Tuesday, April 29, 2014


April 29th 2014

In September I will be going to a big local quilt show as I do every year, except this year I will be a vendor.  I'm so excited to be involved with this!  I am sewing more and trying to stock up in anticipation.  Over the weekend I was working on some hanging owls.  These look cute hanging on door handles, a hook on the wall or on a Christmas tree!  I have two that hang on the closet doors in my bedroom.  Sometimes if I shut the door too quickly they turn themselves around and face the door.  It's so funny, like they have decided they're done for the day or something.  Each owl has its own personality!  Anyway these are the owls I was working on this weekend....

They are made from a combination of wool felt and wool fabric that has been hand dyed and felted (but not by me!).  The wool fabric has lovely texture, see that blue owl has boucle grey/blue wings?  It feels so soft and satisfying to the touch.  The wool is not quite as easy to sew with as the wool felt because it does fray slightly.  I do like that it gives the owls a slightly rustic air though.  I feel like they need names,  hmmm.....

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April Reading

April 26th 2014

This is my reading pile for April.  

Gee's Bend, The Architecture Of The Quilt by 
This is a wonderful reference book and one I look through often.  It documents the lives and quilts of the community of women who have become known as the Gee's Bend Quilters.  The women were mostly descendants of slaves and in 2002 their quilts were exhibited first at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and then became a traveling exhibition, showing at other major museums.  The book explores the making of the quilts and their designs with lots of fabulous photographs of the quilts themselves and some really wonderful old black and white photos of life in Gee's Bend.  The earliest quilts date back from the 1920's but it is incredible how vibrant they are and how contemporary the designs are.  Many of them look like pieces of modern art.  

Scandinavian Stitch Craft by Karin Holmberg
I have been learning about Scandinavian style embroidery from this book and showed some photos of my embroidery sampler in a previous blog post.  The patterns are fun and the instructions clear.  I mostly used it for learning the techniques and about the different styles.  

Storyland Cross Stitch by Sophie Simpson
This is a really pretty book and a recent purchase.  I think I'm going to enjoy playing with some of these designs.  The instructions all seem pretty detailed so I don't think you'd need to be an experienced cross stitcher to work on the projects in this book. There are lots of diagrams and pictures.   My only criticism is that the print is so small!!!

Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen
I can't recommend this book enough.  When I first saw it, I thought there was little in it that I would be able to knit but that isn't the case.  I can knit but I don't have the patience for big projects.  This has lots of quirky, fun projects most of which are completely doable.  I have made the Dragon Watchers Hood and the Free Rapunzel hat.  I really enjoyed making both and they turned out exactly like the pictures!

Handmade Books For Everyday Adventures by Erin Zamrzla
This "how-to" book has 20 bookbinding projects.  It's a library book and I don't think I would buy it because it doesn't have as many pictures as I like in a book I'm trying to learn from.  However, it does have some interesting ideas for books to make and the instructions seem pretty clear.  

The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin
I've been reading this very readable book to learn more about online selling. I've found the advice useful and the format is perfect for picking up and reading in chunks.  I enjoyed reading the brief interviews with successful entrepreneurs.  

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
This was my April Book Club book and I really wanted to like it.  I mainly found it self absorbed and irritating.  There were a few good nuggets I took away from it, like the Happiness Project Manifesto, The Twelve Commandments and the Secrets of Adulthood but I got so cross with it, I couldn't finish it!

A Walk in The Woods by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson's older books make me laugh aloud.  I love them.  I find his humor appealing and I enjoy his writing.  This one is about walking the Appalachian Trail.  Even the cover makes my smile!  I've read this several times and now I think I must go back and re-read some of the other older books.  

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
This read was just mind candy.  It's been years since I read Mary Stewart books and I'd forgotten how good they are.  It's a bit predictable of course but still a good read.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

On My Worktable

April 24th 2014

I've been working on several different things this week, not all of them for my shop!  Last summer I learned about scandinavian embroidery from this book, "Scandinavian Stitch Craft" by Karin Holmberg.  I spent a lot of time exploring the techniques on a piece of white linen.  It was extremely satisfying.  I found that I really enjoyed using the wool and silk threads which are so different to use than the cotton embroidery floss I am used to.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my sampler which measures about 15x12inches, maybe a cushion cover or table center.  

From this project I moved on to embroidering the back of a hooded sweatshirt.  This is a much more challenging fabric to embroider since to try deal with the stretchiness of the fabric I needed to use a cut away stabilizer.  This is an ongoing project!  Maybe I will get it done before next Winter!  If I try this again, I will be more choosy about the sweatshirt I use. This is one I already had.  It is quite thin fabric and as mentioned, has some stretch.  I would be better off using an all cotton sweatshirt.  

This week I picked up a piece of natural colored linen and started a new embroidery, just for fun, just for me.  

For my shop, I have been making more pincushions in existing designs so although I have got quite a lot done, it doesn't really show as they are not new products.  I am really excited to be selling at our big local quilt show in September so I am trying hard to build up my stock.

I've also been working on some little felt flower power fish cat toys.  They are fun to make and use up lots of felt scraps.  They are stuffed with polyfil and organic catnip which my own cats thoroughly approve of!  They will be in my shop soon and I plan to make these for my booth at the quilt show too.  


The final project I've had going this week is this hat I've been knitting.  I've always liked knitting but don't really have the patience for big projects.  I recently bought "Woodland Knits" by Stephanie Dosen.  I am in love with almost every project and most of them are completely doable.  I made the Dragon Watcher's Hood first which was my first project using circular needles.  It came out great and my daughter loves it.  This hat was my next make and I'm happy with that too.  I have to sew on the pom-pom and make some tassels for the braids.... almost finished!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rose Pincushion

April 19th 2014

For the last few days I have been in the mountains recharging my creative batteries.  I did lots of sewing as well as some hiking and reading.  It was lovely!  This is one of the new designs I was working on.

I absolutely love using Pinterest.  I have to be honest and say that I avoided Pinterest for the longest time because I couldn't really see the point.  Then I tried it...... I have found so many wonderful things and beautiful pictures.  One of the people I follow often adds photos of gorgeous flower arrangements and this pincushion is based on one of those.  It was a photo of some old fashioned roses, casually arranged in a galvanized tin bucket.  It was just the sort of thing I would love to have on my big wood dining table if only my cats wouldn't eat the flowers!  In my garden I have some beautiful, highly scented, old fashioned roses and right now they are in full bloom.  I used those roses as the inspiration for the color scheme.  
There is a pincushion and matching needle book and both have been added to my Etsy shop.

I enjoyed making these with all the hand embroidery and the colors particularly appeal to me.  Here are some of the inspiration roses in my garden.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In The Mountains

April 16th 2014

This is where my heart belongs and where I love to be.  This landscape inspires me more than any other.  And it is quiet.  As I sit here I can hear the wind in the top of the tall pine trees.  It sounds like  water rushing over the rocks in a fast flowing Springtime river, much like the one not too far from here.  The sound comes and goes.  Then there are squirrels making their little agitated noises and bird song.  What I don't hear, is freeway noise, trains or sirens.  It is good for me to be here and recharge.  This is where my soul feels a connection and deep down I feel at home.

 Today I hiked at the lake, well it was more of a scramble really because the trail was still snowy.  The lake is thawing and snowmelt from the surrounding peaks is rushing down into the lake.  It won't be long and we'll be kayaking.  

I'm working on new sewing projects. I have chocolate. The wood stove is keeping me cosy and all I can see is trees.  Really, what could be better?  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stop And Smell The Roses!

This time of year we have lots of roses beginning to bloom in our front garden.  They are mostly old, scented roses and are beautiful.  In the back garden the vegetables are growing fast.  The citrus trees are in flower and smell incredible but make me sneeze.  Everything is very green.  Sadly, here in California that won't last much longer.  Our drought is serious and worrying for gardeners and farmers alike.  Every year we have a few weeks of vibrant green before everything is covered in dust.  In the summer I occasionally hose down all our citrus trees to get the dust off them but I won't be able to that this year.  Our neighborhood has a Home Owners Association which has strict rules about how your front garden can look.  I heard on the radio this week that our State Governor has said that Home Owners Associations will no longer be able to fine homeowners who let their lawns go brown.  Finally some common sense!  It has always annoyed me that, firstly, we have to have a lawn and secondly, even in a dry State like California, we have to use precious water to keep that lawn green through our hot summers.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On My Worktable...Here there be DRAGONS!

April 9th 2014

For some time I've been playing around with the idea of doing a series of pincushions that feature mythical creatures.  Since dragons have always been a creature of interest in our house I thought I'd start there.  Rather than just show you finished photos, I thought I'd describe how I work through a design.  It begins with an idea, then some sketches.  I looked at how dragons have been depicted through history and at contemporary manga style art before choosing which of my sketches to go with.  I wasn't going for scary!

I draw several 3.5 inch diameter circles to work with because that is the finished size of my pincushions. When I've decided on a sketch, I ink over the pencil lines then I lay printer paper over the design and trace the different parts to make templates.  This makes it easier to reproduce the same designs later.  

I cut out all the little paper pieces and store them in a labeled bag with a copy of the design.  

I struggled with the colors for this dragon.  Most of my felt is in lovely soft colors but for this project I felt I needed something more vibrant.  I eventually settled on the bright green with some metallic thread for sparkle.  

I wanted to make the dragon breathe fire but my daughter said he looked too cute for that!  On the side band I embroidered the words "Here there be DRAGONS" and included some flames there instead!  I'm intrigued by that quote and the idea that it was used on old maps to represent uncharted or dangerous territory.  Only it turns out, after doing some research, that it wasn't commonly used on maps after all.  It has sort of gotten absorbed into our ideas about old maps!  There is one globe, from 1510 called the Hunt-Lenox globe which has the Latin "Hc Svnt Dracones" (hic sunt dracones) engraved on the coast of Asia.  It is one of the earliest globes, is very small (about 5 inches in diameter) and made of copper.  I was a bit disappointed to be honest.  Lots of ancient maps have pictures of fearsome creatures or mythical beasts but not this great dragon quote.  

Here is the finished pincushion.  (I think it's a baby dragon)   

Monday, April 7, 2014

OEKO-TEX® Standard 100

April 7th 2014

All the lovely colored felt I use for my pincushions and needle books is made from 100% merino wool (except for the white which is a wool/rayon blend) and is imported from Holland.  The felt is soft and really nice to handle and work with.  The colors are beautiful and consistent.  Sure, I could save a few dollars and work with a lesser quality felt but it wouldn't be the same.  On the bag the felt comes in, is a label stating it is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified.  Now I'm a curious person and I've seen that designation on a lot of labels and wondered what it meant so I spent a bit of quality time with Google.

It turns out that OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is an independent  testing and certification system  for textiles.  It is applied to raw materials, right though all production stages to finished products.  It was introduced in 1992 by the Hohenstein Institute in Austria.  Simply, it gives consumers a guarantee that items with this label have been tested and found free of a long list of very nasty stuff including, formaldehyde, pesticides and heavy metals.   For an item to be certified, every part of it must meet the criteria.  So, for example, on a garment, that would include not only the fabric but also the thread, buttons, zippers and trim etc.     For the felt I use that means not only the felt itself but also the dyes have passed the testing  process and earned this label.  Interestingly, the closer to the skin the item is used, the more stringent the criteria and items for use by babies and small children have the toughest requirements of all.  I am not claiming that my pincushions and needle books are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 compliant but most of the felt I use is and I feel good about that.

If you would like to read more start here...

Stitch-along part 6

  Stitching the ridge tiles to finish the ornament Take one ridge tile and wrap it over the ridge of the roof as shown below.  Using two str...