Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Movin' on up

Well, I didn't actually move up ... I moved from a teeny-tiny upstairs apartment to a nice size downstairs apartment with a redwood tree outside my front door.

The move feels like a big change because I now have:

-Cabinets that were not installed in the 1970's

-Carpet that was not installed in the mid-1990's and has not been peed or puked on by an old dog, countless hamsters, or two feral kittens

-A bedroom of my very own with a door that shuts

-More kitchen drawers than I can fill (for now)

-A shady, private patio

Here are some pics of the new place. It looks a little bare because I haven't finished unpacking and I don't have enough furniture to fill it yet.

The kitchen has a new oven, and I think the cabinets might be brand new, too. I absolutely love them-- my old cabinets were dark, crumbly particle board.

The dining area looks pretty empty. But at least I have a dining area!

The shower door is 100% mold free! Oh, I'm so spoiled.

I like the faux tile floor in the kitchen and bathroom. It actually feels like stone on my bare feet.

This bedspread was crocheted by my great-grandmother. It was stuffed in a closet for many years and was all dusty and smelly. I had it dry cleaned and now it's beautiful.

Charlie decided to take a snooze on the bedspread because I specifically told him to stay off of it.

The cats aren't used to seeing people walk by outside, so they're constantly running and hiding because they think we have visitors. But overall they seem to like having more room to romp and play. I love being able to chase them around the apartment.

Hopefully I'll post more pictures at some point in the future when the place is unpacked and decorated.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Goodie bag knitting pattern

This little goodie bag is a fast, easy project and a great way to use up partial balls of yarn in your stash. It can be filled with candy or other delights and given to a child (or a child at heart).

The bag is knit in one piece and then folded in half at the bottom and seamed at the sides. The finished bag is approx. 3" wide and 4" in height.

Although I designed this one for Easter, with a little imagination you could knit one for any holiday ... or just because.


Two balls of worsted weight yarn. The bag in the photo was knit with Jelli Beenz. (The bag takes far less than one ball of yarn, but it is knit holding two strands together.)

Six Easter or spring-themed buttons. The buttons shown were purchased at JoAnn Fabrics.

Two beads large enough to thread on the yarn.

Straight needles size US 8.

Tapestry needle for seaming the sides of the bag.

To make the bag:

With two strands of yarn, cast on 14 stitches. You'll knit with two strands throughout the entire project.

Knit four rows garter stitch.

Starting with a purl row (wrong side), work five rows stockinette. You should end with a purl row.

Knit the eyelet row: K1, *YO, K2TOG*, repeat. Knit the last stitch.

Beginning with a purl row, work stockinette for three inches.

Starting with a purl row (wrong side), knit two rows. (This forms a ridge that is the beginning of the fold at the bottom of the bag.)

Purl one row. (This is the bottom of the bag.)

Knit three rows. (This forms the second ridge in the fold.)

Beginning with a purl row (wrong side), work stockinette for three inches, ending with a purl row.

Knit the eyelet row: K1 *YO, K2TOG*, repeat. Knit the last stitch.

Beginning with a purl row (wrong side), work five rows of stockinette.

Knit four rows garter stitch.

Bind off.

To finish the bag:

Fold the bag in half along the ridges at the bottom and seam the sides using mattress stitch, aligning the eyelets so they are on the same row all the way around the bag. (I used one strand of yarn for the seam.)

Cut a strand of yarn approx. 17 inches long and weave it in and out the eyelets, stringing the decorative buttons on it at regular intervals. Knot the two ends of the string together a couple inches from the end. Thread a bead on to each of the ends and secure it with a knot.

Fill with candy or other goodies and give to loved one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's Mitten Blossom Season

Went for a walk around the pond at the water district after work yesterday and was stunned by the gorgeous flowers. I'm terrible at remembering their names, so I'll just make some up.

These are Mitten Blossoms.

Here we have Curly-Q's.

I Spy Sunshine.

Love's Outstretched Hand.

Bursts of Beauty.

* * *

I don't usually watch American Idol, but I happened to have it on tonight and caught Adam Lambert singing "Tracks of My Tears" and I just have to say WOW. His voice is amazing.

Well, better get going. The cats are being unusually quiet, and the last time that happened (this morning) I found them torturing a wasp on the kitchen floor.

Who knows what kind of naughty things they're up to tonight?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fabric Collage on a Teeny Tote Bag

My second attempt at a fabric collage on a teeny-tiny tote bag turned out a bit better than the first one . It's meant to be a gift bag filled with fabric quarters for a quilty friend.

I sealed it with gel medium rather than using Modge Podge like I did on the first one, and I like the matte finish much better. Except that it's a little too matte. It still needs a little something, but I'm not sure what.

The technique is from the book Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts and involves using interfacing, clear gesso, and acrylic paint. I skipped the gesso and paint on this one, and in a minute you'll see why.

This picture from the book shows what the fabric collage is supposed to look like.

But when I tried using the gesso and paint, mine turned out like this.

I wonder what I'm doing wrong?

(Okay, I confess it didn't turn out quite that bad. But it wasn't pretty, so I used it to wipe the excess stuff off my paint brush during my next project.)

I'll keep trying. :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Words that stay with you

I didn't read blogs very much before I started my own, with the exception of political blogs. I didn't know there was such a generous online community of creative people until I started poking around, looking for links for my blogroll and reading the blogs of those who left comments. It's been amazing because for years I wished I had the kind of encouragement for pursuing my creative yearnings that is widely-found on these blogs. Now that I've found it, something in me has been ignited and those chattering, negative voices in my head that get all uppity when I write or craft are fading away. Thank goodness.

Have you ever come across a few words or a sentence that is so powerful that it stops you in your tracks and you have to read it again and again? I came across a sentence like that in this photo from a post on Kelly Rae Robert's blog.

I saw it for the first time on Friday, and I kept going back to the blog post to read it again and again that day. Then I made the photo my computer background. Then I wrote the sentence on a piece of paper and put it in my purse. I kept looking at it all weekend.

I found more words like that while reading Elizabeth Gilbert's " Some Thoughts on Writing " on her website. She writes, "I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing."

I can't get that passage out of my head (not that I want to). I didn't know you could marry writing, and now that I do, I'm thinking of proposing.


If you are a Lolcat fan, you might enjoy the Russian version, Rolcats, English Translations of Eastern Bloc Lolcats . My sister sent me the link last week-- it's so funny.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Knitting vs. Not knitting

It seems like I have so little free time. When I do, I’m torn between using it for knitting or for learning techniques for new crafts. I’m drawn to collage and quilting and needle felting, but the act of knitting connects me to my heart in a way that no other craft does.

It’s funny that I'm so in love with knitting. Growing up, the only person I knew who knit was my grandmother, and her scratchy purple afghans didn’t appeal to me.

In fact, I was so disinterested that I think my grandmother's knitting became invisible. Twenty years ago, I snapped a picture of her on a family vacation in Mazatlan, sitting on the beach in a funny straw hat, knitting away. I have no recollection of her knitting on that trip and I don’t think I noticed the needles in her hands in that photo until I began knitting a few years ago.

Now I dearly wish I had an interest in knitting when she was alive; I would love to have been able to share that with her.

Sometimes I think the question of whether to knit or try a new craft is really a choice between safety and risk. Knitting is comfortable; I feel fairly confident that my projects will turn out nicely (even though they often don’t). When I collage, my work feels half done and kindergarten-y.

Oops, we're experiencing technical difficulties. One moment please.

Here we go.

And other times I think the real question is whether to spend my time doing what I truly want to do or what I think I should do. It can be so hard to discern between the two.

No answers today, only questions.

On a completely unrelated subject, the Washington Post has a great article about a quilting kerfuffle involving JoAnn Fabric's refusal to carry an issue of Quilter's Home magazine that contained photos of controversial quilts. This quote from the article is priceless:

"Since when did JoAnn Fabrics become the arbiter of MY morals? I'll go to church for that ... and when I want styrofoam chickens I'll go to JoAnn's."

Now I just need to find that issue and buy it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My old-fashioned, oddball scarf

I’m knitting my umpteenth feather & fa n scarf. The pattern is one of my favorites. It's comfortable and familiar, so I tend to knit it again and again. I first read about the feather & fan pattern in the book Knitting Heaven & Earth by Susan Gordon Lydon. There was no photo of it in the book, but I think I fell in love with it anyway, sight unseen. She writes:

"Who knows why one pattern feels so pleasurable and comfortable to knit while another feels frustrating and irritating? This for me is one of the enduring mysteries of lace knitting. But the rhythm and feel of the feather and fan appealed to me right from the start. I loved the rhythm of its yarnovers and decreases, the mathematical arabesque of adding and subtracting stitches, the alternating columns and arches that appeared with each repetition of the pattern."

I'm using two colors with this pattern for the first time. While I'm enjoying having to be a bit more mindful of my knitting so as not to use green when I'm supposed to use blue (which I've done several times), I’m not quite sure the colors go well together. In fact, I’m pretty sure they don’t. The blue looks electric next to the muted green. But that’s okay, because those are the only two colors I have in that particular type of yarn and I'm not buying more. I’ve reached the point where I have yarn bursting from so many drawers and cabinets that I just can't bring home any more until I use a large portion of what I have. (I didn’t know one could reach this point, but I have definitely reached it.)

So I’m knitting this old fashion-looking, oddball scarf, and I'm loving it. I feel like I abandoned my knitting in the last month or so with all of the playing around with needle felting and collage, and it's good coming back to it.

The yarn is super-duper soft 100% organic merino wool. It glides on the needle and glides off the needle and it stays where you tell it to stay. Knitting with merino is kind of a big deal for me; when I started knitting, I couldn't touch wool without feeling all hot and sweaty (not in a good way). I stuck with cotton and bamboo yarn for the longest time, even though I read repeatedly that both of those fibers were far inferior to knitting with wool. But something has changed recently, and now I can knit with some types of wool without too much discomfort, and I’m beginning to see what all the fuss is about. It’s nice.

A couple days ago, I came across this little treasure of a book at a Japanese book store with a surprisingly extensive collection of English knitting books. It’s Vintage Hearts & Flowers by Kate Haxell, and the patterns involve different types of crafts, like sewing, knitting, beading, and embossing.

I like this heart, but I'm a little intimidated by the bobbles. It might be time to try though.

This one is cute, too:

If you have a few minutes to spare, take a listen to this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert , author of Eat, Pray, Love, about a different kind of creative genius. It’s really, really good.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Celebrating Dogwood

No, not the flower, silly. Although they are gorgeous.

Today I'm celebrating my friend Dogwood. It's because of her that I started knitting several years ago-- I'd never considered it until she told me how relaxing it is and showed me the cute scarves she made. I hoped Dogwood would teach me to knit, but she moved to another city around that time and we couldn't seem to get together, and I couldn't wait to learn.

I ended up going to a knitting store in my neighborhood for my first lesson, and the woman who taught me was cold and gruff and didn't have any of Dogwood's enthusiasm. I went home and cried because it made me realize how much I missed my friend and how meaningful it would have been to have learned how to knit from someone special to me. Because knitting is so much more than a craft-- it is transformative and healing, a prayer and a means of expressing love. Knitting teaches you the joy of slowing down and sitting quietly. It teaches you to accept and maybe even celebrate imperfection, and it teaches you that your hands have the ability to create without always needing direction from your head.

Anyway, back to Dogwood. One of the many reasons I'm celebrating her today is because she donates most of her knit and sewn items to charities that help those in need, like premature babies, children who feel all alone, cancer patients, and young mothers struggling to overcome addiction.

Here are a few of Dogwood's scarves-- these are velvet with silk trim. I believe she sews the velvet in a tube and then adds the silk. They look so soft and cozy.

Here are some of her ribbed scarves-- I love the decorative buttons. The bowl is from T-Pots Pottery .

When I was going through a difficult time, Dogwood made me this quilt. She kept telling me she was making me something, and I kept trying to guess what it might be, but really had no idea. We met for lunch one day and she gave it to me-- I was so surprised and happy. No one had ever made me a quilt before, and I was sorely in need of a security blanket.

By now Dogwood is probably blushing furiously, and maybe even a little annoyed with me for gushing over her so much.

But just one more thing ...

She makes these cute little angel pins, donates them to charities and gives them to people on the street who look like they could use an angel.

I could go on and on about how creative she is and all the times she listened to me when I needed a friend, but I'll stop here because I'm sure you understand why I wanted to celebrate my friend today. I hope everyone has a Dogwood in their life :-)

PS. Dogwood isn't her real name, it's her nickname because she loves the flower.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fabric collage and wavy scarf

While thumbing through the book Creative Awakenings , I came across this picture of fabric bowls made by
Lesley Riley . Aren't they amazing? The book even has instructions for making them. I think they're gorgeous.

I practiced making a couple of fabric collages this weekend. This collage is adhered to one of those teeny-tiny tote bags sold at Michael's for about a dollar. I used fusible webbing to create it, and then sealed it in Modge Podge .

The tag is paper and beads strung on yarn.

The bag was tough to photograph because the Modge Podge created a shiny surface. I made another one this afternoon and coated it with gel medium instead to see if that turns out more matte. It's still drying, but I should know soon.

Here is the wavy scarf I started in my short row class at Stitches a few weeks ago. I've cleverly hidden the end so you can't see it because the wave is all funky. I messed up the pattern and didn't notice for a while. So now I'm trying to decide whether to keep going or start over. I'll probably start over.

Hope you had a good weekend.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Field notes from a couple of field trips

I took a field trip to a wildlife refuge on my lunch hour a couple days ago. The wildlife (mostly birds) refused to sit at my feet and pose for pictures, but these gals were quite cooperative. They weren't in the actual refuge; they were hanging out in a nearby field with about a hundred of their closest friends.

Aren't they sweet? They looked so content sitting there in the sun, I wanted to join them.

There were lots of little lambs hanging out with their mamas, too.

Oh, I did get a shot of an avocet. I really, really, really need to buy a camera that will let me zoom in closer.

Plenty of wildflowers in the wildlife refuge ...

This morning I drove to the coast. My first stop was
Natural Bridges State Beach , where it was windy and f-f-f-freezing. Those little black dots on top of the natural bridge are cormorants.

Too cold to stay very long. Next stop was Neary Lagoon .

This cormorant was nice enough to pop up out of the water long enough for me to take its picture.

This hawk held still, too. I think I could have gotten a better shot, but it wasn't worth disturbing him.

Flowers, flowers, flowers.

Last stop was La Selva Beach, where I did a little knitting. It was so good to hear the constant sound of crashing waves and to look up every so often to gaze out at the expanse of water.

Tomorrow will be a much-needed quiet day at home.