Saturday, December 30, 2017


I have no idea why I love it so much.

The flow of the yarn through your fingers as you help it assume different shapes? The click of the needles? Or the ability to take some string and make your grandson's Daniel Tiger Halloween costume? The availability of instructional videos on YouTube so you can learn new (to you) and advanced techniques?

There's a certain snobbery that I've discovered between and among knitters and crocheters. Knitters feel superior to those who only crochet, and if they don't feel that crocheters are a lower life form, they do feel that their projects are inferior to knitted ones.

Among knitters: "throwing" and "picking" controversies, also known as "continental" vs English. Expensive vs. less expensive needles; wood vs. bamboo vs. plastic vs. metal. Double pointed needles or magic loop. Knitting in the round as opposed to flat on two needles.

Acrylic vs. wool. Wool vs. alpaca. Cotton vs bamboo fibers. Tencel or hemp?

Hand-dyed and hand-spun vs. machine?

Ergonomic crochet hooks, lighted hooks (yes, so you can crochet in bed), plastic ones, wood, metal.

I was at our local Winter Fair earlier this month, and I spied a booth that displayed only baby hats. The maker was sitting on a stool, throwing (this is what I do) her yarn, and working flat (oh no! the baby's head will be permanently indented by the seam in the back!). I commented to her that I was happy to see her using that knitting style. She used to own a brick-and-mortar knitting shop and used to hear all the bickering among fiber artists (yes, we like to be referred to that way) regarding technique, fibers used, patterns, you name it. If there was a choice between two or more things, there were arguments about the best way to do it.

In my city, there are precious few local yarn shops. LYS, in knitting parlance. And yes, the whole personality of each shop is different. The owner in one, when I asked for a good acrylic worsted-weight in gray, navy, and white, told me "We only have natural fibers in this store." I may have heard "Hmpf," before she answered. 

And she hovered. I hate that. As a yarn lover herself, doesn't she get how mesmerized true addicts are by just the sight of shelves and shelves of the stringy stuff, not to mention the endless pleasure from touching and even reading the label? The intake of all that yarn has to offer is best enjoyed alone, thank you very much.

At a different yarn store, my presence barely caught the attention of the ladies sitting around a table knitting and chatting. They were knitting lace. Why in the world would anyone knit lace? Apparently it takes all of your powers of concentration, because I was invisible. Once I got someone to notice me, and after we talked about my grandson and baby hats, we were like best friends and since then every trip to that store has been a delight. So much so that I spent $75 on a wool/cashmere blend for a sweater for my grandson, who was 1 year old. He's over 2 now and it is still too big for him!

Nothing prepared me for my yarn store experience in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My husband and I accidentally stumbled upon it and I wish I had not set foot in there. Belonged in Diagon Alley. Long shelves of second-hand books and flea market stuff. Mass-market yarn rested in large bins in the front windows and lined the walls. Spinning wheels were everywhere, and large quantities of hand-dyed, hand-spun GORGEOUS yarn laid in laundry bins on tables and on the floor as far as the eye could see. I don't even know how far back the store went, but "on and on and on" seems about right. The owner was a 92-year-old woman with all of her marbles (well, a lot of them) who was the spinner and dyer. I didn't escape without spending $273 on yarn and listening to an hour's description of her process. My husband was ready to divorce me.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Paper looooooove . . .

Another wedding, one year later! This bride wanted red, white, and blue, “but not too patriotic” and that she got. Mara and I tag-teamed the invitations. She wanted the centerpieces and bouquet just like Mara’s, and I was so practiced at making kusudama flowers that I could do them with my eyes closed. (I didn’t know that they weren’t actual origami which uses no glue.) I had gotten so much better at it than when I did Mara’s that I was sorry I couldn’t have done a better job on hers. Mara and I made the centerpieces together, since she has become an expert at rosettes and pinwheels. The bouquet is pictured here, and the favor cover (a mix CD of their favorite songs) as well, with custom wording.

I’m so grateful that the favors were inedible because I am powerless over Hershey nuggets, as demonstrated by having to buy twice as many for my daughter’s favors as were actually used. You know why.
I LOVE papercrafting. I get so caught up in knitting and crocheting, though, that I forget that I have a whole room in the basement equipped for making cards until I die. And it’s cool down there when my husband (controller of indoor weather) says it’s not hot enough for the air conditioner.  Of course it’s cold enough in the winter that I need two space heaters blowing directly on me to keep my hands and feet from going numb, no matter the thermostat setting. Old house quirks.

And old person quirks, too. Getting quirkier by the day.

By the way, if you'd like to learn how to make these flowers (easy as pie, no joke), here is the link to an instructional video.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The wedding . . .

So my morning glories are up! I used to be an avid gardener, before being on my feet for most of the day for most of my working life took its toll on my back. (I can get down, but getting up is iffy.) But I wanted morning glories, and Chuck, my husband, has his own plan for the garden and the fences that don’t include my morning glories. I soaked them as the package directed, than planted the next day, and by Wednesday they peeked tentatively out from the soil I had prepared so lovingly in one little row under a trellis. They are going to be gorgeous soon.

Speaking of flowers, I never did post about my daughter's wedding.

For the wedding I made the kusudama flower bouquets. I wish I had done them after I had made 200 flowers for the centerpieces because by that time I had perfected my technique, but they still looked beautiful, as did my daughters!  The centerpieces were composed of 12 flowers, four or five rosettes, and pinwheels, sitting in a quart Mason jar filled with washed and oiled (for depth of color) sand pebbles and glass beads. The table numbers were on a large rosette poking up from the centerpiece.  Since it was picnic-themed, I made checkered squares for each table in several patterns.  For favors, I used an idea I saw on Pinterest, and you can recognize from the photo the four Hershey nuggets wrapped in paper. I cannot even estimate the number of them that I killed on the way to the sleeve and the bag.

We kept the escort cards (thank you, Martha Stewart for correcting me: I was erroneously calling them place cards, which are placed at each table setting and send your guests wandering around trying to see where they are to be planted) simple, but I could not leave them plain no matter how hard I tried.

Guests were invited to either take the centerpieces or to share the elements with the rest of the table, and at the end they were all gone.

Preparing for my daughter Mara’s wedding was a WONDERFUL experience for me, but harrowing for her, as it is for all brides. I had such frequent contact with her and spent so much time with her going to fittings, to the bakery, shopping for shoes, decorating the invitations, making the rosettes, that there is a lot of room in my day right now! The crafting took up most of my time for a couple of months and I miss my hot glue gun! I need to fold squares of paper! I miss thinking in terms of PLAID!

All that remains from the wedding are wonderful memories, fantastic photographs, a happy bride and groom, and a new (and hopefully growing!) family.  Who could ask for anything more? 

Oh, and the girls still have their bouquets, since Mara refused to toss hers!

Monday, June 2, 2014

No, your eyes are not out of focus . . .

I spent most of Sunday (yesterday) in my basement studio, surfacing only to plant some morning glories, admire my husband’s vegetable garden, and grab a snack. Great day!

I created some cards using these white translucent flowers which I made from three or four layers of vellum daisies, glued together, then I affixed a punched sunburst in the center. The glue kind of shrinks the paper in the middle a little bit, which horrified me at first, but I think it gave the flowers some dimension.  Positive spin! Let me know what you think.

So I made some cards with these glue-dotted to a 3.5x5.5” card, with three pearls underneath. I went upstairs for some more coffee and when I returned to the studio to admire my work I was certain that I had had a stroke when I put the pearls on. They were so off-center that I was embarrassed. I should have measured and placed pencil dots where I wanted them to go but I have a tendency to eyeball things and sometimes with questionable results.
To save these 12 flowers I cut a square around them (measured), mounted on a colored cardstock, and affixed them diamond-like on a square card. One pearl left and right.  Saved.
Then I had been on the internet searching for cute ideas for the class I may be teaching, and came across some cards made with circles punched from paint chips, which I have in abundant supply, collected over the years. (I also found a comment on a blog about the immorality of taking paint chips if you aren’t buying paint, and I felt guilty. Whenever I see paint chips I am like the seagulls in Finding Nemo: mine! mine! I love color and NEED TO HAVE ALL OF THEM).

Anyway, I made three cards, eyeballing the first only, and then measuring and penciling dots. My husband always uses the adage “Measure twice, cut once,” and I am finally taking his advice. (Same with knitting: check gauge.) I love them!

I think I am going to somehow find or make a grid to transfer for guiding my dot placement. Oh, right, graph paper!

Friday, May 30, 2014

I've been asked to teach a craft class!

My husband works at a private social service agency that cares for individuals with developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities. He was arranging off-site classes for the summer quarter, and he wasn't able to find a teacher for a craft class. All of his known vendors were busy or too expensive. Then TA-DA, here I come to save the day! I have a new vendor's license, love to teach, love to craft, and since my vocation was nursing, I have had experience with that population. Plus he will be there to help them and me, and make it fun for all. We'll have him do one too!

Joann's Fabrics has been kind enough to give us a craft room to use gratis provided that we purchase our items from the store. Easy-peasy since that's my second home. The one-hour weekly class will include women with varying dexterity levels and cognitive abilities. I want some activities that would be interesting and not geared toward children, since these are adults, some even as old as I am, deserving of dignity.

The first class is on July 2, so I'd like to do a 4th of July-related craft, but not your typical glue-foam-stars-on-sticks kind of thing. I was planning to do a pomander ball (thank you, Pinterest) later in the quarter, but wouldn't it be fun to do one with patriotic-themed paper? Small stars, small red and white stripes, etc. I don't know; maybe solid red and blue with pearl corsage pins piercing a little star in the centers. I'll have to think about it and make one first. I already have the Martha Stewart punch (of course). Each pomander takes 300 flowers, which I will prepare in advance (starting yesterday). and I think I'll have to prepunch tiny holes in the centers and maybe even use glue somehow so the pins don't pop out and pierce fingers.

This will be a good weekend to play with it. But every weekend is good for that, and until I have grandchildren and some of my time is occupied with spoiling them rotten, I'll be in my craft room.

Happy end of May! Spring has seemed so short since winter was so looooong.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The party's over . . .

I want to show you the bouquets and flowers for Mara's wedding on a beautiful late spring day with perfect weather and perfect everything else too.

I had been making centerpieces for my daughter’s wedding, and her and her maid-of-honor’s bouquets as well, for about 3 months. This has been my pleasure and privilege. Thank God I retired on December 1, 2013.

finished flowers
I had to learn new things. How to make a flower, for one. Internet sources were my saviors: Etsy shops for ideas, and Google is my best friend. What kind of paper do I use? Origami or scrapbook (I used both)? Hot glue or white glue (hot). What kind of wire stems to use – fabric-wrapped or plain think green ones (I came to prefer the wrapped, and recommend them if you try it out),

I am not going to present a tutorial of my own, because if you enter “kusudama” in your search box, you will be graced with pages and pages of them. But I would like to share with you the link from Facebook that grabbed me, and how I did some of the outlined origami flower bouquet steps along the way.  But do check out this one:

First, the paper. Origami paper is expensive, and fragile, and susceptible to creasing and crumpling if handled too much. I found that thin scrapbook paper works best,  or even printer paper, which comes in lots of designs. One paper artist even uses 3x3 Post-Its, which I did try, and solved the stickiness problem with baby powder.  It’s cheaper to just use colored printer paper. Vellum makes gorgeous semi-translucent flowers.

bouquet flowers before pearls
white printer paper
For glue I used a standard hot glue gun (my next best friend after Google), and went through glue sticks like water. The advantage to hot glue is that it sticks fast, although Scotch Tacky Glue would be a good second choice, especially if you are working with kids. Another advantage to the Scotch glue: no gossamer strings that you have to get rid of! I may go that way next time.

After assembly I glued an embellishment onto the center of the flowers. For the bouquets. Boutonnieres, and flowers for my daughter’s hair, I used stick-on embellishments carefully gleaned from Michael’s and Joann’s clearance racks over the years. For the centerpiece flowers, I used buttons.

How to assemble? First, I joined two flowers using floral tape. This is a sticky business and it took me a while to get comfortable with it. Then I joined the two-flower stems gradually to others for the bouquets, but for the centerpieces just used two-flower stems stuck into the filler. I finally wrapped the bouquet steps in cotton ribbon, fastening it at the ends with corsage pins. Google, bless you, and long may you reign.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the invitations. And the favors. Doable by anyone.


Kusudama Mama

I am just having a great time making origami kusudama flowers for my daughter Mara's wedding on May 24. She sent me a pin on Pinterest and when I saw the photo I thought I would NEVER be able to do that. Well, about 200 flowers later, I am probably done.  But I can't stop! I am addicted and I crave folding the square, gluing it, assembling the five petals, then sitting back in admiration and awe at my own awesomeness! Why didn't anyone tell me it was going to be this satisfying? I would have retired sooner.

Stop me before I am buried.