March 2009

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So I’ve been thinking for a while about blogrolls and the fact that until recently I didn’t actually follow any blogs. My first blog was a joint one with Annie (SpinKnit). It started with a hankering to work side by side despite the fact that we had never actually met in the flesh and live on opposite sides of the continent. So we decided to have a virtual shared studio so we could show each other and our friends pictures of what we were doing craftwise. Then Annie got the fiber bug and became SpinKnit. I took a break from blogging for a while but I’d gotten a taste for it so I knew eventually I’d start again.

I’ve always done crafty things, ever since I can remember. One of my big problems is that I will make a new idea and then give it away. I wouldn’t know how I did it and I wouldn’t even have a picture of it. I didn’t really start taking pictures until we got a digital camera so that would be about 2002 I guess. I did start a sketchbook long before that, maybe 1988, but most of that is projects that were never expected to become reality.

So this blogging thing is great for me, it serves as a sort of personal scrapbook of finished projects and it also allows me to easily share those with friends. And I like to write babble, particularly analysis and process. For my readers that means more comparisons and tutorials on the way. I won’t say when . . . the kiddos don’t allow me a lot of brain time. :)

About the blogroll, I’ve really just started with that because as I confessed above I don’t generally read other blogs. I don’t generally read craft books either. I just don’t get much inspiration from other crafters I guess. My inspiration tends to come from the need of the moment coupled with the materials at hand, or else from something totally random – like the curve of a furniture leg suggesting the line of a dress. But I do find that there are other people out there who think like me and it’s interesting to see what they are doing. Or else people who think entirely different from me and it’s interesting to see what they are doing too! Did that make any sense? Anyway, I intend to write a bit about the people in my blogroll – a little introduction so you know why I’ve put a link to their blog, maybe a particular project or post I found most appealing, how I know them, etc.

And just so this post isn’t completely wordy. I rescued this azalea twig from the ice and amazingly it has bloomed inside!



img_3573 I made a batch of full-size Soapfulls. These are two of my favorites. These were made using a harder soap and they were a bit harder to felt although they seemed to lather better. The veining is the hardest part to do but I enjoy working hard to create a natural “random” look. I’m going to need some more natural colored wool soon!


Smaoush (rhymes with mouse) as used frequently by the girl

to smash, mash, smush or generally destroy

As in, “Mommy! I’m going to smaoush the castle!”

smashing the pink snow castle


pink snow castle
Okay, I don’t know if it’s actually #40, it’s whatever comes in those packs you get at the grocery store. The girl is trying desperately to eke out the last bit of winter play out of the remaining snow before it melts away. So today she insisted we build a castle. One five gallon bucket and a few smaller buckets and cups later we had a highly indefensibly snow castle. Just for fun I grabbed a spray bottle of water and squirted in some red food coloring. Voila! Pink snow castle.

13 songs

Ack! I’ve been tagged by Lisa of Froginette. I’m supposed to fill in this list with songs but I’ve been trying to do this for several hours and I’ve realized that I don’t really listen to music much at all anymore. It’s very sad. There is music in my head of course, but I don’t seem to be able to listen to music, the kiddos complain. Or if I am by myself I would rather just be quiet.
13 Songs about my life

A song I’ve been listening to for years without getting tired of it:
Amazing Grace – John Newton

A song that brings back memories of when I was 16:
Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel

A song that reminds me of my first love:
Les Miserables – all of it, because we listened to it so much

A song that instantly puts me in a good mood:
This Good Day – Fernando Ortega

A song that moves me and gets me teary-eyed:
Believe – Brooks and Dunn

A song that makes me laugh:
The Talkin’ Song Repair Blues – Alan Jackson

A song to let it all out:
I’m not sure what this category means?

A song that makes me want to dance:
I don’t really dance but maybe if I did – A Beautiful Day – U2

A song to listen to over a romantic dinner:
Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash

A song that I’m (slightly) ashamed to like — come to think of it, I’m not actually ashamed, I think it’s a great song!
Alcohol – Brad Paisley

A song to clean up the house to:
Sing Sweet Nightingale – Cinderella


A song that illustrates my mood of the day:
Pray Me Home – Phillips, Craig and Dean

A song that I listen to these days and that I can’t get out of my head:
Colors of the Wind from Pocohantas
Phew. That was hard! I am laughing at all the country songs, who knew i had to move to Maine to start listening to country music?

I think I will tag . . . Annie! (even though she’s in Mexico right now) and Krista. ;)

First, I would like to thank all of you who expressed your kind thoughts on the passing of our beloved Brownie. We decided that it was best for us and the kids, especially having lost Daisy just last spring, not to wait but to open our home to some new friends.

We went to the shelter and came home with Lila, a svelte black and white tuxedo, and Duke, a handsome orange and white bi-color. Lila came in with the knowledge that she owned the house. It took Duke a few days to accept that, but they are starting to get along better. They are both loving and playful with all of us. It’s been comforting to have their presence even as we continue to talk about Brownie on occasion.


Sunday we drove down to MA to meet up with some friends. We ate lunch together at the Cheesecake Factory. The four moms met online when we were all expecting Dec 02 babies. Since then the families have gotten bigger, we don’t live any closer but we like to stay in touch and see each other when we can. The first two photos were taken by the boy. He was fascinated by the food and the artwork in the restaurant. There was also a curious abundance of photos of the girls’ shoes on his camera! ;)

floral and turquoise cyclette bag

I’ve decided to name this bag the Cyclette Bag since it was inspired by cyclists’ musette bags. The two words contract nicely into “cyclette”, which is the French word for bicycle anyway! This one was made a little differently than the original bag to accommodate the constraints of the remnants I was working with so I did not take step-by-step photographs. It is essentially the same construction but inside out to allow the lining to show at the top of the bag creating a contrasting band.

I have to admit that sewing this second one gave me fits. First, I was working with some very meager remnants of Amy Butler Nigella grandiflora home dec fabric and some slightly less meager remnants of a brilliant turquoise brushed cotton twill. So I had to fudge my pattern a bit to get everything to fit and I made one small miscalculation which caused me to have to hand sew a spot which of course was one of the things I was trying to avoid with this pattern construction! C’est la vie – I am pleased with the results anyway. The interior pocket is lined with a bit of the floral print for a nice surprise contrast. And as I was doing the topstitching to secure the strap, I decided on the fly to stitch a leaf shape into the box. I love this subtle detail and how easy it was to incorporate a little something to tie the print to the solid besides the shared color. I’ve been toying with the idea of adding a single snap to the bag but I can’t decide. I’m trying to keep it simple.

cyclette bag made from Amy Butler nigella grandiflora

cyclette bag made from Amy Butler nigella grandiflora

interior pocket showing print lining

interior pocket showing print lining

topstitched leaf detail on strap of cyclette bag

topstitched leaf detail on strap of cyclette bag

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broccoli salad
I’ve been on a broccoli kick lately. So I thought I would share this great recipe. I think I still make it pretty much the way I learned it from my Aunt Ruth. If you are reading this Aunt Ruth, thank you – this has been a perennial potluck favorite!

Broccoli Salad
florets from 2 crowns of broccoli
6 slices of very crispy bacon broken into bits
1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
a dash of lemon juice
a sprinkle of sugar
a dash of salt (optional)
mayonnaise to coat liberally

This is enough for 6 to 8 servings. It keeps well in the fridge, in fact I think it is even better the next day.

The PTO at the boy’s school is having a fundraising evening including a silent auction. They called especially for handmade items! I haven’t felt able to really help out so I was excited about being able to do something at home. I’m donating a few tie dye baby items and also these lightweight nap blankets. They are generously sized, I wouldn’t call them baby blankets. Fabric is from my stash. I bought both of these fabrics a while ago but realized that I probably wasn’t going to use them. The boy isn’t into baseball and the floral turned out to be a larger scale than I had thought looking at the swatch online. But I’m pretty pleased with the way these turned out and they were quite simple to do, based on yet another spin-off of the technique originally developed for lined shoe bags, which of course, I have yet to show.

Hmmf, I just realized the picture of the girly blanket is upside down. Oh well! I’m having a hard enough time trying to figure out how to photograph stuff. There are fewer blank walls in this house and they are all plaster!

Robert Kaufman nostalgic baseball print cotton with brushed brown cotton twill back. Medium blue topstitching.

Robert Kaufman nostalgic baseball print nap blanket with brown brushed twill back

Robert Kaufman nostalgic baseball print nap blanket with brown brushed twill back

boy's baseball print nap blanket detail

Robert Kaufman mod floral corduroy in merlot backed with grey brushed twill (Don’t ask why I have 300 yards of brushed twill in my basement unless you want to buy some.) Pink topstitching!
Robert Kaufman mod floral corduroy with gray brushed twill, nap blanketdetail of girl's mod floral and gray nap blanket with pink stitching


old pin cushion

A few years ago an older friend of ours passed away. She left behind a house full of memories. I inherited a few of her sewing things, including this old pincushion with the heart shaped stickpin and the pearl headed corsage pins. Nothing special about it, you’ve seen them everywhere right? I decided to use it because Anne wouldn’t want anything of hers to go to waste. So the last few years I’ve used it with the increasing realization that it was just falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it. I had some idea of taking it apart to see how it was made so that maybe I could make my own out of a cheery print.

As I opened it up and made an incredible mess, all of these old needles spilled out with the dusty sawdust filling. I was struck with the thought of how Anne had used every one of these needles on some project, for herself or her children. Maybe for the house or for a neighbor, for a grandchild or a friend.

A lifetime of projects sewn with love. Sewn with these needles. A lifetime of needles.

empty old pincushion and needles


beef orzo soup with ginger and green onions

Yes, this is what I’m having for lunch. Yes, I’m posting this to make you hungry. Hee hee. This is actually a leftover portion that was in the freezer so it’s not quite as pretty as it would be when I’ve just made it. Here’s the rough recipe, I’m pretty sure this is my own creation. It has a bit of an Asian flavor to it. I apologize for the vagueness of the proportions, that’s just the sort of cook I am. Exact measurements are not important in this case, just wing it and adjust to your personal taste. I love making soup, it’s really quite forgiving and the layering of flavors is such an interesting process.

Beef Orzo Soup with ginger and green onions (about 4 servings)

  • beef stock, maybe 2-3 cups? (I usually just save the leftover juices from when I make roast beef, good for using again in all kinds of ways)
  • flank steak, about 6 oz.?, cut into 0.5 x 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 cup of orzo (this is a rice shaped pasta if you are not familiar with it)
  • grated fresh ginger to taste, maybe 2 tbsp?
  • soy sauce to taste
  • one or two stalks of green onion, sliced thin

I brown the steak in a bit of olive oil with just the white part of the green onion in the bottom of a good sized pot. Then pour in the beef stock, thin with water as necessary. Stir in the soy sauce and grated ginger and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and allow to simmer until orzo is cooked. Stir in about half of the remaining green onion slices and then toss the rest on top of each serving.

Enjoy! I’d love to hear about it if you try this recipe and like it. If you don’t like it then adjust it to your own tastes!

craft foam flowers

I really can’t draw but I’m trying to learn. Having two kids who want me to draw something fast with fat crayons really helps. You can’t think too much you just have to draw something that has the simplest relevant details. I always draw the same sort of flowers, large round center with five round petals crowding around the center. It’s taken me about three years to get the petals all about the same size and shape. Today when the girl asked to make flowers I almost drew those same old flowers. Then I decided it was time to try something different. Without looking at anything I took a pen and drew on some craft foam (yeah that stuff I don’t really care for). Admittedly I had to sketch it several times before I had a decent shape I could cut out but it’s totally different! Almost modern looking. I also attempted a different leaf shape than my standard teardrop. Here are a few pictures to illustrate the process of making the flowers less two dimensional. I’m also including a printable PDF with the patterns and instructions to make your own craft foam flowers or simply print, color and cut on sturdy paper. When I traced the flowers into bezier curves in Freehand, I did my best to retain the loose hand drawn shape of the petals. You’ll notice one of the petals is quite lopsided, almost like a boot shape, makes it easier to line up the mirror images!

PS. I also apologize for the fuzziness of these pictures. I’m trying to work on using natural light because that usually produces truer colors but I was having a hard time getting good focus at the same time.

PPS. A good way to use up those leftover bits of colored paper and craft foam is to cut them into relatively small pieces and use them to make a mosaic on black paper. Kids love this!

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Here’s the girl. She dressed herself in an old dress I refashioned for her out of one of my old tee shirts. Then she donned a play silk cape with my help. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then she took the cut-off sock tops I made her when she asked for “arm sleeves” and put them on her legs. That got the camera out. Isn’t she hilarious?


writing in the snow

Today while the girl and I were out enjoying the sunshine we noticed strange lines, almost like writing, in the snow. I knew that we hadn’t made these marks so I wondered what they were. Looking straight down I was able to see that they were left by sticks that had been laying on top of the snow and had somehow sunk straight down into the snow! I don’t know what conditions made that happen but I thought the shadowy marks had a striking graphic quality about them.

random lines in the snow twig in the snow


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