Friday, December 31, 2010


This is kinda embarrassing to share. I know every crafter has a project or two tucked away unfinished, but this took procrastinating to a whole new level. A long, long time ago I spun a two-ply alpaca yarn. Then a long time ago I decided to knit it into a neck warmer for a friend using a lovely pattern from Spin Off magazine. It's a fast knit and I got to the required length in no time. But then I couldn't decide if I should stop there, or make it a bit longer. So I put it away. That was about a year and a half ago. Recently I pulled it out again, determined to finish the damn thing. (Think of the neck warmer as my albatross, albeit a super soft and cozy one.) I decided to stick with the length suggested in the pattern, then literally I only had to knit a couple rows to add button holes and finish it off. For more than a year it sat needing just a few rows of knitting. Then a few minutes and it was done.

The neck warmer is so soft and warm. I wore it for a while after adding the buttons and I didn't want to take it off. God bless alpacas and their wonderful, wonderful fleece. I resisted the urge to order some more alpaca for another project, reminding myself of my huge fibre stash. To be fair, I have some lovely stuff but nothing quite as wonderful as alpaca.

After the much-delayed finishing of the neck warmer, I did start on another one. I was half done in no time. Anyone want to place a wager on when I'll finish it? One year? Two years? I'm aiming for before global warming makes it obsolete.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Portrait in white

I've been meaning for a while to take some photos of my dog Marie. Her face has turned almost all white and she looks just so pretty. When I adopted her about six years ago she was mostly black with a bit of white. Now it's the other way around. This spring she'll be 11. That's a good age for a greyhound to reach and she's still got a whole bunch of silly in her.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Crafty sleuthing

My mom recently went to a gathering and was admiring a woman's lovely beaded pendant. Being a crafty person who can't stop themselves from wanting to figure out how something is made, my mom asked the woman about the pattern. But she simply refused to reveal anything. Odd. The next time my mom and I got together, she tried to explain what the pendant looked like - even making a little sketch. I couldn't quite figure it out from the pencil scratchings, but a simple google search found the exact pendant in seconds. "That's it!" my mom exclaimed. God bless the internet!

So here's the one I made. It's a very simple design, although rather fiddly because you're stitching together three rings. It's difficult to see in the photo, but there are two rings on the inside next to each other.

I really could have used larger crystals, but generally it looks good. Of course you can't go too wrong with sparkle. I think I'll try a couple more variations with different focal beads. I just need to rummage through my stash a bit. But for now I must go and wrap the pendant for a stocking present tonight. Ah, what would I do without the last minute?

Crafty Christmas

I sewed a couple more lunch sets for Christmas presents for friends. I don't know about anyone else, but I use mine all the time. Although I think I need to finally make myself a full set complete with napkins.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Look, Ma! No raw edges!

My mom coached me through making these pillowcases that have a nifty hidden seam where the body and cuff meet. French seams at the edges finish the pillowcase nicely, leaving no raw edges.

I wanted to make something for my very sweet neighbour who brought me a Christmas sack full of wonderful goodies - homemade soup, buns, cookies and Marie's favourite treats. She's having knee surgery soon and I thought the perfect thing for her recovery is a set of crisp, cheery new pillowcases for when she's stuck in bed.

Of course, being me, I decided this late last night. After rummaging through my fabric stash, I found some bright, flowery fabric that has a sateen feel. (Ah, the the cool side of the pillow!) And then I wanted to whip them up after work today. Seriously, what am I ever thinking?

Last night I nearly short-circuited my brain looking at a pillowcase my mom made me and trying to figure out how the heck she put the cuff on. After a quick phone consultation with her today and a big ah-ha! moment, I got started.

They turned out really well. And, true to form, I want to make a whole bunch more now.

Here's a look at the inside with the hidden cuff seam and lovely French seams. I'm thinking a good sleep is guaranteed on these pillowcases.

And for my encore tonight . . . I also sewed another lunch bag. It's pretty much the same as the first, just with slightly different dimensions. This project I actually did whip up!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From dye to carder to wheel

This small skein is from the merino I dyed with chestnut husks. What a lush brown and the yarn is soft and airy.

The process was long - from dye pot to drum carder to spinning wheel - but the results definitely worth it. Now onto the marigold-dyed merino!

Another spinning caddy

I made this drawstring pouch for my lazy kate with fabric from the same line as I used for my handcarder caddy.

A perfect fit! Plus I had the teeniest strips of fabric left to make a pouch for the metal rods that go into the kate to hold the bobbins.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heaven and Hell

I've noticed two extremes when I'm at the sewing machine. If I'm not cursing at yet another stupid mistake, then I'm heartily praying what I'm doing is going to work out. Why, oh why does it only take seconds to sew a hem and then many tedious minutes to rip it out?! At least more often now I see the impending mistake before I sew it in. Progress!

This lunch set - complete with my should-be patented placemat and napkin combo, and lunch bag - went surprisingly well.

The lunch bag is my own design with an idea borrowed from this nifty pattern for fabric produce bags. Instead of just one layer of fabric, I lined mine with a complimentary fabric.

In the end, the rapid-fire swearing and pleading behind me, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out - even when you look close!

Monday, November 22, 2010


It's a good thing I took and posted photos on the weekend, since overnight the cats discovered my bag of projects and fibre from SOAR. The colour-blending samples did not fare well, reduced to a jumbled pile of fluff on the craft room floor.

I really shouldn't say cats, though. It's always just one cat. One trouble-making, clumsy, belly jiggling cat - Ariel. Usually she focuses her mischief on plastic - shopping bags, new shower curtains still in the wrapper, cat- and dog-food bags riddled with teeth holes. I guess she wanted to switch up the destruction.

She looks so innocent, but it's all a clever diversion.

Ariel is lucky she's cute and cuddly because sometimes her bad little habits are hard to ignore.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Carder caddy

Since I started sewing, I'm seeing projects everywhere. I made this pouch to hold my handcarders. How adorable is the fabric with smiley clouds, apples and bees? And, oddly, I had in my stash matching pink fabric with tiny bees for the lining. Now who is going to question my need for a well-rounded fabric stash? (Bead stash, fibre stash, snack stash . . . )

I have another fat quarter of fabric from the same line I'm going to use to make a caddy for my lazy kate. Then I think my spinning-related sewing projects are complete, at least for now. Although that reminds me . . . I did see a nifty idea for a collapsible fabric pouch to carry fibre and spindle. Hmm.

SOAR high

SOAR is best explained as spinning camp. And there the women, and a few token men, can be just as excitable and crazy as pre-teen girls at a pajama party. Plus, you get to hang out with the celebrities of the spinning world -- Maggie Casey, Margaret Stove, Jacey Boggs, Deb Menz, and Judith MacKenzie, to name a few.

My mom and I started our learning with a drop spindle class taught by Maggie Casey. I'd never once picked up a drop spindle before, and was pleasantly surprised to find I caught on pretty quickly. This is my first mini skein using a spindle, both making the singles and plying. It turned out pretty well, and even the singles are quite sturdy, judging by how my cats have been playing with the left-over bit for weeks now and yet it's holding together.

I took a couple classes on colour theory and blending, including using combs and hackles -- a handy and dangerous tool! I only lost a few bits of skin on my hands, and came out knowing a lot about blending in my class with Deb Menz. We started with one colour -- in my case a dark blue/teal -- and then added different colours to play with hue, tone and saturation. It's amazing how adding just a touch of another colour entirely changes the fibre.

My favourite and most challenging (read: causing an intense desire to pull out my hair) class was thick and thin and coils with Jacey Boggs. Oh, how long I have been trying to get the hang of this technique. It's so deceptively simple, especially when watching Jacey in action. I persevered despite the overwhelming urge to walk my fluff-covered ass out the room never to return. SOAR lesson #1: You soon have to give up on trying to keep bits of fibre off your pants, shirt, shoes, socks, etc. It is everywhere -- on every chair and table and floor. Despite the danger of fuzzy hitchhikers, the event was amazing. How cool is it to be in a place where people are toting around spinning wheels, using their spindle at the dinner table, knitting anytime there's a spare second!? It's invigorating to be around people who share the same interest -- especially when it's one the average person thinks is a relic of a quaint, but tedious time when people had to spin and knit their own garments. Thankfully we've such a pampered life now that now we can do it just for fun!

Back to my thick and thin and coils, which was fun despite the frustrations.

My try in class at coils was a fluffy mess, not helped by starting with a not-so-hot thick and thin single, and the second I attempted later in the evening was slightly less of a disaster. At least for now I've got something to keep me entertained.

This has got to be the smallest skein ever, just a few coils to admire . . .

Twirls and loops

In a last-minute frenzy to clear my bobbins before heading off to SOAR, I needed to come up with something to do with fair bit of a merino single, kinda bulky. I think it was the orphan of some spinning at the cottage in the summer. What to do? I remembered the stash of crochet cotton I inherited and went rummaging for a colour that would go with the purple-blue single.

Then I got started, running the single back through the wheel while letting the crochet cotton spin around it with little guidance from me. That's a technique I learned from Jacey Boggs DVD on making art yarns. I was lucky enough to have a class with her at SOAR. It's lucky I even made it to SOAR, since I was up so late the night before - packing barely started - spinning this yarn. Usually plying goes fast, but not so much in this case. Once I had two bobbins of yarn with the merino single and crochet cotton dancing around it, I plied those together to get something pretty funky. It was neat to see how the cotton wrap changed its look with the cabling, loosening up a bit while also locking in-between the plies. Weird.

Earlier today I put it through the wheel again because it needed a bit more ply to make it balanced. It was pretty good already, but I took the few extra minutes. That is, after I found the swift, set it up and got spinning in the right direction. S and Z twist should be so easy to figure out. Now the skein is hanging out in the shower after its bath.

Here's a (fuzzy) close-up:

Toiling at the drum carder

Drum carding goes faster than handcarding, but it's still a tedious process - especially when the fibre is a bit felted from the dye process and you have to tease out each small batch before putting it through the carder. Thankfully, all the fibre I dyed was totally worth the effort. The fibre came out so soft and lovely.

First, the merino dyed in chestnut husks. The colour didn't come out quite right in the photo. It's a far deeper colour than you see here:

Then the amazing golden colour from the marigolds:

And, finally, the fibre I cooked up with the red cabbage. Originally, it came out of the dye bath a soft blue-grey. I put half the batch in a mix of water and baking soda, turning it instantly to green. What a lovely combination. The pile of little rolls just kept growing as I carded.

Unfortunately, due to my memory lapse about straining the boiled cabbage through a fine cloth, some teeny bits of cabbage, now just white flakes, are still in the fibre. Some came out first in the washing, then carding, but a few are tenacious. Hopefully more will pop out with the spinning.

They're so soft in feel and colour, it's tempting to rest your head on the pile like a pillow and enjoy a wee nap, dreaming about fleece of course.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I just rescued my fibre from the cabbage juice. The colour was such a lovely muted grey-blue colour. Sadly, not all the cabbage bits came out in the multiple rinses. Hopefully it will dry and pop out in the spinning. Then I put half the fibre in a baking soda bath and it instantly turned a soft green. Now it's hanging to dry in the shower. I can't wait to see how it looks finally.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nature's own colours

This weekend my mom and I took a natural dye workshop. We've taken one before on weak-acid dyes, but frankly that's a bit intimidating with all the safety warnings. So we thought we'd learn how to take advantage of all the great colours in nature.

We made three different dyes with items easily gathered in your own backyard or grocery store: marigolds, red cabbage and walnut husks.

I put my roving into the marigold and walnut brews. The flowers give a wonderful golden yellow and the walnuts a deep brown.

Now I'm doing a batch in red cabbage. I boiled the cabbage for a couple hours (making natural dyes can be stinky work!) and prepared the merino in a solution of alum and cream of tartar to help it absorb the dye. Then the fibre went into the pot of cabbage juice after straining out the cabbage. Although I realize now, far too late, that the instructor mentioned she put the cabbage through a cloth to catch the small bits. Sure enough, there are teeny bits of cabbage floating around my fibre. I hope that comes out in the final rinse.

It's bubbling away on my stove for an hour. I'll let it sit overnight and see what I have tomorrow. The fibre will be a lovely blue and I'm going to put half the roving into another bath with baking soda to change the pH, and the colour to green.

The type of fibre you use, as well as the mordant and assist, and even what the pot's made of all changes how the colour comes out. Pretty neat.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yummy goodness

I wanted to get some trail mix for my upcoming trip with a friend to Iceland. Iceland!!! I didn't really like any of the ones they had at the Bulk Barn. Why must sunflower seeds always be tossed into trail mix?! I like them on their own, but in with larger things they always end up just about everywhere but in your mouth.

So I decided to whip up my own snack mix. Well, the scale is a bit over the top once I got a good sampling of things to toss in. I had to get out the super-sized metal mixing bowl! Thankfully, it is damn good and won't be tough to finish.

Here's a scoop full:

Here's a list of what's in it, at least the stuff I can remember: cashews, peanuts, pralines, cocoa almonds; dried strawberries, cranberries, papaya, kiwi and pineapple; raisins, teeny M & Ms, chocolate-covered pretzels, crystallized ginger and sesame crackers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lunch bag buddy

How sweet are these two fabrics together? I love the teeny blue checkers for the napkins and the little carrots for the desk-sized placemat.

I did a double-seam along the outside of the napkins and added a thin green ric-rac across the front of the placemat. This lunch-bag set, and another identical one, were presents for two good friends. (A belated birthday gift for one and an early birthday gift for another - does that balance out?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tidy crafting

Here's another craft mat. Originally I made mine for spinning because that is a super messy hobby, with fibre and vegetable matter going everywhere. But I realized a craft mat would be handy in a lot of crafting situations - when knitting with hairy yarn, finishing a knitting or crochet project with lots of ends to trim, or embroidery with all those errant bits of floss.

I made this craft mat for my friend with the squares I had left from the Fandango charm pack. The back is a deep brown she had left-over from a project. I finished it with white thread, chosen because I didn't have any co-ordinating thread and the fancy stitch actually looks really nice on the dark fabric.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crafty goodness

Yesterday was the big Knitters' Fair in Kitchener. Two conference rooms packed with the most lovely yarn and fibre from all the best shops! I tried to keep things under control knowing I'm going to the big SOAR event next month. But I found a few goodies: fibre from the Roving Spinners (two local women who spin and dye amazing fibre), super soft skeins in a deep pink for a scarf, and a serene blue/green yarn for a shawl. Everyone was wearing shawls at the fair and I want one for myself!

Hmm . . . is that it? I guess I did show an amazing amount of restraint. Perhaps that was helped knowing that soon I'm going to have to pack up all my stuff, including a very ample crafting stash. So far I'm not too worried about the packing, but more so tidying my place so it's ready to show. I don't want people coming in wondering what sort of crazy single girl lives here.

Happy birthday, birthday twin!

I couldn't resist this brown and blue floral print, then found a complementary blue and cream checkered fabric. I used them to make this wristlet for my birthday twin - same day, same year! I added a little blue and white ribbon for an accent, and the lining is more of the checkered fabric.

Enough blogging. I need to get back to sewing more birthday presents.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Spinning can be surprisingly messy with all the loose bits of fluff and vegetable matter that pops out of the fibre while you're spinning. I made myself a lap mat, and recently my mom borrowed it for marathon spinning at the cottage. I figured I should make her one, too. That way we'll both look quite stylish and clever at the upcoming spinning workshop in Wisconsin this fall!

I made two simple quilted rectangles and sewed them together, putting a fancy stitch along the edge:

The fabric was a charm pack called Fandango. Great name for such a lively collection of prints.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Granola fairy

My friend's mom passed through Burlington, Vt., on a road trip and we had one very emphatic request: pick up the world's best granola. When we were in Burlington in the spring, we happened upon this awesome bakery that makes their own granola and oatmeal, and both let out a long sigh when our supply at home ran out.

Thanks, thanks, thanks Joanne for many good breakfasts to come!

Soon these will be in the mail . . .

She picked out the bracelet, then I made a pair of earrings that are similar, but not too matchy-matchy.

Facing my fear

I've been spinning for a few years now and although I still feel like a novice, I feel confident enough to spin and see where it takes me. But I have been avoiding one very basic spinning skill - single ply yarn. Obviously I've spun a lot of singles, but I always ply them. Plying usually corrects any problems with the singles and a two-ply yarn, or more, is just way more stable.

But I was always drawn to singles other people made - probably because I thought it was an impossible spinning feat for me. And, really, it is pretty miraculous that you can put twist in animal fibre and it stays there! So, I finally forced myself to spin a single knowing I'm not going to ply it. I picked a blueish superwash merino because it's a pretty easy to spin fibre that holds together well.

Once I filled the bobbin, I dunked the skein into hot, soapy water, rinsed it out and then gave it a few good thwaps (my newly invented word for snapping a skein between two arms). Then I hung it up to dry and prayed.

Voila! A lovely, nearly balanced yarn that stayed together!

I am still amazed.

Take three

Finally, a wristlet that sewed up fairly well with little to no profanity. I made this for my sister Laura with the cutest cat print. The lining is with the purple dot fabric used for the little pull.

I read a nifty trick on a crafty blog that helped with the corners to make them look very neat. With what I had leftover from the two fat quarters, I made this drawstring bag and the world's teeniest little pouch. I think I need to make a little treat to put inside.

Happy Anniversary

My mom and dad recently celebrated their 41st anniversary and I made them each a set of travel bags. And just in time - they're off next month on a trip. My mom said she's already moved into a couple of the bags.

Here's my dad's set. It's not so easy to find a masculine fabric print.

And here's my mom's set. I really love this fabric from Moda.

I hope they have lots more great trips, with the bags along to make packing and travel easier.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crafting frustration

I can't decide what's more frustrating:

1. Tackling a new project and encountering one after another trouble spot. Or . . .
2. Thinking the second time it will go smoothly after working through all those problems and then still running into trouble. Argh!

This is my second go at the wristlet and it looks only moderately better than the first. I wonder how many tries it will take me before I get it right?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Splash of green

I love the fabric of these bags - soft purples with little spots of green. It just makes these drawstring pouches look so sweet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My beads!

I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got a look at the beads I made. They're not bad. There's one that even looks close to something a professional would make. Purely accidental, I assure you.

Here's the whole collection:

The plain beads were the first practice ones just to get a feel for working with the melted glass. I started to have a bit more fun and play around with these round beads between the plain spacers.

Then I was feeling more comfortable and tried a few new things - making dots, using frit (broken glass bits) and a metallic-looking glass.

Then we tried making long beads using a little metal plate to roll the bead on. I didn't expect the orange to be quite so orange. You really don't know how the colours are going to turn out because the beads are still quite hot when they go into the kiln and the true colours don't show. But it turned out pretty well. My favourite of all the beads I made is the darker long bead. It looks really cool.

Unfortunately the photo doesn't do the bead justice. The metallic sheen and layers of colour don't show up too well. I definitely will make this one into a pendant to wear and proudly say I made it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The wait is over, sorta

The beads arrived! The beads arrived!

But I'm gonna wait until tomorrow when my mother is over to look at them together. Each bead is wrapped and taped, so the anticipation opening the little packages will only add to the excitement to finally know what we made. I hope a few are worthy of becoming jewelry.

I can hardly wait to see!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Plus one

Ah, when will I learn about trying to fit way too much into a limited time? Never it seems. I decided to sew this wristlet for a good friend who was nice enough to accompany me to a wedding as my plus one -- the morning before the wedding. Trying to figure out a new pattern under a tight timeline does not make for relaxed sewing. I got it finished in the end, but not quite as nicely as I would have liked. From a distance with squinted eyes it looks OK. The colours are quite lovely from a mixed bag of bits I got at a fabric shop in Burlington, Vt., and I added pink grosgrain ribbon for a nice detail.

If you want to make one yourself, here's the pattern:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

At the torch

I made beads today. Lots of them! My mom and I took a flameworking class in Scarborough and had a great time learning how to work at the torch. Glass is absolutely amazing when it's heated - becoming like honey and glowing so bright.

They need to be cooled down slowly overnight in a kiln, so we don't know quite how they turned out because the colours are not too visible when the glass is still hot. Now comes the long wait for them to arrive in the mail so we can see exactly what we made. I am the worst at waiting!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lunch time

This is my own invention. I thought it would be nice to make lunch at work a bit more refined than using a ripped piece of paper towel to carry food from the microwave to the desk. I figured I'd make a pouch that can hold utensils and a napkin, and be thick enough for holding hot food. I didn't have enough for mine, but this set for a friend has matching fabric napkins.

Just slide in utensils and a napkin, fold it and toss it in the lunch bag. It adds just a little bit of niceness to lunch at your desk.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Change isn't always easy

Marie is having some trouble adapting to her new rectangular bed. The old round dog bed didn't require the right orientation to get everything properly cushioned. She doesn't seem too bothered, though. There are advantages to being a lazy, lazy dog. "Meh. Good enough."

Success! (After a few more tries coming in for the right approach.)

Time for an intervention?

I've only been sewing for a few months and already I've developed a bit of a fabric storage problem. Is that a good or bad sign? I'm sure fellow crafters would agree that an ample stash is the sign of a productive and creative mind. Right? RIGHT?!

As you can see, I've gathered quite a collection of lovely fat quarters. To be fair, I didn't buy all of them. See those few bright fabrics on the right? Those were gifts.

I've managed to settle on a loose organizational system - fabrics for specific projects on the top drawer, fabric to ogle with no specific purpose in mind in the bottom drawer. Problem is, I could use a few more drawers. I knew I should have gone for the full-sized dresser rather than the two-drawer night stand! I guess I just didn't imagine how quickly the obsession with fabric would grow.

Now that I have some order, I should get to sewing. I'm working on a project of my own design at the moment. Once I'm finally happy with it, I'll post some photos. Oh, and I need to finish my quilt now that I have all the necessary fabric.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bright and cheery

Surprise, surprise . . . more travel bags! These are a gift for a good friend's wedding shower. I hope she likes them and finds the bags as handy as I do. The set includes two shoe bags, two laundry bags and two teeny bags for little items.

This fabric is so bright and cheery. And I love the name for the line - Nicey Jane.