June 2009

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The boy asked me to make Hoho the monkey from the children’s show, Nihao, Kailan. He wanted me to make it out of Sculpey but I wasn’t too keen on that, images of broken tails and such coming to mind. So I decided to turn to felt instead. I drew my pattern, cut it out of felt, then needle felted the details on and blanket stitched the pieces together with a little cotton stuffing.

I thought that I ought to make the girl a little character too so I chose Hello Kitty, a famous icon from Japan that I remember as a little girl. Also done up in felt, I forgot one little detail, can you tell?

Hoho monkey from Nihao, Kailan and Hello Kitty handmade felt mascots toys

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salad greens growing in a hanging planter basket

I started container gardening when we moved to our first apartment in Maine. We had a small balcony that got just enough sun for me to grow a few tomato and pepper plants on the railing. I enjoyed how clean and easy this was, no bugs to combat, no bending over. When we moved into a house, Rich built a raised bed and we had several gardens there. That was nice too but I still found it really convenient to grow our salad greens in planters on the front doorstep where I could just snip a salad without putting on my shoes.

This is our first summer in the new house and while I had really hoped to put in a vegetable garden it just hasn’t happened. In hindsight it’s probably better that we didn’t as here we are approaching July and we’ve had about three days of sunshine.

But I did start some salad greens in this hanging basket. I had the seeds and I had the basket and the hooks were still stuck in the ground where they got “planted” on moving day. I should have planted both baskets for a more frequent harvest, I still could given the cool weather here in Maine. But the rain-loving slugs and snails that have been eating everything on the ground haven’t bothered my salad greens at all! Salad greens don’t need a deep container and once the leaves are 3-4″ tall you can harvest once a week or so and they will continue to send up new leaves as long as it doesn’t get too hot. You can even move the baskets or planters around!


We went out to camp last weekend for our church retreat. Most of the pictures I took this year were of people but here are a few outside shots. Classic purple irises have been blooming at the bottom of the lodge steps for years. This lodge window struck me with that same color combination I’ve been seeing lately, red trimmed window with a faded turquoise curtain behind, surrounded by the weathered wood. Nothing trendy here, more likely an accident out of the remnant bin!

classic purple irises old red trim window in log building

It was rather a wet weekend but the kids enjoyed themselves immensely. And I think the adults had a pretty relaxing time too. It’s so nice to spend the weekend with friends and be able to let the kids roam around and do their own thing, now that mine are old enough to be (reasonably) trusted to stay together within the camp grounds and show up to ring the dinner bell.

playing softball at camp

brooms and dustpan kids on a mission

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clear pen with fabric insert

I like to write with gel pens that usually have clear barrels. I thought I’d try dressing one up to match my tape dispenser. I took the pen apart, wrapped the inner pen with fabric and then reinserted it into the clear case. This wasn’t too hard with fabric and would be even easier with paper. You only need a tiny scrap and you may already have one of these pens. These would make nice little gifts or stocking stuffers.

A few hints if you decide to try this yourself. Use a pen with a fatter barrel. The kind that have a bottom cap that screws off are much easier to work with. The piece of fabric or paper only needs to be about 3/4″ wide by the length that will show in your pen. Use clear tape to secure one long edge to the pen, wrap the fabric around and reinsert into the barrel. Screw on the bottom cap. Done.

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strake (as used by the girl)

1. v. to rake leaves or grass
2. n. the implement used to rake leaves or grass

Oddly enough I don’t remember her using this in the fall, then again we had such a short fall. But she has been using it this spring when the grass gets cut. She likes to use her own “strake” to help.

These are some of the things I made for the brown paper packages pay-it-forward. I tried to make something that would fit each person or something that we had in common. For some reason I ended up making jewelry for all three of these friends. Maybe because I like to make jewelry but I don’t actually wear it much myself. I have one left that is a little more difficult so I am taking my time.

This one is a charm bracelet made for Peggie from Maine living in Texas. I put some shells gathered from Maine beaches, a real acorn, some blue beads that reminded me of blueberries and a silver dragonfly—some of my favorite things about summer in Maine.

Maine themed charm bracelet

A rosy glass pebble backed with a handcolored print of a fairy sprite and embraced by curliqued copper wire went to Jen of Dahara Dreaming. I know she makes jewelry too but she also does pretty much every other craft I do as well!

glass pebble and copper wire pendant

And this hematite and howlite pendant was made for Carla, a fellow member of a fabric co-op I’m in. I don’t know her as well so I thought I’d stick to something black and white. I originally made a similar necklace several years ago and was never pleased with it but I liked the combination of materials so I decided to try again. I was much happier with this version. The three sets of beads swing from a wire ring suspended in the middle of the hematite oval so the whole piece moves freely.

hematite oval and howlite beaded pendant

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My friend Jan has a blog! Actually she started it a while ago but she’s introducing it now so I thought I’d put in a plug about her and her work. She is a painter and sculptor. She shares art with children with patience and enthusiasm.

Jan is my friend, fellow artist and mom. She has taught me so much and we love to get together to work on art projects or just hang out. We are about the same age, each have a boy and a girl, her younger child and my older child were born ten days apart and have been friends since then. Our husbands both love the Boston Celtics, U2 and Lord of the Rings. We all go to church together and have worked together on various projects at church and at our favorite camp, Gander Brook.

Just a peek at one piece so you’ll go look at her blog. She does accept commissions by the way!

kids-portrait-3-6 by Jan Obenhaus


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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fabric remnant used as padding for a package

While putting together some packages to mail out, I was looking for a little extra padding to protect the gift I was mailing and noticed a pile of small fabric scraps. They all happened to be cut in rectangles, maybe 12 x 18 or so. Certainly enough to make a little something, but what? So rather than leave them sitting there, I used one to add a little extra padding around a gift before putting it in an envelope. I didn’t bother to finish the edges of the fabric remnant since I was sending it to a friend who sews. So she’ll get a colorful wrapping that she can then reuse for a little project!


knitted wool potholder

I bought a bag of wool fiber samples when I bought my spindle. The spinning came out thick and thin and did not have enough spin in it but I was determined not to waste it so I decided to ply it and knit it up into potholders! I used a bit smaller needles size so they would be fairly tight, they knit up nice and thick and I did a row or two of single crochet around the edge. The first is just regular knitting, the second one I knit on the bias so I could practice making increases and decreases. They look much better knit up than the spun yarn did!

So I sent them to my dear friend Amy because I know she will love them because I made them, even if they are not so pretty! Maybe her little girl can use them in her play kitchen. These were done a while back but I waited to post them until after Amy got her “brown paper package”.

bias knitted wool potholder

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I suppose every generation lives through some great cultural or technological change. I think the most significant change I’ve seen has been the advent of personal computers and how their presence in every home has changed so many aspects of how we communicate with each other and how we store our thoughts and memories as well. I am just old enough to remember the first Apple computers coming into elementary schools. Although we were one of the first families I knew to get a personal computer at home, it was not until I was in high school. Most of my school papers were written out by hand or typed on a typewriter. Letters were written out by hand and sent by postal mail. I didn’t have e-mail until I was several years into college, and that was mostly because my husband and I started our own advertising design business, not for personal use. Throughout college and even afterwards I kept notebooks full of clothing designs, occasional poetry, sometimes house plans, ideas for Sunday school lessons and kids crafts, recipes, etc.

I was talking with an elderly neighbor the other day and she asked if I kept a journal. It was sort of out of the blue and I said no and we went on to talk of other things. Later I realized that I do sort of keep a journal, it’s this blog! But it’s not really the same as having a book that one can thumb through and share with someone who doesn’t have internet. There is something quite pleasing to me about the printed page, whether typed or handwritten.

Just before the boy was born we purchased our first digital camera and I had high hopes of carefully scrapbooking and journalling those early days. Ha! I’m not sure when but I realized that those things were going to have to wait, probably until the kids are in school and I can have uninterrupted time to sort pictures and memorabilia and force myself to glue them down for posterity. Meanwhile we enjoy looking at the pictures and little movies on the computer every so often.

So about the blog . . . I do have it set up to email me each post so I have a copy on my hard drive as well as on the server. But it’s not necessarily the same as having a paper copy. Someday, I’ll be doing something else and this blog will end (not soon). Since I like to try so many new things I often find myself going back to my own blog to see how I did something before. So I think that it might be nice to have it printed out in a notebook format that could sit on the shelf in my sewing/crafting room. And I can’t imagine not ever having a sewing/crafting space. Of course the photographs are all sized for viewing on the web so they won’t print very nicely. But still I’d have the words and the ideas. Hmmm . . .

fabric gift bags with sewn in ties made from scraps

I made these quick little fabric gift bags out of remnants. I originally made a cross back baby jumper from this fabric for a friend’s daughter. My girl inherited it and I think it’s since been passed on to someone else!

Anyway, I hate to throw away scraps and these pieces were probably only 4 x 6 maybe. I did a rolled hem on the top edge with the serger and then stuck the ribbon in the seam as I sewed. Faster than a drawstring bag but you can’t lose the tie either! There is a better description on how to make these bags by Betz White. You could even make these with the iron-on hem tape if you don’t sew, just don’t put anything too heavy in it just in case!

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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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Here she is, a Baynes double treadle spinning wheel, basking in the morning light.

Baynes double treadle spinning wheel

And from the side:
side view of Baynes spinning wheel

New to me from SpunkyEclectic. Yes, I am totally crazy, I just started spinning when? But sometimes you just know. Here’s the description that won me over. And I got a shockingly great deal from Amy on this wheel as it was a floor model (thank you Daddy). I picked it up from her booth at Fiber Frolic. I gave it a light cleaning that night and started treadling without fiber to get the feel of it. Then I did some plying with two different colored singles so that it was easy to see what was happening. Then I broke out the sample of BFL. That’s Blue-Faced Leicester, which is a kind of sheep, not to be confused with BFML which is Annie‘s Jim.

It took me about an ounce of wool to get things going fairly well. Oddly enough I felt like I was starting over from where I’d gotten to with hand spindling. Which I suppose just means that my hand spindling has improved since I started. By the second ounce I was getting a fairly consistent single pretty easily and enjoying it. I tried to figure out what my techique is by poking around on the internet. As with my hand spindling, apparently I’m not doing exactly one particular technique but I think it’s most like what is called “long draw”. Here are pictures of the first bobbin at the beginning and then the second bobbin, you can see the improvement from left to right.

first attempt on a spinning wheel spinning bfl (blue faced Leicester) on my Baynes spinning wheel

At the beginning it was a little like stopping at an intersection when you are learning to drive a stick shift. Slow down too much and you might stall out! I was a little hesitant to use the BFL to start out with but I didn’t really have anything else. I don’t think I ruined much of it. We’ll see how bad the beginning is when I ply it. Hopefully I’ll get fingering weight yarn in a quantity enough to make something . . . hmmm. I don’t know?

In any case, now that I’ve gotten to try it out all by my lonesome I may be comfortable enough to go take a class. This is the reason I’m terrible at group sports—I hate learning in front of other people. Okay, it’s probably not the only reason!

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wool roving hung on child's wooden rocking chair

This is the gunsmoke colorway in superwash merino/tencel blend I purchased from Spunky Eclectic. Manly don’t you think? (Sorry Rich, this is for my Daddy. I don’t think he reads my blog but I won’t say what I’ll knit out of this after I spin it.)

I’ve been working on improving my photography skills. Inside the house, morning light seems to work out the best. I draped the braid of wool roving over the kids’ rocking chair. This is a treasure given to us by a dear friend before she passed away, I suppose it’s an antique, she told us it was purchased from Sears Roebuck by her father-in-law for her children. I love it and so do the kids. I had no idea how pretty this photo would turn out. My best photos have always been taken outdoors.


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