May 2009

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I’m working on brown paper package projects! It takes me a while to decide what I want to do in these sort of circumstances. But I have three of my five projects underway. I am taking pictures but I’ll post them after they get mailed out.

I’ve also been savoring my birthday present, a dozen DVDs of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, starring the admirable David Suchet. Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I first read one of her mysteries in the third grade. I don’t often care for filmed versions of books but these are really well done—lovely sets, gorgeous costumes, good casting.

I’m enjoying spinning with my new spindle now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that my left hand is just going to do what it wants to do. The boy has been quite interested and “helped” a bit. He can actually give it a good steady flick. Now if I could just get him to wind the spun wool . . .

I’ve been playing around with reorganizing the sewing room. We moved some furniture out so I’m hoping to get a cutting/work table in. I’ve actually set up a temporary one to test the height and such. Lots of plans, not so much skill or time to accomplish them. Although I did get a great book with lots of ideas for building storage/furniture that doesn’t require a lot of fancy tools, Quick and Easy Handmade Storage by Philip and Kate Haxell. I laughed when I got home as I realized I already have another book by the same authors. I do think that I could actually do most of the projects in this book given the materials and some child free time with power tools. BZZZZ! BZZZZ!

Another reason there are no pictures is that my computer was having some issues so I’m temporarily geared down until dear hubby can patch it up again. And it’s been raining frogs here. I like a nice rainy day inside but the kids are getting a little crazy.


The boy finally lost his first tooth this week. I think he was feeling a bit left out as quite a few of his friends had already lost their first teeth. There was much dancing and singing. While the boy was gone to school I decided to make a tooth pillow so the “tooth fairy” would be able to find the little tooth under the boy’s pillow that night. I thought about doing some needle felting but ended up using embroidery floss to stitch a little face on the tooth and blanket stitch to stitch the tooth shape onto the pillow and finish the edges as well. I left a little opening at the top of the tooth big enough for a quarter (according to the song the boy learned in school, bless that music teacher!)

hand made felt tooth fairy pillow

I don’t do embroidery or cross stitch too often but occasionally I like to do it, especially on a small project like this where there are immediately satisfying results. After I was done with the tooth pillow I was reminded of this Japanese craft book that my aunt gave me years ago. It’s full of adorable felt people, animals and plants. The boy and the girl have already picked out projects for me to do, of course.

Japanese craft book of felt people, animals and plants

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First off I have been wanting a copy of any Mary Brooks Pickens sewing book and I scored this 1953 edition off eBay for less than $10. The outside looks its age but the inside is totally clean! It’s full of all sorts of great knitpicky sewing details that you can’t find in modern books. Now if I can just find a 40’s/50’s vintage pattern drafting book I’ll be all set!

inside of Singer Sewing Book 1953 by Mary Brooks Pickens

I think there was also some household shopping in there which involved a new watchband for me—exactly like my old watchband—just not falling off the pins, a very stylish linen shirt for DH, a bargain pair of pink-trimmed sneakers for the girl and a few pairs of much needed jeans for the boy. Yes, I broke down and bought them. I promise to still finish the scary pair.

But the highlight of my weekend was a visit to Spunky Eclectic. I’ve been searching for a local yarn shop that also carried fiber and spinning wheels/spindles. I had found a few but was kind of intimidated out of actually going for one reason or another. Then I found Spunky Eclectic’s site which just seemed so much more inviting, and not any farther away so I decided I had to go! The shop was full of all sorts of beautiful hand dyed fibers and yarns and so many textures to feel that I’d only had names and word descriptions of previously. And the proprietress, Amy, was so nice, showing me around and answering all my questions, I’m afraid I talked her ear off! I went to buy sock yarn and look at wheels and spindles and fiber. There was just too much to take in, I’ll have to go again of course. But I came home with a Cascade spindle and a sampler of different wools to try spinning. It was really interesting to feel the subtle differences. I didn’t know which to start with. I thought about dyeing them but I don’t have any acid dyes besides Kool-aid and I’m not really thrilled with the idea of citrus colored socks that need to be handwashed . . . so . . . I started spinning anyway. And I forgot to buy sock yarn. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to knit what I spin!

wool fiber sampler from Spunky Eclectic and a Cascade spindle

And yikes. Amy gave me a little demo. I have been spinning all wrong. Of course what I was doing worked on the silk but it did not work on the wool. Well, sort of. I’ve been working hard to do the park-and-draft that she showed me but it’s very difficult. My left hand does not like it at all. I’m not left-handed but I’m pretty ambidextrous. And apparently my left hand likes to be in control! I’ll keep working at it.

Gettng back to books! Annie mentioned that Amy had a new book coming out so I asked about it and I got to thumb through her advance copy of Spin Control which is due out in June I think she said. It looks wonderful! I’m not very good at following directions especially of other people’s ideas, I generally like to just figure things out on my own, so I can be very particular about what few books I will buy. This looks like a book that would be really useful to me. There are a lot of very specific pictures that are just the sort of details that I find helpful to really understanding and mastering a new skill, as well as the pretty pictures that can be inspirational.

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first handknitted spiral socks

Actually they’ve been done for a while but this is the best picture I’ve been able to get since the girl appropriated them. She wears them constantly but has been rather coy about allowing me to take a picture. And they look positively silly without feet in them. The pattern is free from from Vintage Purls. I did make a number of modifications (see my project notes on Ravelry if you are really interested in making this sock for children) for size and just because I can’t follow directions to the letter even if I’m doing something for the first time. It’s a disease I’m sure.

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3D dragonfly scherenschitte by snippety gibbet

This incredible three dimensional scherenschnitte dragonfly arrived in the mail yesterday from Snippety Gibbet. Jan is an elementary art teacher (brave soul!) and a fearless explorer of art and cycling. I connected with her recently when I was working on my first scherenschnitte piece for the boy’s school show program. I’m going to have to find a special place to hang this in our house full of varieties-of-white walls. Astute of her to pick up on my fondness for dragonflies. Thanks Jan!


Because it’s that bad. I’m working on a pair of jeans for the boy who desperately needs pants that have no gaping holes in the knees and don’t show off his ankles. I was hoping to make it to shorts weather without buying or making new pants but this is Maine and it’s still decidedly long pants weather.

Anyhow, it is not going well. I used the pants pattern I’ve been using but I wasn’t quite sure if it had seam allowance built in or not because of course I didn’t write that info down when I drew the pattern. Tsk, tsk. So I added just a bit of seam allowance. The pants seem huge. I knew the legs were a bit wide since I’ve used the pattern mostly for pajama pants; I should have taken that into account and skipped the extra seam allowance. I’m trying a new idea for a deconstructed look that leaves some edges open to fraying. Already I can tell that I did not think that through. Grain edges do not fray nicely in twill weave, duh. I cut front pockets and the faux fly without a pattern. The fly looks fine but I wish I’d cut the pockets differently. They will work, but I should have chosen a different style to fit with the rest of the look.

It’s tough to mess with jeans styling, there is such an established American style that you have to really think the whole thing through to get something that is different in a good way. I know that the pants will be wearable, by someone, if not the boy. So I just need to take a deep breath and keep sewing, throw the things in the wash to fray and hope for the best. But I’d really rather be spinning.

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eggs benedict made with smoked salmon

Why did I find myself poaching eggs for dinner? I don’t even like poached eggs. I like my eggs over hard or completely raw (for sukiyaki) but not in between. Not too long ago we had brunch at a great local hole in the wall and I ordered eggs benedict. Okay, this is the only way I will eat a poached egg. I think the hollandaise sauce disguises it enough that I don’t mind, considering the rest of it is so good. Anyway it was so good that apparently I didn’t get enough of it and it was still on my mind. And there’s the fact that Annie is always posting about poached eggs, I think she and Jim have a fixation about them.

So I made eggs benedict with toast because the girl and I finished off the English muffins yesterday. Rather than use ham I substituted smoked salmon, delish, and topped the whole thing off with a dash of dill. I also made spinach as a side and it was such a good match that I ended up sliding it in between the layers for the second plate. No picture of that, sorry.

The recipe I used (with the above changes) came from which also has a detailed guide on how to poach eggs.

Generally when you need to wind a skein of yarn into a ball before use, you would use a ball winder and a contraption called a swift to hold the skein. Since I own neither of those mechanical aids, I had to do it by hand. The first skein I did completely by hand and it was quite a mess. I resolved to find a better way to wind the second skein.

At the transfer station (otherwise known as the dump) I spied this old folding mug rack. Once home, I set it on a lazy susan and clamped it with bulldog clips into the right position to hold the skein taut. And presto! Not perfect, as the oval shape made the whole thing turn in fits and starts, but certainly passable. On the other end of the yarn is the crafter’s oft used but least praised tool, the empty toilet paper tube. While it makes a decent center-pull ball of yarn, I think I’ll be looking for an alternate method there as well.

makeshift swift using an expanding mug rack and a lazy susan

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Lady slippers are wild orchids that grow up here in New England and a few other places maybe. I believe they are a protected species. I happened on a healthy patch of pink and yellow lady slippers while out walking with the kids. I was able to photograph them in several stages from just poking up through last year’s fallen leaves to full bloom.


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Over the weekend we visited with Nana and Granddad and Great Uncle Wade in NH. The trees are just a bit more leafed out and the flowers are all blooming there, maybe a week ahead of us. We took a romp through the rocky woods and the kids enjoyed exploring and climbing around.



self lined drawstring bag with knitting project
This is the shoe bag tutorial I promised a long time ago. I realized that although I first made it as a shoe bag, it really could be used for anything. Here I have one just the right size for holding a ball of sock yarn, and the sock-in-progress itself. I can pull the knitting out, pull the drawstrings onto my wrist and knit and walk at the same time. It’s sad, just goes to show how suddenly obsessed I am with knitting.

This self-lined drawstring bag is a great way to use pretty remnants of any lightweight fabric. It makes up easily in quilter’s cottons, flannel, satin or velvet, even a salvaged length from a favorite garment. You can piece your fabric to make up enough length or to have a contrast lining. You can even add pockets to the inside or outside before making the bag for even more versatility. A shoestring, ribbon, twill tape, cord or what-have-you can be be used as the drawstring. These make great gift bags especially in smaller sizes and can also be made as a purse for a young girl or a treasure bag for boys. Make one to hold the pieces of a game whose cardboard box is disintegrating. Custom size bags to store craft tools or projects, lingerie or shoes. There are no raw edges, no handsewing and the bag can be used inside out as well.

There is no pattern. It’s just a rectangle, you choose the size for your application. Grab some favorite remnants and the tutorial and make some cute bags. And if you use this pattern, e-mail me a picture of your bag! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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sock knitting on dpns

This is what has been keeping me away from the sewing machine. And probably some other things I ought to be doing. I’m knitting wool socks, in May, I know, but maybe they’ll be done by fall. Of course this is Maine, I wish they were wearable right this minute.

I’m sure I mentioned in an earlier post about having a sudden desire to knit but having no yarn in the house, which lead to some knitting with crochet thread and spinning silk and making some homemade knitting needles. So last week I had taken the girl out to the playground and she wanted to go for a drive before heading home (it’s just a bit too far for her to walk.) So I headed out of town on Main Street and was just about to turn around when I saw a little sign that said yarn shop. Out here? So I followed the sign and ended up at a nice little house with a garage that had been converted into a tidy array of yarn. The proprietress was patient and helpful and the girl was fairly patient once I handed her a $2 ball of pink yarn out of the clearance bin. It took me a while to decide but I picked out a superwash merino wool with nylon blend called Happy Feet in an autumnal colorway that will go with just about anything I own. I also picked up some size 2 double pointed needles aka dpns. I already had a pattern picked out, some ultra simple socks with no heel shaping from Vintage Purlz. Yes, I’m afraid of heels. But really I just wanted to start my first knitting in more than 15 years with something simple. I guess I could have gone with a scarf but I’m always reading about and her socks . . .

I admit to already having modified the pattern. I know, I know, what am I thinking? I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m modifying the pattern? Well, as someone I know recently said, if you mess up with knitting you can always take it apart and still have what you started with, yarn. That’s pretty comforting when compared to cutting fabric. So I’m enjoying the fact that I can do it anywhere in the house and that it’s fairly mindless since this is a simple and easily memorized pattern. Which makes for a soothing craft, almost no mental energy needed. Which is probably why I keep picking the knitting up instead of sewing already cut out garments and several pairs of the boy’s pants in need of knee surgery. Tomorrow. ;)

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marigold flower in a paper cone hung on a doorknob

This showed up on our doorknob last week, courtesy of one of the neighborhood kids. I don’t know what the little blue guy represents exactly but the cone was addressed to the boy and the girl and held a single marigold plant with it’s rootball wrapped in aluminum foil. The kids were thrilled and we planted it right away. I thought it was an awfully cute idea and how neighborly!

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pokemon wurmple made out of sculpey

For your amusement, I present Wurmple, a Pokémon caterpillar, or “Murple” as the boy calls him (it?) made out of Sculpey. It looks complicated but it wasn’t that hard. Playing with clay dough with the kids over the last few years has really developed my ability to make recognizeable three dimensional objects!

Anyway, this did not come about without some reluctance on my part. I was vaguely aware of the game/trading cards, etc. for a long time but did really know anything about it. At the beginning of the school year a letter from the school reminded parents that children were not to bring these trading cards to school. Seemed like a good enough reason not to have them at all. Of course they make it onto the bus and the playground anyway. The boy would make reference to Pokémon occasionally but did not seem too interested until he started talking about “Murple”, a butterfly Pokémon and asking me to find a picture. (He knows all about Google Images). He’s been interested in caterpillars and butterflies for a long time so I thought maybe it was time to pay a little more attention.

It was easy enough to find the Pokémon website but not so easy to find a butterfly named “Murple”. But we did find him and his real name and the fact that he was actually a caterpillar that changes into a cocoon and then into a butterfly . . . with a different name. Yes, it’s confusing. And I learned a bit more about the whole phenomenon and decided that maybe the core idea wasn’t so bad after all. Along the way I printed out a number of other Pokémon for the boy. I used it as a way to encourage him to sound out the names. Kind of hard because some of the names are pretty weird. But apparently pretty motivating. Eventually he asked me to make a “Murple” out of clay. Eek. I really didn’t want to tackle it but he did ask nicely. You know the rest.

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