Dye seems to be a theme lately. The kids have wanted to do some tie dye and being the end of the year I thought we’d do tie dyed teacher gifts. I picked out some more “grown-up” colors and a new technique I’ve been wanting to try. Arashi Shibori is a traditional Japanese form of tie dye which results in beautiful diagonal streaks of color that are at once graphic and organic. Per usual I am taking a little inspiration and a lot of liberty mixed with make-do tools. I’d say it was a worthwhile attempt and one that I’ll repeat.

arashi shibori on rayon fabric with fiber reactive dyes

I didn’t find what I wanted at the fabric store so I ended up with some lightweight rayon/spandex knit. I cut it into 12″ wide strips that I sewed into long loops in the manner of a current fashion trend—the infinity scarf—which can be worn long and loose or twisted into a cowl. The blue/green one on the right was my first attempt and shows its faults laid out flat but looks okay when worn. The kids picked out the colors on the other two for their teachers. Despite my novice attempts I think the finished products turned out quite nicely.

arashi shibori dyed infinity scarf cowl tie dye blue green

I read a lot about arashi shibori before attempting this project and was most inspired and blown away by the beautiful work and words of Shibori Girl.

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I actually wrote this months ago but didn’t have a picture to go with it. Now I can tell you it’s been tested multiple times.


On the way to making chili I accidentally decided to make Sloppy Joes instead. I can’t remember how that happened. But the result was quite good and added an ingredient probably not usually found in Sloppy Joes—beans. Remember I was making chili. But my kids don’t eat red beans. Only black. Because one of their friends eats black beans, so they will eat the black beans, but only in certain dishes. Do they really taste that different? I guess so since I didn’t care for black bean chili. So I decided to purée the beans.

1.5 pound lean ground beef
1/2 can of pinto beans, puréed
1/2 large white onion, chopped fine
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp molasses
ground black pepper to taste

Sauté onions and garlic in a skillet over medium heat in butter or olive oil. Add ground beef, cooking until browned; drain. Stir in the ketchup, beans and molasses; mix thoroughly. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on hamburger buns. Makes about 8 sandwiches.

My theory is that the beans help hold the mixture together. And about the molasses—the recipe I found online called for brown sugar, which I did not have. Since I knew that the flavor of brown sugar comes from molasses, I decided to just use that instead. It tasted fine and has the added benefit of a bit of calcium and iron. And if you use blackstrap molasses, there are even more vitamins and minerals.


sloppy joe

I’ve written up a knitting pattern for a newborn baby hat. It’s a simple top-down beanie knit from about 100 yards or meters of fingering weight. I’ve done the increases in such a way that there is very little counting or marker placement which makes it easy to memorize and fast to knit, good qualities for gift knitting! You can download the pattern here or on Ravelry. I’d be happy to hear from you if you knit it! I handpainted the wool for the sample myself with acid dyes.

Countless – newborn baby hat knitting pattern

hand dyed hand knit baby hat countless knitting pattern

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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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drawstring top project bag with clear vinyl bottom

I made this project bag for a swap on Ravelry. I chose the black vinyl for the main fabric on the outside because I thought it would be easier to keep clean and it would give instant rigidity to the bag without the need for additional support. The cotton print lining peeks up about 4 inches to make the drawstring top. There is also a little inner pocket made out of the same print and if I make another one of these bags I will use a contrasting fabric to make it easier to see. The main feature I wanted to try out was making the bottom of the bag out of clear vinyl. I personally tend to forget what is in a container if I can’t see through it. Any kind of container. So I thought a little window on the bottom would make it easy to check what was inside if you put your project aside for a while or if you have too many project bags! While the rest of the bag went together fairly easily, I did not figure out a good way to work with the clear vinyl. But I will try again!

faux leather vinyl cylinder project bag

The recipient likes dachshunds so I did a little reverse appliqué dachshund on the outside of the bag in the same print. It was not hard to do. Since the vinyl does not ravel when cut, there was no need to turn the edges under. I just put a scrap of the cotton print behind the opening which I cut with a craft knife, and then stitched around the edge of the cut-out on the sewing machine. Fun and easy personalization.

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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 Keiser-Angoras.com

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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Sometimes I get an idea and even though I know it’s crazy, I can’t get it out of my head so I do it anyway. This was one of those ideas. Not only is the skirt of this baby dress made from fabric, the bodice portion is both knit and crocheted. I’m not an expert in either knitting or crochet but I’ve done enough of both that there are certain usages that feel more comfortable in one or the other. So it was easier for me to switch back and forth between knitting and crochet rather than to make the whole bodice in one or the other. I’m not explaining this very well am I? Anyway, I’m pleased with how it turned out and you can see a picture of the dress modeled by the recipient on my Ravelry project page. There are also some more pictures and detailed notes there.

fabric skirt knit crochet bodice baby dress and bloomers

This is sized for 6-12mo. Making baby clothes for a baby you have never seen is always risky business so I poured over clothing measurements and knit and crochet patterns to figure out the right dimensions. I remember that when my girl was that age you didn’t want a dress that was too long because it got in the way of sitting up and crawling. It was also mostly useless to have any dress that didn’t have matching bloomers or tights because by the time you found something to cover the diapered bum that didn’t clash, she’d grown out of the dress. So the matching diaper cover was made from a Simplicity sewing pattern.

back of knit and crocheted dress bodice showing buttonhole straps

I’m rather proud of the little detail I thought of for the straps. I crocheted them with buttonholes along the entire length. The smallish buttons are on the inside of the back of the bodice. This way the straps are fully adjustable and can be worn crossed or uncrossed without looking like overalls. Don’t misunderstand, I love overalls on babies, but the regular overall style closure on the front wouldn’t have been suitable for this dress.

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One night the girl asked me how paper is made. Being a graphic designer, I actually learned about this in school and was able to give her a pretty thorough explanation which she was surprisingly attentive to. She then asked if we could make paper at home. Hmmm . . . Well, we can’t start with wood pulp and cotton or linen rags but we can recycle used paper into new paper. Many people don’t know this but the paper industry has been recycling it’s own waste since long before it was environmentally fashionable.

So the next day I started scouring the house for materials. I built a mold and deckle from some half inch wood trim and old window screen left over from other projects. I made it a little bigger than a half sheet of paper.

tools and supplies to build mold and deckle for papermaking stapling the screen on the frame to make paper hand made mould and deckle for making paper

The kids bring home so many papers from school and I keep anything that is blank on one side in a scrap pile with the other art supplies. We went through a pile of mostly copier paper and pulled out all the pink sheets we could find. The girl and a friend tore up the paper into one inch size pieces, dropping them into a bucket of water which we allowed to sit out overnight to soften the paper so that it would be easier for my blender to chop up. The blender chopped up the pieces into slurry that looked rather like a pink milkshake. With the occasional piece of grass. . .

torn up used copier paper soaking in water for papermaking tear up scrap paper and shred in the blender to make your own paper pink copier paper turned into slurry to make handmade paper

I poured the slurry into a rectangular plastic bin several inches larger than the mold and added water to make the slurry thinner. I put the mould on top of the deckle and the kids took turns slipping it into the water and watching the bits of fibers swirl around and settle onto the screen as they pulled it back up. After gently removing the mold, I laid a piece of felt on the wet paper, gently patted it to squeeze some water out, and then tipped the whole thing upside down onto a flat surface. I tapped the deckle a bit to get the paper to separate and left each sheet to dry in the sun. Wool felt would probably work better since it’s much more absorbent but I used cheap acrylic felt and it seemed to work fine. I admit to getting impatient and ironing the paper to dry the pieces. This also helped flatten the paper. When the paper is dry it will peel off the felt quite easily.

making paper by hand mould and deckle with freshly pulled wet paper handmade new piece of handmade paper still wet

making handmade paper sheets of handmade paper drying in the sun IMG_0277

Our finished papers.
The girl proudly took several pieces to her teacher to show her exactly what we had done with her homework pages!

sheets of handmade pink paper recycled from used copier paper scraps

Click any of the thumbnails to view a larger picture. I included a lot of pictures because there were some parts of the process that I had a hard time finding clear pictures of. We are currently making a batch of blue paper. I’m going to count how many pieces we can make to see what the ratio is of old paper to new paper.

Here is a link that gives much more detailed instructions than mine as well as some interesting history about papermaking.


I guess they missed me. : )

A few pictures of things we’ve done over the last few months.

For Valentine’s Day we made corner bookmarks like this lighthouse one I made for our dear neighbor E. I cut 2.5 inch corners off of envelopes (red ones left over from Christmas cards were especially useful) and then attached 2 inch triangles of a different color or patterned paper to each side. The kids had fun mixing up colors and decorating with stamps, stickers and cut-outs from magazines and catalogs. We found the nursery/seed catalogs and the quilting fabric catalogs to be gold mines for this activity. You can find instructions for a similar corner page marker here at Tally’s Treasury.

lighthouse collage corner page marker bookmark

Then we stuck the bookmarks into these Valentine cards. I think I made up this sentiment myself, but it’s possible I heard it somewhere. In any case I found some free clip art online and made this card. I printed out enough copies for all the students in both of the kids classes and they colored and decorated as desired, making each one special for the recipient.

all occasion card for readers books world bookmark earth

I’m including links to the printable pdf version here if you’d like to use it, just print on cardstock or regular paper, fold in half and in half again. original Valentine’s Card. And the write-your-own-occasion card pictured above.

knitting a tapered skinny scarf with novelty yarn

I knit several skinny scarves out of novelty yarn. This is the sort of yarn that looks pretty or fun but you really don’t know what to do with, or at least I don’t. But I finally figured something out that is easy to make and looks good. With extra large needles, I knit loose garter stitch scarves about 3″ wide with a single ball of novelty yarn, about 75 yards, for a long accessory scarf that can wrap around the neck and hang down fashionably. These won’t keep you warm at all but they are fun to wear. Rather than making a blunt end I figured out how to increase and decrease to make tapered ends that give a little extra finishing touch. My construction notes are on my project page in Ravelry.

hand knit skinny scarf with tapered ends novelty yarn

rock candy crystals homemade kitchen science

The subject of gems and crystals came up and on the way to explaining how crystals grow, I decided we needed to do an experiment. This falls under the category of what I call kitchen science—real experiments you can do with stuff you already have around the house. Even though I know I’ve done this before, it took two tries to produce a sugar solution that grew several of these rock candy sticks. I used the instructions from About.com. Our crystals did not retain either the flavoring or coloring that we added to the solution. Nobody complained when it came time to eat them.

smashed pansy bookmark flower ink

I cannot remember why we did this but we had fun. The girl and I picked pansies out of the garden to make some smashed flower art. The colored juices from the plant are transferred to soft paper by force. I used some bookmark sized pieces of heavy paper left over from another project. We used a regular hammer, sandwiching the flower face down on the paper between a piece of paper towel on top and wax paper on the bottom, on top of a scrap piece of wood. I cut the green fleshy calyx off the pansy with sharp scissors after positioning it on the paper. You could use this technique to make cards, placecards for a summer meal, or even art to frame. Get more details on how to make prints from botanicals from this great post by Wendy of Build/Craft/Make/Bake. Too bad I read her post after we did this project but there is plenty of summer and plenty of blooms yet to try!

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I realize it has been a long time since I last posted. An obvious reason is my preoccupation with a certain little boy. It’s hard to craft or cook with one hand while bouncing up and down. There have also been times when we have been crafting but I haven’t taken step-by-step pictures because that does take a bit more time. Having two children who really enjoy “making” means that most of my projects are done with their “help”. And sometimes it’s not worth interrupting the rhythm of their creativity just because I might want to post the results to my blog.


This seems like a good time to remember why I keep this blog. This is mainly a personal record of the things I make with my hands. I used to make thing and then give them away without having taken pictures or adequate notes. Because I rarely follow instructions, I found it difficult to reproduce my creations, or even to remember even vaguely what I had done. So now I try to make a record of most projects. I also try to add links to references or pictures I might have found inspirational or helpful. I often refer to my own blog to remind myself how to do something I’ve done before, or to get started on a new project with roots in a previous project.

I’ve made this journal public because sometimes people ask me how I made something or when or why and it’s nice to have all my notes in one place to refer to or even pass on a link to a post. Because the blog is mainly for my own use, my pictures are not perfect, descriptions may be sketchy on one project, lengthier on another. Some projects may include patterns or tutorials, others may just be a photo reminder. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions about something in particular. I do try to answer all e-mails and I do like to provide more information when I have the time and know there is interest. I am constantly surprised and touched that people are interested in my creative process. And I am always happy to hear that you are motivated by a blog post to try something new yourself. Thank you all for reading and thanks especially to those who take the time to leave me a note!

Some pictures of the yard in spring bloom—the perfect sprig of lilac flowers, a chive blossom complete with spider silk lines, Solomon’s seal bending over the hostas on the north wall.

lilac in bloom chive flower edible

Solomons seal and variegated hosta foundation planting

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I started with some handpainted Blue-Faced Leicester wool I received in a trade.

Spun it into a single and then chain-plied it to preserve the colors.
handpaint BFL spinning wheel chain plied navajo

Knit the yarn into these baby socks, based on Cat Bordi’s pattern.
hand spun knit baby socks

And this sweet hat, based very loosely on the Munchkin Hat, pattern by Jeanne Kubricht. See my project page on Ravelry for notes on my version.

newborn hat handspun hand knit

This hat does a great job of staying on our little gnomey’s head and keeping him warm!

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Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song

This song was originally written c. 1971 by Joe Raposo for Sesame Street, and sung many times since by muppets and humans. I grew up hearing the Karen Carpenter version sung to me by my mother.

It was, in a way, my private anthem. I was too shy and unconfident as a child to make it public. Today I sat at the piano with my little one on my lap and softly played through the piano accompaniment to this deceptively simple piece of music. And I thought that perhaps, in my old age, it’s time to sing out loud.


What started out as a blank white cotton knit baby gown eventually became a colorful sleeper with an unusual snap opening across the back. It started this summer when I decided to do some tie dye for the baby. I used my favorite colorway, seaglass, on a white baby gown from Dharma Trading.

tie dye baby gown bunting

Much later I decided that I would like to make a tie dye romper but I didn’t really have time to order a blank and it was getting rather cold to be doing tie dye. So I looked at the beautifully colored gown and thought long and hard before cutting into it. I dug out a favorite newborn sleeper with an unusual opening across the back that I remembered made it easy to change diapers—a definite factor in how often an outfit gets worn by the baby. I took a deep breath and started cutting and ripping out seams. I added some navy blue knit trim and a few snaps and eventually finished turning the gown into a romper without disturbing the existing tie dye pattern much. The matching socks and hat make for a cute outfit.

tie dye baby sleeper snaps across back tie dye romper

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I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks. For some reason I don’t know what to say. So, I suppose, without further ado . . .

May I introduce Gareth Warren, born November 29th at 10:05pm.

Day 1 here.

And at two weeks, just after rolling over for the first time. Obviously that is hard work!



I’ve managed a little sewing in the last week. I made four wool diaper covers for the baby, all side snapping wool, my favorite. I used a single layer of the thicker red boiled wool and double layer of blue merino interlock. Each of them is a bit different as I tried out some different techniques and adjusted the pattern. I found the interlock soft but difficult to work with. The army green cover was made for the girl when she was a baby and I think the fabric came from a skirt my mother had made herself. The white cover is not wool at all but PUL lined in microfleece and was made for the boy when he was a baby, before I discovered the advantages of wool. The wool covers just need to be patted down with my favorite lanolin balm from Sudz ‘n’ Dudz and they’ll be ready to go. All the cotton and hemp/cotton diapers have been pulled out of storage and sit in a bin washed and waiting.

side snap wool diaper covers

Another variation on lengthening pants for the boy. This time I cut up an old flannel shirt and gave it a bit of body and thickness with fusible fleece. The faux cuffs do not turn up. I cut off the shirt pocket and sewed it on one leg as a useful and decorative accent. He said they looked “old-fashioned” but wore them anyway. If I do this look again I think I’ll use denim or khaki backed with the flannel rather than the doubled flannel so the cuffs can actually be turned up. But hopefully he’ll get a few more months wear out of them this way. He keeps getting taller but his waist isn’t getting any bigger!

boys pants lengthened with cuffs from flannel shirt

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