Thursday, October 30, 2008

And the winner is.....

Tracey N. you are the winner of the Cold Comfort Farm contest!!! If you'll email me your address, I'll get a lamb sent out to you. Just let me know which color you want!

And remember...There will always be Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Acorn Obsession

Okay, so I am seriously obsessed with making these little crocheted acorns. They are the brain child of Margaret Oomen who writes the most wonderful blog called resurrection fern. I can't believe there is someone else out there who enjoys rocks and lichen and naturey goodness as much as I do! Her artwork and creativity is beyond amazing and her photography is absolutely gorgeous. A few weeks ago she had a little tutorial for making these crocheted acorns and I was immediately smitten. I already had a container full of acorn caps that I had collected over the years and thanks to my sister Brenda, who gives me all of her odd bits of leftover yarn, I had a great assortment of sock yarn. Last weekend I gathered up my supplies and began crocheting a few acorns. I thought I'd do maybe six of them or so, but that took hardly any time at all. So I did a few more, and then a few more and before I knew it I had crocheted 27 of the little beauties. They only took a few minutes to crochet and were so addicting to make. I mean SERIOUSLY addicting, like eating Cheetos or collecting agates or knitting wee felted sheep. I used mostly self striping and variegated sock yarns so each one turned out different. The acorns are stuffed with a bit of wool roving and the caps are glued on with hot glue. I think that they are utterly charming and it was one of the best little projects that I've done in a long time. I was thinking of making a couple of embroidered wool felt oak leaves for them to rest on. Or maybe I'll tie thread to the caps and make a mobile. Or maybe I'll just keep them in the little wooden tray so I can fondle and play with them whenever I want.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Church Pew of the Quivering Brethren

Today was moving day at the casa de cherry blossom. After a summer of restoration in the garage, the pew finally made it's way into the rectory, I mean living room. It's the perfect piece of living room furniture for a lapsed Catholic like myself.
The pew is originally from a church in Ketchikan, Alaska. My friend Cyndy was living there a few years ago and she found it at a rummage sale or something like that. She gave it to me when she moved back to Minnesota last year. It was in pretty rough shape so Adrian and I decided to restore it. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it before we disassembled it. It was was really grungy and rickety. The two side pieces were actually split in two and had to be glued back together. The arm rests were a total disaster so my Dad made me two new ones out of ash. I spent the summer striping the old finish off of it with an orbital sander. What a handy tool that was!
After I stripped the old finish off, Adrian and I stained the pieces. We used an all in one walnut stain/varethane finish. I found out after the fact that it was probably not the best thing to use on old wood. The wood sort of soaked up the stain unevenly so we had some streaking in some places. My clever woodworking Dad said I should have put a coat of pre-stain on it first. Oh well, live and learn. After my initial dismay, I decided that I didn't mind the uneven finish. The pew is handmade and is really old. It has dents and dings and dark spots on it from a lifetime of butts sitting on it. It has tons of character built into it. People pay good money for furniture with a distressed look to it. After we stained the pieces, we reassembled the pew. Of course we dinged it up in the process so we had to apply one final coat of stain to it to cover them up. We finished the pew off with the wooden buttons to cover the screws and a final coat of polyurethane. As you can see on the sides, there is a lighter circle up toward the top. That's where some decorative little circles of wood get glued on. We'll get to that this weekend. We are also going to give the backrest a quick second coat of polyurethane. We noticed some dull streaking on it, probably because it was a really cold day when we painted it. We'll let the wood warm up and paint it in the living room. Maybe if we inhale the paint fumes we will have spiritual visions.So here's a contest for anyone who reads this: Can you name the movie that features the Church of the Quivering Brethren? How about a fabulous prize for the first person who names the movie. I will send the winner one of the lambs from my flock of felted sheep. This contest is NOT open to anyone with the last name of Ehlers or Dayne. The movie is a family favorite and I am pretty sure we could all recite the entire dialog from it.

Another Felted Bag

This is definitely the last felted bag that I am going to make for a good long while. I mean, just how many felted bags does one person need? I think I've made three new ones in the last couple of months.
The first one was a modular knit bag that used up most of the left over odd balls of lamb's pride worsted from all of the felted clogs that I've knit over the past few years. The bag was freakishly huge before I felted it. I know that most felted items are huge before you toss them into the washing machine, but this thing was a monster! After I felted the bag, it was a reasonably normal size, but the bag is so thick and heavy! It weighs about six pounds. The I cord binding along the top edge was too tight and the straps felted all wonky so I had to cut them off. I intend to add fabric trim to the edge and make a couple of nice straps for it, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. So that bag resides on my sewing room floor and functions as a fancy felted feline futon for Big Kitty to lay on:The next bag was the felted Fair Isle tote which I use all the time. I used up some stash yarn for that one. I wrote about it a few blog posts back.
The third and final bag was an impulse project. I saw the pattern and sample at my local yarn shop and fell in love with the simplicity of it. I bought new yarn for this project from Knit Picks. I used 10 skeins total of Wool of the Andes yarn in the colors avocado, fairytale and blackberry. The fairytale yarn is really more of a dark berry color and not the weird hot pink that shows up in the pictures. Knit Picks has really affordable basic yarn and I buy from them when I am feeling frugal. Wool of the Andes is great yarn for felting and is similar to Cascade 220 or Brown Sheep worsted . The pattern is by Theresa Gaffey and is knit in modular garter stitch squares. It's a really easy pattern and has some fun design features like a cool mitred bottom. The pattern called for putting the bag into a pillow case before felting it in the washing machine. It was the first time I'd done that and I must say it worked beautifully. The bag felted really fast and there was no fuzz to shave off. I just wish I didn't use a white pillow case with dark yarn though. Well, at least now I have a designated felting pillow case! I really do love this bag. It will be a great library book bag or knitting project bag. I still need to find a fabulous button for it.I'm not going to start any new major knitting projects for a while. I'm kind of in the mood to knit silly and frivolous things that take just a few hours to make. I do have a sweater that I want to finish up and maybe I'll knit myself a new hat, but for the most part I am going to work on fun little projects knitted from my stash of oddball yarn.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Farmer's Market

On Saturday, Adrian and I went to the Farmer's Market with his parents. We all wanted to pick up a few last things before the market closes for the season in a couple of weeks. It was a chilly, blustery fall day so there were not very many people there. It was great to shop without the usual crowds. Adrian and I picked up some raw wildflower honey from our favorite local honey farm. I tried samples of both the spring and fall wildflower honey and it's amazing how much of a difference there is. The spring tastes very smooth while the fall has a bite of sharpness to it. I liked them both. We also got a couple of pie pumpkins, some carnival squash, the last tomatoes of the season, yellow peppers, 5 pounds of honey crisp apples, apple cider and some spicy Italian sausages. I love buying locally grown food and supporting small farms. The prices were affordable and there were some end of the season bargains to be had. Snow was in the forecast for Sunday and I think that the farmers wanted to sell their produce before then.
This goofy blue penny rug is one that I made a few years ago. I think that it was one of my first wool felt embroidery projects ever. I worked on it while I was visiting my Mom and Dad out in Oregon. Every year in the fall I put it on my dining room table. It reminds me of my Mom. She gave me the pattern and the hand dyed wool for the leaves. I think she was working on this penny rug too. Did you ever finish that, Mom?
I wish that I owned a small hobby farm. I would keep chickens and grown tons of vegetables and have bee hives. I would have a root cellar and I'd can and preserve all kinds of good things to eat all year long. I would have a greenhouse where I could grow lettuce and tomatoes and herbs in the winter. I would have a few sheep and a border collie to keep them in line. I love the idea of being able to grow and raise the food that we would eat on the land that we'd own. I think that I was a pioneer in a former life. Or maybe a Beverly Hillbilly.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crazy Chicken

This crazy chicken wall hanging is probably one of my all time favorite things that I've ever created. I made it a few years ago and it has hung on my sewing room door ever since. There's so much joy and color in this quilt that it always makes me smile. I can tell that I was really happy when I worked on this. I am my harshest critic and it sometimes shocks me that I created something that I like so much. The pattern is adapted from one by Sue Spargo who designs the most amazing wool applique quilts and patterns. I absolutely love her style and creativity. My Mom took a class from her earlier this year and she is having a total blast making and embellishing wool appliqued quilt blocks.I hand dyed the wool for this wall hanging in an all day crazy microwave dyeing session in my kitchen. I dyed fat quarter pieces using procion mx dyes and vinegar for the mordant. It was great fun experimenting with colors and I wound up with a drawer full of pretty dyed wool. My kitchen smelled oddly like wet sheep and vinegar for a day or two though!I think one of the things that I loved about this project was that it combined so many fun techniques. I got to play mad scientist with dyeing the fabric and then I got to select all of the fun colors of beads and fabrics and embroidery threads.I absolutely love doing embroidery. Even the simple blanket stitch in this project was fun to do. The feather stitch is one of my favorites as well. I used size 8 DMC perle cotton.I gathered up all of the size 6 and 8 matte beads that I had in my meager bead stash. The beads are one of my favorite parts of this quilt. I am crazy about matte beads. They look like candy and I would eat them if they were made of sugar and not glass. Check out the purple head feathers. Purple is my favorite color. Wouldn't it be great if there were chickens that really looked like this? I'd love to own real chickens, just a few of them. It would be wonderful to have fresh eggs. This chicken would lay eggs in lovely shades of magenta.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ornaments in October

This year the Christmas season began early at the casa de cherry blossom. I've got my tree up and it's all decorated. Nah, I'm just kidding....that would be completely creepy and weird and certainly not the good kind of creepy and weird either! But I did work on a holiday project this past week. I am participating in the ornament swap hosted by Handmade Parade so I got into the Christmas mood very early this year. I wanted to make something with a vintage look so I put on my Charlie Brown Christmas cd, did some creative brainstorming and decided to make little candy colored glass ornaments. I did some Etsy surfing and found the cutest vintage images to use. They are taken from vintage Christmas cards and were the perfect size for my project. The Etsy shop where I bought the images is called cachecache and I picked up some great vintage fairy images as well. I love that cachecache sells her images as digital jpegs that you download. I was able to print out the images just a few hours after buying them with no shipping costs and no waiting. I love that!! I used microscope slides for the glass in this project. It's super lightweight and really easy to use. I got the microscope slides courtesy of my geeky science lab hubby, but you can find them on Ebay too. I cut the slides to the size of the image and they were ready to go. I used my Olfa wavy blade to cut the copper foil. You can buy pre-cut wavy edged foil, but it's expensive and I am a the queen of cheap so I did it myself. I used 3/8 inch foil that I cut in strips and took my wavy rotary cutter to the edges of them. I love the look of wavy edged solder. It reminds me of rick rack trim. I always use lead-free solder on my glass projects which is a bit trickier to use than regular solder, but it's safer and worth the effort. I added wee jump rings to the top and bottom of each piece. After I cleaned and polished the pieces I went shopping for beads. Ideally, I wanted to find beads that looked like little pieces of old fashioned Christmas candy. Naturally there was no such thing at this time of the year, so I settled on the pink and green glass beads that had a vintage look to them. I thought they sort of looked like already sucked on candy. I strung the beads on eye pins, attached them to the glass pieces and added a ribbon hanger. Then I made a quick little hang tag and they were ready to go!These ornaments were really fun to make, but I'm glad to be done with them. They are getting shipped out tomorrow and should make it to their destination with a few days to spare of the Nov. 1st deadline.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Multi Tasking

It has been one of those days where I can't seem to accomplish the things that I really need to get done. Plus it's been pouring rain all day which made running errands a misery. I was really tempted to take to my bed with a good book this afternoon, but I had yet to do my afternoon exercise. It one of two things that I do every single day without fail. The other thing I try to do every day is to get out of my pajamas. Sometimes the two events happen within minutes of each other. As the weather has been cooling off, my daily exercise of choice has been to hop on my treadmill. Today I discovered that it's possible to knit, sing along to John Hiatt AND walk briskly on the treadmill all at the same time. I was only working on a small garter stitch project so it wasn't too hard, but I did manage to change colors of yarn while maintaining an elevated heart rate. I don't think I'd want to knit an afghan or complicated cables while jogging, but I think I'll tuck an easy knitting project into the handy water bottle/yarn caddy that's on my treadmill. It might be just the thing to keep me motivated.
Here are some pictures of the completed Fair Isle Bag that I was knitting and wrote about a few weeks back. Once the knitting was completed, it was lightly felted in the washing machine. While it was still wet, I slipped it over a cardboard box to give it some shape while it dried. The bag maintains it's boxy shape with the help of the plastic canvas and heavy duty interfacing that's underneath the pretty batik lining. There are four handy pockets on the inside of the bag.The handles are made from rubber tubing from the hardware store. I filled the tubing with an assortment of beads and sewed them to the bag with upholstery thread. I wrapped embroidery thread and a few beads around the tubing to finish it off.I don't know if I'd do another Fair Isle felted project again because the pattern became quite blurry after felting. But it could have been the hand spun yarn that I was using. My friend Sue made this bag using the recommended yarn and her Fair Isle pattern isn't as blurry as mine. I've been using the bag as a small tote to carry my knitting project to and from my Friday afternoon knitting group. I love the pockets, the lining and the color of this bag and it's really sturdy too. It would take a hurricane force wind to topple this baby over with all of the interfacing in it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tin Fish

Today was such a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota that Adrian and I took a break from our weekend chores and went out to lunch with his wonderful parents, Myron and Maria. We went to a fun little place right on Lake Calhoun called Tin Fish. They make all kinds of fishy wonderfulness ranging from fish and chips to walleye tacos. The restaurant itself is really nothing more than a funky counter where you place your order and a bunch of outdoor tables clustered on a patio overlooking the lake. It's the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat while out for a walk or a bike ride around the lake. Adrian and I both had the walleye tacos with fresh salsa and we thought that they were wonderful. The crispy fries were well seasoned and the coleslaw had a tasty sweet-tart vinegar dressing on it. We washed everything down with fresh squeezed lemonade. We were mad with hunger when we arrived and we left with our bellies full and very happy. The Pavilion at Lake Calhoun (where Tin Fish is located) is such a great place to people watch. All walks of life seem to congregate there. There's everyone from blue haired old ladies in leopard print pants to young parents with their chubby babies to bald guys in flip flops who should have really kept their shirts on. There are plenty of dogs to look at as well. Everything from teeny weenie dogs to great slobbering bull dogs. Some people carried their dogs in baby backpacks and others were pulled along at a fast trot by their unruly beasts. We had such a fun time as we watched the wispy blue sky turn silvery gray with approaching storm clouds. All in all, it was a terrific way to spend the afternoon: Great company, great food and a gorgeous view.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Faeries in the Garden

If you want to invite a faery into your garden.....You will have to make them a pretty chair to sit on.... The chair should be made from the best materials you can find: twigs from a rowan tree, silk fabric, tiny glass beads and the finest embroidery thread.Tuck the chair into a corner of your garden....and maybe....if you're lucky....a faery will take a fancy to it and will decide to live there.