Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hello again.

I've been around the blogs and back where it began. It's free. It's easy. It doesn't demand a whole lot from me. I can deal with that.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Year (or more) of Socks

November 1st, I start a project that will likely last me over a year: every month I will knit a pair of socks using some yarn that does not contain any wool.

So far, I have 4 different colors of KnitPick's Comfy Fingering yarn. I have yarn made from milk, corn, sugar, and blends of cotton, bamboo and silk. I think at the moment I have enough yarn for 12 months -and I'm certain that more yarn will find it's way into my stash as I continue down this path.

I have 3 books to choose patterns from: Socks from the Toe Up, by Wendy Johnson; Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks and 2-at-a-time-Socks, both by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.

So Monday I begin. The pattern will be Dead Simple Lace from Wendy's book using Crystal Palace's PANDA COTTON in Bison Brown. Panda Cotton is 59% bamboo,25% cotton, and 16% elastic nylon. Looking forward to getting started.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plan Your Summer Garden Now

I stand at my window on a cool, damp January day, beginning the important first step of gardening: planning. At the moment, the garden beds harbor perennial plants storing up moisture and energy for the next year's growth. The lawn is bright green with a weedy annual grass that will die with the first hint of temperatures over 80 degrees. Weeds are dominating both the lawn and garden beds.

Later this winter, I will undertake a major yard renovation, removing the lawn and some of the shrubs in my very small yard and replacing them with drought-tolerant California native plantings. Paths will lead back to a spot to sit and read under the shade of our sweet gum trees, and beyond to the garden beds of vegetables and fruit trees.

Even with most of the work ahead of me, I'm planning how all this will look now, because late winter is the perfect time to carefully decide what will be growing in our gardens this year.

Even if you aren't facing major yard work, the catalogs arriving in the mail are a signal to think about this year's gardens. Without a plan, we will buy too many seeds, plant at the wrong times, and increase the chance of failure even before Mother Nature get her hands into our garden.

What Goes Into a Garden Plan?

  1. How much space you have to work with. For all of us this, is a finite number, and the major control on planting. Measure the space and try to map it out on graph paper.

  2. What you already have planted. Mark off the space for bulbs and bushes, drip irrigation, anything that's not moving/movable in your plan.

  3. When things happen. A bush that flowers in May (like lilac) needs to be visible then. However, if it then becomes simply a mass of green leaves, note to plant something exciting in front of or next to it, to provide interest during the rest of the summer.

  4. Your safe planting dates. When can you start planting cold-hardy varieties? When is your first/last frost date? Know your growing zones.

  5. Now start dreaming...

I see grasses blowing in my bay-influenced breeze, sturdy bushes providing shelter for the birds, and crunchy gravel paths. In the edible garden, blueberries will be added, kale will be repeated. Will there be a place for some cleome somewhere?

Others Planning Their Gardens:

Julee Dunekacke is starting her southern garden already by planting onions, mustard, garlic and radishes.

Lara DeHaven, a Southeast Texas gardener, doesn't follow the local trend of planting mid-February, preferring to hold her planting until March, thus avoiding the chance of a late freeze.

Stephanie Langford talked seeds: knowing days to maturity, characteristics and features, planting both early and late varieties to spread out the harvest, and sometimes planning yield of vegetables.

Joyful Stars has decided to experiment with hay bale gardening this year. I'll admit this is a technique I always wanted to try myself. I'll keep an eye on her progress through the summer.

Seed Savers Exchange talked edible landscaping.

Eat. Drink. Better. wrote important tips for fighting cabin fever by planning the garden.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

National Embroidery Month

Along with hearts, groundhogs and dead presidents, February is a month to celebrate embroidery. Here are some pointers to tempt you into picking up needle and thread and making your mark on fabric.

Close-up of Embroidered Napkin Bag

Embroidery has existed for centuries as a method of adding decoration to both clothing and household goods with needle and either thread or yarn. Occasionally beads, mirrors, or pieces of metal or bone are also used to vary the texture, reflective quality, or shape of the piece. Traditional patterns of flowers, animals, or symbols existed in different communities, almost as a way of identifying the wearers with their locale. Hi! I'm Dutch -- you can tell by the tulips on the hem of the skirt.

In its simplest form, embroidery starts when we draw or trace a simple outline pattern onto fabric, then stitch over these lines with a back stitch, which creates a solid line in thread. The most common current version of this would be popular redwork. Katie Aaberg shares some cute and simple examples of redwork that she will incorporate into a baby quilt.

NOT that back stitch embroidery has to be this plain -- though it's always this simple. Check out Jenny Hart's awesome collection of alternative embroidery designs at Sublime Stitching. From skulls to takeout food to artists' series -- oh my! I love the modern edge to her patterns paired with such a classic stitch form. Don't you?

Stepping up the difficulty scale just a bit, we move from redwork to blackwork. Blackwork again uses simple stitches -- a running stitch, a double running stitch, or, again, a back stitch -- worked evenly over threads. Because of its even-patterned nature, the important thing when doing blackwork is to carefully choose a background fabric with a even weave, such as linen. Britain's Embroiderers Guild has a charming blackwork project using a variety of threads to create foreground, background, movement, and depth.

From simple back stitch and running stitch, you can move on to buttonhole stitch, straight stitch, French knots, and the Lazy Daisy. You can consult YouTube for lots of great, simple videos that demonstrate embroidery stitches.

Once you get a handle on just a couple of these stitches, you may begin to see the whole world in patterns, repeats, knots, lines, texture. Everything can be rendered into embroidery.

My favorite form is an idea from Embroidery Guild's online project resources: Encrusted Calico. (In Britain what we Yanks call muslin, they call calico.) Encasing simple items such as beads, plastic rings, or metal washers between two layers of muslin/calico, then playing with layers of stitches on top provides a rich and wonderfully textured surface. I've used these playful pieces as small purses, pockets and pins.

What others are saying about National Embroidery Month:

The City Sage created a montage of Etsy makers who embroider.

Needles and Words declared that as part of National Embroidery Month, Saturday, 2/20/10 was another Stitch In Public day, though apparently a number of chapters of the Embroidery Guild chose to celebrate this on the first Saturday of the month.

Crossposted at BlogHer

Marie Grace thinks a the celebration is great -- it's given her an excuse to embroider for a whole month.

Sheri at cafemom shared several of her favorite links to projects.

Intrigued and want even more? Check out Sharon B's PinTangle for a great collection of patterns, stitches, and ideas for incorporating stitching into your life.

photo credit from debra roby's flickr stream.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Mystery of the Swedish Olympic Team Hats: Crochet in the Social Media Age

crossposted at BlogHer

The buzz started even before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics ended. Who crocheted the hats some members of the Swedish team wore as they entered the event?

Olympics - Opening Ceremony

The first close-up analysis led to one question. Were these hats truly crocheted, or might they have been knit? By Saturday morning, those in the know were convinced that YES, these were crocheted hats. Why this is important: Crochet cannot be done by machine. If the Swedish team received crocheted hats, someone sat and made them all by hand.

The name of this creator -- and ideally, her story -- became as important a quest as finding a pair of the souvenir Vancouver 2010 red Olympic mittens. (I have not yet found a pattern for making these but I expect that to show up any day now, too!)

For me, the search was led by Crochet Me's Kim Werker -- who used the power of Twitter to reach out to crafters, journalists, Swedes, the world. Another one of the frenzied searchers, Elizabeth Drouillard of Things Bright, said:

Based on Internet chatter, I've found that I'm not the only crocheter to geek out over the Swedish toques. Apparently we all did. Everywhere. Through the magic that is the Internet, I think I found the maker of the hats on a Swedish daily newspaper site, because they love them as much as I do over here. Warning: Google and link madness to follow.

For a brief while, it was hoped that Catherine Andersson, shown crocheting the hat in this video, was the maker. But Swedish-speaking twitterer @bagatell reported that the video was just a news story about how easy these hats are to make.

The next step in the search was a sighting on the Swedish craft blog MiMejd. Run the blog through Google Translator and discover that Ninna and Ida found the directions in a newspaper and posted a copy of the picture on their blog. Within days of the post, their readership (normally 60 a day) jumped to the point that the new visitors crashed their blog. Last Friday, they shared their results in recreating the hat. The translating is not perfect, but they report:

The debate has raged here on the blog as to whether the "real OS-cap" is wood poles or fixed mesh, on nedtagen are made in one or both. Some who have followed the pattern has been thought that the cap has been cruelly good others have testified that it has become so ugly, that it was ready for sopnedkastet directly.

On Tuesday, Kim Werker blogged what is likely the end of the search for the creators in Super Sleuthing Success! Swedish Hats Story:

The designer of the hats, and of the entire line of Olympics clothing for the Swedish Olympics team, is Eva Christensson. The hats were crocheted in China, and she didn't indicate any more information than that.

If you'd like your own Swedish Team Hat, Crafty Peach has quickly recreated the pattern and published it for us all to use, substituting an easily available yarn. As she explains on Ravelry:

I hesitate to call myself a designer ... all I did was copy the great hat the Swedish Olympic Team wore in the Parade of Nations!

This is my version of the Swedish Olympic Team's hat from the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. I used Red Heart Super Saver in the colors Light Periwinkle, Bright Yellow, Black, and White.

The original yarn -- DROPS Eskimo -- is a Norwegian-made thick wool yarn, which crochets these hats up quickly. However, some are reporting that the weight of the yarn is complicating the construction, leading Bagatell to declare her hat more appropriately used as a cowl.

**UPDATE**  Kim Werker had a chance to speak with Eva Christensson on Tuesday.  Check Yet More About Those Swedish Hats at Crochet Me for all the news. One piece of puzzle was answered in a way that is a bit satisfying: Why were the hats made in a China:

The original team hats were made by Chinese company Li Ning Sport Goods Ltd, which is the clothing sponsor for the Swedish Olympic team. Eva indicated the sponsorship relationship when I asked why the hats were made in China rather than by Swedish crocheters.

So there we have it. A worldwide crochet fad is well underway, thanks to a friendly sportswear designer who knows how cool crochet is, a hat that isn't available in stores, and a community of enthusiastic crocheters who won't stop till they have a hat of their own.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What We All Can Take From Kwanzaa

(crossposted at BlogHer)
Last week we gathered at a friend's house to learn about and celebrate Hannukah. It was a great fun evening which we will be repeating. We left a little wiser about this particular celebration and with a much deeper appreciation of any holiday that emphasizes fried food (latkes and donuts) and gambling (dreidels) as part of its celebration.

It got me thinking about the other celebrations happening this time of year and how we ALL might embrace some of the messages these holidays hold as their center.

Every year those who celebrate Christmas get emotional about about "good will toward men." leading people to remark: why are these emotions only endorsed at this time of year? Why can't we work on these positive expressions all year round?

I think that is an admirable thought -though it is not easy to sustain such emotion all the time. I suspect that when a person says that, they want other people to carry that emotion; if it were simply up to someone deciding to hold goodwill toward all men all year, they could simply do it, right?

So instead of hoping that we and others can carry unreasonable emotions for a long term, how about we take a couple days and totally immerse ourselves in all the holiday spirits that are floating around now.

Which, after my brief celebration of Hannukah, led me to Kwanzaa :a non-religious, non-political reaffirmation of basic values wrapped into a celebration of the African-American life.

These values: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are NOT values that should be limited only to African-Americans; these are principles and values that everybody can embrace. Again, they should be embraced and practiced all year -like loving our fellow human beings. But, since the challenge of this commitment is a wee too hard to contemplate, let's focus on just a week.

So why not look at these principles and see small steps we can ALL take?
  1. Meeting a friend over the holidays for coffee? Instead of heading to StarBucks or another coffee chain, find a locally owned cafe or coffee shop to meet at instead. This is cooperative economics.
  2. Thinking about a holiday gathering and anticipating friction? For just that one day, give up your expectations and simply relax into day vowing not to participate in any of the family/friend drama. That is unity.
  3. At the same time, volunteering with your family over holiday break can strengthen your ties as a family and bind you in a unique way to your community. This is collective work.
  4. Spend some time considering your New Year's Resolutions? As a family, spend some time discussing things that each of you need to commit to in order to make your family unit stronger. This is self-determination.
  5. With children home from school for up to 2 weeks, a craft day is certainly in order. Hello, creativity!
You get the picture. There are steps we are going to be taking anyway this week, why not take them with a eye to expanding understanding of another December Holiday?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Launch My Line

I watched the first episode of Launch My Line this week- and I'm not sure that I'll watch anymore.

The initial concept sounded interested: pull a number of successful professionals together in a Project Runway style competition; the winner gets his/her line produced and sold (somewhere). Each of these professionals is paired with an experienced designer to mentor them along the way.

While the concept it intriguing, the reality is less so. Many of the hopefuls are incapable of sewing -a vital skill if you and you alone are working at designing a line. Some of the professionals do no meld well with their mentorees.

And then there are the restrictions the show has put on these people.

In the first episode, each person had one hour to choose a line name, a line logo, and a signature piece. ONE HOUR. Ignore the fact that in reality many companies may take months to come up with these items while working on developing a line. They had one hour.

After that hour all designer teams were taken to a fabric store. Obviously the store did not wish to develop the type of fondness that many of us have developed for Mood and Mood-LA, because almost as soon as the teams entered the store they were told that they would be selecting all the fabrics they will use for the entire show.

Ten fabrics.

Without knowing what the challenges will be - they have to decide on all the fabrics they will use -and the quantity that they will need.

The first night at least one hopeful started over from scratch -using new fabrics and a new design. Will that choice mean that later she does not have enough of the discarded fabrics to create the proper design?

These feel even more artificial than the demands placed on hopefuls in other shows. The individuals are not terribly compelling and I'm just not sure that Launch will catch my imagination.

Think I'll pass on the whole line.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Five Tips for Crafting a Holiday Wreath

I believe in "short time" holiday decorating-limiting the exposure of Thanksgiving and Xmas decorations to something close to 10-14 days. It's a personal choice that makes seeing any of these items appear much more dear to me. The one exception to this rule is the door wreath. Wreaths can decorate doorways years round - either changing the actual wreath by the season, or changing some element of it to indicate the seasonal changes.

Wreaths are one of the simplest items for anyone to make and decorate themselves, making them a perfect crafty project for a winter afternoon.

Some wreath making basics:
  1. Wreaths begin with a form. This can be styrofoam, straw, wire frame, dried grapevines or willow, or even the lowly wire coat hanger. The easiest places to find forms is your local craft store or thrift store.
  2. The form is wrapped or covered with a base material. This might be fabric, ribbon, garland, silk or real leaves, anything to disguise the base material and give the wreath some color and substance.
  3. Layer decorations over the base material, spreading them evenly around the wreath or weighing it more heavily at the base. These are aesthetic decisions that you as the designer make.
Let's see how we can apply these basics to different Wreath designs:

Idea #1:Soft and Simple
Savers is the website for several thrift stores that offers some exciting instructions for using materials found in their stores (or in your own closet). They created a charming Festive Felt Wreath (PDF) using several felted (mostly) wool sweaters cut into squares plus some craft wire and scrap ribbon to create a charming, simple wreath.

Idea #2: Ruffled, elegant and recycled
This elegant ruffly wreath belies it's humble origin. Lindsay created this from a cheap romance novel after spotting her inspiration (on sale for $40) at a vendor's booth at her citywide garage sale. The wreath is timeless as it stands, but substitute some gold or silver paint for the brown/gray paint Lindsay used to tint the edges and a festive holiday wreath could appear too. Would it be wrong to tear apart a worn copy of Dickens' Christmas Carol for this? (via Dollar Store Crafts).

Idea #3: Christmas Ornaments
A lot more colorful and traditional that either of the previous wreaths, HazelRuth's Christmas Ornament Wreath should only take you a couple hours to complete -after you choose your ornaments. This look could go old-fashioned and colorful as she did or take on a totally different look with a limited color palette. Add meaningful personal ornaments to make it all your own.

Idea #4: Pom Poms. Perfect Kid-Friendly Activity

Somewhere soon you are going to need that one crafty project that will occupy the kids (or the kid in all of us) for an afternoon. Prepare yourself in advance the simple supplies for making this pom-pom wreath, then let the fun begin. Bleubird Vintage provides great photos in her tutorial and includes a pom-pom tutorial to get it started.

Idea #5: Button it Up.
I love buttons. Touching them, sorting them, decorating with them. So of course I'm going to share a project that lets me do all that! Craftapalooza shares her simple tutorial for making these button wreaths. I can see different colorways being used for different season -or something like this white/off-white one filling in year round.

A Bonus Wreath:
Capadia Designs created charming three-dimensional wreath cards using her cricut. Not necessarily wreaths you'd hang on your door or your wall, but framing one of these and setting on a table or giving it as a hostess gift? Love.

How do you craft a great a wreath? Share a link to your favorites in the comments.

(photo credits and copyright remain with the owners of each website).

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Five Winter Chores for the Summer Garden

(crossposted at BlogHer)

This morning started with bright sunshine for me and I was reminded that this is the perfect time of year to get those final garden chores done to insure a successful growing season next year. (Please to ignore that this year was a disaster). Whenever it is dry and the soil can be seen and worked, we owe it to ourselves to spend a little time outdoors.

What can be done if our gardens are not actively growing?

First we can continue to weed. I've found that the most persistant weeds are often the only visible growth in the winter garden -which makes this an ideal time to attack them. These weeds tend to have root systems that encourage additional growth when damaged, so digging a small clump of soil around each weed and throwing the entire thing away is the most effective weed control. DO NOT COMPOST these clumps. They have persistence in their genes and will likely survive even the hottest compost pile.

Second, we can add amendments. Many garden centers and home improvement stores will have compost and soil additives on sale to clear out for the winter months. Now is great time to empty your own compost bins and add additional organic material to your beds. These can act as additional winter mulch in colder regions-insulating the roots of perennial plants- while in warmer climates they will be available for your winter gardening use.

Third, we can do cleaning and maintenance on our garden tools. When the weather outside is frightful, spend some time indoors cleaning, sharpening, and tuning your garden tools. Make sure all metal tools are free from rust, lightly oiled and all cutting edges are sharp NOW. If any tool needs to be repaired or replaced, start making that list now.

Fourth, look back on the growing season past. What were the successes this year? What flowers and plants do you want to make sure to grow next year? What were your failures and how will you try to avoid repeating those? Did you fall prey to the home center's eagerness to display plants and get things in the ground too early? Did you not notice insect or disease damage quickly enough? A little introspection on the year is a great learning tool.

Finally, begin to plan for next year. With last year's notes fresh in your mind, grab a calendar and begin to plan for next year. Make notes on when to plant -not too early, not too late. Winter months can be spent paging through the seed and plant catalogs, planning your garden year. But get the basics set now.

What others are doing in their gardens:

Margaret Roach reminded us that Conifers Are Forever (not just for the holidays).

The Dirt pointed to an interesting way to fight climate change: turn the Australian and Saharan Desert into forests.

Daisy the Groundskeeper at Compost Happens is still searching for The Fabled Fairies of Thanksgiving. (this made me laugh).

Emma from Coopette has a dilemma. She has discovered that teabags are not 100% compostable anymore (having a fine plastic mesh to keep the bags from breaking) and must decide what to do in the future. Did you know that your tea bag isn't completely breaking down in the compost?

Nelumbo, a girl growing Southern, expanded her own compost piles this fall (good time to do so) and wrote the details as a basic tutorial.

Kate of High Altitude Gardening shared some of the best of her holiday indoor flowering plants.

The Inadvertent Gardener threw in the towel and threw out the plant.

What gardening plans do you have for the next few weeks?

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Friday, November 27, 2009

5 Ideas on Making a Holiday Memory Scrapbook

One sure thing about the holidays: as the family gathers together there will be a discussion -or worse argument- about something that happened at a past holiday gathering. The kids received duplicate gifts 2 years ago -or was it three? Uncle Joe hit the eggnog a bit too hard and ended up sleeping it off under the tree when??

A simple way to help provide evidence of all the fun-filled events of holidays past is start NOW to document the evidence -uhm create a holiday memory scrapbook. But how shall you do this?

1. Decide on theme for the book. YES, these are holiday books which means they already have a basic theme, but see if you can refine it. Organize the memories by year or by person. Or look through the photos you have and see if another -less obvious- theme presents itself. It might be color, food, facial expressions, anything that will let you organize some of your memories.

2. Edit the photos. While you may have 50 photos from last year's Christmas Eve dinner, choose the best 10 to 15 to use. Make the photos you use the ones that truly tell a story. They do NOT need to be the "best" photos artistically-they should be best to tell the story.

3. Trim the photos and add a frame. You can trim out any excess background (scrap bookers call this cropping) to make sure the focus stays on the story element. Border the pictures with one or two complimentary colors of paper. Think of this as the matting and framing of the pictures. Because this is in paper, though, feel free to be creative! Are the pictures of Thanksgiving dinner together? Frame these pictures with a cut border(s) in the shape of a turkey or circles to look like fancy dinner plates. Christmas memories might be framed in shapes of fancy ornaments.

5. Leave room for the story. As I understand it, the difference between a photo album and a scrapbook is that the scrapbook tells the story. Space for writing/printing/sharing the story on the page is important.

6. Feel free to add other ephemera. If you decide to make a scrapbook from this year's holiday gift-giving, include the gift tag with the photo. Or add the Thanksgiving menu, the newspaper's weather report (especially if a blizzard explains someone's absence or their extended presence). Anything to do with the day that might spark additional memories of that exact moment in time.

If I were spending the holidays with family, I would make several of these books ahead of time- minus a lot of the story. Then invite the people there to look through the pictures and write their own recollections of the days and years past on the pages. Letting a photograph spark memories from all the different perspectives would be the greatest gift for me and from me.

If your images are already on your computer-or stored online- you can use a website like scrapblog to create your memories, because sometimes holiday photos NEED the story shared. I supply as evidence myself:

Holiday Scrapping Talk:

Great instructions for Making Your Own Holiday Cards and Keeping Sane While Doing So can be found at Ella Publishing's blog. The secret is using technology.

Turn your blog into a scrap booking page. The Theory of Creativity explains using My Digital Studio to design your blog template.

I also blog at: Weight for Deb and BlogHer on Wednesdays and Saturdays.