Monday, November 29, 2010

A Pox on Us! (or Handmade Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments)

Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments has been an interesting few days around here. W, our 15 year old has chicken pox. It came as a bit of a surpise, when they were younger I had hoped they would get them so that it would be over and done with but, I have to say, at this point, I'd sort of forgotten all about them and given up that they would get them. Poor boy has been feeling pretty wretched but, on the bright side, we're having quite a lot of quiet at home time. That means rest, reading and some coddling for W and crafting time for me. When I got my wool sweaters out to make the quilt I put aside a red woolen sweater for tree ornaments. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.
Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments
Whenever I've had a spare moment I've been fitting in a few of these handmade hearts. They're so quick and easy to make. Just cut out two hearts, stitch them together with a blanket stitch (put a bit of stuffing in just before you're finished) and that's it.
Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments
Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments
Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments
I've been making several for our tree and now I plan on embroidering the fronts of some with a little bit of peace, joy, love and hope. I wanted to do them yesterday but I ran out of the buttery coloured embroidery floss that I like so I had to dye some of my white floss with chamomile tea and then wait for it to dry. I have to say that there is a lovely kind of freedom that comes from knowing that you actually can't go anywhere - I could get used to being under "quarantine" every once in a while, there's something to be said for a time of isolation and quiet at this time of year (although I might not be saying that when E gets them next week). It certainly helps a person catch up on their handmade gift making.
Felted Sweater Heart Ornaments

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There's Still Time...

I'm very blessed to have a wonderful circle of female friends in my life and I'm always amazed at how talented they all are.  One of my dear friends is having a generous give-away on her blog and there is still a little bit of time (be quick!!) for you to check it out and have a chance to win one of her creations.  I thought I would take the opportunity to show you two of the beauties she made and gifted me with this summer (did I mention that, as well as creative and talented, my friends are also very generous?).  I'm lucky enough to have several of her home-made creations, including some fabulous lounge pants made of brightly patterned vintage sheets and a gorgeous old-fashioned floral handbag.

I love this little pouch that she made of repurposed denim and appliqued with flowers - she knows just the sort of things I love.
Katherine's Zippered Pouch
Katherine's Zippered Pouch
And this patchwork journal is made out of lots of bits of blue fabrics - she also knows my favourite colour - such a beautiful spot to keep track of my gardening notes and to use as my gratitude journal.
Katherine's Patchwork Journal
And just wait until you see the little bag she is giving away...

Friday, November 26, 2010

No Knead Bread Recipe

Testing bread recipes
I haven't been making our own bread very often lately but  now that it is so cold out I feel quite good about having the oven going - the fire is just not keeping it quite warm enough.  I've been meaning to try out Mother Earth News' No Knead Dutch Oven Bread recipe for ages - all the more reason to use my cast iron pot that my folks gave me last Christmas.  I also had Kneadlessly Simple from the library so, being uncharacteristically organized for me, I decided to test both recipes and then choose  our favourite to add to our collection.
Mother Earth News Bread
They are very similar recipes and so easy to make but from the start I felt that the Mother Earth News one was rising  better and looked less sticky so I felt as though it would be the keeper recipe.  I baked it first (the baking temps and times were slightly different and I wanted to be sure to follow the recipe exactly the first time - Yes...Me!! I followed a recipe precisely.  I know - bizarre but true.)  Mother Earth News Bread
We couldn't wait the suggested hour (?!?!) before slicing it...we couldn't wait five minutes! so we tried it right away.  Delicious.
Mother Earth News Bread
A little later when I took the lid off the fresh baked Kneadlessly Simple Peasant Style loaf it looked simply beautiful too.  Just the right combination of crusty outside and chewy inside.
Kneadlessly Simple Bread
And, also delicious. looks like we will have two recipes to add to our keeper pile.  Ah well, you can never go wrong with a good bread recipe and since we like to eat a lot of soup at this time of year it's always nice to have fresh bread on hand.

Let's Go for a Walk

Well...I have two (new-to-me) delicious, crusty yet chewy bread recipes that I am excited to share with you but I'm  unable to do any new posts because I have no more photo space available (?!?!).  I had no idea how this all works, for years I've just been merrily posting all sorts of photos and never stopping to wonder how that happens.  Anyway, I'm now looking into it and will hopefully be able to post bread and crafting photos soon.  In the meantime, here is a post from a few weeks ago that I somehow forgot to post but that already had photos added.

E and I were out walking with friends in a park while W was at drama lessons and we happened by this guy, he could not have been less bothered by us walking by him.  He just stood there.
Walking is my favourite form of exercise (next to gardening), I love it because it involves all my senses.  I try to make sure that we get out for a walk every day (lately that has involved double toques and snow pants!) and I believe the benefits are huge (physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally).  Walking for me is a time when I can actually manage to still my mind and really be present - the sights, sounds and smells all combine to make walking a sort of meditation for me.  I love it.
My last few walks have involved making my way through the snow and gathering greenery from some trees to begin decorating our home for the season.   Quite different in some ways from my walks during the rest of the year when I am collecting wild plants for food and medicine but still very much the same in one way - an appreciation for the abundance and beauty of Mother Earth.

Monday, November 22, 2010


We've been getting snow for over a week now and the boys are thrilled to be out sledding each day. The last little while has also brought colder temperatures (about -17 right now) so we have been quite happy to have more time at home and time by the fire each evening. 
There has been time to make applesauce (thank you mice for helping to keep me on task and not procrastinate!!).
I love getting spray free red apples because then I can cook them with the skins on and we end up with PINK applesauce - how fun is that? 
We been enjoying our daily walks and some days I've been remembering to take the camera (although we didn't have it the day we finally spotted a rabbit - we saw hundreds of tracks last winter but no bunnies).
 Snow has a way of making everything beautiful - even the dead or dying trees.
E has been enjoying the time at home to do some baking - his peanut butter biscuits.
And we've decided to have a puttering day at home (almost like an X day!!), where we'll get our work done early, try some new bread recipes, keep the fire going strong and have the whole afternoon for creative time (we want some time to make more gifts) and outdoor fun. 

I also wanted to show the back of the felted sweater quilt since several people have asked what it looks like.  I just used the edge of my presser foot as my guideline and did a regular seam, there is no backing on the quilt so you can see these seams on the back.  I quite like the look of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Felted Sweater Patchwork Quilt

I've been collecting wool sweaters for a couple years now and finally decided to make the quilt I've had my heart set on.  Some of the sweaters came from the thrift store and some were passed along to me because they had been shrunk or had a moth hole or two.  I love that this quilt is made almost entirely of sweaters that would likely have headed for the bin otherwise.  I felted the ones that were not already shrunken - all I had to do to felt them was put them in my ( top loading) washing machine with hot water and a tiny bit of dish soap, I let them agitate until they were shrunken enough then spun them and hung to dry.  I do have a tendency to overfelt sometimes because I have too many other things on the go (and, apparently, a short attention span) and I forget to check on the felting progress but I've decided to keep the superfelted sweaters for making thick, warm slippers.  Here is a bit of information on felting in case you are wondering more. 
Once they were dry I decided on how I wanted my quilt to look.  I wanted to have some big squares (all the less sewing and cutting to do) and some random-ish squares.  I decided to use one of my cutting boards as a template for the big squares and then I used a mandarin orange box lid for my smaller squares.  Two of the (smaller side of the) box lid blocks would equal one length of the cutting board squares ( I know that doesn't seem to make sense but hopefully it will once you see the photo) 
By using the width of the box lid but making the "smaller squares" any length I could have my random look without having to fuss much.  The beige block here is my cutting board size and you can see that for every block that size I used two of the smaller blocks across.
I planned out where I wanted my big blocks, because I didn't have too many I only used 3 per row (and alternated their positions) and then filled with smaller blocks (of all different lengths), mostly cutting as I went - I was trying to use up most every bit of each sweater.  I put one strip together at a time and then sewed the finished strips together as each one was completed.  When I put my first strip together I immediately knew I would want to make a patchwork scarf with any leftever bits.  Here is the first strip...
in progress
 and here it is at 6 strips wide.  This is Just the right size for wrapping around me for movie watching on cold evenings but...I still have a few more big blocks so I think I'll make it at least one strip bigger so that I can share if needed.  Perhaps I can convince all the males in my family to watch one of my (favourite)shows with me if I offer to share my quilt with them??  And since it was almost getting dark and the colours weren't showing up very well inside...
I asked W to take an outside photo for me.  I haven't even clipped the threads off but I can tell you that I will already be using this tonight.  I love the warmth and softness of the felted wool and I especially love being able to re-use something old to make something new.  So fun

(You can click on the photo to enlarge it)
I couldn't resist using a couple of blocks with the pockets still on from an old cardigan - now, some people might think that would be handy for holding the TV remote but I'm thinking it looks just the right size for a big bar of chocolate. ;-)  Could I be any better prepared for an evening or four of Pride and Prejudice?  I think not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Settling In

I love living in an area with such distinct seasons, and after the busy-ness of summertime and harvest I look forward to wintertime because that means...crafting time.  The last couple weeks I've been pulling out projects that I've been "meaning to get to" (do you have a stack of those too?).  Now I've got a needle felted sweater on the go in the living room; a felted sweater patchwork quilt being put together in the sewing room (not to mention bits of felted sweater all over the kitchen because I'm doing the cutting in there); balled up knitting projects in my purse, on my bedside table, in an apple crate by the couch, and in a picnic basket by the bookshelves (must not mention the other partly done knitting projects shoved in boxes - ahem).
And...I love it.  There is just something wonderful about this time of year for me when we can Slow Down and enjoy our hobbies.  Yesterday we dug the last of our carrots and beets from the garden in town (and I collected all the rest of my dry pole beans to save for seeds - I've been saving these seeds for at least 10 years now and I love the beans I get from them).  I've got three big buckets of carrots to store and that truly is IT for this year's garden.  Completely Done.
But, I couldn't resist picking some of our Calendula to make a batch of Calendula/Comfrey salve.
So, once the carrots are stored and the salve (link to details of making simple calendula salve or to see how E makes salve you can click here) is made then I will focus (I will!  I really will!) on one project at at time and work on getting them done.  First up I want to finish the patchwork quilt so we can use it to keep  us cozy on the couch on cold nights.  I also love hearing about projects others have on the go (and am in need of gift ideas) in case anyone has any links they want to share. ;-)

Monday, November 1, 2010


I find it very easy to find things in my life for which I am grateful, even in difficult times - times of sickness, change or sadness - I still know that I am blessed with abundance.  Just lately I have been getting back into writing down a gratitude list daily instead of just every once in a while.  I always notice that when I begin this I find even more to be grateful for - there's so much we can easily take for granted, isn't there?

Just now I am feeling very grateful for our fireplace.  I adore the way we gather near it to read, chat, cuddle and craft.  I also thoroughly enjoy time on my own once in a while to watch a library DVD (like Persuasion) while the fire crackles and pops nearby.  Even our pets can't resist its charms and choose to snooze nearby.
I am grateful for the wood we chop (and chop and stack and chop and stack) which will keep us warm all winter (and also grateful for a strong husband who does most of the chopping).
I am grateful that my youngest son finds great pride and pleasure in the work of chopping down the dead trees which we will use for wood.
I am grateful that I have only 4 boxes left of tomatoes to use up.
And grateful for the steaming bowls of tomato soup that I will make with most of them.
Very grateful for thrifted wool sweaters (most of these will be made into a quilt - they are drying after being felted).  Thank you sheep.
Thankful for walks by the creek...
 with the company of my boys.
Thankful that gardening is done and that it is time to knit and craft.  Hurrah for the seasons, this is our slow(er) season.
My favourite slipper pattern (Fibre Trends Felted Clogs) - made for a gift (pictured before they were felted).

And I am grateful for so very much  more.  And you?  I hope you are finding much to be grateful for as well.