buttoned up

As with any knit its the details in finishing that make or break a project. Its the one detail that many knitters would rather skip. I was one of those people that dreaded the finishing. But knitting toys is changing that for me. I like watching an animal come to life as I sew the seams and stuff the body.

here is a view of the back end. I still have a few ends to sew in on the tail and next up is the hardest part for me……. the faceor more specifically the eyes. The face and the eyes are hard for me. I try to make it easier by keeping the embroidery to a minimum on the fox I switch to a black yarn for the last few rows and that makes a nose. And then I went hunting for eyes in my button jar  yesterday.

Because I am easily distracted that turned into a sorting party. I found some nice bins at Target that stack together with clips on the side. I spent a happy hour sorting my buttons. For a mini animal I love old shirt buttons.

you can buy a jar of buttons from St. Vinnie’s for a couple of dollars. Some of them have a little scrap of fabric on them and others are kept together with a thread. My favorites are the shell buttons made from mullusk shells – shiney  white on one side  but flip them over and you can see the colors of the outer shell. Many of these white buttons are worn and chipped  and look like tiny baby teeth. I love the way these were saved to be used again even though the shirts were too worn out to wear and cut up for rags. The wear and tear on the buttons make me think that these buttons went through a wringer washing machine. The yellowish button with big holes in it might be made of bone.

I separated according to size and the ones above are the large and really large ones. When I was a kid we would raid our mother’s button jar for really big buttons and put them on a loop of string and make wonderful whizzing toys with them.

I put all the metal buttons in there own bin. I thought about using these somehow for the foxes – they would look so nice on a vest for the larger fox or maybe a button on the pocket.

I have been using old worn shirt buttons for the minis and some of the larger ones have leather buttons for the eyes. but I found a pair of old horn buttons for this hat and I love the dark centers with a white streak at the top that look like eyelids.

but here are a few other choices I have considered. This hat is one of the early ones when I was still working out increases – the fox looks a little worried or maybe angry because of how I spaced the decreases but I do like the look of these old leather buttons.

I love these polished wood buttons on this hat. And see the little gingerbread button I found at Ben Franklins – its tucked into the pocket of the mini fox.

So I will spend the morning sewing in ends and adding eyes and finishing this skulk of fox.

Then maybe clean up my very cluttered tiny knitting room and the overflow mess  in the living room unless I decide to cast on yet another toy.


Short rowing

it doesn’t look like much here but it is coming along nicely. it’s flat knitting I can finish a body in a couple of hoursafter stitching up the body I pick up stitches for the ears.


I am loving the rich colors of this yarn.


it looks so velvet-y ….the colors of this yarn are so woodsy and wonderful….perfect for this little mini. The yarn is Tippy Toes from Interlacement Yarns and the color way is Canyon Lands Plus.

once the stitches are picked up I work on mini short rows. I must say I like short rows for shaping. I love to play with short rows to see what it does to a flat piece of knit fabric. The results add an extra dimension. Did you notice I found some short short double point needles to work with? They are only 5″ long – I found them in a basket of vintage needles at the thrift store.

Learning and practicing short rows on a toy perfects your technique for when you want to add it to a sweater. I have a couple of cardigans picked out that I want to shape with short rows to better fit me. What better than a swatch that you turn into a stuffed animal for learning what a short row will do.Look at the way short rows make a perky ear on these fox.

Knitting fall flavors

its getting cooler here and the work of getting everything ready for winter is slowing down. can you see the cranes in the picture? I haven’t heard or seen any for a few days these 2 were the last they are probable flying south now and won’t be back till spring.the geese are still here. Meva enjoys stalking by the ponds to see what she can hunt upit was her lucky day we saw geese and ducks and cranes – she even managed to find  a ground hog to chase.and then we spotted these deer across the pond from us. all in all a perfect walk I think.it seems like I am knitting with the same colors I see outside my windowpicking up stitches for a tail and then I just have to weave in the ends.this orange yarn was flavored with cosmos flowers and a quick dip in a walnut bath. I have been knitting up a whole family of animals in fall flavors and as soon as there is a sunny day I will get outside and take some pictures to share.












I don’t bake sugary treats anymore but these are so tempting I wish I could eat them!!!  They are gluten free though….oh it is so tempting!!!!!!

Even though we have cut sugar and flour out of our diet I still am signed up for the Cookstr weekly newsletter and satisfy my baking mojo by reading all the wonderful recipes.

there is one recipe this week that I may be able to alter for us to eat — check out the A Lot like Lasagna









Mr. Monk

My daughter has been busy – she has uploaded this pattern onto Ravelry for me.

I have to admit this is my favorite pattern of all the patterns we have written.

I know there are lots of sock monkey patterns out there in the cyberworld but what makes mine different is that there is a pocket in the front for treasures and the hands and feet have snaps.

I love the mini monk done up in leftover scraps of sock yarn – each one is a little reminder of a sock I knit up a long time ago.

But now I am running out of leftovers and I am eyeballing sock yarn that is still in the skein and I have to tell myself knit a sock first and then you can knit a monkey pal.

Monkeys are hanging from my lamp in the knitting room and tumbling from the shelves .

I have gone BANANAS over monkeys they are in every corner of the house.

I can’t stop….. they make me smile.

They are fast and easy to make. Start to finish one takes me about 6 hours or 2 evenings of watching the tv.

A few years back I dreaded sewing my knits together. I would do anything to avoid a seam. I only wanted to knit things that were in the round. Knitting toys has changed that for me. Sometimes I will knit a toy in the round but I actually have a bit more control when I sew them up afterwards. It allows me to play with the parts and position each thing just so.

I am finding myself slowing down and enjoying the sewing and talking to the animals as I finish them. When I am sewing  the personality of each toy comes out. The monkey might tell me his name while I attach his smile. Or giggle and tell me a funny joke as I search through my button jar to find the right set of eyes. As I push and pull at the fabric while needle sculpting the ears I can whisper good wishes and hopes for the kids I donate these toys too.

My toys are teaching me to enjoy finishing and this week I am going to go to the library and see if I can’t borrow a book of finishing techniques to learn more.

Dyeing yarn with walnuts


The past few weeks I have been scurrying trying to collect walnuts before my squirrel friends get them. Its been a mad dash filling up my buckets before the winter sets in. Now I am not depriving the squirrels of food for the winter. I keep only the husks and then I put the nuts minus the husks out for the squirrels. But they don’t seem to understand. They sneak into the shed and get in my buckets when I am not looking and steal my treasure. Really if they would just be patient I will give them what they want and they won’t even have to chew through the nasty green covering before they get to the food.
I will share if they will!! There is plenty for everyone.

Here is a view of one of my neighbors walnut trees–can you see the nut hanging from the branch? No… take a closer lookSee them now… two golden brown nuts just waiting for the right moment to drop.

The fun begins with collecting the nuts. Every morning in the fall I collect while we walk the dog. I pass several houses that have walnut trees and the owners are quite happy to let me pick up the nuts that fall. What you can’t see the nut in the picture above? –here’s a closer look

This morning there were so many leaves that it was hard to see the nuts so instead I shuffled through the leaves stopping every time my feet felt a lump and was rewarded with a big golden nut each time I stooped over to pick through the yellow and brown leaves. I could have picked up way more nuts than I did but I already have 6 dye buckets set up and I am quickly running out of room in the shed. The water in them is already a dark brown. I have even dyed some yarn already.I am very pleased with this yarn first I dyed it orange with cosmos flowers then I over dyed it with walnuts. This winter it will turn into a sweater for my son.

I think walnut is my favorite natural dye–I know– I say that about almost every dye I set up. So maybe I should change that to the easiest natural dye. Now I really take the easy way with this dye. Walnut doesn’t need a mordant so you don’t have to treat the yarn first. There is one less step. Normally I don’t even heat the dye so there is another step eliminated. 

I do set aside some time to de-husk nuts. I have occasionally skipped this step too. But the husks with nuts take up way more room than the husks alone. And beside I do like to share the nuts with the squirrels. And who knows maybe one of these days a walnut tree will sprout up out of a nut that the squirrels have buried and forgotten.

Now either I am much stronger than I look or our local walnuts are not very tough because I don’t have to pound these open with a sledge hammer and rocks. Or drive over them with my car. I just use my small garden pruner and slice the husk in a couple of areas and pry the husk off. With most of the nuts this is very easy to do. On a few unripe ones it is tougher. I could throw the whole nut into the water but usually I just toss it over my shoulder and the previously mentioned squirrel  will take care of that nut for me.

I have a little system I place a 5 gallon pail lined with a strainer bag(check out paint stores to buy these) by my chair and a smaller bucker next to it. I pull on my heavy duty rubber gloves. These heavy duty gloves are probable my most important piece of equipment for dyeing. If you don’t wear them your hands will be stained brown and no amount of scrubbing will get it off- you have to wait weeks while it wears off. Last year I used a double layer of surgical gloves on my hands and the dye managed to seep through the 2 layers and stained my fingers. Then I just start dehusking the nuts. Some nuts are a little brown and rotten so it doesn’t take much to wiggle the husk away from the nut. Others require a little more work. You could use an old steak knife from the kitchen but I find a pruning shears that I also use in the garden is the perfect tool I just slice the outer husk and then twist and the husk pops right off. Throw the husk in the bigger bucket and the nuts into the smaller bucket and before you know it your bucket will be full of the husks. You may notice a few wiggling little wormy things in your husks but don’t be alarmed–they won’t hurt your dye at all. Just pretend they aren’t there if you are a little squimish. Once the buckets are full give the squirrels the nuts and then cover the husks with water. You will see the water turn brown immediately. And that is all it takes. Really– just put the bucket aside and wait for a week or two and you can start using it. Like I said I usually don’t even heat my dye water. I just grab the strainer bag in the bucket and lift it out and put my wool into the liquid. Some times I even put the strainer bag back into the bucket and just leave it to soak. This dye last a very long time. I just threw out the walnut dye from last fall and there was still brown left in it. The older brown dye tends to be a little dull but you can still layer it with other colors to make the brown richer.

The one and only time I had a little of trouble with walnut dye was during the winter. When I went to put my yarn in the dye bucket on a cold morning there was ice on the top. I should have known this would be a problem but I was determined to have some brown on my yarn and I lifted the strainer bag out of the bucket and dropped my yarn into the brown water and went about my business for 2 days at the cabin. Before going home I took the yarn out of the bucket and let it dry for a 8 hours and then gave it a little rinse but much to my dismay the beautiful dark brown started rinsing out too. So I quickly stopped and put my yarn into a ziplock bag and took it home with me. Once I was home I left it in the laundry room slop sink to warm up for a couple of days. And you know what — that did the trick. Once the yarn reached room temperature and sat- the dye absorbed into the yarn and when I rinsed again it stayed brown. I also could have simmered it to fix the color but I don’t like to cook dyes in the house – we don’t want to breath the fumes even though these are ‘natural’ dyes they could be harmful to breath. So I prefer to do all my dyeing outside over the fire pit or in a Nesco roaster that I only use for dyeing in the garage.

So this is how I dye with walnuts(above is me in a sweater I recently finished-it is dyed with walnuts and cosmos). I know I skip some of the steps other people use but my yarn is color fast and I think the colors are beautiful. I think this streamlined dyeing is an easy way to begin experimenting with natural dyes. It doesn’t take much work to set up. And the only necessary equipment is a bucket or a container, water and nuts.


COLOR all in caps – it is the hardest thing for me when I am beginning a project. I am paralyzed by all the choices. I love color but I always stick to the same colors when I am picking out something to myself. I seem to be drawn to safe colors blue as in denim blue, browns and grey when making something for myself. Two out of 3 of the sweaters I have made this fall have been brown and the third is grey although it has a pop of green at the collar and cuffs.  I would love to walk into my LYS and confidently pick out colors that will look good together and when finished be something I love to wear. So I decided to do something about it and went to a class at Cream City Yarn to learn more about COLOR.  Amy Hendrix of  Madelinetosh was our teacher. The class opened my eyes about color and choice.

Now after a short 3 hour class I am no expert but I will look at my color choices a little differently. I still might feel a little overwhelmed at all the choices when confronted by a wall filled with beautiful yarn but who doesn’t feel that way when shopping. Now at least I will have Amy’s confident voice whispering in my head urging me to break down the colors into values and hues as I pair  yellow and purple together. And as I try out new combinations I will be able to think about what makes them work and in a worse case scenario why the combination fails. When I look at pictures of patterns I like I can refer back to what I learned to see why it appeals to me.

All said and done I had a great time I even bought some Madelinetosh yarns to play with. I didn’t manage to break out of my safe zone as you can see –but I don’t care the yarn is soft and lovely. The colors are irresistibly rich and saturated. They are colors I love and am happy in- and now I understand why I like these colors which is a good thing!



cheater quilts

I am one of those pet owners that allow her dog to come up on the bed at night. Yes we are co-sleepers. She doesn’t stay very long – she prefers to stretch out and there isn’t enough room for 3 in a queen size bed. So she jumps up on our bed for about 15 minute and then either goes out on the deck or she goes in the guest room and stretches out on that bed by herself.
Now this could be a problem because she is a big dog and who in their right mind wants to wash the bedding after she climbs up there. So I made what I call cheater quilts. Smaller than the quilts we normally use but big enough to cover the top of the bed. They are small enough to throw in the wash and also pretty enough to leave on the beds during the day.
I love scrounging around thrift stores and sometimes find beautiful handmade tablecloths. I bought a few that were to pretty to pass up but once I got them home they sat on a shelf because I just don’t use tablecloths. Once we got Meva and let her sleep with us I really hated her on my beautiful quilts so I decided to make  comforters to cover the top of the beds and protect our bedding. Its pretty simple I lay out the table cloth and cut a square of plain cotton fabric the same size. Then I figure out how much bigger that it needs to be to cover the top of the bed.I cut out strips of fabric to make my square larger. Then I sew them log cabin style to my square of plain fabric. Another thrifty trick is to use an old worn out sheet for the plain square in the middle. 

Next I pin the tablecloth to my sewn pieces.Now you are ready to sew along the edge of the tablecloth- for this one I used white thread. I also  sewed further inside in a couple of areas so that the quilt was secured inn the middle. Then I finish them like you would a regular quilt with a backing and  batting sandwiched inside. Since this is a cheater quilt I just tie it off to finish.

I think my cheater quilts look rather nice on the bed.  I get to enjoy seeing these beautiful tablecloths instead of them being hid in the linen closet. They are thrifty – mine cost under $20 each. I even have some beautiful cutwork napkins to match one of them and maybe this winter I will sew them up into shams to match our comforters.And the best thing is I don’t yell at puppy to stay off the bed anymore.



This morning I am up early- it is dark outside my window and the world outside is quiet. Meva (our dog) is outside stalking the yard – something woke her up(maybe a raccoon). Its nice to sit in the dark and think and have the house to myself. I used to do this when the kids were small it was the only time I had to myself before the happy chaos would start. Its a nice time for contemplating. I am thinking about what I will see today. We like to spend mid week at the cabin. It is not very far from here – about a 2 hour drive. We will travel on the backroads through little towns. For the last two weeks we have been seeing familiar fall colors. It seems to early but then I remind myself that October is almost here. We saw a white egret in a pond last week and I remember two years ago when we saw almost 20 of them in a pond getting ready for their migration. Soon we will see V s of geese flying south for the winter and hear the honking as cranes fly in formation. I wonder what I will see in the garden when I get to the cabin. Will the cold weather knocked down the flowers or will they still be struggling to produce a few more flowers before going to seed?  I am hoping to pick some golden rod to simmer over the fire but if it is too late I will settle for jewelweed. I wonder if the fishing will be good this evening. Last week it was so windy we couldn’t anchor the boat to fish. Soon it will be time to get everything ready for the winter. The boat will need to be taken out and the pier dragged up on shore. We will have to tidy up the garden so it can sleep through the cold months. And the house will have to be sealed up and the water lines drained so they don’t freeze. For now I am going to stop thinking about winter coming and enjoy the sunrise over the lake and then pack for our drive this morning.

edited to add the sun is up and the rest of the family is awake and my day has officially started with the words — “the dog has puked on the bed you need to do something with the comforter” oh well ; )

« Older entries Newer entries »