Archive for December, 2007

New Year’s Eve

I spent a few hours today on a fun machine sewn project to complete my “Hearts Full of Christmas” Advent Christmas tree quilt.

I discovered that I had red, green, and cream versions of the same print I used for the base of the tree on the quilt,DSCN1201 so I used them, and some fast 2 fuse to make a fabric bowl that will be used during future Advent seasons to hold the hearts as they wait to be placed on the tree.

I used Linda Johansen’s book fast fun & easy Fabric Bowls for instructions and made the octagonal bowl that is shown on the front cover in blue, except that I cut deeper curves to make it more scalloped. 

I’ve made two other bowls from this book over the past year and while I’m still learning my way around my new sewing machine, I’ve had fun with them, especially the one I made for Larissa for an Easter basket (yes, even though she’s 25, she still expects an Easter basket!).   Here’s the finished bowl:DSCN1202


I attached some gold ribbon bows that echo the bows on the Christmas tree.  It’s about 10″ in diameter.


My husband who is obsessed with hats, thought it might make a good hat, and wanted his picture taken with it.  New Year’s Eve silliness, I guess.DSCN1203 

If Larissa’s reading this, you can be sure she’s embarrassed.  John thinks part of his job in being a good parent is to regularly embarrass our daughter.

I’m off to start on pizza.  A few year’s ago I started making homemade pizza for New Year’s Eve from a cookbook I’ve had for years and still remains one of my favorites–Colorado Cache by the Junior League of Denver.  The recipe is Super Deluxe Pizza with homemade (whole wheat–yeah!) crust, sauce, and whatever goodies you want to put on it.  Yummers!


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Speaking of taking out and starting over, on Friday I picked up a project I had begun this past spring, but after taking it out several times finally put aside.

On a day trip to Williamsburg, VA (when I still lived in VA Beach) I visited a great knitting shop, Knitting Sisters.  I knew I wanted to try making some socks, so, with some help picking it out, I purchased yarn in shades of one of my favorite colors, purple, along with a book with several sock patterns.

The yarn is a fingering weight 100% merino by ClaudiaCo.com in Just Plum.  The pattern I chose is “Retro Rib Socks” by Evelyn A. Clark in Favorite Socks:  25 Timeless Designs from INTERWEAVE.  I chose this pattern because it says it is good for beginning sock knitters.  Well, maybe, but perhaps not beginner beginners!  I lost count of how many times I took this out. 

I couldn’t get used to using double pointed needles, especially ones so small (size 2).   I couldn’t get the pattern right and kept having to take it out.  I especially couldn’t figure out how to do the heel. 

It was a really busy time in my life–preparing to move and preparing my congregation for a new pastor–so I just put it all away.

Shortly after I arrived in Taos, I visited Taos Sunflower to see if they had a class or some suggestions.  No class, but a recommendation to start with bigger yarn and bigger needles and to work through Ann Budd’s Getting Started Knitting Socks.  Great advice.

I bought the book, some larger needles, and some worsted wool that in the store looked like purple.  I should have read the label, because when I got it home I realized that it’s really blue.  The color of the Lamb’s Pride 85%wool/15% mohair yarn is M-65 Sapphire.  It’s still a great color, even though it’s not purple.  I sailed through making these socks with great instructions and easier yarn and needles to work with. DSCN1200


Feeling pretty confident I immediately moved on to some alpaca socks for my husband using some sage green yarn I picked up out of the “mix and match” basket at Victory Alpaca Ranch.

Even with very fine yarn and size 2 needles I moved quite easily through these because I used the same instructions with adjustments for yarn weight.





The socks turned out great and John loved them.

Unfortunately the yarn was not good for wear and he wore holes in the balls of the feet in a couple of weeks. 

Live and learn.

In the meantime I worked on my Christmas gift projects and gained a little more practice in knitting patterns.

So, now, I’ve begun again on my Just Plum Retro Rib socks and so far they’re turning out great:DSCN1198



I can’t believe how easy knitting them seems compared to the first time!  We’ll see how it goes when I get to the heel. 





Isn’t it just so true that a little practice makes a big difference?  Not just in knitting socks but in most areas of our lives. 

Lots of people think we shouldn’t have to practice in our spiritual lives, but practicing spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, scripture and spiritual reading, gathering and conversation, sacraments and others start out with “big yarn on big needles” and gradually, with practice move to greater depth and complexity. 

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I think it’s safe now to show the pictures of gifts I made for Christmas, since all the packages have been opened and gifts have been put away.

For my daughter I made LaLana Wools’ A Very Nice Scarf out of their luscious Phat Silk Phat in “Hot Stuff”, a gorgeous magenta/pink. DSCN1098  


It was very hard to give away, so I’m going to have to put making one for myself on the list for next year.  Now to decide on color….





For my mom I made Taos Sunflower’s Adele’s Scarf out of natural handspun alpaca from Victory Alpaca Ranch in Mora, NM.



I really liked this pattern when I made it out of worsted weight Louet Euroflax 100% Linen (machine washable and dryable!) for myself two years ago.  I think the color is no. 101 St. Lawrence.  This is great yarn, too, and makes for a wonderful warmer seasons scarf.






Here’s a picture of my linen scarf.





Finally, I made A Very Nice Scarf up again, only this time in alpaca, for my sister.  It is shorter than the silk one and is made out of a great blend of natural brown alpaca and raspberry dyed alpaca.  It’s called “Raspberry Patch.”  Another yarn I love, but not always available from Victory Alpaca Ranch.  DSCN1104


I was only able to get two skeins of this yarn so this scarf is not as long as Larissa’s silk one, but is still a very nice length, especially to wear with a pin.


Speaking of pins, if you haven’t seen Romi’s great pins for scarves and shawls, check out her website at Designs by Romi.  Not only is she a great pin designer but she designed the yummy Ice Queen cowl/hood in the latest issue of Knitty.  I’m trying to figure out if I have justenoughtime to make one or two of those creations in 2008.

Starting to think now about gifts to make for 2008, since I only have 5 1/2 more months before I go back to work. 

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This week I nearly finished my self-fringing bias shawl.  But before I cut the fringe I tried it on and played around with it a little, and decided I really didn’t like it very much.  So yesterday I took the whole thing out.DSCN1189

Now I am on the lookout for a different pattern to use for this lovely Brooks Farm Duet yarn.

I’m looking for something with a little more pattern to it.  The self-fringing shawl is simply garter stitch, and I really didn’t like the bias shaping as far as wear goes. 

I’m looking at some leafy or fan stitch patterns.  But I’m going to set it aside for awhile and let the yarn rest.  I don’t know if it will become a shawl or a scarf.  It will depend upon the pattern I choose as I only have one skein. 

One of the most important things I have learned in my many years of sewing, stitching, and knitting is the ability to take out and start over.  When I was working on my fourth piece for my Doodling Designs embroidery class at Joggles, I took out the stitching in the top “flower” part of the design several  times until I was able to create the effect I wanted. DSCN1045 

First I stitched the “petals” outlines in black, then in the variegated Watercolors, then in burgundy.  I even tried satin stitching the “outline” of the petals in gold.  I finally settled on an echo of the “stem” using burgundy and mauve, but with a lighter back stitch.

Then I tried using a long and short stitch to fill in the spaces with the Watercolors, finally settling on using that thread in a more wispy way instead of filling in.  But it involved a lot of taking out and starting over.  And not a little frustration and exercise in humility.

I have read through and studied Joan Chittister’s book, The Rule of Benedict:  Insight for the Ages, several times, always especially noting the section on humility.  Chittister writes,

If the twentieth century has lost anything that needs to be rediscovered, if the Western world has denied anything that needs to be owned, if individuals have rejected anything that needs to be professed again, if the preservation of the globe in the twenty-first century requires anything of the past at all, it may well be the commitment of the Rule of Benedict to humility.

Humility in the spiritual life is about falling down, getting up, and starting over again.  Benedict describes it as being on a ladder, upon which we “descend by exaltation and ascend by humility.”  Just when we think all is right with the world and we’ve made it that way, our bubble of pride is burst and we come tumbling down.

Throughout my life, my work with fibers and fabrics has been instructive in humility.  The necessity for taking out and starting over, or taking out and affecting repair is always there.  Sometimes I completely lose it, and other times I am able to proceed calmly to begin again. 

Several years ago I was participating in the Master Craftsman in Quiltmaking program with the Embroiderer’s Guild of America.  There were several steps to the program with specific instructions for pieces that were completed in various stages and then sent to be examined and judged.  Everything had to be precise and as perfect as possible to pass each stage.

The second piece required applique in a lattice setting.  I created a beautiful small quilt top in shades of peach and mauve and had completed the entire top, when by accident I snipped the very center square with my scissors.  I was very upset and set the project aside for awhile until I could calmly and carefully take out that center small square and again, very carefully replace it.  I then quilted the piece and sent it in for judging.DSCN1190  

The judges loved the quilt and gave me spectacularly high marks, asking that it be shown at the next EGA national seminar.  Wow!  I was pretty exalted.  But there was one small comment to the effect that there seemed to be something not quite right about the center square, but they couldn’t figure out what it was.DSCN1192


  Back down the ladder! 

I am reminded that only God can create perfection.

In our on-going discussion of slow cloth, begun on The Red Thread Studio and In a Minute Ago blogs, I have been contemplating the importance of taking out, starting over, and humility in producing slow cloth.  While I recognize that some situations are perfectly well served with quick cloth and rapidly crafted projects, I fear that in our rush to produce, one thing we might risk losing is the important discipline and practice of humility. 

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I haven’t been working on any fiber or fabric projects this week, but I did make a GREAT cake for Christmas day.  Larissa had asked for a spice cake with cream cheese frosting and since I didn’t really have a good recipe for one I went onto epicurious.com and searched for one. 

I found Spice Cake with Blackberry Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting from the July 2001 issue of Bon Appetit magazine (which I probably actually have torn out somewhere in my stack of recipes) which has several great reviews. 

Larissa and John thought we should take pictures of the cake in progress.  It was supposed to be made in a springform pan and split into three layers, but I made it in three pans, instead.  Not sure I wanted to try to manage splitting layers.  I also had to figure out adjustments for baking at 7,000 plus feet altitude. 

One reviewer recommended chilling between each icing and filling step which I did, and it helped a lot in the assembly.  Chilling was done in the garage, since it was in the teens here and the refrigerator was packed with other things for Christmas week meals.   DSCN1173

Here are the pictures:



Layer one with filling.










Layer two with filling.






Layer three.









Crumb coat — really useful since berry filling was trying to come out the sides a little.






Final Icing. 

Isn’t this a great plate?  A member at the church I served in Annandale, VA gave it to me.  I love it.







Garnished with fresh blackberries on top.









“Cutaway” view.







Ready to eat.  YUMMERS!****

And it was really good, too.  Playing with flour, sugar, butter and spices, can sometimes be as much fun as playing with fibers and fabrics.


***YUMMERS is one of our all-time favorite children’s books and in our house saying ” Yummers!” means something is really good and would be a favorite of Emily Pig’s. 

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas…. Oh.  that was yesterday.  Today is the second day of Christmas.  Am I behind already?

24 years ago I began making a set of 12 days of Christmas ornaments for my daughter, one a year.  They are counted cross stitch — not my favorite to do — made from a pattern in a Leisure Arts folder I purchased way back then. 

I was doing quite well until the ninth day of Christmas when Larissa was 9 and I started back to complete my undergraduate degree and then go on to seminary for graduate degree and ordination. 

Larissa turned 25 this year and guess what?  I finally finished the last four of her ornaments through this past year.  Here is the completed set:DSCN1141

I ran out of lace and wasn’t able to get some that matched exactly for the last four, but it’s pretty close.

They are backed with velveteen–green or red on every other one–and have a thin layer of batting in the middle. 

While I was at it I made a fabric envelope using the FREE instructions for the Flexi-bag on Sue Bleiweiss’s Fibre and Stitch for the ornaments to be stored in.DSCN1153

It’s approximately 12 inches square.

This was the first time I really did any quilting with my new Bernina with the stitch regulator attachment (BSR).  I made a few mistakes and learned a few things, just trying it out.  I especially learned that you need a LOT of thread.  But running out of red caused me to use white and lime green to echo the flowers I started with in red, so I think it actually turned out better than if I had not run out of red.  I don’t know if I would have thought to use the other colors otherwise.  I really like the idea in the Flexi-bag instructions for drawing, satin stitching, then cutting a decorative edge for the flap.  Much more interesting than just a straight edge.  I added a snap at the lowest curve just to hold things in place.   Here’s the inside:DSCN1154


I’m planning to make a bunch more of these Flexi-bags in different sizes and fabrics to have on hand for gifts and gift bags throughout the next year. 

It will give me a chance to practice more on my machine quilting with small items.

The samples in the Flexi-bag instructions are done with hand printed fabrics and when I get better at it, I’ll try doing that.  But for now I’m going to use up some of my stash of commercial fabrics.

Thanks to Fibre and Stitch for providing great ideas and instructions!  As if I needed more projects for 2008!!!  On the third day of Christmas….Hmmm.  What’s next?

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Merry Christmas!

The “Hearts Full of Christmas” Advent Calendar/Christmas quilt is complete with all the hearts tied onto it with gold ribbons.  DSCN1179

This has served as our Christmas tree this year as we are trying to better utilize resources.  It’s worked out well, although I do miss lights.

The quilt will remain hanging through Epiphany on January 6. 

Between now and then I plan to make a fabric bowl or box to keep the hearts in before they are put on the tree during future Advents.


Here are some pictures I took of the beautiful sunset Christmas Eve from our street.  Our neighbors had on their lights, including “farolitos” that are traditionally paper bags with candles nestled in sand.  Now you can buy plastic ones with lights attached to use over and over.  They are the most common decoration around the town of Taos during this season. DSCN1171


This picture was taken to the east.



This one was taken to the west.

            Merry Christmas!


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