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.