June 2009

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pinchworm (as used by the boy)

  1. an inchworm
  2. inchworm

  3. a chenille stem inchworm with pony bead eyes as seen below
  4. chenille stem inchworms

I hadn’t seen a picture of an inchworm recently when the boy asked me to make some. We were not at home so I grabbed what I could find which happened to be chenille stems and pony beads. Notice that the real inchworm has six legs on the front segment and four legs on the rear segment, and no neck or tail as well. He pointed out to me the discrepancy in the number of legs immediately although he also graciously said that it was okay and that he liked what I had made. Fast foward a week when a real inchworm happened to catch our attention on the back of someone’s shirt. I picked it up to show the kids and you know what was the first thing the boy said, don’t you? Attention to detail, that’s my boy.

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slashed knees in jeans

Above is the all too familiar before photo. Usually jeans that look like this get hemmed into shorts. But my friend Jan’s son and my boy share a common problem, long legs for their waist size. Both boys have been destroying the knees of their pants as well as growing out of the length, even on slim sizes, when most of the pants are still in great shape and the next size up is too big in the waist anyway. Jan brought me these jeans along with an idea—cut out the knee section and replace it with a longer piece of denim, thereby solving two problems at the same time. It was a good idea but the biggest problem I faced was keeping the number of layers of denim down to a thickness my home sewing machines could manage. I also somehow couldn’t get around the idea that the patches would look weird going all the way around the leg. So I came up with this arrangement, reusing the lower legs off a contrasting colored pair of jeans, and cutting the seams on a bit of a diagonal. I think it worked out okay. The topstitching was necessary for strength but very difficult and would be impossible on a smaller size. I’m not sure I would do it exactly like this again. For love yes, but not for money!

diagonal inserted contrasting jeans patches

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cats playing

These are the kitties, Duke and Lila, they are both around two years old and have been with us since March I think. They came from the same shelter but were not previously acquainted so when we brought them home they had to get used to the house, our family and each other. It wasn’t too long, maybe a few days to a week before the majority of the hissing and yowling was over but they still kept a wary distance.

Lately they’ve been playing at night together, we hear them but we hadn’t actually seen it. They don’t mind being in the same room together, they will even sleep on opposite ends of the same couch or bed. Yesterday afternoon I caught Lila giving Duke a bit of a bath. He didn’t stand for it long but long enough for me to snap a few pictures. In my experience this is a significant step in the feline relationship. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we find them curled up napping together.

cats bathing each other


. . . but since I neglected to take any pictures, you get a picture of homemade jambalaya in the pot instead. Hope you like that, it was delicious if I did make it myself.

jambalaya in a dutch oven

But about Fiber Frolic . . . it was held at the Windsor Fairgrounds, about an hour north of me. My good friend and fellow artist, Jan, went with me. We left all the kids at her house with their dads (thanks guys!) They had fun, we had fun. We figured out the most obvious difference between llamas and alpacas, alpacas are a lot smaller. We oohed and aahed over the baby goats and the bunnies, and the sheep too. For the kids, we brought home some brightly coloreed handpainted silk cocoons, complete with the dried rattling worm inside! And we sampled some of the local handmade goodies including kettle corn and slightly sweetened, dried salmon, yum.

There was an overwhelming amount of fiber and yarn in a riot of colors from natural, right-off-the-sheep-dried-grass-and-all fleeces, to gorgeously dyed braids of shiny, soft roving, and beautifully colored skeins of handspun yarn hanging in the sun. It was a great opportunity to feel all kinds of different wool and other animal fibers and put a feel and look to some of the sheep names I’ve only read about. I only wish there was a book available that held actual samples. Maybe there is and I just don’t know about it yet. Since I’ve been working through spinning the five variety sampler bag I bought from Spunky Eclectic, I am appreciating how the differences that are only somewhat perceptive to the touch and eye can cause significant differences when spinning, and I’m sure to the knitted or crocheted project.

One of the most interesting things we saw was primitive rugs being made with narrow strips of wool hooked through an even weave canvas. Lots of felting, some really beautifully done felt paintings, lots of knitted and crocheted items of course, beautiful handmade spindles and lampwork glass stitch markers and other tools of the needle arts. Amy of Spunky Eclectic was in the last building we came too. Shame on her she had no sign, but I recognized her space immediately from the racks of distinctively dyed wools. I’ll save what I bought from her for my next post since I can at least take pictures of that!

Next year I promise to take cute pictures of the animals, especially the shaved angora bunnies, surely the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.

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experimenting with sidewalk chalk and water

We’ve had fun drawing with sidewalk chalk on the driveway for several summers now. This time the boy decided to add a new element: water. I didn’t capture the fleeting images as they disappeared as I ran to get the camera but this one lasted a few seconds longer. The solar system perhaps?

wet sidewalk chalk drawing


hand spun merino yarn

This is 2oz. of merino wool hand spun on my new spindle. It’s much more consistent than my first attempts with wool. To wind it into the center pull ball, my dad held the spindle in a coffee cup while I turned the handle on my mother’s ball winder. Much faster than the thumb method! Although that can be quite useful and curiously enjoyable with a small amount of yarn such as the silk below which came from SpinKnit.

hand spun silk yarn dyed by SpinKnit

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techno geek baby girl onesies

A baby shower was held at my husband’s office this week in honor of a new baby girl soon to arrive in the household of my husband’s cohort in all things computer. The theme was appropriately “techno geek”. My husband and I tossed around some ideas for decorating onesies—the staple of the newborn wardrobe.

ASCII flowers on a baby onesie hexadecimal color for pink on a pink circle on a baby onesie

We ended up firing up the heat press and using transfer paper to embellish the first onesie with a colorful garden of ASCII flowers. Those of you my age or older may remember making similar pictures on a typewriter in typing class! The second onesie sports a large pink dot with the hexadecimal (web) color number used to specify that particular shade of pink to computers. Apparently one of the adults wanted one of these in her size. We may need to oblige as I am thinking I might want one for me as well! It could very easily be made for boys too of course.

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I’m just going to take a moment to point out that you can receive random-charm in your e-mail box by signing up in the left hand column under the fish. Or you can read on and find out about how random-charm might end up on your fridge as seen below!

random-charm logo magnetic clothespin

Some of you may know that I was once an advertising designer, I still dabble a bit. Within the field, my true loves are typography and copywriting. So I can’t do much of anything, even this blog, without giving it a little graphic touch. However, I’ve taken my time in this case. I’m allowing it to evolve in public, not something I usually do.

The font I chose for random-charm is coincidentally named Charme. Along with a few other tweaks, I impulsively set it at an angle. I did not put the typestyling through the rigorous paces I normally would but started using it right away, shock! So far I haven’t regretted anything. Then again it’s only been applied to the blog header, some mini cards/hang tags (see below) and magnet-backed clothespins. I’ve seen the clothespins done with pretty paper or fabric and thought it would be fun to put my blog name on it and throw into packages that occasionally leave my studio. So if a random-charm clothespin shows up in your mailbox, I hope it will find it’s way onto your fridge!

random-charm mini-cards/hang tags and logo clothespins


We went to see my parents last weekend and my mother gifted me with several odd contraptions and a book I can’t read. Ha ha!

This one is a yarn swift which is used for winding yarn into hanks or skeins. It folds up like an umbrella into that cute pink box.

yarn swift

This one is a ball winder which will wind yarn from skeins into center pull balls. I remember helping my mother wind yarn with this when I was a kid. You’ll see I immediately put it to good use.

yarn ball winder

And this book about how to make seams in knit and crochet pieces. Really amazing, all in Japanese but with great pictures and illustrations of each technique. There are some incredible pictures of invisible seams in what seems like pretty complicated knitted pieces.

vintage Japanese knitting and crochet finishing/seam technique book page detail from Japanese book on knitting and crochet seams pages from Japanese book on knitting and crochet

These will come in handy for my spinning and knitting projects.

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If you’ve ever made your own bias trim or piping, you’ll know that it is not the easiest task but produces a most rewarding and unique embellishment. My 1953 Singer Sewing Book makes reference to a bias cutting gauge made by Singer which could be clipped to your scissors to automatically cut the perfect width strips of fabric.

illustration of bias cutting gauge

Intrigued I searched the internet to see if I could purchase one of these handy gadgets. I found a vintage example for sale at a ridiculously high price. Karen of OneGirlCircus, found a modern version at a very reasonable price, but while quite adjustable, it seemed rather large in comparison and frankly, I was reluctant to pay the shipping to buy one item.

So, of course the next logical step (for me) was to attempt to make my own. The first version was quickly bent out of a leftover piece of metal flashing (that would be the kind that goes on your roof). Worked great, a little flimsy, not so attractive.

diy bias strip cutting guide/gauge handmade bias cutting guide

Version two was formed out of a flat bobby pin. Bingo, definitely a winner—slim, smooth and easy to use. Now just today I ran across a much better photo of a vintage version which shows how it was adjustable. I think with a little tinkering I can incorporate that into the next version. I’m not sure which excites me more, having this great new tool or the fact that I figured out how to make it myself!

DIY bias cutting gauge
using the handmade bias cutting guide

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One of our favorite walking spots since we moved to Maine is Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park, only minutes from downtown Freeport, home to L.L.Bean which is a sight to see in and of itself. The park trails wind through the woods and down to the rocky shore. The girl struggled to keep up with the boy as they raced up and down the trails past the storm-worn roots of a downed tree, stopping occasionally to check on tiny wild flowers and spy squirrels, chipmunks and birds.

wooded trail in Maine storm-worn roots of a downed tree
purple wild flowers

Reaching the shore, we looked out on a few of the many islands of Casco Bay. Hopping along the rocks, we found tiny shrimp swimming in little pools, barnacle-encrusted shells and tiny periwinkles traveling slowly across the rocks.

on the rocks at Wolf's Neck barnacles on a mussel shell
periwinkles clinging to a rock

My favorite view:

Wolf's Neck Woods State Park

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