Friday, December 19, 2008

Considering Shutting This Blog Down

I have been posting my creative pursuits and thoughts on creativity and children over at my main blog, The Thinking Mother.

More and more this blog is just a double posting of some of the posts I do over on the main blog.

I am going to taper down posting here I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders Book Review by ChristineMM



Title: Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Small Indulgences
Edited by: Judith Durant
Genre: Nonfiction, Knitting
Publication: Storey Publishing, 2008
Format: Softcover Book
ISBN: 9781603420792
Full Retail Price: $18.95

My Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (I love it!)

Summary Statement: Inspirational, Lovely Projects, Mostly for Intermediate or Advanced Knitters

This is the third in the “one skein wonder” series, featuring 101 projects made of luxury yarns. As with all books in this series the finished projects are shown in full-color photographs in a gallery in the front of the book. The chapters that follow are divided by yarn weight. This format allows for two options of skimming: you can browse through all projects with a certain weight yarn that you may want to work with, or you can skim through the photographs to find a project that catches your eye as the starting point.

The yarns featured in this book are: silk and silk blends, cashmere, alpaca and alpaca blends, soy, qiviut (arctic musk ox), bison, and corn. Some ‘ecofriendly fibers’ are featured: bamboo, flax, linen, organic cotton and organic wool.

Since luxury yarns are expensive, it is a great idea to have access to projects that can be made with just one skein. It is apparent that the designers tried to get the most and best use from each yarn, giving luxury yarns a project that would show off their unique beauty, or take advantage of the softest fibers to use it in ways that we can appreciate the sensual nature against our skin, such as a very soft scarf or a hat for a baby or an adult. The super fine weight yarns have been made into lovely lacey objects.

It seems to me that most of the projects are for the intermediate or advanced knitter. I feel this is due to the types of complex stitching used to either make a lovely lacey shawl or scarf or perhaps to make the one skein stretch to the largest size thing possible, as with the case with some of the scarves made more for show than warmth, and with an airy baby cap. There are gloves, socks, vests and baby sweaters which are projects or stitches for knitters with more skill than a beginner has.

While at first I was a bit disappointed there were not more easy projects for beginners, after reading through the book a few times I came to realize that this is probably due to wanting to use an expensive and luxurious yarn in the most appropriate way to ‘honor it’, if you will, by matching its cost and level of luxuriousness to a finished project that will really show it off. One would not want to waste an expensive and fancy yarn on a basic garter stitch scarf or a simple ribbed hat, typical beginner knitting projects. Also some of the yarns are delicate and would not hold up to some of the easier to knit projects that might get hard wear and be ruined in a short amount of time.

I love the book because the designers have provided a variety of projects ranging from wearable items for babies to adults to home decor that make good and an appropriate use of the expensive luxury yarns. I am a beginner knitter and feel I’m not yet ready to knit most of these projects. I am inspired by this book to continue learning new knitting techniques and to try knitting with more delicate yarns. This book let me see that I have a lot of options for types of yarn to work with in the future.

As a beginner knitter for one-skein projects I can, for now, use the two other books in this series as I continue to learn. I have skimmed through those two books and highly recommend them too.

Knitters who love to fill their shelves with books that inspire them would like to own this book. Knitters who like to do small projects or who are looking for good projects to make gifts would like this. This is also a good book for a public library to have in their collection.



Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program for the purpose of writing a review for Amazon Vine at Amazon.com.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Rite of Passage?

I think I have gone through a knitter's rite of passage.

I was knitting along well with my sweater, working on the body. I tried it on and was shocked at how wide it seemed, but since not a lot was done on it, I kept going.

Then I tried it on when I reached 11 inches of body. It was short at that point, almost like a crop top. It looked too wide and was still too short. I decided to knit more, so I knitted almost another skein. I thought at that point that even if it was a bit wide if it was longer almost like a tunic then the wideness would not matter. I tried it on last night.

It looks terrible. Not my knitted stitches, but the shape. It is just way too wide. For once I was wishing I was larger, fatter, so that it would fit me well! Honestly, if I finish this I'd never wear it.

Don't worry, I'm not depressed about it. A bit deflated, yes, but not even angry.

The directions said to cast on 1/4 the amount of stitches in the sleeve for the underarm. It was 80 stitches and I figured 20 was way too many, so I just cast on 12. The more I knitted the body, the wider it got, which was odd as my stitches were not increasing. Each underarm cast on area added three inches to each side of the body. Back when this was just a yoke, it draped and went almost tightly over my shoulders and bust.

And the bulky Lopi yarn doesn't drape to go against my body, it is stiff and kind of stays 'out', larger than my body. It lies almost flat as if it were ironed, it is that stiff. It would have been warm to wear. This is knit on #8 needles and the stitches are pretty tight.

If I did finish knitting this I would have invested $64 (plus tax) on the yarn. I got it all on sale. I was thinking of finishing it just to have it done, even if I never wore it. However I am too practical, so, I think this will wind up frogged.

Again, I'm not angry. I consider this a learning experience.

And now I feel like I'm part of the club of beginner knitters who took the time and energy to knit a sweater that is utterly un-wearable.

I'm going to slow down on big projects and try to knit a scarf for my mother-in-law. I bought a funky yarn that is hard to knit with because it is a combination of stiff thread, beads, and mohair wool. It tangles and snags. I have started a scarf and frogged it ten times, at least.

After Christmas I will tackle this project again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Talent and Skill

Mental Multivitamin blogged some good quotes from a book called "Talent is Overrated: What Really Supports World-Class Performers From Everybody Else".

The ideas of this author may surprise you if you believe people are born with a natural talent whose mastery with the art or craft comes easily and quickly.

Now I want to read this book!

So many good ideas to learn about, so little time to read all the books I want to read!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thank You for Your Amazon Purchases

Thank you to all my blog readers who purchase items through my blog's links.

After you link through everything and anything you put into your shopping cart and then finalize the order within 24 hours means I make a commission on the entire sale. Your purchases are confidential so I don't know who is buying what.

The nickels and dimes add up to dollars as the month goes on, thanks to those of you who make purchases through my blog. THANK YOU!

My commissions are paid in Amazon gift cards which I use to buy materials to homeschool my kids or for my children's or my own life enrichment and pleasure. Often I'm buying things for my children but sometimes I splurge on something for myself, like a book about learning to knit.

Amazon also gives commissions to me for gift card purchases. In case you are considering buying gift cards for Amazon please consider clicking through the link. I'll put the link here and I'm adding it to my blog's sidebar today also.

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Top Down Raglan Sweater Update

Short update: I think I am on the right road with my top down raglan sweater knitting.

I am knitting in the in-between times and while watching (listening) to TV before bed. In the last two days, I have knitted six inches of the body so far. I figured out I'm knitting 100 yards in knit stitch in four hours.

Last night I spent a full four hours knitting, while a passenger in a car to and from a meeting, knitted during the meeting, and before I went to bed, and I knitted up one full skein of yarn.

Sorry I don't have a photo downloaded yet, when I do I will share it.

Block Play



If...

1. They have blocks available

2. They have space to build structures

3. They have limited screen time

4. They have time to play

Then...

They will build with wooden blocks.

Even at ages 11 and 8.

It is true.

It is not baby play, as they grow older their constructions get more imaginative, more complex, and sometimes more structurally precarious and engineering-physics-boundary-testing.

Younger son's creation (using imagination for a pretend building inspired by the LEGO catalog)--




Older son still loves symmetry (sorry Blogger turned it sideways...)--



Older son's creation (pretty complicated, more about testing limits and being elaborate than pretend worlds at this stage)--




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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Feeling Stupid

I am really hitting a wall with knitting a top-down raglan sweater.

I am at an all time high with feeling like a complete stupid person, a total idiot.

I know that in the beginning it was a good exercise for this homeschooling mom to learn something new. It is good to struggle because it reminds me of what kids feel like when learning something new. Being a homeschooling mom it is good for me to feel like what my kids must sometimes feel like, it keeps me in check so my expectations of them are not too high.

Regarding this sweater I am stuck on the part when the yoke is done and when I need to knit down the body then down the sleeves. I cannot at all understand the directions in this book I'm using which is not written for beginners. A major problem is I don't understand what to do by the steps, if I did I could tell myself not to need to understand WHY I am doing it but just do it and see how it unfolds. But since I can't understand WHAT to do I tried understanding what it is that needs to be done so that I could then approach it from that perspective. Not working.

I also have a feeling once I get this that I will not understand why the written directions were not making sense. But honestly they are not making sense to me right now.

I have the yoke tied off on four pieces of waste yarn. Each sleeve is tied off and the front is one and the back is the other. It fits me well.

I can't understand the method of cast-on the book says to do and I don't understand either what I am casting on for or where. Is the cast on for the sleeve? For the body? Why do I have the cast on anyway? In other words where does my needle go first, do I put the sleeve stitches on the needle then cast on then knit? None of this makes sense to me.

I am completely confused.

Last week I would have gone for the first time to a knitting guild meeting but it conflicted with Boy Scouts and I was being trained for a new volunteer job (small) that I am taking on. This week I can't go either as it is the Court of Honor and my son is earning a new rank. I am going to go to the meeting in ten days time and see if someone can help me.

I went to a local yarn shop for the first time looking for a new yarn. I had been told by two people they are super friendly there. Well they basically had no yarn that coordinated at all. They were nice but man, they had no stock. I was hugely disappointed. The shop's size was tiny and there were too many shoppers so I couldn't get to see all the yarn. Then people were just standing in front of yarn talking with their friend and relatives who were shopping with them and not even looking at yarn and preventing me from shopping. I left buying nothing.

I went to another local yarn shop and they do a sweater class for $150. That is how it is around here, nothing is for free, no help, you have to wait to take a class. That is the same shop that in the first week of July told me I'd have to wait for September to pay to take a class to learn to knit socks. At least another shop locally told me they'd do a private one hour lesson for $25 practically at my convenience. And at another shop out of state the shop worker gave me a private sock making lesson for free, she insisted on it, right then and there, in between helping other customers. Now that is customer service!

I spent an hour at Barnes & Noble yesterday. It was educator discount day so I went looking for a good book that teaches knitting sweaters from top down. I figured if that was all the book was about they'd teach it from a beginner's viewpoint and have good illustrations. And I'd buy the book from them too. No such luck. I found one book and the major focus was on seeing how fancy one can get with that method and there were tons of patters for sweaters with fancy stitches that I feel like I'll never be able to do. The book's directions were poor and mostly were abbreviations in patterns not for a beginner at all.

I have spent now about three hours on Google, You Tube, and Ravelry trying to find the information. So far I have found two posts from people stuck exactly like I am. I contacted one on Ravelry and despite something like 8 months having passed she has given up on it and is soon going to frog it. She never got the answer to her question. Another knitter got an answer that made sense from somone. I printed it off last night and tried doing that and it didn't work.

Another issue is that in other sets of directions some patterns do not call for casting on new stitches at all. They just say "pick up and knit". I also found one online pattern where the person knits the sleeves by themselves and then grafts them onto the sweater in the end. So one challenge is there are all different kinds of ways of doing this, I guess, so other descriptions of how to do it don't match my pattern.

It takes me a long time, about 30 minutes for some reason, to put stitches back on the circular needle from the waste yarn. I did that then I realized the yarn to knit with was on the OTHER side and useless. Now I will have to take this off and put the other side on the needle, I guess.

The good news on the sweater is that I finally found a new yarn for the main color at a local yarn shop. I bought 10 skeins of that dye lot to make the sweater with. So that task was accomplished. I knit four or five rows of the main color for the bottom of the yoke and it does look nice when put together for the sweater.

The bad news on the sweater beyond me being stuck is that one sleeve is 4 stitches wider, so I'll have to remedy that. And somehow the back is 101 stiches and the front is 95 stitches. More evidence of my imperfection!

I thought I had a better picture of this yoke but now can't find it. Maybe it is on the other digital camera and not yet downloaded. Yet another project.

So for now I'll show you my progress on my first sweater, this was taken on 11/26/08.



I could phone my friend who taught me to knit but honestly I'm feeling a bit embarrassed to call her again. She helped me already once with phone counseling about this sweater. I know she is busy and I feel too much like a pain in the butt to phone her.

I've started asking around to others if they've made a top down raglan. So far, no luck, the knitters all say they have not done it yet. One mom even told me yesterday she can't learn any knitting from reading written instructions and she can't read patterns so she doesn't even try. I refuse to not try.

I'm a persistent person. I want to work on this sweater. I don't just want it for a finished product. I want to get back to enjoying knitting it. I bought the yarn and I want to use it, darn it. I'm ready, willing and able.

Maybe later I'll give it another whirl by just winging it.

Update: My Knitting Angel read this post and phoned me with instructions. She completely understood the writing in the book's pattern and re-phrased it in a dumbed down format for my newbie knitter brain. I plan to work on it today. Now it seems ridiculously simple, what I am to do. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Robot Dreams Book Review by ChristineMM



Title:
Robot Dreams
Author: Sara Varon
Genre: Graphic Novel, children, wordless
Format: softcover books
ISBN: 9781596431089

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Summary Statement: Touching Story, Wordless

Book review by ChristineMM

Robot Dreams is a sweet tale told in comic book style. It is a wordless book. The sweet and innocent nature of this book allows it to be enjoyed by very young children yet the message and story can be enjoyed and appreciated by adults.

The story takes place over thirteen month’s time and the plot is very much associated with the changing seasons. It is a story of friendship between a dog (living and acting as a human) who buys a robot kit and assembles his new robot friend. When the robot rusts and stiffens while at the beach, trouble ensues.

I can’t give the story away so I’ll have to stop with the story summary at this point. The ending was surprising and very much not what I thought would happen.

The take away message for me was that friendships are important and the good memories can live on in our hearts even if due to various circumstances, friends become separated and they go off in different directions.

I’m not sure if all young children will get that same message from the book.

My eleven year old son who is a robot-lover and graphic book lover really enjoyed this book.

My younger son, aged eight, read it and enjoyed it.

I read it and loved it. Due to the nature of the story and despite the characters being male, I think girls might like the story itself, if they are graphic novel lovers. The story may be too juvenile for teens unless they are specifically interested in the storytelling form of the graphic novel.

The book also has an educational component if someone wishes to use it in that way. Teachers could use this to show how a story is built and how the trajectory builds up as the book goes on. Since it is wordless it can be consumed in a short time frame making it easy to teach from. Art teachers could use this as an example of the graphic novel format and to help teach student about drawing comics or using the graphic novel format. It could also be used as writing prompt for writing composition. Students could try to write a chapter of the story using the book as the source material. I am planning to use this book in those ways with my homeschooled children.

I am a lover of books and the written word, however the more I read graphic novels of a different type than Superhero-based action stories, the more I am coming to appreciate the art form and the difficulty of communicating a storyline in purely visual format for the wordless graphic novels, and also for those with far less words than ‘text only’ books. It takes a special talent to be able to portray in all visuals, a complete and touching story. Sara Varon has succeeded with her story Robot Dreams.

While the value of traditional books will never fade, I do hope that the graphic novel genre continues to grow with high quality stories artfully told.

How I Came to Read This Book: I found it on the shelf at a local Barnes & Noble and due to its cost I decided to borrow it from the public library. However we love it so much I may buy it and use it in our homeschooling. After I read it I heard Amy of the Creative Mom Podcast, in episode #113, review and recommend it.




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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter's Coming


It is getting cold!

Photo taken by ChristineMM on November 23, 2008, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Slow Going on Knitting My First Sweater

My knitting feels like it has come to a standstill.

For the last two weeks I have been trying to knit a sweater.

I have been working on gauge swatches. I realized that yarn #1 for contrasting color will not work. I don't like how it is coming out. And it is a thinner yarn than what I'll use for the main color.

I decided to use a Noro yarn I already have on hand. I believe I own enough (one 100 gram skein) but even if I run out and need more a local yarn shop has more in that dye lot. I chose the yarn that I used to make my hat and scarf. So this sweater will have a 'faux fair isle' band of that same yarn. The bottom of the sweater will be a natural color. That means the sweater will look great with the hat and scarf.

I have done two swatches with the main color.

I just finished the gauge swatch with the new contrasting color.

I am really not enjoying this part of the process. As a consequence I have not been knitting in public. I've been reading a lot and brining books with me everywhere. I have been busy and doing a lot of appointments outside the home or else busy at home doing homeschooling lessons, cooking and cleaning. Also my husband was away for business so I was the 'single mom' living 24/7 with my kids. I have barely been watching any TV so no knitting is happening while in front of the TV.

I miss knitting. I want a project that I can just pick up and work on.

I am beginning to think that this sweater will never happen and that just to get knitting again I should go back to hats.

I'm not feeling so fulfilled as a knitter right now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Must Have This

After seeing this video preview of "An Illustrated Life" compiled by Danny Gregory I realized I must have this book. Must own. Must read. Must refer to. Must enjoy.



The book is being released on December 16, 2008 and is available for pre-order through Amazon now.

Hat Tip: R. from CMPCircle referred me to this blog.



More About Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory's webpage

Danny Gregory's Podcast Archive

Looking West



View from the front of my house looking west.

The rain and winds have brought down nearly all the leaves, almost in one fell swoop. My eyes are getting used to the new look of the landscape. It always seems other-worldly when the transition from lush green leaves, to wild colored foliage, sometimes too harsh for the eyes, to this.

The bare trees with their fine details, reveal differences between tree species. In my yard, the tall oaks dominate, so obviously dominating the other trees.

Why did I take this photo? The color of the clouds caught my eye. Blue skies with puffy clouds, white on the edges and deepening to dark gray in the center, complicated by the sun setting and the new sky filled with branches not foliage. That's why. Sometimes what I see cannot be captured well by my camera, but it is worth a try anyway. I never know if the viewer of my photos sees the same things as I do and I'm not sure if that matters anyway. What is more important is my seeing it, my appreciating the beauty in nature and small things seen, the fun of the process of photography, that is what matters, the seeing and the process. The final product is different and is not as important as the process itself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #90 Has Been Published



The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #90 was published on today at A Bit of Flour. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Leaves Falling


I couldn't resist snapping this photo of this gorgeous tree with its red leaves falling, on a Saturday afternoon. It had rained steadily for about 24 hours and the tree went from being intact the prior day, to this.

Less than 48 hours after I snapped this photo, I saw this tree again, every leaf was off the tree and the red leaves on the ground had turned brownish, and the homeowner had spent time the day before (a Sunday) raking up the leaves.

This is a good example of why stopping to snap a photo when you see something you want to remember is a good idea. Beauty is fleeting and we never know how long what we see will remain that way.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in November 2008 in the Tashua section of Trumbull, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

PJs!



Younger son and I collaborated on making a pair of pajama pants for him to wear. We finished pair #1 the other day. I was teaching myself using a book and he was learning right alongside me.

I found the book "Buckles and Bobbins" at a homeschooling conference. It is written to teach boys to machine sew and includes 'boyish' patterns.




The pants ended up too large for my son, so I'll be tweaking the pattern to customize them, for pairs #2-6. Making those is on my "to do" list. My son wants to use the sewing machine by himself. I let him do a little on this first pair. As we work on the rest of the pairs together I plan to have him do more and more of the work, all of it, not just the machine sewing part.

Below is a photo of his idea to help me. When I was getting pieces mixed up of which was which of the four parts to cut out, he used Post-It notes to label them. Hooray for creative thinking on the fly!



My sons both got to see me struggle to learn to make these pants. While doing this I had to teach myself to do all the basic stuff to the machine from winding the bobbin, fixing tangled up thread, replacing the needle, so on and so forth. I think I experienced every kind of error and problem that can happen when machine sewing and I resolved them all, calmly and without tears. It is good for kids to see that adults struggle to learn also.

In case you're wondering I'm making these from scratch because I can't find decent PJ pants made of cotton. Also I hate that chemical flame retardant that the federal government mandates be on children's pajamas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rain on Leaves


The heavy and steady rain with the winds the other day brought down a lot of leaves.

Photo by ChristineMM taken near my home in Fairfield County, Connecticut on November 8, 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Losing Its Color



Photo of a burning bush taken by ChristineMM near my home on November 8, 2008, in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Finished PJ #1

Last night my younger son and I finished PJ pant #1.

I was so excited. Well after putting in the elastic per the directions he put them on and I realized I would have to cut off about 5 inches of fabric from the bottom before hemming it. So I did that.

In the end I was so psyched!

Then he put them on and we realized:

1. the ankles are giganticly-wide
2. the waist is too loose and they fall right down as he walks
3. they are still too long

It looks like for pair #2 I will have to modify the book's pattern to be something else that will fit him better.

I feel like this is an experiment in progress.

The good news is that the sewing is going well. I have successfully problem-solved a few issues, wound a new bobbin, changed a needle, put the presser foot back on, and other basics. I'm getting more confident with the sewing machine and that is a good thing.

After the digital photos are downloaded I'll share some photos...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sewing Pajamas for My Son

My worst fear in life is machine sewing. I am not kidding.

I have had a hard time finding decent cotton flannel pajamas for my younger son (age 8) that are not coated in horrid chemicals to make them flame retardant. I understand that it is a federal law to have such a chemical on the PJs. Actually most boys PJ pants are made of 100% polyester. When my son wears one pair he has of those he has a nightmare and/or wets the bed every time. Hmmm.

Also in general for some weird reason, I just can't find PJ pants for my son anywhere. Old Navy staff tell me they are a seasonal item only sold at Christmas time. Interesting. After going to six different stores I gave up and decided to sew PJs pants for my son.

Oh boy.

A few weeks ago I got up the courage to buy the fabric.

Days later I read the pattern. I'm actually using a book that is intended to be used with boys, children and teen boys to teach them beginning sewing and it includes patterns boyish things for them to make.

I re-read the directions on another day. Trying to get my courage up.

I then cut one piece out. Got worried and stashed it. Got busy with Halloween prep. Put it off for a week.

Today my younger son begged me to get to work on it. I knew I didn't have the right elastic but knew I could do all but that. So I launched in. I had three panicky calls to my mother asking for help. The first one included a statement, "I think I am too stupid to learn to sew as I just can't understand what they are saying to do".

I am a person who learns by reading very easily. However I have huge issues with directions for things in writing that are three dimensional and I do with materials and my hands. I can't convert text directions easily to 3D objects. For example the basic instructions for how to set up and use the sewing machine is very difficult for me to understand. Sometimes the directions of things get mixed around like it say counter clockwise but I swear the thing I have to do is clockwise. Tonight my husband insisted that to turn it that way indeed is counterclockwise. Well I thought there was a typo in the instructions.

Okay I'll stop complaining. I did everything on pair #1 of the PJs except the elastic band. And I didn't cry or break down or stomp around, yell or swear. Younger son helped me a little including doing the pressing (he loves to iron with supervision).

Tomorrow I need to buy the elastic band I need. I'll check length and tweak the pattern before I sew pairs #2-6. Yes I am making 6 pairs in total for that son.

Oh, and I did buy the cotton flannel on sale for $5.99 per yard. Despite that savings I'll share that each pair will cost $15 in flannel and $1 in elastic band. So it is not a big savings, as Old Navy's PJ pants are $15 per pair and the ones at The Gap are $19.50. As someone told me, home sewing of clothes is no bargain anymore.

For the record, this is one project I'm doing just for the final PRODUCT and this is not about PROCESS for me, not this sewing!!

I can't wait to go knit and try to relax!

Started My First Sweater

I finished frogging my third sweater. I had about a week of knitting nothing. No projects in process.

Last night I bit the bullet and decided to start my first sweater. I picked the Faux Fair Isle Raglan in Shannon Okey's book "Spin to Knit".

(I am loving this book so much I think I'm going to have to just buy it, I've renewed my library copy once already and think I may be due to renew it again!)

I chose a hand wool spun yarn (no name on it) that I picked up at a vendor booth (with no name on it) at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival last month. The colored part around the neck is shades of pink and rose. The rest of the sweater will be a natural color. That is from Wild Apple Hill Farm Ltd out of Hudson New York, and I picked it up at the same festival. This yarn was a bargain at $5 for a 210 yard, 4 ounce skein, it is a bulky wool.

My only worry is that the handspun wool for the accent color looks to be a narrower yarn. I don't know how to address that.

I am doing my first ever swatch to check gauge. Tonight I will finish the main color swatch and will begin a swatch for the accent color.

Whenever both are done I'll wash them and block them and see how it all turns out.

I am using the book "Knitting Rules" to help me understand how to check gauge.

I will confess to feeling quite nervous about this endeavor. My worst fear is that after the sweater is done it won't fit me or will look terrible on me.

I also don't understand the stitch k1f&b in continental. I have spent over 30 minutes on the Internet looking for a video that shows how to do the stitch through the back with continental stitch. So far all I have found is that stitch in American. I'll deal with that later, for now I have swatching on my mind.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #88 Has Been Published



The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #88 was published on today at A Bit of Flour. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gratitude



Scenes like this are all around me. These pretty sights are so common here they are often unnoticed by most people including me. There is beauty in the architecture of an old church building. I appreciate also that the building is old and the special place that religion had in the settlement of Connecticut.

I am trying to take notice of sights like this, to appreciate them. I feel grateful for the beauty all around me which is there just waiting to be noticed.

I made my husband stop the car so I could snap this shot. So often as I'm driving or the passenget I see a sight and think, "The light is lovely shining through those leaves, I would love a photo to remember it" but I often don't stop to take that photo. Often I regret that later.

I'm glad I snapped this one.

This church is in South Britain, Southbury, Connecticut on Route 172. Photo taken on October 26, 2008 by ChristineMM.

Rip It Good!

I have no current knitting projects.

The focus now is on frogging thrift store sweaters. Last month I did one cashmere sweater. I finished the second cashmere sweater last night. I then began ripping a bulky cream colored wool sweater last night.

My older son loves to help me. He likes ripping out the stitches. I've been winding them around a Sterlite plastic bin that is about 12x18 inches in size.

Today while out I'm going to buy a clothes drying rack as we don't own one and I've improvised in the past. I will use this to dry sweaters that I've washed, to dry wet pieces of machine felted or hand felted wool, and to hang skeins of frogged recycled yarn on to dry.

I've not washed or hung the recycled yarn yet as I have no where to hang it.

I've been taking photos and after will share the before, during and after shots.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Yard in October

Here are some photos from our yard on what I feel was the peak fall foliage day in my area.

This year the foliage has been long lasting, due to the fact that we had many rain-less days and hardly any wind. We've had moderate, sunny calm days and cold nights . That is a recipe for long-lasting bright fall foliage. The burnt oranges, browns and purples came out after the nights dropped close to freezing.





















All photos taken by ChristineMM on October 12, 2008 in Fairfield Couny, Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Knitted a Green Hat for Me



I finished this hat in the car at night, with the little reading light on. I was so happy that I had my husband take this photo of me wearing the finished hat, even though it was late and I was exhausted. This is not the most flattering photo of me by any means.



I purchased this handpainted wool yarn and the mohair boucle from a vendor, Handmade in the Hills, at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck New York on October 19. I started the hat on October 20th and finished it on October 25, 2008.







The yarn was a complete impulse buy after seeing the vendor's booth which really struck me as pure eye candy. I just had to buy something from them as I felt so inspired by the gorgeous handpainted yarns!





The hat was inspired by a hat that the vendor, Handmade in the Hills had on display. Deb Schildt's display hat had a wavy look to the yarn. I asked which yarn it was that looked that way and she said that it was two strands together. I had already picked out the base yarn and she helped me select a complimentary color mohair boucle. I was trying not to just buy yarn that didn't have a planned project. I was wearing my green-tealish colored wool toggle coat at the Festival and these colors were lovely with the coat. So right then and there I hatched the idea to knit a hat to match that coat, because I have no hat (or scarf or mittens) to go with that coat and usually wear plain black ones because that is what I already owned.

This was the first time that I knit using two strands together. It was also my first time knitting with boucle which I found slow going and annoying. My needles would often catch in the little circles and pull in a not-good way.

The hat pattern is the same as the other two I made for women, it is from a book called "Spin to Knit" by Shannon Okey and is the "Power Station Hat" on page 89. Although most of the stitches in the hat itself are up to the knitter becuase the pattern says to basically make up the stitches as you go and to change it every inch to inch and a half, then to start decreasing when it reaches a certain height.



With the leftover yarn I hope to knit mittens. I was thinking of using the boucle as an accent at the wrists or something like that.



Gauge! Gauge! I Get It Already!

I finished my third hat using the same pattern. The pattern was written for hand spun wool.

I thought by substituting it with an Aran store bought factory made yarn would be alright. That yarn is said to be knitted on #9 needles. The first hat I made using that pattern and #9 with Noro Kochoran is large. It is also loose. My husband says it gives it a classy look. It is supposed to be more of a tight winter hat but it is baggy and has a bit of a shape to it. It is not supposed to look that way.

For hat #2 with same pattern and another Aran yarn by Noro (Iro) I downsized to #8 needles. I thought the length was okay but when it was done, it fit like a tight winter hat and my earlobes are exposed.

For hat #3 I used a worsted weight handpainted wool yarn by a cottage industry from Pennsylvania. I also knit in two strands, the second being a mohair boucle with #8 needles. The result is a tightly knit winter hat that is tight to my head and does cover my ears. This is the tightest hat so far.

I have come to the conclusion that this is a gauge issue.

I am a non-conformist and resent being told in a pattern which exact yarn to use. I want to pick the yarn I want and then find a look I like and have it turn out right. I've been reading "Knitting Rules" by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The chapter on gauge has been eye-opening. Now I just need to be sure to use a pattern that explains the gauge and to knit a swatch and figure it out from there.

This is on my mind as I contemplate jumping in to knit my first sweater. I have all the yarn ready to go (purchased at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival a couple of weeks ago).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 Has Been Published


The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 was published on October 21 at Heaven’s Homemaking Haven. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Advice

This goes along with my word of the year, "content".



I thought of this recent post at Mental Multivitamin when I saw this old mug at a thrift shop the other day.



I had never heard this diddy sung by Burle Ives until I saw the link at the MMV blog, it was released before my time. However I could not get this song out of my head for days after hearing it just once.

Love It

Notes by Mo Willems made while listening to a lecture.

I loved hearing Mo Willems speak at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature yesterday.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Hat for a Friend (or I May Keep It If She Remains Too Busy To Connect With Me!)



I purchased two skeins of Noro Iro colorway 41, it is 75% wool and 25% silk. The main color is black with strands of blues, browns and some pink. (Later I realized there is a good amount of purple in it also.)

I bought the skeins with the intent of making at least a hat for myself and possibly a scarf and mittens. I have a black ski jacket and also a long black dress coat. I had hoped that the hat made of this yarn would be warm to wear when sledding with the kids in my sporty coat and nice enough looking to wear with my nice dress coat.

Then I got the idea to use this yarn to make a hat for my friend as a birthday gift first. I can always make my own hat later if I wanted one!

I decided to fashion the hat based on the same pattern that I made my Noro Kochoran hat, using the general pattern found in "Spin to Knit" by Shannon Okey. Since my Noro Kochoran hat with #9 needles was loose I decided to make this one using #8 needles and see how it panned out. I would have liked this one just a bit longer as it doesn't quite cover my earlobes. It fits much snugger than the hat I knit with #9 needles. (Of course I have no clue how this will fit my friend!)

As I began to knit I realized that just when the ribbing at the edge was done, the color variagation was changing. The general gist of this hat is to make up your stitches as you go along, doing an inch or so of one stitch/pattern before changing it to whatever you feel like doing until it is time to start the decreases.



As I knitted I decided to make the switches where the color changes. So this looks a bit like a striped hat but truly it is one variagated yarn. I also loved how the top was coming out with the crown being all shades of dark blue, going to pure black.

It is hard to capture the essence of Noro yarns with photographs. Below is one photo with the flash on and one with the flash off. I'm trying my best to capture this yarn's beauty...






I started this hat on October 15 and finished it on October 16, 2008. I took a little more than four hours to knit.

Some of my notes on the yarn are:

I worry this is a bit too scratchy for a scarf. After loving the softness of the Noro Kochoran scarf and hat that I made (Kochoran has angora in it), I don't think I'd want this Noro Iro next to my neck, even though it LOOKS great. However if I want some kind of set perhaps some mittens of this Noro Iro, especially if I line them with something softer, would be GREAT.

After working with the Noro Kochoran with the angora in it this felt more stiff and scratchy.

One of my favorite things about working with Noro yarns is just watching and appreciating the beauty of the unique strands of color, as the variagation changes, it can't really be described. I didn't know this about knitting until I started knitting myself, that part of the fun is just handling the yarn as I work with it and really enjoying the beauty of the yarn as I watch it change. For this sheer aesthetic appreciation I don't know if I'd like working with a very plain, flat color! I'm getting spoiled by working with such lucious yarns!

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Woodsy Hat for Younger Son

Here is the latest knitted finished project of mine.



Younger son with his new hat, watching a llama and alpaca show at the 2008 New York Sheep and Wool Festival.



Younger son wearing the hat, happily watching a presentation with live reptiles at the Festival.

Younger son complained that the wool hat (Lopi bulky yarn) that I knit for him is too scratchy. The main intent of having the wool hat was to wear at his outdoor six hour long class where he hikes all day. I wanted wool because I knew of wool's warmth properties and that it also breathes when the person is hot, and that when wet it is still warm. I figured wool was best for warmth all around. It also was to be used when on Cub Scout camping trips especially when in cold weather and they need to wear a comfortable and warm hat to bed.

I already had this acrylic yarn on hand. I purchased it in August with this project in mind. The yarn S.R. Kertzer Northern, worsted. It is variagated and is a bit of a forest type camoflauge versus old militray green camo or desert military camo. The story with this yarn is I was in a local yarn shop looking for a camo yarn in wool and the shop owner talked me into buying this yarn as she said that acrylic would be good enough for young boys mostly as all kids, teenagers and even adults who don't fully appreciate hand-knit gifts from loved ones or friends, some of whom wreck said hand-knitted gifts. I was swayed by the opinionated woman (you would not believe the rest of our exchange if I told you, she was so brutal that my husband was upset by her, he was with me you see, and he thought I should have chosen to refuse to patronize her store, but I did, as I was out of state on vacation and desperate for yarn to knit with and thought I'd start the hat that very week ), so I bought it. Thinking back, I don't know why I had not brought back to mind the base fact that I wanted wool for its warmth for the hats for my boys and stated that to the shopowner to get her off my back about buying this acrylic yarn.

This was my first experience knitting with acrylic and I didn't enjoy it. It slipped and slid on my bamboo needles like wool never has, for me. I had a hard time keeping the row of stitches from twisting as I worked. Also my needle kept splitting the yarn and then it would fray and I'd have to deal with backtracking the needle to fix that and it just was sloppy to work with. I also had a had time with the tension. And acrylic yarn is so stiff and unforgiving!

I decided to use the 'pattern' that I used for my own hat. That is, after casting on, knitting a one inch rib with K2, P2. Then making up whatever stitch you want for about an inch, then changing it, so on and so forth. I winged it and did whatever I felt like doing until it was time to start decreasing for the crown.

I began this hat last Friday night and finished it on Saturday night. It took less than four hours for me to make. I knitted as my younger son and I watched two movies.

My younger son loves the hat so much he went to bed wearing it on Saturday night and wore it all day Sunday at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival even when it was warm and sunny enough to no longer require the wearning of a hat!

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My First Knitted Scarf



Last week I knitted my first scarf. It is to match my hat. It is knitted with Noro Kochoran colorway 31 dye lot D2. This blend is 50% wool, 30% angora, and 20% silk.

I modified a pattern used in the book "Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn" by Shannon Okey. The original scarf in the book casted on 200 stitches and used different yarns to make long vertical stripes in garter stitch. So what I decided to do was cast on 200 stitches with a #8 needle (I use circulars) and to use this yarn which is variagated so it would have the effect of the long stripes rather than short stripes going the other direction, which seems to be a more common scarf design technique. I started by knitting up the rest of the leftover yarn from that first skein that the hat came from then added in the next new skein when that ran out. I kept going in garter stitch until the scarf was almost 5 inches wide. I stopped when I got worried that the skein may run out. So with two skeins of this Noro Kochoran I made the hat and this scarf with a little bit of yarn left over.



The scarf is super soft and it is so warm! I love it!

Because this scarf is only using the knit stitch, cast on and binding off, this is a PERFECT project for a beginner knitter.



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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Started a Kids Hat with Acrylic Yarn

Last night I began knitting a hat for my son in an acrylic yarn. I continued on it today while I sat in a meeting and I will continue it tonight while I watch a movie.

A local yarn shop talked me into using acrylic for hats for kids as the shopkeeper said the kids never appreciate handmade stuff and it gets wrecked.

I don't want to sound like a yarn snob but I am really NOT enjoying this.

The yarn is splitting, meaning that when I move the needles I accidentially split the yarn. I have to remove the needle and restart. The yarn is so inflexibile that it is so much different than wool yarn to work with. I find it stiff and hard to hold. Also for some reason it is slipping all over my bamboo needles and I am having a hard time holding the stitches in place to prevent it from twisting.

I am bound and determined to finish this hat. I'm not enjoying this experience.

I also realized the other day while finishing hat #5 (yet to be photographed, sorry), that part of what I enjoy about knitting is the yarn. I like holding it and I like seeing it as I work with it. I love the Noro variagated yarns as the different colors are spun together in a way that no two strands are the same. I enjoy seeing the colors change. Also that Noro Kochoran which has wool, silk and angora was so soft in my hands it was lovely to work with.

Wish me luck while I hopefully finish this acrylic hat tonight.

Today I visited a local yarn shop that I'd not been in before, "A Stitch in Time" in Bethel Connecticut. I was looking for double pointed needles in size 2.5 but they don't sell them there. I am considering learning to knit with the magic loop or doing two socks at once. I don't know what to do. In the mean time I guess I'll keep knitting hats.

I am looking forward to tomorrow when I will be going to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinbeck New York with a friend. We are each bringing our younger sons along so the kids can pal around together while their moms shop for yarn.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wrong Size Needles

I wanted to make socks. I was reading they often are knit on size 2 or 3 needles.

I had to go to Joanne's for some fabric and picked up a set of double pointed needles in size 2 and size 3. I thought I was all set.

I went to the local yarn shop and bought a skein of Opal sock yarn. I thought I was all set. I had looked at a lot of sock yarn and a lot of labels and finally just grabbed one and bought it.

When I got home I realized the entire label is written in German. Great. The visual key shows knitting needles and a crochet hook and says "2, 5". What the heck does that mean? Does that mean size 2 needle or is there a 2.5 needle? Joanne's carried Clover brand bamboo needles and there was no 2.5 size.

I just read on an online yarn shop site that other Opal sock yarns require a size 1 needle.

I have no clue what this yarn needs but if it is a size 1 or size 2.5 double pointed needle I don't have what I need.

Ugh.

My set of circular needles starts at size 6 and goes up to size 13.

Just had to share that.

(I finished knitting a hat last night for a gift for a friend. I am ready to start a new project and need to figure something else to knit tonight while I watch a movie at home with my younger son.)

One last thing this exact question is perfect for asking on Ravelry.com. I have been searching to see what others are saying about knitting socks with Opal yarn but so far am not learning much.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Hat for Me!



Here's the full story on my hat #4.

My kids were in a history class for homeschoolers in Westport one day last week. I had time to kill so went to their wonderful public library and scanned the knitting shelf. I sat down at a gigantic table (all alone) with a stack of knitting books spread before me. I then sat in silence and poured over the books for a couple of hours. Let me tell you that experience was pure bliss. What a wonderful way to spend a morning!!

One book that I was inspired by was "Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn" by Shannon Okey. At this time I do not spin. However I did buy an inexpensive drop spindle at a homeschooling conference and figured it might be a fun thing to do for a history-related craft project with my kids.



I also have roving on hand so if I do figure out how to spin with the drop spindle I already have what I need to make a bit of yarn.

I borrowed the book from the library.

I then went to the yarn shop to buy some yarn but they were closed! So two days later when I was in that town again I swung by the LYS to get yarn for my husband's hat and picked up two kinds of yarn to make myself hats with. One color will match my winter coats well. The other color I thought would look nice with my skin and hair color.

I liked one hat in the book "Spin to Knit" which I'll call a semi-pattern. I say that because the intention is to use over-spun hand spun yarn and the fact that it is over-spun gives it a different visual effect. The fact that the yarn is hand spun doesn't make it an easy match to substitute for store-bought yarn so I wasn't quite sure if the gauge of my yarn was right or not. Also the only true parts to the pattern are the cast-on, the first inch of ribbing then the decreasing. For the rest it says to basically use all different stitches in a random manner, using one stitch for about an inch or an inch and a half. So we are to improvise and make up our own pattern. The pattern is called "Power Station Hat" by Shannon Okey and is on page 89. The hat in the book has a more solid color striped look to it (shade of brown and white) and the hat I was making was using a multi-colored yarn where the strand may have two or three colors in it and changes colors throughout the skein.

So I made the hat but did not use hand spun yarn, and did not use over-spun yarn either. I just used a lovely new yarn that I bought the other day. It is
a super soft blend of 50% wool, 20% silk and 30% angora (Noro Kochoran colorway 31 dye lot D2, handpainted and made in Japan).

This is my first all-finished, ready to use knitted project I made for ME!

I did a tiny bit of work on Thursday night before bed, continued Friday night before bed, and finished it this morning. I didn't time myself, I think that I spent six or seven hours on this.

This was also the first time I ever knitting with stockinette stitch other than in small swatches to practice. It was the very first time that I knitted in moss stitch. The hat has combinations of garter stitch, stockinette stitch, moss stitch and some random striping going from knitting in knit stitch then switching to some in purl stitch.

I really like the hat even though it is a bit longer than I had hoped for (even though I stopped knitting when it reached seven inches as the pattern said). It fits a bit on the loose side also.

I love the colors and it is so soft and warm!

One last note about the book, it is so inspiring. I have the urge to learn to spin! I want to hand dye my own yarn! I really like the creating part of making stuff. I'm not so much into following someone else's directions and just making projects. I like figuring out what to make, adapting things to suit my own tastes and also creating stuff from nothing into something that involves my own creative process. To me so much of the fun is in the creating part not just enjoying using the finished project.

My Third Hat


Third Hat with flash on camera


Third Hat with camera's flash shut off

My husband asked me to knit him a simple hat to use while camping, especially to wear to sleep while camping in the cold weather.

After he tried the first hat made out of Lopi wool yarn he asked if I could find something a bit less scratchy.

I took a trip to a local yarn shop and found a wool and merino wool blend (85% wool, 15% mohair Lamb's Pride Bulky color M-82 Blue Flannel Dyelot 0192). Husband asked for navy blue. I bought the darkest blue I could find.

I started the hat before going to bed one night. The next day I knitted in public, knitting my way through a Boy Scout Court of Honor ceremony. I continued before going to bed and finished it up the next morning.

Pattern Info: I used a pattern in the book "Stitch 'N Bitch" by Debbie Stoller. The pattern is called "Hot Head" and was designed by Alex Zorn, although the original was striped using different yarns in hot flame colors and I used one variagated yarn instead. It is on page 162 in the book.

My First and Second Hats

I taught myself to knit using circular needles using directions in a book.

After two failed attempts which were frogged, I finally "got it" and so hat #1 was in progress one evening last week. I was so excited about it that I finished the hat the next morning before I even got out of bed.

Hat #1 (flash used on camera):



Hat #1 was made in size medium. I was not sure which kid it would fit. It was a perfect fit for my older son (age 11). It is a simple ribbed hat. The yarn is Lopi Jungle Green variagated #9980.

I do admit that some errors were made and it is imperfect. The dark color and variagation hides the errors which might not be noticed by a non-knitter.

That afternoon while watching a college football game on TV I started hat #2 in size small for my younger son. I finished it before bedtime that night.

This second hat has just one error in it, I believe. My son hasn't noticed yet.

Hooray!

Hat #2 (no flash used on camera):




The bad news is that despite them loving the color they feel the yarn is a bit too itchy and they want new hats that are softer.

And yesterday the kids had misplaced their hats. Ugh. So much for them taking good care of a handmade item. Then last night I got bad news when I found one laying on the garage floor. What an insult!

Future blog posts will contain the next projects.

I really like Lopi yarn! It is bulky and knits up fast. I made the two hats out of one skein and have more yarn left over from the skein.

here is more info on the Lopi yarn I used:

Brand: Reynolds

Yarn name: Lopi

Fiber: 100% Icelandic Wool

Weight: 100g

Yardage: 110yds

Needle size: US 10 - 10 1/2

Gauge: 3 1/4 - 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 - rows per 1"

Care: Hand Wash

Pattern Info: I used a pattern in the book "Stitch 'N Bitch" by Debbie Stoller. The pattern is called "Hot Head" and was designed by Alex Zorn, although the original was striped using different yarns in hot flame colors and I used one variagated yarn instead. It is on page 162 in the book.

Time spent: Each of these hats took me 3.5 hours to complete.

Practicing Purl


Here is evidence that I was practicing the purl stitch.

A homeschool mom friend re-taught me the purl stitch at a homeschool park day two weeks ago.

This was my first practice, done about two weeks ago.

The skein of yarn by the Brown Sheep Company was purchased at a charity thrift shop on Cape Cod for a quarter. It is 50% cotton and 50% wool. It is odd getting used to working with a cotton blend because the cotton has a stiffness to it that is different than 100% wool. I chose to work with this because when I first tried using a variagated yarn in dark colors I realized I could not see the stitches well. Working in a lighter colored solid was much easier for me, to learn the new stitch and to be able to see what the yarn was doing more clearly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How Much?

I had not purchased new yarn in a yarn shop in over two months.

I went in to the local yarn shop to buy a soft wool yarn (one skein) to make a hat for my husband.

Noro makes my favorite yarns. The colors are to die for.

I want to make a hat for myself out of a Noro yarn. It cost $20 for one skein (160 meters).

I really, really want a Noro sweater. Today while online I figued out that Noro sells patterns. However to make a sweater with new Noro yarn will cost me $140-$200 in yarn alone.

I feel as if I've been tortured.

Do people really spend over $100 on skeins of yarn to make one sweater?

I think I have been spoiled by the prices of factory made sweaters sold in stores.

Groan.

If you don't know what the Noro yarns look like here is a link to a site selling books of patterns. By clicking on each book you can see numerous photos of projects made with these Noro yarns.

I have been using "World of Nature" Kureyon, I just bought some Iro and Kochoran.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wise Words on Creativity and Finding Time for Creating

Today while doing work at the computer I was listening to the Creative Mom Podcast #111 “Slippage”.

I wish I could quote what Amy says starting at the 14:00 point, where she gives a quote from a show she had done a year prior. She is speaking of finding time to be creative and busy-ness and the importance of carving out time for ourselves.

It is brilliant.

I love the part about being gentle with ourselves.

Take a listen, even if you start the show and fast-forward it to the 14:00 point.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Felted Octopus



Here is a silly octopus that I needle felted.

If you like the cool colors, the wool roving is from Peace Fleece. I had bought some extra from a friend of mine.