Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taming the Want Monster

"I have enough yarn...said no knitter ever."
"If someone tells you that you have too much yarn, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."
"The one who dies with the most yarn wins."

Many have you have probably seen things like this all over the Internet (substitute the key word of your choice: books, glitter, etc.). We are flooded with messages like this, right along with all of the reposts and shares for giveaways, contests, and sales. It is so easy to get sucked in, to - quite literally - buy into this "gotta have it" mentality. It reminds me of a book I used to read to my girls, The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies. 

When did this relentless pursuit of MORE start filling our lives? Probably it was always there, a natural part of human nature. But when it is out there in your face on all the social media sites, it really becomes overwhelming. Or at least, it does to me. I have been battling the want monster for a long time. Like with anything you practice regularly, it has been getting easier.

But I still have a way to go. In recent weeks I went through my yarn stash and uploaded it to Ravelry, a website for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers. I was shocked when I clicked the "magic" button and discovered exactly how many miles - yes, miles - of yarn I have sitting in my house. The photo above, by the way, is only of all of the sock yarn left over from already-completed projects. I also have a whole heck of a lot of brand new skeins of yarn, and not just for socks.

But since the want monster still slips the chain now and then, on Christmas Day I found some really pretty sock yarn on sale and ordered three skeins. I was very happy and excited about getting them. Then yesterday, I got an email saying one of the colors, the one I liked the most, natually, was out of stock and had been discontinued by the yarn company. I was so outraged and disappointed! You'd think I had just been told that there was no more yarn anywhere in the world! That's when it hit me. The want monster was completely in charge again.

There is nothing all that special about that skein of yarn that warrants such an extreme reaction. What business do I have getting so unreasonably upset about something like this? Don't I already have more than enough sock yarn to knit socks, wrist warmers and hats for a whole year? Sock yarn that I just absolutely had to have, way back when? If I'm not happy with what I already have, why am I basing my happiness now on what I just bought? What is with this relentless pursuit of MORE? That path only leads to dissatisfaction and emptiness.

So I am pledging to myself to strive for LESS. Less stuff, less clutter, less outside pressure. I am "unliking", "unfollowing", and unsubscribing right and left, to free myself from the constant pressure to buy the latest thing. I am working to clear out the stuff in my house that doesn't make me happy, that I don't use, or haven't worn in more than a year. 

My word for 2015 is Simplify. I am really looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Playing Favorites

My sock drawer looks pretty darn full of awesomeness, if I do say so myself. I made all of these socks, except for the fourth pair down from the top on the left. Those were a gift from a wonderful friend. Thank you, Kathleen.

The first pair of socks I made for myself (second from the top on the left) were actually my fourth pair ever knit. I used 100% wool yarn given to me by another wonderful friend. Thank you Ellen. Ellen sent me the yarn in the hopes of encouraging me to try sock knitting. It took a few years, but eventually I did. And the reason I tried, and succeeded, is because I had help and encouragement from yet another friend, the wonderful Judy Sumner, who sadly is no longer with is. But I think of her every time I knit a pair of socks.

Of course every pair of socks in the drawer has a story behind it, and many of those stories have already been told here at Bag of Chocolates. I knit my first pair of socks in 2006 and have loved every one of them. I have given many pairs of socks away to a lot of very special people - family members and dear friends. I have donated handknit socks to organizations that help others. I have made socks in all sizes, from footies to crew length to over the knee socks, for baby feet all the way up to size 18 basketball player feet. After years of being afraid to try knitting socks, once I got started I couldn't - and still don't want to - stop. 

Usually I knit my socks cuff down on double pointed needles. There are many other ways to knit socks, but this is the way that makes me happy. I have tried knitting from the toe up. The knee socks I mentioned were knit that way. I have tried several different kinds of heels, but the classic heel flap and turned heel is my favorite. I have tried lace socks and colorwork socks, socks with cables and ribbed socks. My favorite is still the plain stockinette sock, which some people call a plain vanilla sock.

Some people say they have trouble forcing themselves to knit the mate to the first sock. After making the first one, they want to move on to different yarn, or a different pattern. This is called Second Sock Syndrome. Of all the pairs of socks I have made since 2006 (and unfortunately I don't remember how many that is. More than 50 pairs, certainly) I have only neglected to knit a second sock once. I decided to try knitting from the toe up to see if I could manage it, so I made a toe up baby sock. It worked out fine, so I immediately started that pair of knee socks for my niece. I never did go back and make the second baby sock.

Not only do I have a favorite method and pattern for knitting socks, I have come to realize I have favorites when it comes to sock yarn, not necessarily for knitting but for wearing and washing. Some socks I wear again as soon as they are clean. Others spend most of their time looking pretty in the sock drawer. 

There is so much gorgeous sock yarn out there to choose from. And more and more, you'll find independent yarn dyers who sell absolutely beautiful sock yarn on their Etsy sites. The system seems to be that the dyer makes up a bunch of colorways, then schedules a "release". If you manage to grab some in time before it sells out, you're one of the lucky ones. Given the fact that my clock is 7 hours head of Eastern time, you can probably guess how good my chances are of that. This used to frustrate me and I would feel sorry for myself.

But you know what? I stopped and thought about it, and thought about which pairs of socks make it out of the drawer and onto my feet most often, and which don't. And I realized that the pairs I wear the most, and which still look almost the same as the first time I wore them, are the socks knit from established companies, like Opal, Regia, and Zitron (Trekking). Even though the other yarns are gorgeous, they don't hold up well, and often bleed color when they are washed (by hand, they can't handle machine washing like the three companies I mentioned). Not only that, many times the knitted fabric starts to felt, even if it is a "superwash" yarn base. Then the socks become thick and stiff, and don't have any stretch to them. Those factors, plus the fact that handwashing socks is a pain, means those socks are mostly decorative rather than useful. Now, I'm sure there are many very capable dyers - and not just indies but other companies - out there who do their best to prevent these things, especially color bleeding out of the yarn. But it can be a risk.

Right now, the socks I wear the most are the first six pairs on the bottom, starting on the left. And now that I've finally realized what I truly love in a pair of socks, I don't feel too badly about missing out on all the cool hand-dyed sock yarns. I have seen how poorly they hold up, and I would rather stick with yarns I know will keep on looking good after years of use.

And speaking of socks, I am currently working on a pair for Liat and that pretty gray cabled sock for a friend. Time to get knitting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Socked In

SOCKED IN: Closed in by bad weather, often said of an airport; fogbound; snowbound. This expression originally found in the context of flying, has its roots in the use of a windsock at airports to provide wind direction. The windsock, a large, open-ended, cone-shaped sleeve attached to a post by a pivot, at one time provided pilots with wind direction. When the weather deteriorated (fog or snow) to the point that the sock couldn’t be seen, the field was said to be ‘socked in’ and takeoffs and landings would be difficult to impossible. The expression is said to date from the 1940s. 

I found that explanation of the term on Not sure it's accurate, but it certainly sounds reasonable.

Anyway... I am usually a one sock at a time kind of knitter. I have been known to work on two socks during the same period of time (each on its own set of double pointed needles). But today I have three socks going. The gray one with only about 16 rounds is the Amyrlin pattern (found on Ravelry). It is a beautiful design full of twisted stitches and cables, and it takes forever to complete just one round. I have finally gotten the hang of the design, though, and I think I may just be moving from a geriatric snail's pace to a middle aged snail's pace. Yay me. Yarn is Cascade Heritage, a lovely and soft yarn that is reasonably priced. Good thing the gal I am making these for is worth it!

The sock in the middle (working on the foot now) is the Broken Seed pattern also found on Ravelry. I am using leftover Cascade Heritage in black and Mini Mochi in Intense Rainbow. The pattern is super easy to memorize so the only hassle with these socks is juggling two balls of yarn. At first I didn't like the way the sock looked and I hate the Mini Mochi, which feels very fragile. But I am happier with it now that I have made more progress. I doubt I will ever buy MM yarn again, however. These are for me.

The third sock, just started today, is my go-to 2 x 2 ribbed sock in Fortissima Socka. Hoping to get a pair done for Meital in time for Chanukah, which starts on December 16.  I could practically knit this pattern with my eyes closed, so it moves quickly, but it will be a stealth knitting project, obviously. 

Good thing I love making socks! So if you don't see me around much, it's because I'm socked in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

Back in the days when I first started blogging (anyone out there remember Yahoo 360?), most of the people you encountered in the blog world were people like me: wfie/mother/working at a noncrafting job/hobbyist. It was still socially acceptable to use a dollar store glue stick in your paper crafting, and you folded your cardstock and creased the edge with your thumbnail (today, those in the know use something called a teflon bone folder, which for a mere $22 will ensure that you do not "leave a sheen to your paper when folding it." Well gosh, how on earth have I survived without that?!)

These days, so many of the bloggers I discover online are anything but hobbyists. They love papercracting, to be sure. And each and every one seems like a truly friendly, lovely person. Talented, without a doubt. But their blogs are crammed with ads,  not only in the sidebars, but within the posts. That's because they are, in essence, employed by a variety of companies to promote their products or online stores. These wonderful people are not like me. They are professional bloggers. Proggers, if you will.

I'm just jealous, you say? You'd be right. But only to a point. 

I appreciate the proggers, truly I do. They do beautiful work and I get lots of ideas and inspiration from their blog posts (and their Instagram feeds, and their YouTube videos). But everything has become so commercialized. At the end of every post is an equally long section with links to each and every product used to make the card, often links to not one but two shops where these products are available. Naturally, they use quite a number of different items to make just one card design.

A friend recently admired a card she saw on a progger's blog. Just for the heck of it, she added up the cost of every item listed. Ready for some sticker shock? $200!! Now, those of us who paper craft probably already have the basics, like adhesive and a paper trimmer. But still!

The videos are especially insidious. You hear the progger's voice (am I the only one in love with Jule Ebersole's chuckle? I think not), sometimes you see their faces, too. You get to watch them create something wonderful, and learn tips and tricks you might not have thought of yourself. Of course, the video descriptions are also jam-packed with links to buy the products used. It's all made so easy! And if this lovely, talented, creative gal - this friend (!) of mine - tells me she can't do without her $25 gadget to round the corners on her cardstock, wow then I'd better click on over and get one! Some of the videos are straight up product reviews, little or no no crafting involved. It's like willingly watching a 20 minute commercial! 

Okay, I know this is a long rant. Luckily I don't do them often. But the truth is, I miss the real bloggers, amateurs like me who just like to make things and share them with others, with no financial gain involved. If you've followed me for a while, you know that most of the time I am using products so old they haven't been available for more than 5 years. If I include the name of the company that makes something I've used, it's because if I were reading the post I might want to know how I could find the same thing. But no one pays me to do it, or gives me free product in exchange.

So where have all the regular bloggers gone?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pillow Talk

Another way the retail world in Israel is not like America. Outside of IKEA, you cannot find plain, inexpensive pillow forms. And the ones at IKEA are extremely mushy and seem to be filled with feathers. Yuck (in my opinion, anyway). I combined my need for cheap pillow forms with my love for upcycling and recycling and used an old pillow to make a new one. 

A few years ago I read an article about why it is a good idea to wash or replace the pillow you sleep on regularly. I do wash our pillows, but the filling gets matted and lumpy. But if I cut open the pillow, I can rip apart the matted filling and use it. 

Here is a freshly washed and machine dried pillow (plenty of heat to kill whatever might be lurking in there). My first instinct was to open the pillow with a seam ripper. I quickly realized that would take forever and  likely end in bloodshed (I don't do too well with sharp objects). So I just trimmed away the seam. See how the matted filling holds its shape?

First, of course, I removed the sutffing and set it aside. I wanted  a square pillow, so I folded up the small side as you see above, and cut off the excess fabric. It was a simple matter to sew up the seams. I turned the fabric right side out so the seams would be inside the pillow, then tucked it inside the cover I bought at IKEA (okay, so they do have lots of good stuff there. Just not cheapo pillow forms). It was a lot easier to carefully stuff the pillow with it already inside the cover. That way I knew when it was as plump as I wanted it to be. Last, I handsewed the opening closed. 

It needed some shaping (and punching, lol) which were actually done after this picture was taken, but eventually it took on the shape Liat and I wanted. Now she has two extra pillows to sit up against on her bed.

Something happened to my keyboard! This post was typed with the keyboard mostly missing, ye gods. Hope it comes back, this is kinda awkward!! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vacation Haul

I'm sure that most of you (if not all) are not surprised to learn that this is the vast majority of what I bought during my nearly three week vacation in California. I did buy some pants and shoes, but my trip would not have been a success in my eyes if I had not brought back a bunch of crafting goodies. Along with all of the tape refills, I picked up 8 Distress Ink pads (mostly the newer colors), four sets of clear stamps, three embossing folders and one die, a new seam ripper, beeswax (for waxing sewing thread to strengthen it and prevent tangles when doing hand sewing), some fat quarters of fun fabric, a rotary fabric cutter (with replacement blades), blank cards and envelopes, lots of fun cardstock, including two 8.5" x 11" red sheets with a fuzzy nap and some brightly colored glossy cardstock with cool designs (you'll see those up close and personal when they are used in projects). I also got lots of fun stickers, some more Glossy Accents, some Prismacolor pencils, and a Wink of Stella pen that I can't wait to use; it's for adding sparkle to previously colored images. I love the bright sock yarn I got, too. What you see above are the results of visits to my dear friends Michael and Joann, as well as the Piedmont Yarn and Apparel shop (I drop in every year). I also bought a bunch of stuff from a perfectly (watch out, here comes the rant) horrible store called Scrapbook Territory in Berkeley. Not only was the store poorly lit and patrolled by two large dogs with filthy snouts, but the woman there mocked me to my face (for not knowing certain products were discontinued) and laughed at me when informing me that a new product I wanted was out of stock. I should have abandoned my cart and walked out, but I had managed to find a number of things I wanted that I hadn't found at Michaels, so I was weak. But you can be sure I won't ever go back. End of rant, and please forgive me for descending into negativity. Hopefully, it is all out of my system now.

Liat and I went wild at Wal*Mart, picking out colors for a throw she wants for her new apartment in Jerusalem. This will be for the living room sofa. She picked out a pattern with a daisy in the center of each granny square. Should be fun to make, and squares are doable even in this nasty heat and humidity. I already miss northern California weather...

Time to get serious about moving my crafts room upstairs into a room with a ceiling fan and air conditioning. I have a lot of crafting to do!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mad Libs

Have you ever played Mad Libs? Player 1 asks the other players for a list of words (adjective, animal, noun, and so on) without giving any context. Player 1 then plugs those words into a story and reads out the result, which is often hilarious! I wanted to make some interactive cards, or at least cards with an activity, for my next batch to be sent to Cards for Hospitalized Kids. So I came up with the idea of Mad Libs, and found a website that has them. Instead of generating the story online, I copied out the list and the story into Microsoft Word, and printed them out. You can see the list and story on the far right of the picture.

For the fronts of the cards, I used stamped images of a little dragon reading that a lovely friend sent to me long ago. I'm still working on using up the things I've been hoarding... I typed up the sentiment and printed it out onto pale green cardstock. 

I had a bunch of library card pockets from back in the days when I used to loan kids I was tutoring or friends of the girls' books to read in English. Yes, I am that anal, I made up library cards for my books! Only for the ones I loaned to kids, though, not the books I read myself...

I sponged the pocket with some Distress Inks to make it look less boring. I may yet add some stickers, too. I'm thinking maybe stars... Anyway, the list and story are tucked inside the pocket.

I have a dragon stamp by the same artist who made the reading dragon, so I stamped the liner where my message will go, just to make things more fun.

Of course a project like this is very involved and takes quite a bit of time. But somehow it seems like all the little details really make a project fun, not only for the recipient, but also for the crafter.

The12 Mad Libs cards will join the 20 or so other cards I have already made. In the photo above you can see those cards, most of which also use up stamped images friends have sent to me. At the bottom left you can see that I had just gotten started with my Mad Libs cards, coloring in the reading dragon. And now I'm already pondering ideas for the next batch!

Happy Birthday

I can't believe Meital is seventeen! Just amazing. All of the gifts I gave her this year were handmade. Instead of my usual slapdash wrapping, I was inspired by the Older and Wisor blog to attempt something better. I put each gift into a box (cookies, ice cream bars and dishwasher tablets) and wrapped them with scrapbooking paper. My bow didn't come out exactly right, but not bad for a first time. The little tag has a Suzy's Zoo sticker on it. For the card, I used papers from a 6 x 6" pad by My Minds' Eye that I bought last year.

Since I had just finished this pair of socks, I stuck them in a box as gift #1. Yeah, it's kinda cheating, since she saw me working on them, but who doesn't love to unwrap gifts, even if you know what's inside?

I saw this Happy Chemistry embroidery pattern on Shiny Happy World (LOVE that website!!) and knew I had to get it for my budding chemist. But what to embroider on? In the end I made this very wonky Kindle cover (no pattern, I just made it up as I went along. Hence the wonkiness). 

The Kindle fits inside, but getting the cover snapped closed is a challenge. I am trying desperately not to let the off-center stitching and crooked pocket bother me....

Gift #3 was a little stuffed cat. Meital had asked for a cat like the one I made for Hopeful Threads (and later, for Liat) but our original plan was for her to make it. We hadn't gotten around to it, so I went ahead and made it for her.

So strange to realize that next year, her birthday will fall a few short months before she starts her IDF service!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Another State

I heard that there was a call for baby hats to send to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, Wyoming. This tiny hat should have been finished in a day, but in the end it took me a while to get it done, because I was also working on those Thumb Buddies at the same time. It looks impossibly small but it is extremely stretchy. Pattern is the Stretchy Ribbed Newborn Hat - in the Round. Details on my Ravelry project page, for those on Ravelry.

The yarn (Berroco Comfort DK Solids) is very soft, which is great for a baby hat, but it had what I call a "mushy" hand to it that I find very unpleasant to work with. It was also incredibly twisty; I had to stop and let the yarn unwind many times. Not fun. I still have enough of this yarn left for perhaps two more tiny hats, I just have to work myself up to using it again.

So I have a new state on my list, and another contribution done. That makes putting up with uncooperative yarn worth the trouble.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ink Pad Holder, version 1

When it gets this hot outside, it takes me a lot longer to get up the oomph to walk around the block to the recyling bin for paper and cardboard. Of course I have a huge stockpile of cereal boxes by now. I also had a bunch of Distress Ink pads stacked up in a drawer, and every time I wanted a particular color, I had to go through the stacks looking for what I wanted. Last night I got an idea, and so today I created version 1 of my new ink pad holder. The cereal boxes were already flattened. I measured halfway across the face of the box and drew a line. Same for the back.

I cut along both lines. As you can see on the left, I then taped the top and bottom of the box back together to create a long, shallow open-sided box.

I covered the outside and the bottoms of the shelves with paper, but I was too lazy to cover the sides and backs of the inside. Next time I will probably put the paper on before I close up the boxes. The other thing I will need to do (as you can probably guess) to to add another layer of cardboard between the boxes, to reinforce them. My original plan was to have stacks three ink pads high, but I don't think this version can handle that.

At least I got all of my ink pads indexed, with a small label stuck to the front showing what color it is. That alone is a huge improvement.

Good thing I still have plenty of boxes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thumb Buddy Loves You

I confess, I am a sucker for puns. I think a lot of kids are, too. And what could be better than making a kid laugh? It took a while, but I have made 34 cards, with accompanying Thumb Buddy finger puppets, that I will be mailing out to Cards for Hospitalized Kids as soon as I can (assuming, of course, the mail can get through. I'm currently living in what are sometimes called "interesting times.") From there, the cards will be sent to hospitals and Ronald MacDonald houses, wherever CFHK sees they are needed.

Working on a project like this is a lot of fun for me, and espcially these days it's nice to have something positive on which to focus. I've already got a couple of ideas for my next batch of cards. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

You've Come a Long Way...Baby?

You may recall that I sent these toys off to Hopeful Threads a while ago. I shared this photo with Kristy after I had mailed the package. But,'s a long journey to Tennessee from Israel...

I've learned that my package has arrived, and I am on pins and needles (ha) waiting for Kristy's reaction when she opens the package... There's a little surprise inside!

Just the way my quirky brain works, what can I say?

Meanwhile, the Thumb Buddies are coming along nicely. I hope to have 34 puppets and cards completed and - fingers crossed - in the mail by Friday! Back to my sewing, catch you later.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Making Progress

Progress on the Thumb Buddy cards and finger puppets for Cards for Hospitalized Kids is slow but steady. Of course the cards come together pretty quickly once I find time to sit and work on them, but the puppets take more time. So far I have only made 9 puppets, and there are going to be 34 cards; clearly I have a ways to go! I am using two different card designs that are fairly similar, which really helps keep things moving. I am so glad to be getting good use out of this packet of fun paper, too.

I am already thinking of ideas for the next batch of cards and puppets, though I think the latter are going to have to be sewn on the machine in the interests of speed and efficiency. I have some adorable patterns that I can't wait to try (thank you, Dona!).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's a Go!

Today I finished up a sample of what I was hoping to do for Jen Rubino and her organization, Cards for Hospitalized Kids. Once again, I apologize for not being able to link you up, but I urge you to check out CFHK and read Jen's story. Such an inspiring young woman!

Anyway, Jen loved my idea of cards with a little pocket holding a finger puppet. I call them Thumb Buddies, and the inside of the card is going to say, Thumb Buddy loves you! (What can I say, I am a sucker for puns). I've got a bunch of card bases ready, and my thumb is still green and blue from making thumbprints for the front of the cards. Sewing the little puppets will take a bit longer, but it's fun to do so it's all good. I don't know if you can see in the photo, but first I stitch a spiral on the front of the puppet, then add the features and sew the puppet together. I will share more photos when I am done with the project.

I got the idea from seeing a Father's Day card someone had posted on Instagram using thumbprint people, but on reflection I have a feeling the original idea started with the talented and delightful artist, Ed Emberley.

So that's what has me jazzed today. I hope all of you are doing something fun, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

For My Girls

I forgot to post when I finished Hugs + Squoze, a cute pattern by Anna Hrachovec of Mochi Mochi Land. For some reason I had a tough time attaching the feet, so I left them off. I made this as a surprise for Meital, wanting to give her something to lift her spirits and encourage her before the last big push in this incredibly challenging academic year. I finished him (them?) last month, and she loves him (them). Sorry for the lousy photo.

Even though Liat got to keep the first (pale blue) teddy bear I sewed, when she saw the gray cat shown in my last post, she asked for a cat to keep her teddy, now named Imp, company. How could I refuse? This fella is quite a bit larger than the gray cat, in fact similar in size to the teddy bear, again just created out of my imagination. He will be waiting to surprise her when she comes home from college for the weekend on Thursday.

I have started working on my idea for finger puppets to go with greeting cards for hospitalized kids. I want to create a sample of both the puppet and the card with the pocket, to show the folks at Cards for Hospitalized Kids and get their okay before I proceed on a "mass" production scale.

Meanwhile, if you live in a state that is not on my list in the column on the right, and have a favorite local charity/community service organization that would accept handmade donations, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fun with Felt

Another fantastic website I discovered recently is Hopeful Threads. Kristy is a wonderful person, working to bring toys to kids in foster care. The colorful creatures are based on a free pattern on a site called 5 Orange Potatoes. After cutting out the basic shape based on the pattern, I made up the features. I made up the design for the cat, including the features. Everything was sewn and embroidered by hand. They were a lot of fun to make, and didn't really take that long to put together, even though it was all handwork. Certainly a lot faster than knitting a toy that size! These went in the mail to Kristy today.

I am finding that sewing is easier for me in this hot weather than knitting. But I am also working on a pair of socks for Meital. Larger projects are in hibernation, though one may come with me when I go to California later this summer.

I am on the hunt for organizations in states I haven't donated to yet, but in the meantime I am putting together another batch of cards for Cards for Hospitalized Kids. I am toying with the idea of including a finger puppet in each card. We'll see if it will work!

Back on Track

After far too long I am finally resuming my 50 states project! I've had to ditch the map, unfortunately, but my progress will be marked in the list on the right. As you know, I have gotten into sewing lately, and have started sewing toys to donate. I still have a lot of improving to do, but even the wonky toys are pretty cute and huggable, so I am going to keep practicing. These two toys were sewn on the machine (except for the embroidery on the faces and the small appliqued pieces). Both patterns are free from Shiny Happy World and come with excellent instructions. I am (surprise, surprise) using up fabric that has been in my stash for over a decade. Notice a trend withh me and my crafting? I have got to use up all the things I am hoarding! Eveything that is available these days is so much cuter....

These toys are going to Dona Reynolds of Sewing Miles of Smiles. Dona makes and donates hundreds of toys, pillows, and more every year to a hospital near her, as well as to a few other places that provide services to children who are ill or in need. She is a wonderful, upbeat and creative woman, and I feel very lucky to have found her.

Inspired by Dona, I added a pocket to the back of the teddy (called Warren the Charity Bear, by the way) and tucked in a little finger puppet that I hand sewed from felt. I'm also using up random embroidery floss left over from kits purchased over the years, doing the hand sewing on these felt toys. I will have more to show you in my next post. I am learning so much from reading Dona's blog, and from Wendi Gratz's Shiny Happy World website, and am getting tons of ideas and inspiration for future donations. Fun times!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Never Say Never

I have pretty vivid memories of learning to sew in my seventh grade Homemaking class. I made a maxi skirt (yes, it was the 70s) that actually fit and was pretty and fun to wear. But I never really enjoyed sewing very much. My older sister took to it like a duck to water, though, and over the years has made many gorgeous dresses and other things for herself and her daughters. One summer, my sister, a friend and I all decided to make quilts. I chose a design with all straight lines and rectangles, the others chose more complex designs. We all did a pretty good job! Mine was a gift for friends who were getting married, and my sister kept and used hers a lot. Not sure what our friend did, we lost touch with her not long after that.

But I digress! Of course over the years I have made the odd costume, slip cover for pillows and so on. I even bought a sewing machine when Meital was a baby (still have it, almost 17 years later). And of course I also built up a fabric fact I still have fabric that I bought over 30 years ago! But it wasn't until I found a blog called Cozy Things (sorry, I still don't know how to make links in this Blogger app) that my interest in sewing was reawakened. She makes all kinds of things, including lots of quilts. And she takes a very relaxed, let's try this and see how it goes, and if it's not perfect no big deal kind of approach. Just the kind of attitude I didn't have, and that lack was preventing me from enjoying sewing. In fact, I pretty much hated it for a while there.

So I was starting to get inspired to make a quilt and thinking about it quite seriously, when I discovered Shiny Happy World. Wow. Wendi makes hands down the best, clearest instruction videos, not to mention her website features tons of fun designs for quilts, toys (yay toys!), embroidery and more. Above is my first take on her free Warren the Charity Bear pattern (I lengthened his arms, too much as it turns out. But I will get better as I make more). She designs her patterns to be easy enough for kids to make, which is perfect for me. Thanks to Wendi, I was also inspired to teach Meital to sew (as much as my rudimentary skills will allow). Meital really enjoyed her first lesson and we are hoping to do some sewing together this weekend. Liat claimed this blue bear, but I have plans to make more and donate them. I have fallen behind on my community service crafting and need to get busy!

This needle cushion is another of Wendi's brilliant ideas and is also a free pattern. Most of the needles shown above were stuck in the middle of my traditional pincushion. This slim needle cushion has an old credit card on the bottom, so needles can't get lost inside (unless they go in sideways, I suppose...). 

And here is the quilt top I just finished! Again I went with simple straight lines, but I have picked up so many cool tips and tricks this time around. This is all fabric I've had for years, some of which I purchased with the idea of making a quilt but never did. Now I need to find something for the backing and make the binding strip. I haven't been able to find a shop here that sells quilt batting, so I am going to use a summer-weight blanket we've had for maybe 18 years and which is getting a tiny bit frayed around the edges. Yay for reusing and saving money!

I also just finished a cover for an accent pillow, though I think I made need to take it in a bit, it seems a little bit too big for the pillow. And I just started working on a table runner. To my amazement, I am having a great time sewing!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Birth of a Rainbow

I decided to make a really big, rainbow colored blanket, and I didn't want to spend an outrageous amount of money, so I ordered a bunch of Red Heart With Love yarn. When I first started knitting long ago, I bought Red Heart yarn at a store called Freeway Variety. They had everything in that store, from school supplies to yarn to paperback books to garden and pet supplies. What a treasure trove for a kid! But I had never tried this new (to me) With Love line, so I decided to give it a try.

I was very happy with this yarn throughout the process of making the blanket (haven't washed it yet but I'll bet it will hold up like a champ). Since my family still mocks my lovely autumn colored granny square blanket, I made this blanket with a more solid square. That, plus the sheer size this thing worked out to be, makes for one very heavy blanket!

I made 35 squares total, five each in seven different color arrangements.

It got a little tedious at the end, and I was very glad to finally finish the squares. I added a round of single crochet in black to each square, then sewed them together.

I added a deep border, and the finished blanket is about 4' x 6', more than ample for a snooze on the couch. I have some ideas for the next few blankets I will crochet (sooo much fast than knitting!) but they will wait until summer is waning.

Lots of Cards

Unfortunately, not long ago I had cause to make some sympathy cards (I forgot to take a photo of the other one). If I remember correctly, I sponged Distress Inks on the paper, them sprayed a stamp with water and stamped onto the panels. I forgot to clean off the green ink before stamping on the blue panel, but I liked the way it turned out. Flower image by Posh Impressions, sentiment by Hero Arts.

Continuing the trend, I forget for whom I made this card. I definitely need to blog stuff right after I make it! The sentiment is from a clear Fiskars set, all other stamps are by Posh Impressions.

Here I decided to play a bit with watercolors. I wrote out the word love using a stencil and a pencil (ha!) then painted around it. I decided to go over the pencil marks with a pen instead of erasing the pencil marks, and added the word you using CTMH alphabet stamps. I sent this to my dad.

Here is the same tulip stamp as above. I colored the stamp using markers, then gave it a light misting with water and stamped it onto heavy drawing paper. The swirl stamp is CTMH. My mom got this card.

More watercolor fun... I made the background by rubbing Distress Inks pads onto an acrylic box frame (which I use for stamping, not for photos) and spritzing it with water. I then laid a piece of that heavy drawing paper (seems more like light watercolor paper to me) and smooshed it around to soak up the wet ink. I love the effects I get with this tchnique. The woman is painted using Distress Inks too. She and the sentiment are by Art Impressions. I actually inked up each question separately and used a stamp positioner to get them where I wanted them. The original stamp has the questions in two longish lines. On the insid of the card is the rest of the sentiment: "yes, and you?" This was for my sister.

I used the same watercolor background technique here, but once the paper was dry, I ran it through my Cuttlebug with a swirly embossing folder. I really love this look! The scenic stamp is by Joan Wear, the starfish is Posh Impressions. I covered the starfish with a thick layer of Glossy Accents and popped it up with foam tape. This became a birthday card for a friend who is originally from the Boston area (I figured he might like the lighthouse). 


Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do! This is a pinwheel baby blanket knit in a cotton blend. Little Sloane was born a couple of months ago, so I am way behind. The pattern is easy but becomes tedious the longer each round becomes (you start knitting in the middle and increase stitches every other round). Copious notes are on my Ravelry page.

It has been my policy for many years now to also make a gift for any older siblings when new babies come along. Sloane's sister got this little bunny, also knit in cotton blends. Again, there are plenty of notes on my project page on Ravelry.

These are the cards I made to go with the gifts. The mother and baby stamp is by Stamp Oasis, the bunny is Close to My Heart. I rather doubt either stamp is still availble.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day

"Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the country's armed forces."

"Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving."

The quotes above is from Wikipedia. 

I have the utmost respect and appreciation for current and former members of our Armed Services. But as Monday went on, I became more and more upset by the many, many posts I saw on the various social media sites, treating Memorial Day as if it were Veterans Day. I am proud of and grateful to the members of my family who served in the military, but since none of them (so far as I know based on my genealogy research) died while serving the country, I did not post any photos of them online. I may well do so on Veterans Day, though.

It is sad and rather odd that so many people don't seem to understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Or maybe, in the mad rush of "me too-ism" and the consuming desire to post things online, people just don't care.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


(This post should have been published at the end of March! I just now discovered it wasn't, so here it is.)

Not to be confused with crotchety. Though...that too. ;-) 

I have been knitting since I was a kid, and while I tried crochet about 20 years ago, I didn't stay with it. Made a couple of blankets, then stopped, except for the occasional border around a knitted something or other. Recently I have bit bitten hard by the crochet bug, and have been working on improving my skills and knowledge. One of the things I love about it is that things work up a lot faster in crochet. Above is the blanket made of leftover yarn from other projects (I shared an in-progress photo of it in an earlier  post). I have finally made a serious dent in my stash of medium weight acrylic yarn. And though this blanket is a bit on the small side, more of a throw or lap blanket, really, it has kept me cozy as the top layer on my bed this winter.

My two favorite things in crochet right now are blankets and toys. This owl was my first crocheted toy, and I can't wait to make more.

I especially like granny squares. Who knew there were so many kinds, though?! I used up more stash and tried out some new to me granny square patterns. These were sent to Knit A Square in South Africa, where they will be joined with other squares and made into blankets that will be donated to orphans there.

I am trying to finish up a knitting project or two, then I will get started on another blanket for us! I can't wait to get started.