October 15, 2016

The Knitting Basket


     I've been busy getting together pieces, old and new, for an upcoming Etsy page that will feature my more romantic creations. As a result I have been constantly knitting. While antique shopping and hunting for the perfect vintage wedding gown for photo shoots I found a great basket. It has sidetracked me but it will be a worthwhile investment of time since with better tools I always accomplish more. The basket is the perfect size to hold my knitting gadgets and tools, but it was crying out for some love before I put it to work. It got a good soapy bath in the sink and then it needed to be lined.

The naked, washed basket.

     I had very specific ideas about how I wanted the lining to work. I could have simply made a boxy shape and glue-gunned the fabric to the basket, or sewed it in with sturdy thread, but I wanted a lining that was not only deliciously romantic and ruffly but that I could pull closed to save whatever is my current knitting project from my crazy cats. So now there is a bag that sits inside the basket and has a drawstring. I'll give you an overview of how I made the lining in case you want to try making one of your own.

     I started my design by cutting four pieces of fabric. I will call them "A". These pieces were half the length of the outside perimeter of the basket. I measured all the way around with my tape measure, cut that number in half, and added a couple of inches to this length for allowance. The exact measurement will depend on your basket. Then I figured how far I wanted the piece to hang out over the sides of the basket. I cut four of them this size.

Side pieces "A"

Then I cut the ruffle sections "B". They are four inches wide and twice the length of pieces "A". I ironed a fold into them lengthwise.

 Ruffle sections "B"

I folded over the ends of the "B" sections and pressed them.

Gather folded ruffle "B" and then sandwich it between pieces "A" and sew through all layers. Like so:
Put the ruffle between the side pieces and sew together. Sew down both sides as well. Make two.

When turned right side out it will look like this.

Next you want to cut four more pieces "C" to fit the insides of the basket. (If you don't want to use a contrasting fabric for the inside you could also cut the "B" sections deeper and eliminate "C".)

 The "C" pieces are the lighter fabric deeper in the basket.

 Put them on the same way, this time sandwiching the A/B piece you already made between the "C"s.

When turned out it will look like this.

 Now join the ends of the "C" pieces.

It should come out like this. The "C' pieces go all the way around, but the A/B pieces are not joined so they are split around the basket handles.

Cut two bottom pieces.

 Sew one bottom piece to one side piece 'C" like this.

 One bottom piece sewn in.

Now sew the other bottom piece to the other C'" piece but leave an opening of a couple of inches.

Pull the whole piece through the hole. 

I sewed a casting about a half an inch from the ruffle and ran a ribbon through each side.

 A top view of the finished lining.

I love it!

One of the reasons I really wanted this basket is to accommodate my beloved "Yarnit" globes. They are perfect to keep my balls of yarn clean and in one place. They are also great for using more than one color of yarn at a time. I'll put a link to the Yarnit site at the end of this blog.

 The Yarnit pair.

A perfect fit!

 There's just the right amount of room. Two Yarnits, my notebook, my Knit-kit (which has scissors, a measuring tape, a crochet hook, a counter etc. all in one compact), and my current shawl project.

Here I have gathered up the bag in the basket.

The bag out of the basket.

Happy knitting

Link to the Knit Kit site

Next week I will have a nice giveaway. Don't miss it!

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October 8, 2016

Raspberries in the Birdbath

     It’s autumn in Pennsylvania and so the leaves are falling and the late summer berries have ripened. The birds are enjoying the fruits on their migrations and, as a result, are depositing the digested fruit on decks and cars throughout the area. It happened that shortly after I had done my routine scrubbing of my white, concrete birdbath, nature called and a berry was deposited into the sparkling clean water there.

 The princess pink birdbath

     From my kitchen window I noticed that the water was streaked with a dark pink. This concerned me. It was certainly puzzling and for a moment I wondered if maybe an injured bird had been in the water and then the thought of the berries came to me. A few hours later I looked out and saw that the entire birdbath was a lovely shade of princess pink. What started out as a bird mess had transformed into something magical. It was an inspirational omen! How lovely it would be, I thought, to have that same berry water come spring when the roses and early tulips were in bloom. I began to develop a plan.

Magical waters

     I briefly considered food color. It is food safe, supposedly, but I also know what happens to my grandsons' temperaments when they eat too many artificial colors. The last thing I wanted was fussy fowl fighting with one another in the yard and unable to go to sleep at night when little birdies ought to be tired. No, I thought. Go natural, use berries. I considered searching the area for those local staining types. Visions of traipsing through people’s yards with stained fingers and thistles in my socks flashed through my mind. I know my neighbors wonder about me as it is. Finding berries in neighboring backyards would not do.

     I went to the supermarket and searched the fruit. There were a few choices, but which one should I buy? Blackberries would very likely change the water to blue. No, no, pink had to be the color. Raspberries looked perfect. I bought a couple of baskets (frozen might do just as well in winter), and gave it a try. Alas the raspberries fell short. In the fresh water of the bath I crushed two berries to release the magical pink. They did, but barely. The bits of crushed fruit looked like teeny, tiny rose petals floating there and that looked very romantic but the water stayed mostly clear. It wasn't going to be that easy. I set out to traipse through neighbors' yards.

The magical berries

     The wild berries are the real secret. The pink shade from two or three berries is just perfect. Now I have to scour the region to find them. And I'm wondering how well they will freeze so that I have plenty for next spring. We will just have to see.

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October 1, 2016


     I love being able to do more than one thing at a time. Folding laundry is much less boring while getting through a few phone calls, and checking email while waiting for dinner to simmer knocks out a couple of humdrum chores at the same time. I learned raising children how to make the best of my time so that I have some for play or even just a few minutes to myself. Lately I had a thought: If I can apply that same multi-tasking from the jobs that must be done to the ones that I really enjoy, doesn’t it make sense that I can have twice as much fun in half the time? I decided to try out this theory. 

Several years ago I read some books written by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Ms. Zimmerman is a legend in the knitting world, not only as a brilliant expert in the architecture of knitting but she is one of my favorite authors as well. This gal has written stories about how her husband got pulled over because she was knitting as they rode together, on the back of a scooter no less. Apparently Ms. Zimmerman was quite the multi-tasker as well.   

I recall that she liked to read while knitting. Woah, I thought, how cool would that be? I wish I had more time for both reading and knitting! My husband, a great out-loud reader, for some reason does not want to follow me around all day reading, no matter how often I ask, so I tried doing this combination of reading and knitting by myself. I propped up a book and got out my needles. It can be done, but I found it didn't work well for me. Firstly, whatever I was knitting had to have a rather simple pattern. Anything too fancy was impossible since I had to focus on the pattern as well. Socks are right out. Reading a novel can't be done while knitting socks. Probably not even by Ms. Zimmerman. Then there is the physical book I wanted to read. It had to be handled. It had to stand up, at the right angle, the pages have to stay open where you want them and yet still be easily turned between stitches. It was years ago that I attempted reading while knitting and never tried again. Until recently.

I was working a rather repetitious pattern on a large piece, specifically a beautiful shawl I made as a custom order for my Etsy page. It required ever-increasing long rows, with all the real shaping at the ends. The thought occurred to me that if I could watch a television show while working on this project I could probably read. Right? So I got to thinking. Most of what I read is now on my electronic device, namely my much-loved iPad. I have a Kindle app and several novels, including all of my own. (Yes, I do read my own books.) Reading a novel on my iPad has many advantages over a book, especially if I want to read while knitting. I decided to try again.

One of my favorite spots in my home.

I have a little keyboard stand that holds my device at a great angle and since there are no pages to fuss with, that problem is solved. It stays open and it’s lit. I set myself up in one of the favorite spots in my house, my lovely breakfast room, and gave it a shot.

Low and behold I can indeed knit while reading. In fact, I made a second shawl and they are both quite beautiful and I enjoyed a great book at the same time. I discovered some other things as well. This is very probably what heaven is like. You take something you love doing and another you love doing and mix them together. Then to take it to another level consider more things. I love a hot cup of tea. Since it still feels like summer here I turned on the big ceiling fan over the breakfast room table and cooled the space off and then put on the teapot. I like cookies so I set a couple of those out on the table as well. And music. I love music. I have a CD that I bought in a department store for a couple of bucks that has garden music. It's mostly piano and flute music played to a background of chirping chickadees and warblers. Now I was reading a great book while knitting and having a hot cup of tea, and cookies, and enjoying a nice breeze in my favorite room that sounded like a refreshing day in the garden. I lost count of how many things I was enjoying at once. And, the phone never rang once. Just heaven.

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September 24, 2016

Oh Where, Oh Where, Have I Been?


     Hello! Did you miss me? I admit it, I have been remiss in posting. I have taken a break from novel writing and been off on a new adventure. A few weeks ago I set up shop on Etsy!

Our shop banner

     What the heck is Etsy you ask? Etsy is an e-commerce site where people sell handmade and vintage items. It's the perfect place to buy lovely soaps and pretty ceramic yarn bowls, which are some of my favorites. I have thought about selling there for years and I finally got my act together and opened an outlet for some of my handmade projects. It isn't quite my vision yet, but it's a start.

A cute handmade beanie

     This still feels new and opening the site has certainly been a learning experience. But it wasn't difficult and Etsy has plenty of help areas and there were forums with answers to most of my questions. It may not be perfect, but they certainly offer plenty of support and encouragement. I sold a few items right away and recently finished a custom order that I really enjoyed very much. I put up a few scarves and some new, quickly made items, like cute, slouchy beanies for fall and my popular granny market bags. I use the bags myself for shopping and around the house and I am often asked where I got them. My daughter and I made several for the shop.

A Granny Market Bag

     I hope you'll visit us at Etsy. Is there anything special you would suggest we sell? I wanted to put up a few items to kind of get my feet wet with the mechanics of a shop before I work up some of the more elaborate and unusual things I enjoy making most. If you "favorite" us there you will automatically get notified whenever we post new items. Maybe there’s someone in your life who would love a handmade piece. Or, how adorable would you look in a pretty slouchy beanie? Have you ever seen something hand knit or crocheted you wanted but couldn’t find? You can contact us on Etsy, we would love to hear from you!
My first custom order for my Etsy page.

Another shawl from the same pattern.

     It’s been nice throwing myself into my handiwork again. I don’t always get my hooks and needles out in the heat of the summer, but this year has been so terribly hot, and the garden has been suffering thorough such onslaughts of bugs, that I have been indoors in the air conditioning more than usual. It's nice to wake up in the morning with a plan to get the day’s work done and then enjoy some quiet time knitting.

     Now the children are back in school here and just the sound of the buses out collecting them, even with the chirping of hot summer day cicadas in the background, holds the promise of cooler days.

Thank you for visiting! Please come again!

July 23, 2016

What is it about Purses?


     The day that my mother had her handbag stolen in the supermarket is a memory that has stayed with me since childhood. She was devastated. All of the grocery money gone. Someone asked her for directions to the peanut butter and she stepped away from her shopping basket to help them while an accomplice took her purse. I remember how angry and violated she was. The money was gone but even as a kid I knew there was more to it than that. They had taken a part of her.

A handbag like my Mom's

As long as I could recall we were never allowed to go into my mother’s purse. It was hers, something personal and sacred, a mysterious container where she kept her cash and her keys and that hush-hush pack of Tareyton cigarettes that she only ever smoked in private. Now I understand what she lost when those thieves took her purse.

The ads claimed that Tareyton smokers would "rather fight than switch".

For me, growing up in a household with five younger siblings meant that little was safe. Later, when I had children of my own, I was reminded that just being kids they get into everything. Without realizing all of the reasons why, I too set a rule that no one was ever allowed in my purse. It was less about preserving my privacy and more about saving my sanity. If my keys and money fell into the hands of the little buggers I might never find them again. And so I developed something of an obsession over my handbags and how they meant privacy and respect. They are personal statements when they are hung over your shoulder or tucked beneath your arm. Even though it may be purely my vivid imagination, there is a part of me that always wonders what mysteries and clues to a woman’s life lurk there within the confines of her handbag.

You can get a few hints from the outside, observinging women going about their day with their bags. I could watch them for hours. I remember seeing a woman carrying a perfectly suited bag at Linvilla Orchards, in the fall. She was a pretty young brunette wearing autumn neutrals with a pumpkin colored leather bag and she was a great example. The bag spoke volumes about how comfortable she was with herself. It wasn't disproportionately small compared to her body which tells me she wasn’t unhappy with her weight. It didn't overpower her either in size or contents and it made the attractive topknot on her head even prettier. Purses women carry always spark my imagination.

Although I am sure that the reason for the passion over purses varies from person to person, there's a lot of us who are fascinated by them. Handbags are a huge market and there are ladies frequently spilling out the contents for those, “What’s in your purse?” videos. Some of the photo sharing sites have entire sections devoted to them.

A special handbag.

This week I received a beauty, a truly stunning handbag. It was sent to me from a devoted reader, who reads not only all of my novels, but my weekly blogs as well. I don’t know her, but she tells me all of the things I share have touched her and in many ways she feels as if she knows me. That, in turn has touched me. Not to mention that she has figured out, purely from my blogs, what a sucker I am for a lovely handbag. So, she’s rather clever too. It's is really wonderful to know that there are people out there who are paying attention. I love that! Her gift is perfect and I really appreciate the trouble she went through to get it to me.

Handmade and a perfect shade of pink!

In turn I have decided to let her, and all my readers inside this lovely bag. I fear that the contents are really not all that thrilling, but in case you're wondering what’s inside my new and incredibly beautiful, perfectly delicious pink, leather purse, here it all is. I am truly enjoying it and you can see me tooling around town with it everywhere. I might even name it. Any suggestions?

A peek inside the bag filled with some of my most prized possessions.

I like to keep my purse organized with little bags and clutches.

I have my wallet and my iPhone, a writing book for notes and a pouch for things like my earbuds and hair clips.

I always carry good pens for book signings and my journal for keeping ideas.

My date book helps me be sure I keep my appointments and makes me smile.

Another pouch holds my lotions, glass nail file, manicure kit, a few make-up essentials and mints.

Now I can grab my lovely new purse, my knitting bag and my notes and travel the world in style!

My husband and I and my lovely bag out in the world.

If you love this bag you can find it here

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