April 2009

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img_3847Phew. That was harder than I expected. But since I intend on doing more patterns and tutorials this was good practice. If you sew at all I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a look at this and see if it all make sense. I’m sure there are some problems, hopefully nothing major, but please let me know if you find anything that is confusing or wrong. I didn’t want to leave anything out but at the same time I didn’t want it to be 7 pages long either. It’s really easier than it looks. So get the pdf pattern and the pdf tutorial (3.9MB), a yard each of two great prints, 5.5 yards of bias tape and make yourself a fun spring bag!

bias trimmed slouch bag with tie straps

PS. Included in the tutorial are instructions on how to join bias tape into a loop which would be useful for lots of other projects such as pillow covers, quilts of course, potholders, etc.


. . . in the back yard. We have an empty lot behind us which is kind of nice as it gives our shallow in-town lot the illusion of depth. But let me tell you, there are some strange wild things back there. How about these ghostly looking ferns?

ghostly ferns creepy plant

The creepy plant on the right is a “magic beanstalk” according to the girl. What she does not know is that it is going to grow up into a huge monstrous semi-woody, take-over-anything-in-its-path weed. And since they poked their little red heads up they seem to grow inches everyday. I don’t know what they are or how to combat them but I know we need to come up with a plan fast!

Here’s something prettier: vintage daffodils massed in front of the house. According to our sweet neighbor across the street, they have been here about 50 years. My guess is they were planted by the original owners of the house.


And here are the delicate unfurling ferns that were the inspiration for my fiddlehead pendant.

 young ferns unfurling

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slouch bag with tie strap

JenP’s teenage daughter saw a hobo style bag in a store and loved the shape but not the fabric. A search for a similar pattern came up empty. Since I love to make patterns I volunteered to draft a pattern based on a picture. Yeah, I like to go off on tangents like that.

Since I wasn’t making the bag for anyone in particular I just pulled fabric out of my stash. I got this turquoise Israeli fabric in a trade, I’ve always thought it was interesting but I didn’t know what to do with it. I figured it would look pretty good on a big bag. I had pulled the lipstick red out as a lining for another possible fabric and decided to use the combination as it brought to mind some recent pictures I’d seen of a room decorated in these colors and a fantastic quilt by CocoaDreams. It’s a total departure for me!

It didn’t take me too long to draft the pattern. It requires 3/4 to 1 yard of the outer print, 3/4 of the lining, 5 yards of bias tape and about two or three hours. Also a small piece of stabilizer of some sort for the base, I used fusible fleece but craft foam would work as well. Mine is made of quilting cotton so it is really lightweight. It’s huge and could easily work as a diaper bag, beach bag, anything. I took pictures along the way so that I can make a tutorial to go along with the pattern which I digitized after I finished the bag. Details: two inner patch pockets, wide tie straps, oval bottom, bias bound straps and top edge, single snap closure and two decorative ties. I wish I had some big red beads to put on the ends of those . . . And guess what? All machine sewing and totally reversible!

slouch bag reversible slouch bag in turquoise and red

I’m not sure how to post the tutorial as it’s quite a lot of pictures for which I have yet to write the accompanying text. It’s all there in my head. So as soon as I figure that out I’ll post the tute and pdf pattern.

I almost forgot. I pulled an AmyDawn to get the photo! The lovely model is a playground aquaintance, not quite a total stranger but almost. I met her about a week ago when she was at the playground with a friend of hers who is the mother of one of the boy’s classmates. Did you get all that? We happened to be the only ones at the same playground again today and she graciously agreed to model the bag for me, isn’t she cute?

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paper cats 3D three dimensional

It’s a bit of a story how I ended up doing this particular cut-and-color. I was making paper mouse and cat puppets on popsicle sticks at the urging of the boy who has been studying and creating fairy tale puppet shows in school. The puppets he had brought home were all colored on one side only but I thought it would be nice to have both sides of the mice colored so I cut the teardrop body on the fold so that I could enclose the popsicle stick. While the boy was busy coloring the simple mice and pasting on the tails and ears, I went to work on the cat. It wasn’t so easy to make a good cat shape that would fold over the stick in the same way. But the attempt set the wheels in my head turning.

Later I googled images of hunting cats until I found several with their backs straight and heads and tails down. This allowed me to place the spine of the cat on the fold of the paper. It then occurred to me that I could make the legs on each side of the cat different for a more realistic pose. This was a bit tricky but I think it turned out rather well. By creasing the spine and then gluing just the head and tail, your hunting cat will stand up on its own with a bit of a three dimensional look. I could probably carry that idea further but I’ll leave that for another time. I knew this one was a more difficult cut so I asked a nine year old friend to give it a try. He made the larger orange cat and I made the tan cat. As usual, the pdf pattern is best printed out on cardstock but will work with regular paper.

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handspun silkWe’ll just call this art yarn, haha. I just wanted to see if I could make it look pretty like the pictures I see online of hanks of handspun yarn. What you can’t see is multiple knots and the fact that it’s only 40 yards long. I wonder what I can make with 40 yards??


yellow orange handspun silk

I’m guessing I spun it too much so when I tried to unwind it to ply it plied itself into a big mess. But now it’s all calmed down.

It’s April vacation week so we are off to the Children’s Museum with some friends.


I was so excited to finish spinning the golden silk that I foolishly decided to go ahead and ply it as well. Disaster, complete and utter disaster to the point there is no picture because I am hoping that maybe I will wake up tomorrow and it will have magically fixed itself. Apparently plying singles is one of the things you are not supposed to do while under the influence of cold medicine. No driving, operating heavy machinery, or plying singles into yarn. Now you know . . . don’t let it happen to you.


brown paper package

This has been going around the craft blogs lately. The first three commentors receive a handmade gift from the poster, then they post the offer on their blog and pay it forward to the next three. I don’t usually do these sorts of things but since you can make anything you want and I like presents (giving and receiving) . . .

Here’s the “official” part cobbled from my friend Krista who posted on Facebook:
Do you like getting packages in the mail?
Brown paper packages, tied up with string?

If so, it would be my pleasure to send you something that I’ve made for you and for you alone.

* I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.
* What I create will be just for you! New! Not something I made previously and have just laying around.
* It’ll be done this year (2009).
* You have no clue what it’s going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something over the internet.
* It may be jam. It may be a necklace or an original artwork or a cake or a chocolate mousse or knitted goods. Who knows? Not you, that’s for sure! (Not me either right now…)

And fromSnippety Gibbet‘s blog: “The first three people to leave a comment will receive a hand made gift from me, the only thing you have to do is participate and carry on the gift giving to three more people . . . as soon as you have left a comment do a “pay it forward post” on your blog and continue the giving.
I will contact the first three commenters to get their addresses.”

MTA: Good question from Amy, no you don’t have to have a blog, you can use some other social networking medium or just send out an e-mail to friends.

Okay, I am e-mailing those who responded for snail addresses, just remember I have all of 2009 to send your package, lol!

I just spent the last hour spinning three cocoons worth of golden orange silk with an afghan hook and a wooden wheel. First off this makeshift drop spindle spins much better than the one I made with the crochet hook. Until or if I find the wooden spindle it will do nicely since I don’t know any better anyway. It will spin until I can draft no higher.

Now spinning the silk is so different from the wool I tried. It holds the spin so nicely but I had the hardest time figuring out how to draft. The silk is so strong it needs a firm hand. Also I tried two different methods of drafting the silk hankies dyed by my friend Annie, SpinKnit. I think my biggest problem was actually separating the layers, despite lotioning up, my hands are rough from winter and yard work and getting old I suppose. I’m going to need to get a manicure just to get my hands softened up so I don’t keep snagging on the silk!

First I tried drafting from the center as many instructions on the internet recommended. Bad. Very bad. The first one I thought that I just needed to keep going and not worry about what the start looked like. The second one I was about ready to give up because I couldn’t get a consistent draft no matter how much yanking and pulling I did. So the third layer I tried a different method I remembered reading. Poke a hole in the center of the layer and pull it out into a ring and then you can just keep pulling and drafting and then pull it apart at some point and start spinning. OH! SOOOO much easier!! I was thrilled with the results. And right now I am not going to think about the fact that I’ll have to ply this if I hope to knit anything out of it using needles bigger than straight pins. Yippee! I totally blew off my list of projects in favor of spinning for no reason. I’m glad. Now I feel motivated again. Phew.

handspun silk on makeshift drop spindle

Please forgive the poor lighting. It’s after midnight, I figured a poorly lit photo was better than none at all. Hey at least it’s relatively in focus. (learning how to use that macro setting!)


empty black velvet lined boxes

I scored a few of these previously used black boxes, a little dusty but sturdy. They are some sort of thin but hard board covered in faded black paper and lined with foam covered with cheap velvet. (I’m sure these will be very easy to gut.) Some of them have little latches and some of them have self-closing hinges. Some are approximately 5×7″ and others are 6×8″, about 2.5″ deep. I didn’t know what I would do with them but obviously they have great potential. The girl appropriated one for her little dolls as soon as I got them in the door!

So I’m throwing this out there to my readers. What would you do with one of these? I’d love to hear your ideas on how you might decorate the outsides and what you might put inside. I’m thinking treasure boxes, photo storage, special gift packaging, triptychs, memory boxes, craft tool cases, decoupage purse. What are you thinking? ¬†Leave me a comment by May 5th and I’ll be giving a few of these out.** Feel free to spread the word, I want to hear lots of ideas!

**Two catches – I’ll want you to e-mail a picture of your finished project to post here on my blog by May 31 and I won’t be sending any outside the US, because I’m broke, sorry.

lavender tulips in a metal bucket
just because they’re pretty ;)

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long time no knit swatch bottom up
So while I was rummaging around for black rubber cord to string my fern pendant on I found this! It’s cotton, probably for crochet, can’t remember what I bought it for, maybe tying up packages? It’s a nice weight, not to small, maybe something you would knit or crochet baby washcloths out of. Anyway, I immediately thought, I can knit with this! Because I’ve had this knitting bug for the last few weeks but I didn’t think I had any yarn. I immediately grabbed some needles and cast on. How crazy is that? For a split second I thought I should really grub around for a book but I decided to wing it and just see what I could remember from the very few times I have knit anything.

So this is the result. I did go to Ravelry part way through because I started to have lots of questions, not about how to do what I was doing but more of the curiosity killed the cat type. While there I figured that it might be okay to learn to knit right needle to left needle (considered backwards by most I think). I was only wondering about this because I hate to purl. Ah, yes, that is why I never really got into knitting. Although after a few rows of knitting backwards I decided that maybe purling wasn’t so bad after all. My left hand is far better at tensioning evenly than my right hand. No surprise, my left hand also has far better rhythm on the piano or playing percussion. I don’t know why but it’s a very good thing for a pianist, if one of your hands is going to be worse than the other I mean. You’d much rather your left hand have better rhythm, but I digress.

I also think that I cast on using the long tail method, can you tell, knitting people? I really have no idea, I just did what my hands wanted to do. I’m not good with remember the names of stitches but I think besides the plain knit and purl sections there is also seed stitch?, stockinette?, and 3×2 rib which is rather hard to make out.

So the other thing I figured out is that I think I knit Continental style which means I hold the yarn in my left hand. I tried holding it in my right hand, that was pretty well impossible. I couldn’t really wrap my brain around that so I decided not to try tonight. But I am curious because I’m sure that there would be instances where you want to know different methods just to have different options, if I get that far.

So if my knitting friends are reading, bring it on! You know you want to tell me what yarn to buy, what pattern to try, what your favorite knitting style is, etc. and probably more things I have no clue about. I finally figured out what LYS stands for. Local Yarn Shop for you other non-knitting types. ;)

I was going to just rip this out but then I decided that it was kind of cute and I might be sorry since this is one of the more enjoyable pieces of knitting I’ve ever done. So bottom up the way it was knit it looks like a house since I decided to try decreasing there at the end when I was running out of steam. But turned over it looks like an overgrown patch pocket. I thought that was kind of cute. Maybe I can turn it into something.

knitting sampler patch pocket?


There are a number of traditional signs of spring – crocuses, robins, etc. Since we’ve lived in Maine, one of my personal signs of spring is the appearance of fiddleheads. These are the tightly coiled baby ferns coming up through last year’s blanket of left over leaves. In our old house we had lots of woods surrounding the house and most years we had lovely swathes of ferns spring up in the dappled sun under the barely budding trees.

fiddleheads just coming up

Now that we’ve moved to a house in town I thought we’d left behind this fascinating miracle of spring. I was so excited to discover these tiny fiddleheads just barely peeking out of the dirt at the edge of the trees. Those tall green leaves are some sort of bulb, maybe daffodils?? Usually the fiddleheads are green but I’ve seen them in a coppery color occasionally too. In the above picture you can see the combination of light green stem and light brown tiny feathery parts that will open up into green fronds.

I chose to incorporate a background of a fully opened fern frond which I made by drawing with colored pencils on shrink plastic. I then formed the copper wire into various sizes of fiddlehead shapes and glued them to the baked shrink plastic rectangle, finishing with a small loop of leather for a bail. I like the combination of copper and green with the dark background. I wish I could have taken a clear picture with the sun shining through the pendant to show the full effect but my photography skills were not up to the task. So I’ve photographed it on an envelope for scale.

fiddlehead pendant made of copper wire and shrink plastic

edited: I did it. Here it is in the sunny window!

fiddlehead fern copper wire and shrink plastic pendant

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spring cookiescookies for Easter

Children like to bake cookies. Mine are no exception. Now me, I don’t really like to bake cookies, especially with my children. Why? Because the girl cannot seem to stay away from the oven, and both of the kids get incredibly wound up with all the steps of what is the most horrible hurry-up-and-wait activity I can think of. Maybe it’ll be more fun for me when they can do the whole thing by themselves and I just get to eat the results.

I’m not particularly a baker because you have to either bake often or follow the recipe. There’s all that science involved you know, which I actually find quite interesting but not when I have two anxious children asking me every second how can they help and it is it ready yet and why can’t they open the oven, etc. But Saturday Rich went grocery shopping (isn’t he wonderful?) and brought home some ready made cookie dough (I know, never thought I’d be doing that!) and some icing so the kids could make Easter cookies. Of course they wanted to do it right away but I knew that there would be no dinner eaten if I didn’t insist on dinner first.

So after much badgering every five minutes it was finally time. I followed the directions on the package despite my misgivings that the dough looked too soft. I put them twice as far apart as directed and they still spread into each other like rabid pancakes. Oh well. I should have added flour but I was feeling lazy so I just cut the slices smaller. It worked out okay.

Anyway, we finally managed to get cookies out of the oven and cooled to decorate. I think most of the actual decorating was done by the adults under the strict supervision of the kids. They can get pretty autocratic when dictating icing colors! The boy did do a few on his own and the girl just could not wait to “do the sprinkles”. They each picked one to eat and then carefully set several aside to take to our neighbor, the nicest grandmotherly sort that the kids love to visit. She laughs sincerely at their jokes and stories even when they don’t make any sense. And they just had to go see her right away even though it was almost bedtime. Graciously funny as ever, she welcomed us in wearing her bathrobe and pin curls and we sat around her kitchen table talking and laughing for a few minutes. I suppose that made it all worth while.

Easter cookies in a Valentine's box

A little lamb for you my friends.

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scherenschnitte or papercutting of children dancing
This is my first attempt at scherenschnitte or papercutting in the Swiss/German style. I made this artwork for the spring music program at the boy’s school. Since the program will be photocopied, I was thinking about how to create a strong design in black and white and one thing lead to another . . .

As usual I never make a simple first attempt at anything. I had to include people and words, neither of which are easy in any medium. I cobbled together my design with a combination of sketching by hand and sizing and moving around silhouettes and type on the computer to get the general arrangement I wanted. I then printed out my rough and temporarily stuck it to black paper. Rather than use the traditional tiny scissors, I used a new X-acto blade to cut through both the pattern and the black paper, allowing the knife some freedom to vary from the sketch. I cut on my Merry Glo Round light box which is a treat because it spins freely as well as lighting from underneath! I’ve always “drawn” better with scissors than with a pencil. Years of comping concepts for advertising projects and cutting the occasional stencil has made me pretty handy with the X-acto!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the result. I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of scherenschnitte as it is a bit hard on the hands, but I don’t think this will be the last time either. I took inspiration from several blogs of people who take scherenschnitte much more seriously and do amazing work, particularly this one, another Cindy.

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