bear reminiscent of Inuit sculpture. The boy helped me make the simple shortbread dough and we had just enough time to bake the bears before heading off through the snow to see his classmates and their families at the school.

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handmade DIY drop spindle made from afghan or tunisian crochet hook and toy wooden wheel

Apparently I’ve never actually given the instructions on how to make a drop spindle out of an afghan hook and a wooden wheel. It’s really quite simple. You need an afghan hook (also called a tunisian crochet hook)—looks like a crochet hook on one end and the back end of a knitting needle on the other end. The shaft is completely round, no thumb bump like a regular crochet hook. Fatter and metal is better for weight purposes. I like mine about 10 – 12 inches long. You can buy these in craft shops or find one cheap at a yard sale or second hand shop.

afghan or tunisian crochet hook

The second part you need is a wooden wheel or circle about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter and .5 to .75 inches thick. The larger diameter and wider width will spin longer and steadier. I’ve found these toy wheels in craft stores in the bare wooden parts/toys section and places that sell unfinished wood furniture. The ones I like the best actually look like truck tires and are wide on the edge but have a well in the middle. I prefer these turned pieces because they are uniformly balanced.

toy wooden wheels

These wooden wheels do have a hole in the middle already but it’s probably going to be too big for your afghan hook. I use a thick black photographers tape or masking tape wrapped around the shaft about two inches down from the hook until it is a tight fit for the hole in the wooden wheel. I usually cut the tape in half lengthwise and taper down the end. It’s thick enough when you can just barely get the wheel on with some gently turning and twisting. Put the wheel on with the flat side toward the long end. You could add a drop of glue if you like, I haven’t found it necessary.

wrapping masking tape around the hook IMG_8400

The last step is to use a craft knife to cut a notch in the wood opposite the hook. This serves as a resting place for the yarn you are spinning. If you paint the wheel, I prefer to cut the notch after painting to make it more visible. ETA: The finished spindle should weigh approximately 1.5oz or 50 grams.

DIY drop spindle made from afghan hook and wooden wheel

There are many videos available on the web to show you how to use your drop spindle.

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The boy was lent a “learning buddy” by his teacher this year. A hedgehog by the name of Prickles helped the boy with various tasks at school and made visits home on the weekends. They were fast friends and Prickles made an appearance in many of the boy’s drawings and stories. As the end of the school year drew near the boy was sad that he would have to leave his buddy behind. But he was consoled by the fact that he would always have “Prickles” in his heart, and that next year the little hedgehog would be helping some other little boy or girl in his old classroom.


On the last Friday of school, the boy came bounding off the bus, announcing with great excitement that Prickles had come home to stay. There were grand plans of a home for the hedgehog with tunnels and slides, cozy holes, lots of toys and a running wheel. The next day at the transfer station (read dump) the boy and I picked through the trash-to-treasures pile looking for any oddments that might make an appropriate home for a stuffie hedgehog. I was secretly hoping not to find anything when suddenly I spied this round wonder with a handle sticking out. I told the boy it would make a fine amusement ride for Prickles and some of his other animal friends. The boy was delighted and completely unaware of my ulterior motive for allowing this strange contraption to enter our house.


The clear lid lifts off to add or remove objects. When the handle is spun the inner basket whirls with surprising speed. Just about any of the little people and animals that would fit in the basket hopped in for a dizzying test spin.

And what is this carnival ride for stuffies in reality? I’ll admit I’m not sure. I initially thought it was a hefty salad spinner but it is way overbuilt if so. My guess is that it’s a countertop washing machine for clothes. I plan to use it for spinning the remaining water out of washed fiber or yarn. ;)

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I gave my original Cascade Little Si spindle away thinking I could easily replace it. Wrong. I even tried other spindles thinking there might be something else I would like better now that I have some experience. Nah.

I finally wrote directly to the company and they made one for me! I feel special. I’m not normally one to name my tools (except Frances) but I think this spindle may get a name. What do you think?

Cascade Spindle company Little Si high whorl drop spindle

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yarn ball in netting keeper

I bought a $1 bath pouf a while ago and keep finding interesting uses for it. When I took it apart it turned out to be something like 10 feet of tubular netting. It’s not very strong but it’s stretchy and very smooth. I cut off about 10 inches, knotted one end and stuck a 4oz centerpull ball of yarn in it. The netting will shrink around the ball as I use the yarn. I like being able to see the yarn but not having to deal with a ziploc bag.


My mother “bought” a Romney fleece for the ridiculous price of $15 from a local farmer. I didn’t see it to begin with but I gather it was very dirty. She and my dad scrubbed and sorted and washed and dried. The thing is probably worth $1500 in blood, sweat and tears by now. But we’re having fun with it, at least my mother and I are! Here are some before and after picks of us carding the washed locks into “top” which I then spun on a quickly improvised drop spindle.

Here’s a bag of washed locks . . .
washed Romney wool locks

Note here that neither of us really have any idea how to card wool so constructive comments only please! Placing the locks on the cards . . .
romney locks on hand card before carding

Carding and the resultant fluff . . .
carding fleecehand carded Romney wool still on the carder

This picture to show that you can indeed spin wool with just about any old stick and round thingy (very fat crochet hook stuck through a spool of ribbon taped to a CD shown here) The top card was spun from a rolag-ish piece and the bottom card from a more top-ish piece. I can’t say I could tell much difference. I’m sure it will be more obvious as we get more practiced.
emergency DIY spindle with wool and spun singles samples

And one last picture to show the after – carded spinnable fluff on the left and the before – washed locks on a hand card on the right.
carded fluff and uncarded locks on the handcarder

And right now that fiber is in a dye bath in the oven. Better go check on it!

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hand made wooden thread and ribbon organizer

Yes, I just put that photo in at the largest size because I am that excited about this. I haven’t been sewing but I have been cutting! With the power miter saw. Okay, no angles but still. I’ve been planning this organizer for a while. I wanted something functional but reasonably nice to look at as well. I finally made this custom fit thread and ribbon organizer to the same length as my sewing table (5 feet long). By myself! Of course the kids insisted on helping me paint it. That was fun, no really, they are starting to be truly helpful. My dad helped me hang it on the wall. Plaster walls confuse those stud finding gadgets.

Almost all of the wood came from leftovers in the basement, all I bought was some screws, a skinny dowel and a piece of quarter round trim. Building the main parts of the shelf went really fast. The thread rack part did not, mostly because I was trying to recycle pieces of a store bought wooden thread rack that was too small and not made all that well. Sometimes it does not pay to recycle.

I now have twice as many pegs for thread, a space for my serger thread spools and dowels for my handmade bias trim and assorted ribbons. I can easily add some more dowels for ribbons and such later. The serger spools can also be stacked two deep so there is plenty of room.

In the glass jars above are buttons, vintage wooden thread spools and clothespins. I’ll probably add some more jars as needed. Of course there is a reason you can’t see anything else in the picture. Everything below four feet is a mess. But here is one other bit of organizing that I did quite a while ago actually but it has been working out very well. Behind the door I put up a shortened length of coat rack with a few extra nails to hold my various rulers, triangles, T-squares, etc. And the cutting mat hangs on a nail on the back of the door.

cutting mat and ruler organization

PS. I have been doing some knitting but it may be difficult to get a picture of the latest finished project. I’ll try.

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sandpaper glued to popsicle sticks and tongue depressors

I make these sandpaper sticks by gluing scraps of sandpaper to old popsicle sticks and tongue depressors. I write the size or “grit” of the sandpaper on the back of the stick. These are like emery boards but much sturdier. I stick them in the pen jar on my desk and in the kitchen and they come in awfully handy.


The before: one $.99 stretchy plastic coil keychain bracelet thingy and a random assortment of double pointed knitting needles threatening to get out of control.

stretchy plastic coil bracelet assortment of double pointed knitting needles

The after: organization. Simple and inexpensive. Can you believe they sell these things 3 for $5 in knitting stores? From one $.99 bracelet I cut 8 little coils which will each securely hold 4-5 double pointed needles size 2 through 8. Pretty versatile for a $.12 DIY thingamajig, yes? Works on straights and probably other things I haven’t thought of.

DIY plastic coils holding together double point knitting needles dpns

PS. I forgot to take a picture of the blue one before I cut it up. The rainbow colored one belongs to one of the kids.

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I offered to barter my tie dye for knitting needles on a Ravelry forum and a kind knitter responded with an offer of her extra needles in a great selection of different sizes (all small sizes) and materials. Clockwise from top: two sets of long metal dpns, faux tortoise shell casein (milk protein), bamboo, nearly clear nylon circulars and birch in the middle. This will be great for trying out the feel of different needles with different yarns!

assortment of narrow gauge double pointed knitting needles dpns

And in return I sent several tie dye outfits for her granddaughter. One long sleeve onesie stamped with little flowers, a sleeveless romper with hand colored butterflies and a skirted onesie with a watermelon green stripe. I sewed the gathered skirt on before I dyed the onesie. I think it turned out pretty cute and it wasn’t hard to do thanks to the serger.

pink tie dye baby outfits with socks embellished with rubber stamps

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avocado green, light blue, white, dark brown fabric prints

I’m gearing up to decorate my “studio” and I’ve chosen a palette of colors. The walls are a very pale butter yellow which I will keep. I think I’ll be using these fabrics as accents. They have similar avocado-y green tones, light blues with a hint of aqua and dark browns. I have some dark brown and blue canvas as solids and a great deal of the trees on blue print. That one may get used for curtains. Anyway, spur of the moment I decided to use a bit of one of those remnants to make something pretty.

make your own insert for refillable tape dispenser

Here’s my “new” refillable tape dispenser. I simply removed the paper label from the inside and used it as a template to cut out cardstock-backed fabric inserts. You could also use any pretty paper you might have. It’s really quite simple but here’s a tutorial if you’d like a little more direction. I’m practicing making tutorials. :)

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hand spun, Navajo plied and hand dyed Corriedale yarn

This is 35 yards of hand spindled, Navajo plied (3 ply) Corriedale yarn dyed in the microwave with Kool-Aid. I used a packet of orange and a generous pinch of blue something. It came out a nice slightly variegated pumpkin color, just what I was aiming for. This was a test dye job for the big hank below.

Merino plied with Corriedale on a yarn swift

Above is Merino plied with Corriedale on the yarn swift. It’s about 250 yards if I did my math correctly, enough to make something . . . The resulting yarn is soft like Merino but has a pleasing firmness to it because of the Corrie. I don’t know much about yarn so I’ll have to figure out what to make with this and dye it accordingly.

The very lovely BFL is still on the bobbins waiting to be plied. I am making myself finish some projects with deadlines first before I do any more with that but I like to touch it every so often.

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