Monday, June 30, 2008

A bunch of quick notes

Busy, busy day today. So, just a few quick notes.

My computer had a nasty virus that has been dealt with. I hope.

The skull and crossbones towel has been sold. I will be making more next week.

Many people have commented on my paintings, but cannot currently afford the price. I am planning a few new ones on flat canvas, in a slightly different style. The flat canvas is less expensive, and easier to ship, so these can be sold for less money than the stretch canvas.

Also in the works is another square quilt, similar to the Tree Quilt. This design is of two mountains overlooking a lake.

And finally, I have a new knotwork quilt that I am designing. It should be completed by Fall.

I will also be making more of the Wheelchair Lap Robes in different colors. I have a custom order for 4 right now.

We do take custom requests. If we have something you like, but want a different color or something, just drop us a line and let us know!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glad to be home!

Hello again everyone! I am so glad to be home. It was a very long week at convention.

Convention this year was...interesting. To was not as organized as previous years; it was too hot with no A/C going and most of us in dark suits! But the biggest thing I noticed is that the people, in general, were not as positive and energectic than previous occassions.

As always, there were many more positives than negatives. I met some really great people, such as the National Vice Commander of the Western Division, Peggy, along with the leading candidate for National Commander. Then there are my Legion friends that I only get to see during state-wide events because they live on the other side of Oregon from where I am at. In fact, it was one of those friends that purchased Reflections.

The down side is that I came home to a dead computer. My computer has *something* wrong with it. We will take it to the expert tomorrow, but in the mean time, I am using hubbys, but all my files are on MY computer! I'm hoping that we can get it fixed quickly and inexpensively!

So, if I am sporatic in posting the next few days, you know why!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out of town

As I mentioned yesterday, I leave tomorrow for Convention. Which means I have tons of stuff to do today!

It also means that there will not be a new post until Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

On that note, I will leave you with my latest painting, Reflections.

(Reflections has been sold. Please check our etsy store for other paintings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stars & Stripes Charity Quilt

The American Legion, Department of Oregon annual convention is this week. I am a memer of the Department Children & Youth Committee. Last fall, when we were discussing fundraisers for our programs, I offered to make a patriotic quilt for raffle at our convention.

I am happy to say that it has been completed, and it turned out better than I thought it would.

I used the traditional log cabin pattern to reflect the Americana feel to the quilt. The fleece back has a similar feel.

So, here's some pics. Hopefully, we will raise a lot of money for our programs with the raffle.

Sweet people on Etsy

I have met some very wonderful people on Etsy.

First up are the numerous sellers that have offered advice, critiques and answered my questions. They have been incredibly helpful, and I cannot even remember who they are. and both have been wonderfully supportive in helping me create the perfect birthday gifts for my mother.

Another seller who has gone out of their way to assist me is She is helping me design personal sypathy cards that I use in my role as an American Legion Chaplain. She also is part of the Mission: Soldier Support program!

Then there is Teaman also has gone out of his way to help me, and I cannot watch to get my order of Peppermint Tea! and have all been so nice, pulling threads off-topic with me many times. Helpful, fun and supportive. is super nice. She appreciated something I do so much, she wrote about it on her blog today (blog link is in the blog roll to the right - Drawing by Renee). She really is as warm as Sunshine!

Finally, but by no means least, is I absolutely fell in love with one of her items. It was so unique, I could not find the words to describe it to my hubby. We chatted back and forth about it, and I explained that money is tight, and I just cannot spend it on something for me that was not a *need* item. She would not stand for it, and made me an offer I could not refuse, because she wanted to make someone else smile.

For everyone I missed, I'm sorry! There have just been so many helpful people that I cannot remember them all!

Please check out these stores, shop from them if you can, and let them know that being nice pays off!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


There are many different ways to have more than one color in your yarn project. You can use varigated yarns. You can make color blocks, stripes or intarsica. But there is another way also.

I will often make items on larger needles because of my arthritis. When you use larger needles, but do not want holes, you either have to use a thicker yarn, or work several strands together.

I wanted a full length knit coat. I wanted it to go with all the brown clothing I have. But the thought of all tan/brown just seemed boring. I found this tan yarn that had speckles of blues and greens, but working three strands of that had too much color.

Solution? Two strands of tan worked with one strand of the speckled tan.

I done this for several different coats to create visually interesting color patterns.

These are shorter versions of the same coat. My coat is two strands of grey and one strand of black worked together. My daughter's is two strands of light lavender worked with one strand of medium lavender.
It's a fun way to create an item that is unique to you!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


When people hear the word "knotwork" and know what it means, most people think Celtic. That is not entirely true. Knotwork has been found all over the European countries, covering more than just the Celtic areas. Back in the day of the vikings, they did some beautiful knotwork.

So, I wanted to take a moment and share some beautiful knotwork being done today.

Jewelry with knotwork is very popular. CelicKnot sells some beautiful pieces on Etsy. ( ) They also have painted boxes and other items. I invite you to check out the store!

For knitting, you can recreate many knotwork patterns. The problem is that if you use a standard cablign technique, you'll have holes. It takes some special revisions to get it to look right.

This piece is called Blue Braids. It is named such because of the names of the petterns used in it. The side pieces are called Saxon Braids, and the center pattern is titled Freya's Braids. This lapghan took roughly 70 hours to make.

This is the center piece of another afghan I made as a gift. There are mirrored designs on the sides with a center panel. This off-white center pieces is borded by purple, also with knotwork designs.

Not all pieces have to be so intricate. Sometimes simple designs are the best.

This two-tones piece, done in dusty rose, is a good example. The center portion has a simple zigzag boarder. The darker rose side pieces have a running knotwork pattern. Very simple, yet very striking.
Look for these types of knitted pieces at our Etsy store this fall!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

Since today is the Summer Solstice, here's a collection of information about it from different sources.


Solstices occur twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is most oriented towards or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to reach its northernmost and southernmost extremes. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, its apparent movement north or south comes to a standstill.
The term solstice can also be used in a wider sense, as the date (day) that such a passage happens. The solstices, together with the equinoxes, are connected with the seasons. In some languages they are considered to start or separate the seasons; in others they are considered to be centre points (in English, in the Northern hemisphere, for example, the period around the June solstice is known as midsummer, and Midsummer's Day is 24 June, about three days after the solstice itself). Similarly 25 December is the start of the Christmas celebration, which was a Pagan festival in pre-Christian times, and is the day the sun begins to return back to the northern hemisphere.


People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. On this day, typically JUN-21, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still."

This time of year, between the planting and harvesting of the crops, was the traditional month for weddings. This is because many ancient peoples believed that the "grand union" of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltaine. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June. June remains a favorite month for marriage today. In some traditions, "newly wed couples were fed dishes and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love and fertility. The surviving vestige of this tradition lives on in the name given to the holiday immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon."


  • Depending on where you live, the Summer Solstice occurs this year —
    in the Northern Hemisphere on: June 20, 2008 at 7:59 PM EDT; and in the UK on June 20, 2008 at 23:59 UTC.
  • in the Southern Hemisphere on: December 21, 2008 at 10:04pm AEST.

Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations in the northern areas have for centuries celebrated the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as Midsummer, the Christian St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha.

The Celts & Slavs celebrated with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.

Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.

Today, the day is still celebrated around the world - most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands still gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.
Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are also common in June, when groups gather to light a sacred fire, and stay up all night to welcome the dawn.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!
TODAY ONLY! SUMMER SOLSTICE SALE!!!All items $25.00 and above are 25% off!!!If you want to take advantage of this sale, send me a convo about the item(s) you wish to purchase, and I'll reserve it for you are the sales price.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm strange, cont.

I just had to share this. It's design #3 in my collection of very strange kitchen/bath hand towels.

A big Black Widow Spider on a blood red background. The spider came out realistic enough that I actually had problems holding on to the towel while I did the edging. I HATE spiders!

Here's a close-up of the spider.

Now I need to plan a few more. I also need to make another Skull Towel, as the one that I had for sale has sold.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Family Support Network

The American Legion has a program specifically designed to assist military families during deployment - especially made to address the needs of Guard and Reserve Troops. You do NOT need to be a member of The American Legion to benefit from this program.

If you have any problem, from major financial issues, to minor household jobs, please call 1-800-504-4098 or email

It's a simple concept. A soldier calls home from overseas, to hear from his family a problem, such as how his pay is not being deposited, and they are facing eviction. The soldier can work with the military side, but is helpless to do anything else. This causes a distraction for the soldier, which puts him in greater danger. Problems from money, to household and automobile repairs, to childcare, can be addressed just by calling this number.

Here's a real example. A soldier called home, and his wife was in tears. There was a problem with the car. They had two young kids, and the car was the only way for her to get the kids to the babysitter and her to work. She had called a repair shop, and the estimate was $2,000. The soldier said he would work on the problem, and hung up the phone.

Sitting there, he had no clue what to do. On the phone was a sticker for the Family Support Network, so he called and told them the problem. The information was passed down to the local Post. The Post called a couple of members who worked on cars, and they went over.

Turns out the problem was just a belt. The Legionnaires bought a new belt, installed it, and stuck around to help with some lawn work that needed to be done.

So please. Use this toll free number if you need it, and give it to any military family having problems. The American Legion has a lot of resources to help in all sorts of situations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm strange

I generally like "normal" home decor. Simple, clean lines, no clutter, and artwork on the walls as a focal point. I like color - white walls drive me nuts. It does not have to be bold colors, just anything but white.

In the past, I have done things like paint ivy leaves around my kitchen, and a tropical forest on my bathroom walls. Extreme, yes, but still in the realm of "normal."

But then there is that side of me that likes to have something else in the mix. Something different, strange, shocking....just different from the rest.

And I have discovered that I am not the only one!

So, I have started creating a line of small items that are different from the norm. Small enough that if other people came over, they could be easily overlooked or removed. I'm starting with small towels that can be used as kitchen towels, or hand towels in the bathroom. They can be foled over a towel bar, or attached to a handle via a loop and button on the top back. They have a knit body, with crochet edging.

Here's the description of this line: Tired of boring, cutesy towels for your kitchen and bath? Want decor that is darker, edgier or just a little twisted? Look no farther.

The first item up is the Skull Towel.

White skulls & crossbones on a black background edge the bottom of this towel. Perfect for the pirate in your home.

Next up is the Blood Drop:

A bright red blood drop, falling into a pool of drying blood. As creepy as this may be to have in your kitchen, just think -- if you cut yourself with a knife, the blood stains will only add to this design, not ruin it!

Please note that this line of towels is made from 100% acrylic yarn. The bottom section of these towels are knitted looser that the top to asormb more water. While they will pull in water like a sponge, they are not the best for drying things off by wiping them down. They are best used for decoration and quick hand drying.

More designs are in the works, so keep checking back.

(This line of towels are currently available at our store at If the design you want has been sold, please contact me, and I'll make another!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paypal vs RME

We, as a family, have been selling on-line for years now. We have used Paypal for much of that time.

Last night, I recevied an email from someone wishing to purchase an item from our Etsy store, asking if I took RME payments.

RME? What is that.

So, the person gave me a link.

RME stands for Revelution Money Exchange.

From their website:

About Revolution Money
Launched in 2007, a new payment network – Revolution Money – was created to deliver significant value to both consumers and merchants through two products, RevolutionCard and RevolutionMoneyExchange. The RevolutionCard eliminates costly interchange fees for merchants while simultaneously providing consumers with enhanced PIN-based security, identity protection, and periodic merchant discounts and incentives. MoneyExchange offers an easy and secure way to send and receive money online between accountholders for free. The accounts are issued by First Bank & Trust, Brookings, SD, Member FDIC and part of the Fishback Financial Corporation. These products are leading the transformation of the payment industry by providing secure, easy, and instant payment solutions to everyone.

Note the word"free".

There is no charge to...

Register for an account
Add money to your account
To send money
To receive money
To request money
To transfer money to your bank account

The only charges that I can find are to request a paper statement, to withdraw funds via a paper check, overdraft fees and stop payments.

Here's the "downside" to RME.
You do not earn interest. (Not a downside to me, as the interest I have earned with Paypal was always less than the fess they charged!)
Limits - there are limits to the amounts you can add to your account, and number of times you add to your account, and so forth. One example is that you cannot have more than $2500 in your account. (Again, not an issue for us. If we have $2499 in the account, it's getting transfered to our bank account!!!)

I did some research on RME, and cannot find a single negative comment or complaint.

So, for all of you who do online shopping or selling, I recommend you look into RME, do some research on your own, and consider offering it in addition to Paypal.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there.

Here's a brief history of Father's Day. From's_Day

United States
In the United States, the first modern Father's Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, or on June 19th of the same year, in the state of Washington. Today, Father's Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of June.

In West Virginia, it was first celebrated as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton, who is believed to have suggested the service to the pastor, is believed to have been inspired to celebrate fathers after the deadly mine explosion in nearby Monongah the prior December. This explosion killed 361 men, many of them fathers and recent immigrants to the United States from Italy. Another possible inspiration for the service was Mothers' Day, which had been celebrated for the first time two months prior in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles (24 km) away.

Another driving force behind the establishment of the integration of Father's Day was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, born in Creston, Washington. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, as a single parent reared his six children in Spokane, Washington. She was inspired by Anna Jarvis's efforts to establish Mother's Day. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, she did not provide the organizers with enough time to make arrangements, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. The first June Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, WA, at the Spokane YMCA.

Unofficial support from such figures as William Jennings Bryan was immediate and widespread. President Woodrow Wilson was personally feted by his family in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday in 1924. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father's Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The holiday was not officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

In recent years, retailers have adapted to the holiday by promoting male-oriented gifts such as electronics, tools and greeting cards. Schools and other children's programs commonly have activities to make Father's Day gifts.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day - US Army birthday

Today is Flag Day here in the USA.

From http://www,

The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America's birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as 'Flag Birthday'. In numerous magazines and newspaper articles and public addresses over the following years, Cigrand continued to enthusiastically advocate the observance of June 14 as 'Flag Birthday', or 'Flag Day'.

On June 14, 1889, George Balch, a kindergarten teacher in New York City, planned appropriate ceremonies for the children of his school, and his idea of observing Flag Day was later adopted by the State Board of Education of New York. On June 14, 1891, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration, and on June 14 of the following year, the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution, celebrated Flag Day.

Following the suggestion of Colonel J Granville Leach (at the time historian of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution), the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames of America on April 25, 1893 adopted a resolution requesting the mayor of Philadelphia and all others in authority and all private citizens to display the Flag on June 14th. Leach went on to recommend that thereafter the day be known as 'Flag Day', and on that day, school children be assembled for appropriate exercises, with each child being given a small Flag.

Two weeks later on May 8th, the Board of Managers of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution unanimously endorsed the action of the Pennsylvania Society of Colonial Dames. As a result of the resolution, Dr. Edward Brooks, then Superintendent of Public Schools of Philadelphia, directed that Flag Day exercises be held on June 14, 1893 in Independence Square. School children were assembled, each carrying a small Flag, and patriotic songs were sung and addresses delivered.

In 1894, the governor of New York directed that on June 14 the Flag be displayed on all public buildings. With BJ Cigrand and Leroy Van Horn as the moving spirits, the Illinois organization, known as the American Flag Day Association, was organized for the purpose of promoting the holding of Flag Day exercises. On June 14th, 1894, under the auspices of this association, the first general public school children's celebration of Flag Day in Chicago was held in Douglas, Garfield, Humboldt, Lincoln, and Washington Parks, with more than 300,000 children participating.
Adults, too, participated in patriotic programs. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: "I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."

Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.



Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, the United States Army was established to defend our Nation. From the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terror, our Soldiers remain Army Strong with a deep commitment to our core values and beliefs. This 233rd birthday commemorates America’s Army – Soldiers, Families and Civilians – who are achieving a level of excellence that is truly Army Strong both here and abroad. Their willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for others and to preserve our way of life is without a doubt, the Strength of our Nation.

A heartfelt Thank You to all who have served, and are currently serving. And also a thank you to their families, for without family support, our troops could not do what they do nearly as well.

Friday, June 13, 2008

From boredom to...

So, abstract paintings.

I find them difficult. Landscapes are easier to me, because I see the landscape, and try to paint a picture of it. Very linear.

But abstract art is trying to convey something -- a physical item, a thought, an emotion - without it actually looking like the item you are trying to represent. Not as easy for me.

I have done two abstract paintings, each for a different reason.


I had purchased a new bedroom set. The headboard, as you can see from the image on the left, has 3 sections. The walls were painted a soft seafoam green, and the background color of the bedspread was a similar color. Looking at the room, it needed a 3 panel painting above the bed. I don't really like landscapes in panels, so I had to do something else.

I took 3 canvasses, placed them next to each other, and started in the very center making circular shapes. I used colors that were in the bedspread, and just changed colors whenever. The intent was to make "designer art", not really a representation of anything.

Teen Emotions
I wanted to give me kids a special gift for their 13th birthday. Something that would last. So I did a painting for each of them. For my daughter, I did a seascape - the Oregon Coast at sunset. But I wanted something different for my son.
I was trying to capture the emotional craziness of the teen years. I started with a dark background, as teen boys generally are in a dark emotional state so much of the time. Then I added different bright colors in different spots, to show the sudden and extreme highs of emotion. I think I succeeded. At least my son approves, which is all that really matters.
All of this came from being stuck at home, with no cable, and nothing to do. Boredom can have it's rewards.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What boredom can do for you

Many years ago, I was living in Arlington TX. It was summer time. I did not live close to anything, did not have a car, and there was not a bus system in place. Between the oppressive humidity and the lightening storms, leaving the apartment was not a pleasant thought.

In the apartment, we did not have cable. I was not a big fan of soaps, so I had PBS on - jsut something to do in desperate boredom.

Bob Ross was on. His soothing voice was hypnotic. The way he talked about the clouds, the trees...everything, just kinda caught my attention. I remember that first episode where he said something along the lines of the momma mountain, and a baby mountain - just far enough away where the baby mountain could play, but momma could still watch over him.

My roommate had a bunch of acrylic paints. I took an old white t-shirt of mine, stretched it over a puzzle board, and started putting painting. The acrylics had a plastic look, and wanted to sit on the fabric intead of going into the fabric, so I soaked the shirt with water. This created an almost watercolor wash look to it. And away I went.

I no longer have any of those paintings. But I will share a few what I do have.

Dark Landscape

I painted this while in KY. I created it for my Grandmother. It was a rather depressing period of my life, as seen in the grey, stormy landscape. This is the oldest painting of mine that I have pictures of.


After KY, I continued to paint for several years. I even did a huge mural on the bathroom walls of one places we lived.

This one is a representation of a place that I "go to" during meditation.


From oldest to newest, this is my latest painting. I have done exactly two seascapes, this being the second. The full moon rising over the ocean, giving the appearanc eof coming out of the water.

Tomorrow I will share a couple of abstract pieces that I have done, and information on how they were created.

(Moonrise is currently available for purchase from our store at

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Colorways is simply an item in which different colors are used to make a pattern. This includes everything from a stripe to pictures. Different types and methods have exact terms. Since these terms are often misused, I just use descriptive words to explain.

This manual machine knit afghan was a gift to my brother. It is 8' long and 6' wide, done in two tones of olive green. It was made in 3 sections - two sections were striped, and the third was solid. The three sections were then sewn together as shown.

Stripes are often the easiest colorways to do. At the end of the appropriate row, just join a new color. If the color changes are repeated, you do not bind off the yarn, but carry it up the side.

Color blocks can be both easier or harder, depending on the size and number of blocks. This Chair Blanket, titled, Feeling Blue? is a simple example. It's a block of dark blue and a block of light blue. The color change was done at the end of the row, just like joining a new skein of yarn, with nothing to carry over.

Patterns start to get tricky. Even a simple border patern, such as the close-up of this cap, are harder because you have to carry both yarns across the back. Pull the yarn too tight, and the item pulls. If the yarn is too loose, then it can catch. Yet a simple border design can make the simplest item much more fetching.

This cap and glove set is a much more difficult example of pattern colorways. It was a gift to my husband, so he got to be the model for this picture. With gloves, you really must be careful about the carried yarn. Too tight, and the wearer will not be able to get their hands in, but too loose, their fingers will catch on the yarn, pulling it our of shape and causing holes.

Using different colors to create pictures is my final example. This baby set used white yarn to create little anchors across the bottom of both the sweater and the cap. This, in my opinion, is the most difficult of all. First you have the yarn carry concerns. Then, since the pattern does not have a static repeat, you must pay very close attention to the charting.
While my examples use just two colors, the information holds true for any number of colors. The more colors you add, the more difficult it becomes.
If you want to try your hand at using colorways to improve your knitting or crochet, I suggest starting with either big color blocks, then stripes. Once you've mastered carrying yarn up the sides of your work, try a simple border pattern.
(My chair blankets are specifically designed for wheelchair use. They are the width of a standard wheelchair, and go just from the lap to just above the floor. No fringe is allowed on the edging. This is to keep the afghan from getting caught on the wheels or dragging on the fllor. For Feeling Blue? and other wheelchair lap robes, please visit our store at

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Varigated yarns

Varigated yarns can be a lot of fun. Varigated yarns allow you to knit or crochet items that are more colorful than a single color item, without the skill or more work needed for colorway patterns. (We'll discuss what a colorway is tomorrow.)

The yarn is dyed so that the colors blend from one to another, to create an abstract pattern. The pattern it creates will be different depending on how many stitches are in a row. One thing to be careful of is when your project has strong decreases, such as a sweater sleeve. The pattern at the bottom of the sleeve can look much different than the top of the sleeve, or the sweater base itself. Depending on the yarn and the style, this can look really good, or really bad. It's just something to watch.

Something else that needs to be considered when planning a yarn project, is that varigated yarns will dominate the eye.

The afghan to the right has an intricate cabling pattern on it. Yet, you only see that if you really look hard, because the eye is drawn to the colors. While it is less of an issue in person, it's still a distraction.

On the other hand, small quick projects are a great use for many varigated yarns. It keeps the items from look flating, yet takes no additional skill or time to make.
These are several sets of kitchen items I made for small gifts last year. Made from 100% cotton yarn, these were knitted up pretty quick, then a complimenting crochet border was added.
So the lesson is, when you want a more colorful project, without having to learn how to change colors, carry colors, or buy several colors for it, and the project has simple stitching, try a varigated yarn.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Machine Knit"

(Raspberry Shawl - manual machine knit, with hand crochet border. Currently available from our Etsy shop.

I recently had a coversation where the term "Machine knit" was used. It went something like this:

Other person: I thought you hand-made all your items?

Me: I do.

OP: But this items says machine knit.

Me: It's a manual machine, not an automatic machine.

OP: But if it's done by a machine, then it's not hand-made.

Me: Hand-made means it's done by hand. The machine is powered by hand, and all stitches are manually made, since you work the stitches by hand - you just work more than one stitch at a time.

OP: But you're using a machine...

And so the conversation went.

A manual knitting machine is a very simple thing. It's a row of 100 hooks. After casting on the yarn, you push a carriage across with one hand, feeding the yarn with another, which make 100 knit stitches. Push it across again, and you made another 100 stitches.

Nothing happens on it's own. If you want any stitches that are not knit stitches, you have to make the stitch, then "drop" it and re-work it. Same thing with cables - you have to take the stitches off the hooks, put them into position, then slide the carriage over.

In other words, unless you are doing straight knitting, it's a pain. Single end of row color changes are pretty easy, but any real color work is not.

On the plus side, when you need to do large areas of stright, single color knitting, it's a great item to use. It cuts down time and boredom considerably.

For large items, I will often do both manual machine knit and hand knit for the same item. This shades of blue sweater I made for my son was done using both methods.
Using needles, I cast on the front and back and worked the ribbing. Then I placed those pieces on the machine, and worked it up to the neckline area. I took it off the machine, back onto regular needles for finishing. Same basic thing on the sleeves - regular needles for the cuff ribbing, machine for the arms, regular needles for the cap and bind-off. Pieces sewn together by hand.
Either way, it's still hand made.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Rice? Why Rice? Before I answer that, I have a puzzle.

What is this:

Give up? How about now...
It's a quilted heat pad for the table. The top is a quilted square, sewn to a fleece bottom. Seams run from top to bottom to form tubes, which are then filled with RICE. I also add herbs to the rice. For heat pads that go on the table, I'll use cooking herbs like bay, basil and such. I also have one for deserts, which have cinnamon and nutmeg in those.

Rice absorbs and holds heat. Other grains can also be used, each with their own charactoristics. Many people swear by flaxseed and cherry pits. I use rice, as it is generally the least expensive.

Besides protecting other surfaces from heat damage, the properties of rice are great for pillows. These pillows can be heated in the microwave, or placed in the freezer to provide both hot and cold treatments to the body. Different sizes and shapes are better for different things.

This red pillow is rectangular in shape, and loosely filled. It is great for the back (as shown with my wonderful hubby) as well as any other larger areas of the body. I use this one quite a bit for both my shoulder and to warm my hands in the morning when my arthritis is bad.

The most commonly seen pillows are neck pillows. Long, thin tubes, filled more than the one above, and set on the neck. Yet, they can be used anywhere that you need to wrap - wrists, knees and ankles are other places the neck pillows work well, as shown here with my son.

Eye pillows are another use. A small rectange, medium amount of rice, with soothing herbs such as lavander or chamomille are great to relieve many types of headaches.
The problem with most rice pillows is that they are not easily washed. So, for most of mine, I make the pillow, then create a sleeve to go over it, generally from a thin flannel material. It allows the heat through, but can be easily removed and thrown into the washer.
Rice pillows with sleeves will soon be available through our Etsy store.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More on quilts

There are a lot of different types of quilt tops - not just size-based definitions, but types. I won't go into all of them, but will go over a few different types that I personally like.

Scrap quilts are generally made from, well, scrap material. These can use hundreds of different materials. Generally, the materials are cut and pieced in a regonizable pattern. The quilt above is an old scrap quilt of mine. The big squares stay the same throughout, but the smaller squares are made from a mixture of materials, all of the same color values.
(Side note. This quilt is currently in my repair pile. Never allow a large dog with big nails sleep on a quilt made with silky materials!)

The phrase pieced quilts is generally used for any quilt where pieces are cut and sewn together, when there is no other classification for the design. The placemats and table runner from yesterday's column would fit this definition.

A watercolor quilt, as explained by Dina Papps in her book, Quick Watercolor Quilts, is one where three different types of prints are used to create a picture where the picture is made by the blending of fabrics. The photo to the right is from this book. The quilt is called Summer Wreath. As you can see, while squares are used, the impression is of a circle, and the design fades outwards from the center -- just like a watercolor painting.

A landscape quilt takes this farther. The idea is to create a full landscape, without being confined to using square shapes. Generally speaking, you start with a piece of muslin, and cut the design shapes out of prints that reflect the color and texture of the part of the design you want. These are then added like and applique, layer by layer, to the muslin. Landscape quilts are mostly used as wall hangings. The one to the left is a beautiful example by Cathy Geiger.

My favorite quilt designs are a combination of watercolor and landscape quilts. To my knowledge, there is not an exact name for this. I create simple designs with squares (like the watercolor quilts), but rely on color and texture to create a simplified landscape picture (like landscape quilts).

This Tree Lap/Wall Quilt is 36" x 30". The pieced center is made from 1.5" cut squares. The squares are fused to interfacing, then sewn. I love this method when using small squares.

I have another quilt in the planning stages right now. In this case, it's a scene of mountains and a lake. The design grid is 20x20 squares, using 9 different color values. I will explain the full process as it is completed. Right now it is just a design grid and some cut squares.
(Tree quilt is currently available for purchase at our store:

Friday, June 6, 2008


I love making quilts. That should be obvious by now, I know. It's just something about the creations of patterns and placement of colors that I enjoy.

This is the back side of the Wolf in Grey quilt. I normally do not do pieced backs, but in this case, it's made from extra squares from the front. (The front is featured in the upper right of this blog.)

It's a simple light-to-dark pattern. Yet that simple pattern creates a striking effect.

Using those same squares on the front, but in another pattern, creates a totally different effect. By having the lightest squares centered on the four sides, and progressively going to darker squares to the corners makes the center wolf panel appear to almost glow.

Another type of light-to-dark color play is seen in the Patriotic Stars quilt, also shown on the upper right. Here's a close-up picture, before the sashing was added:

The base pattern is normally called a Log Cabin. By having only light materials on the top and right, and dark materials on the left and bottom, it again creates a very striking effect.

For a different effect, these same materials could have been used to where the lightest color was in the center, and went progressively darker towards the outside. This creates a spiral look to square lines. This placement design looks best when the center squares do not have any special feature, such as a large, colorful print or applique.

Just as not all quilting is reserved for quilts, not all quilting needs intricate color value to make it pleasing to the eye. Most standard quilting can be done with 3-4 different prints. This is where many people stumble - standing in a fabric stores with hundreds of different prints, they get overwhelmed. Here's a trick when doing a simple 3-4 print quilt:

1) Find a print you really like, with a primary color that you want.

2) Keeping that print in hand, look for a print that has a larger pattern, is darker in value, but has the main color from #1.

3) With material #1 in hand, look for a print that has a smaller pattern, is lighter in value, but has the main color in it.

4) Put these prints on top of each other, where you see all three at once. Step back from the material, and judge where it falls on a light-to-dark value scale. If it looks too dark, your 4th material needs to be like #3, but even lighter. If it's too light, then pick another material like #2, but even darker.

The materials for this table runner were chosen by doing those 4 steps. I started with a red/black marble-looking pattern. Then I picked the black rose pattern. The next was the red with little white flowers. At that point, I liked it, but it was too dark, so I chose the white with red flowers to lighten it further.

The placement was simple - the two darkest values in the center, with the two lighter on the sides. The border material was taken from my stash - grey with black flowers.

Since the table runner is just for looks, I did not add any batting or backing. The placemats, on the other hand, are backed with the edge material, and have a batting that is designed to absorb head and liquid to protect the wood table.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Twist - the solution?

So yesterday, I was discussing book covers, and how I just did not like the look of the overedge sewing. Some people like it, but I didn't, so I needed to try a different tactic.

Meanwhile, I had offered to make my mother her own small dayplanner type item. She had told me she did not need one, but two days later, she was in a situation where she did. What she needed was a small pad of paper for notes, a small calendar to write events down, a place for a pen, and a small, hidden pocket for a little cash/creditcard/ID.

I stuck with her favorite color of blue, but added some kittens. She had seen my material with kittens on it, and liked ONLY the sleeping kittens, so I went with applique.

The inside left holds her calendar, and two pens. The right has the note pad, with a small pocket underneath.

This time, instead of an overlock or serger stitch, I sewed all the layers together with a straight stitch, then added bias tape. I happened to have some brown of the same color in the kittens.

She loved it, and I was much happier with the look.

Soon after, I wanted to say thank you to someone who loaned me a book. The book for about The American Legion Auxiliary. I had scraps left from the Patriotic Stars quilt, and used them to make a book cover - large enough to cover the book, but also large enough for most notepads and calendars, in case she wanted to use it as a small planner instead.

Again, I used bias tape, in navy blue this time, for a finished edge.

I did discover, however, that the bias tape does not always look right. Sometimes, the overlock stitch just matches better. Such as for my Flaming Skulls 3-Ring Binder Cover...

In this case, I used blood red thread in the serger, then black thread on the overlock stitch. The red thread shows through just enough that it gives an interesting effect that matches perfectly.
The lesson learned here was that nothing works for all things. While I had originally hated the look of the overlock stitching, in some styles it looked great. On the other hand, while I generally prefer the bias tape, it only fits certain types of things also. Now I am experimenting with things like fringe.
Always keep an open mind. Remember that arts and crafts means creativity - not locking yourself into just one mode and expecting it to always work.
(The Flaming Skull 3-Ring Binder cover is currently available for purchase at