Monday, December 30, 2013

Secret Santa

A beautiful Christmas tradition has developed over the past couple of years on etsy's  castteam (Christian Artist Street Team). One where we volunteer to participate - then chief Secret Santa and her elves (helpers) pair up the participants. It is all super secret - not divulged until after Christmas what you received or who you received it from (your secret Santa).

The gifts arrive from all over the globe, which is super exciting.

A new development this year was that the participants created a Christmas Wish List in their "favorites" file. That was a big help in knowing how to bless the one to receive the gift. You had an "inside track" on what their secret wishes were.

Now that it's all out in the open, I can tell you who my secret Santa was and who's secret Santa I was. My secret Santa was Lynnette Cretu. This is her etsy shop:

She sent me the most charming tchotchke box which she decorated by hand using glazes, her wonderful handwriting and drawing skills, and decoupage techniques. She filled with with tea. But it could surely hold any "treasure" you hold dear to your heart. In the Christmas package was also a box of green tea, some of her hand made scripture magnets and an enchanting card with her artwork on it.

I don't know Lynnette but I would love to get to know her. One thing I do know is we are related by our Lord and Savior who made us "sisters" in Christ. If I never get to know her or see her on earth, I know I will in heaven and then I'm going to thank her again for these delightful gifts.

I was secret Santa to Teresa of CreationsbyJessi. I feel like I really know Teresa. We chat often on the castteam chat thread. We have met in person twice because Teresa lives near to one of my sons in the Greenville, SC area. So when I visit my son, Teresa and I get to have a little coffee date as well. Whenever I meet with Teresa, her daughter, Jessi (of CreationsbyJessi) comes too. She also has an etsy shop. This time, I also had the pleasure of meeting daughter #2, Heidi. She snapped the pic of Teresa, Jessi and me.

Teresa's Wish List Favorites helped me to choose what to gift her with. And because I just love to create, I knitted her an infinity scarf in her favorite color (purple) and made her a button charm bracelet. The charm bracelet speaks of her wonderful sewing talent as you can see from her shop. Here we are at Starbucks, Simpsonville, SC.

I hope you'll join in on the Secret Santa tradition next year. It is "no end of fun" and if you have an opportunity to deliver your gift "in person", that's the ultimate.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More Christmas

I have more Christmas Spirit this Christmas than ever before. It almost seems OCD-ish.

I think the reason for this total immersion in Christmas is because I'm not stressing over it. I stopped sending out cards years ago. That caused me entirely too much stress. This year I did not even do any Christmas shopping. I used to spend so much time trying to get people the perfect gift that would delight their socks off. I do have to send most of my gifting by mail and postage is outa sight. So I stopped at the few shops I know my family like to shop at and bought them all gift cards. Popped them in my handmade cards or stuffed them in a box and tied it up with ribbon and one of my handmade gift tags. And the postage for those very small packages was very minimal.

These are the things I've been having fun making. I'm a "maker". That's what makes me happy. When you're happy, there's not much room for stress.

I want to share with ya'll the cute gift tags and the Christmas cards. All of this paper-craft is totally personal.

These are some of the gift tags I made. The one on the left is an old photo of me and my sisters when we were tots. The other is a pic of me in my clown get-up

Here's a close-up of me and my sisters. I am on the right.

This is how they look on a present. I printed them out wallet sized, getting 9 pictures to a page. Then I cut them with a paper punch.

This is one of the cards I made. I made several different versions. This one is my house after a snow storm.
All of the cards I made have personal pics on them. Some of the pics, I edited aggressively with my photo
editing program (Picassa). I printed all the pics on off white card stock. I cut the card photos out with the      fancy scrapbooking scissors. Then glued them to red cardstock. One sheet of cardstock makes 2 cards. If I wrote a message inside, which I did, I do glue a piece of white plain paper, cut to fit inside the card. I write my message first then glue it. Otherwise I may mess up on an already glued in paper and be in deep trouble.

On the inside of the card, torn edge paper can be used. I have even used very faded sheet music on which to write my inside message. I do that by scanning the music, saving it to my photo file, then editing it so it appears very faded.

How do you feel about a handmade card versus a store bought card? Same question regarding gift tags. I feel like I'm giving a part of me away with something that I have thought about, planned out, designed, snipped, glued, altered, etc. I'm all over it. My fingerprints are on it and I'm sending it off with much love and attention.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Handmade Christmas Decorations

My house is ready to embrace Christmas visitors. I've made room, by relocating all the Fall decorations to a closet until Fall of 2014 and dragging out all the Christmas decorations from their hiding places and setting them up in places of honor for this season.

The one new  embellishment I made for this year is the wreath on my front door. I had seen one like it at a shop and knew I had all the materials in my stash. I went home from my outing in the country and put together this wreath in a flash where it hangs proudly on my front door waiting to greet holiday visitors.

I set out a grapevine tree, which I made years ago. It's a table top tree. I scrunched up a couple vintage lace doilies on the table to resemble snow, then set the tree on top of the lace "snow". Also, standing knee deep in snow are a few snow people - standing guard over the tree.

I have two grapevine trees, each in a matching pot, standing guard over the front entry of my house.

These grapevine trees are a joy to make in the Fall. I wrap wild grapevine round and round a tomato cage 'til I'm happy with how it looks. I may have to secure some bits of the grapevine to the tomato cage with bits of florist wire (to secure the vine to the base structure). Once done, these trees can be used over and over again ad infinitum. I have mine all twirled with tiny white lights, which I normally just leave on when I store the trees at the end of the season. I cover the whole enchilada with a giant garbage bag - and into storage it goes until next Christmas season.

There are millions of spots near where I live to access wild grapevine. I usually bring my pruning shears when I'm on the hunt. I toss huge, long strings of vine into the trunk of my car. I leave the vines outdoors until I'm ready the make the trees. I make them outdoors too because the process produces a huge mess of dried leaves (which just get mixed in with the leaves that have fallen off the trees in my garden and eventually raked up and dragged to the curbside for the town to collect and dispose of).

One little important note: if you intend to make grapevine trees and don't get to it right away, remove the leaves clinging to the vine, twirl the vine into circles and put in a tub of water - leave this outdoors - the water will keep the vines nice and supple so you can wrap them around the tomato cage - otherwise they will dry out - become brittle and difficult to wrap around the cage - this lesson was learned the usual hard way.

These three little trees, I made last year. They are cupcake paper liners trees. Made by removing the flat bottom of decorative cupcake liners. The pleated sides of the liners are then wrapped, layer over layer, around styrofoam "trees" and attached to the form with straight pins. On the very top of the "tree" fit a tiny cone made with a scrap from the discarded cupcake paper bottoms. I have mine displayed atop a spool of pink crochet cotton "tree trunk".

Christmas time - my favorite time of year. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift"   11 Cor.9:15

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jazz Up Your Hoodies

I hope you’re all having a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. I hope to be visiting some etsy friends in another state, during the holiday which I’ll spend with one of my children and grandchildren. Pictures will soon follow.

I do have a little project for you to do while I’m on holiday and you’re at “loose ends” now that you’ve finished all your Thanksgiving preparations.

I call it “Jazzing Up A Hoodie”.  This is the second time I have done this process and both times I have been a pleased as punch by the results.

Both of the hoodies I have done this with are black (my favorite clothing color) and because of that it may be a bit difficult to see the results. I had thought about this process for quite a long while before I actually attempted it. I didn’t know how long it would take, if it would work, or if it would live up to my expectations. It fulfilled all criteria excellently.

I doesn’t take long at all. Perhaps an hour. The results are super and it exceeded my expectations. And now I have two awesome hoodies unlike any others on the planet. True “one of a kind-ers”.

This treatment is on a velour hoodie that is one half of a jogging suit (has matching pants). (as if there’s a chance that I’ll go jogging). But I like to look as if that might be a possibility.

Here’s how to get those results:

With crochet thread that matches your hoodie, take a running stitch all along the edge of the hood – from one side of the zipper, all the way around to the opposite side of the zipper. Make sure that this line of stitching is not tight but very relaxed. It’s into these stitches that you’ve just completed around the edge of your hood, that you’ll crochet a couple rows of single crochets with eyelash yarn. I used black yarn and black crochet thread on a black hoodie. But you also could use contrasting colors.  I, momentarily, gave a thought to crocheting with white eyelash yarn but didn’t want so much contrast. Plus the white would get soiled quickly. If using a contrasting color, I would still make the running stitches around the hood edge in the same color as the hood – so as to make them invisible. When you crochet into those stitches, they will be hidden and only the fuzzy crocheted rows will be visible. 

I have no idea why this hoodie looks forest green when it is actually black as coal. But there, you've got the idea. It's a fun project and completely changes the look of a casual hoodie to a super-cool hoodie.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christmas Wreath

In my last week's post, I took you on a little jaunt in the country. One of the stops on that lovely day was to Mulberry Hollow, a sweet little shop that is so much fun to browse around. There are several rooms, each one more enchanting than the last. At the moment, it is filled with nostalgic Christmas decorations.

One of the things I noticed in the shop was a beautiful berry wreath. One look at it and I knew I had to have it - but I had all the makings for this wreath sitting idly by just waiting for me to gather them all up into a wreath for my front door. I had a "never used" straw wreath form and I had a garland of red berries. That was really all that was needed for this glorious wreath. I wired the berries onto the straw and then finished it up with a big red bow.

                               Voila ! Christmas is at the front door

Mulberry Hollow's Face Book page is:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Ride in the Country on a Beautiful Fall Day

A couple weeks ago, on an absolutely gorgeous, sunny, Fall afternoon, I took a ride in the country. The main purpose for this trip was to scope out a venue where I would be doing a Christmas Craft Show. I took my camera and started out on a leisurely ride.

I found the venue quite easily, of course I had the MapQuest directions with me. I drove east and followed the Erie Canal the entire way. All the while thinking of the history of this area and our early settlers moving commodities slowly, by flat-bottomed canal boat pulled by mule, along the towpath which runs along side the canal. Seeing the names of the  old towns, Fair Port, Port Gibson. I passed through, Macedon, Palmyra, Rose, Arcadia and finally to Newark.

These "port" towns were where travelers and merchants would change horses or mules, where they could get a hot meal and perhaps a real bed for the night.

This wonderful invention opened up western New York to the rest of the world. This was wilderness before that.

At one point the canal waters were very wide, much wider that the normal width. In fact, I always thought this was a lake. There were even summer cottages along the banks. But I discovered that this is called "Wide Waters" and it is still canal.

                                                 Wide Waters

I took an entirely different and circuitous route on the way back. I wanted to see what was on the back roads.

                                        A Country Church

                             Apple Trees - Ready for Harvest - Apple Country

Visited a sweet little country shop. Mulberry Hollow in Palmyra, NY. In it's former life it was an auto dealership, gas station. Still around, 100 years later, and still making people happy.

This house was around the block from Mulberry Hollow - the gingerbread was awesome - the talent, and work, and skill, and materials that went into these "Painted Ladies" could not be duplicated today for a million dollars.                          

All in all, a totally lovely afternoon appreciating the sunshine, the seasons, and the 1000 gifts He gives us each day.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


The Naples Grape Fest is an annual event that takes place in the village of Naples, NY in the Fall when the grape harvest of the Italy Valley pours out it's delicious scent throughout the whole valley. The area is filled with wineries. Of late, wine tasting tours have become very popular. But it’s the grape pies that have caught my fancy. You can purchase them right there at the festival or buy the grapes and make one yourself at home. They are very labor intensive, so I prefer to let some other tireless baker make mine.

During the Grape Festival, the town paints all the fire hydrants purple. In fact almost everything is purple.

The town is quaint, with lots of B & B’s and beautiful old homes all along the main street.

The town is situated at the south end of Canandaigua Lake, in a valley cut out by glaciers eons ago. Canandaigua is one of the Finger Lakes. The region has lots more going for it besides grapes. It offers some of the best ski areas in the northeast. It’s a great place to visit anytime of year. There is so much to see and do. Quaint towns, vintage houses, lots and lots of antiquing, Dicken’s Christmas Festivals, Kristkringle in the town of Canandaigua, great restaurants, lake life, cottage life, nature centers, horse racing…………….I could go on and on. Click on the link below for a travelogue of the Finger Lakes Region.

I went to the grape festival this year. I don’t think I’ll do it again on that particular weekend. So these pictures are a record that I braved it once. My next visit will be when there’s nothing in particular happening. Then I’ll be able to find a parking spot and leisurely walk around town, taking pictures and eating ice cream.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Historic House Tour

A couple weeks ago my town Historical Society staged their annual historic house tour. The homes on this year’s tour were all the same genre’……………American Craftsman Bungalow.

This was a movement in the early 20th century, actually originating in England by William Morris (the Morris chair), who was tired of the excessive Victorian architecture and the machine-driven Industrial Age. Morris and his followers wanted to return to the pre-industrial “handmade” society.

I see a definite parallel between this movement and the current atmosphere that we, ourselves, are actually a part of in that we espouse “handmade” as opposed to the manufactured, “cookie cutter” design we see all around us. We see it as finer, more quality driven rather than quantity, we see it as long lasting rather than “throw-away”.

These early pioneers of “handmade” had the same view point.

This movement traveled across the pond and was spearheaded in the U.S. by a gentleman named Elbert Hubbard, author (A Message to Garcia which sold 40 million copies, translated into 37 languages and made into a movie), lecturer and entrepreneur.

He was the founder of the Roycroft Campus, a national historic landmark, located in the small western NY hamlet of East Aurora.  In it’s heyday, 500 people were employed there. It became a mecca for notable artists, authors, philosophers, and power brokers.

Today the Roycroft Campus is a living museum, which presents conferences, holds classes and demonstrations and is definitely worth a visit to little East Aurora, NY. To learn more about the Roycroft Campus, visit



Back to the houses on the tour. Each of these homes was built in that historical period and in the arts and crafts style. The home that you see in the middle picture was actually built by the current owner’s immigrant father from a Sears and Roebuck kit ♥. I was very impressed that all the homes were kept in period with their interior and exterior d├ęcor. When you entered, it was like walking into your grandmother’s or great grandmother’s house.

As you can see from the pictures, bungalows were not ostentatious buildings. They used the space very economically. Dormer windows for upstairs bedrooms, therefore, slanted ceilings in all these rooms. You would often see built in buffets in dining rooms, with leaded glass in the doors and perhaps a stained glass medallion in the middle of windows in the rest of the house. There may be handmade tiles surrounding the fireplace. All in all, the homes had a very “spare” look but yet still warm and cozy.

In my little town, we are blessed to have 30 plus Art and Crafts homes. All built between 1910 and 1930. The historical society included a map with our tour flyer, so that we can have a look at them and marvel at the genius of the “movers and shakers” of our local history.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Third and final week of THE RECTANGLE TUTORIAL and all the marvelous things that can be made by simply knitting up or crocheting up a simple rectangle. I'm sure there are many, many more that I haven't thought of. I would love for you to add the things you thought of that can be fashioned with a rectangle.

Today, we'll talk about shrugs and fingerless gloves. Both are created from a simple rectangle.

For the shrug I crocheted a rectangle 40" long. (Don't forget to always make a foundation chain for crochet and a "cast-on" row for knitting by using a larger hook/needle than the one you'll use to make the body of the item. The reason for this is that most times this beginning row of your work ends up being too tight and your garment looks squeezed and tight at the bottom. If you use a larger implement, this will not happen.

Therefore, a 40-42" first row.* Knit/crochet for 15-16". You should now have a rectangle that measures approximately 40" by 16". Fold this rectangle in half width-wise. Now you have a rectangle with measurements of 40" by 8". Sew each side of the open end of your rectangle together for 8" (for sleeves). In the middle of your rectangle you'll have a large opening. This is where you'll make a ruffled collar. When your rectangle is unfolded and opened up, you will see 2 sleeves on either side and the large opening for your head and shoulders and the bottom back, which I leave unadorned. Voila ♥ a beautiful shrug/bolero.

note: I used a double crochet stitch for this bolero - I made a chain 1 between each DC - I wanted it to have an "airy", mesh look.

Figure #1 is a representation of the rectangle you'll create for your shrug. Figure #2 is the same rectangle, folded in half with the stitches to create a tube sleeve on either open end of the folded rectangle. The open space in between the sleeves is for the neck and shoulders. On one side of this space, I made a ruffle of contrasting color. I left the other side of the open space plain to form the bottom back of the shrug.


Final item: a pair of those trendy fingerless gloves. Knit or crochet a 5" by 7" rectangle. Sew the 5" sides together, leaving an opening for the thumb. (I always use my own hand when doing this). First, I sew up the part below the thumb - the part closest to the fingers. Then I begin to sew from the wrist down to the thumb opening. This is when I use my own hand to determine how large that opening should be. On both sides of this opening, be sure to go over your seams to guarantee  there's no gaps in the seam when your hand is inserted in the glove. You can crochet a ruffle around the wrist of the glove or crochet shells, making the edge look scalloped, or leave it plain.


         The black gloves are longer than 5". You can make them any length you like.

I made these gloves using a single crochet stitch so that I would achieve a close knit to keep those winter chills out. Trimmed one pair with a ruffle in a contrasting yarn and left the other plain.

*check your yarn label to see how many stitches per inch with what size needle/hook. Do the math and you'll know how many stitches you'll need to get a certain length chain/row.

Happy stitching.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Rectangles

As promised last week, here are more things that can be made from knitting a simple rectangle. Today we'll talk about purses. Here are two styles of purses I have made from rectangles.

As you can see, purses 1 and 2 are the same style but different dimensions. These can be made in any dimensions you chose. You just need to set up your plan so that it is balanced and eye-pleasing. I have lined all my purses. You can find really swanky remnants to use for linings at the fabric stores. The fabric stores usually have a good supply of purse handles as well. These handles came in a set of two and are faux tortoise shell.

I have knitted purses 1 and 2 with wool yarn and felted the work after it was knit up. This gives you a very strong fabric, suitable for a handbag.

Purse #3 is a different style. It does not use a separate handle but has a self handle of the same yarn as the rest of the body of the purse.  It is knit in an acrylic yarn, therefore, not felted. It is lined, which helps it to have some heft and stability.

Here are the architectural drawings (made by me) to show you how to build your purse.

For purses 1 and 2, I cast on or made a chain (depending on if you're knitting or crocheting) for one of the flaps you'll see at the top and bottom of diagram 1. The flap will be folded to the inside of the purse (diagram 1a), giving the purse top a straight edge. The flaps will encase the handles, then be sewn down on the purse interior. This is a good reason to have a lining because it hides all this interior structure.

After making the flap the size you want it, you will increase on either side of the flap until you have purse dimensions that you like. When your rectangle is a long as you'd like it to be (don't forget it's going to be folded in half) you will then make the flap on the opposite end.

When I do this, I count stitches and make a note. e.g. Flap = 12 stitches, extensions on either side of flap = 16 stitches. Therefore, after you have made the extensions and are knitting on the large rectangle which will become the outside of your purse, you will be knitting on 44 stitches. When your large rectangle is as large as you want it, you will then cast off the first set of 16 stitches, knit the remaining stitches on the row. Turn, cast off the first 16 stitches on the next row and knit on the remaining 12 stitches of the tab until it is the same size as the opposite tab.

Fold your rectangle in half and sew up the sides. Attach the handles and fold the flap to the inside and sew it down. Line it and...........voila ♥  a beautiful purse.

Diagram of purse 2

This one is a lot simpler. Just a rectangle of whatever size you choose with an opening on both the top and bottom of the rectangle. Make these openings the same number of rows from your purses edge so that they match up when you sew the sides together.

You make the openings by casting off on one row then casting on on the next row. Again, count stitches. e.g. You've knit an inch or so (counted rows and made a note) on 40 stitches, now you want to place your opening. You would knit, say 16 stitches, then cast off 10 stitches, then knit the remaining 16 stitches. Turn and knit the first 16 stitches, then cast on 12 stitches and continue knitting the remaining 16 stitches of the row. Continue knitting on the original 40 stitches until it's as long as you like, then repeat the process for another opening on the other end of your work.  Finish up by knitting the same number of rows as you did at the opposite end before you made the opening. Fold up the sides and sew the seam. Line it with a remnant. Voila ♥  another cute purse.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Today I’d like to share a tutorial with you. This is not my forte’ so it’s going to be rather amateurish. Someday I’ll figure out how to do nice drawings on the computer.

Ponchos is our subject today. The ponchos I’ve made are, in actuality, a big rectangle. No shaping capabilities required. Anybody can knit/crochet up a rectangle, right?

I’ll share with you how to make a poncho out of one rectangle (poncho #1) and an entirely different style poncho made with two rectangles (poncho #2).

This is a picture of poncho #1 that I made for myself. I like how this poncho hangs asymmetrically. I used ombre silk ribbon to make the fringe. 

This is a VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: since you are planning to create a specific measurement rectangle, it is not important to consider yarn weight,  or any other of those pesky little details you consider when making other kinds of garments. All you need to do is look at the wrapper of whatever yarn you choose to use and see what size hook or needle is used for this particular yarn. While you're looking at the wrapper, also look to see how many stitches there are per inch. You know from the schematic that you need a rectangle that is 20" across for poncho #1 and now you also know how many stitches there are per inch so the math principle would be: multiply the stitches per inch by 20" and you'll know how many stitches you'll need to work on. e.g. your yarn wrapper says 4 stitches per inch. You need 20". Therefore 4 times 20 = 80 stitches. 

These are the official instructions and measurements for this poncho #1 which I sourced from a magazine.

Poncho #2 is created from two same sized rectangles. You can knit or crochet the rectangles. The two rectangles need to be sewn together according to the drawings here.

I have made many of poncho #2 for little girls so I personally drew 3 graduating sizes of rectangles with the measurements and size for 3 different sizes of ponchos. 

There's a size small (3-7), a size medium (8-14) and size large (adult) in the little hand drawn rectangles. You need to make two (2) rectangles for one poncho and sew them together as per the diagram.

I think it's so amazing that you can make really cool fashions out of rectangles. Next week I will show you more items that can be fashioned from a simple rectangle.