Brain Dump

In the last few days, I’ve come across an abundance of amazing events, letters and websites. Since my work at the moment is in a pure production phase, I’m going to share other people’s cool stuff instead.


Wet spring weather brings out the godzilla slugs in our garden. Before I go to bed, I walk out in the rain to peel them off my tender new lettuce. Despite my dislike of the creatures, I couldn’t resist this felt snail.

I can’t recall what chain led me here, but Gartenfilz von Frauke is only one of many fantastic pieces in the Filz Galerie, a German gallery of felt pieces created by participants in Feltalong. I really, really wish I read German because I want to know more about the other pieces in the blog.

If you want to participate in the Crafster Feltalong challenges, search for ‘feltalong‘ discussions on the Craftster felting discussion boards.

feltunitedGet on board for the International Day of Felt, October 3.  2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers, as declared by the United Nations. Sign up, spread the word, plan, organize and participate. More details at FeltUnited.

Future Craft Collective is a very creative group of energetic folks working to make something beautiful in community. Two things melt my heart: seeing people make art together and watching a child bring an idea to life. Some lucky folks in Austin may get to work with them in person; I’ll have to settle for admiring from a distance and then continuing to build art in my community.


The yummy felt bead necklaces made by  Kleas and company for Mother’s Day gifts look good enough to eat. These remind me of the world’s best salt water taffy, but made of wool. What more could a mother want?

Not sure how to describe the next bit, except to say watching this video and getting into the mind of this woman led me to dimensions I had never imagined. See and watch crochet coral as examples of hyperbolic geometry.

paper_boatTime for a slight fiber detour to the world of paper craft. Make some crazy collage, paint some paper, sew some paper together, fold a boat and then mail it to Joanne Kaar. Each piece will  be auctioned in support of Mary-Ann’s Cottage, a living history museum in Scotland. Submission deadline is August 10, 2009.

Stating my intention here,  in the hopes that will make it happen (thank you Future Craft Collective), I plan to embellish paper with the parents and children of Seattle API at the next monthly gathering of the Handcraft Group. Look on theirblog for photos of the oustanding pieces they have received so far.

AP Fair Showcases Businesses & Practices

Interested in great clothing that’s good for the planet? Want a relaxing chair massage? Ready to add a little flair to your life with felt? Want to trade in some of your best loved books?

All this and more will be available at the Seattle AP Home-based Business Fair (6/14, 2:30-4:30PM), which will showcase the livelihoods of a dozen local families, feature a book swap and a bake sale of delicious homemade treats, including some that are gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan. Bring the whole family!

Bring your gently used books (board books, pregnancy, parenting, children’s poetry, stories and literature) to the fair to share and trade. Unclaimed books will be dropped off at Goodwill, so don’t be shy!

WHAT: Home-Based Business Fair

WHEN: Saturday, June 14, 2:30-4:30PM

WHERE: Jackson Place Cohousing, 800 Hiawatha Pl S (1 block east of Rainier Ave., off Dearborn). On-street parking. map

Sponsored by Seattle Attachment Parenting

Businesses include:

Functional Felt Art

Sparrow’s Tail (R)
Organic Clothing For All Ages

Alexius Bodyworks
Therapeutic Massage, Deep Tissue, Relaxation

Village Beauty
In-Home Hair Services, Specializing in Haircut Playdates

Little Bee Productions
Small Business Web Services

Perry Janssen
Psychotherapist & Family Coach
Speaker for women, parenting, and family issues
Writer for NW Baby and Child
Freelance writer

Erika Jennings
Workshop facilitator and public speaker on emotional intelligence and achieving mutual understanding

Amanda Quaid
Home Organization

Arthur Salamon, MA
Counseling and Psychotherapy for Individuals and Couples

Olivia Joy Salamon, MA
Counseling and Psychotherapy for Individuals and Families
Attachment Parenting Advocate
206-547-4146, ext 1

Gnomes and Sheep

Next Tuesday, April 8th, I’ll be hosting the monthly Seattle API craft group at my house. Since we have a mixture of small and large hands, I’m going to prepare the materials for pipe cleaner sheep from Toymaking with Children by Freya Jaffke. This simple project involves wrapping roving around pipe cleaners bent into rough animal shapes.


As time allows, we’ll also make some gnomes and fairies, with flower petal skirts and elven hats sewn from flat felt.


This event is open to parents and children of all ages. There is no fee as my craft stash should have plenty of materials. If you would like to contribute to the endeavor, we will use pipe cleaners, roving, wooden beads and large-petal artificial flowers.

I hope to see you next week!

Rub a Dub Dub; Six Kids and Some Felted Eggs

Monday afternoon: Tera, mother of three and veteran homeschool goddess sends me an e-mail asking whether I had plans for our monthly AP craftgroup meeting on Tuesday. Could we felt Easter eggs? Sure! I love it when other people come up with the ideas. Providing the materials is the easy part.

Monday evening: I share with Lance my checklist of things I need to do the next day. First on my list, before picking up all the teensy toys with small parts, is a stop at the drugstore to get some plastic eggs. After a moment’s hesitation, he said ‘I guess I don’t need to hold on to this surprise any longer’ and plunged head first into his closet, emerging a couple of minutes later with a box of styrofoam eggs he’d picked up on clearance in May 2007, intending to surprise me this year with a set of felted eggs. I gulped and gushed simultaneously, apologizing for all the times I’d complained about his habit of hording and stashing seemingly useless ephemera.


Tuesday morning: clean, tidy and organize the house in preparation for curious children and watchful (though forgiving) parents. Bring wool, towels, styrofoam eggs, nylon stockings, liquid soap, squeeze bottles, ribbon, scissors and needles upstairs.


In the interest of time, I decided it was better to use solid forms for the eggs, rather than try to create an entirely wool egg. A couple mothers brought plastic eggs, which we wrapped with masking tape to give the wool some purchase; the rest of us used the colored styrofoam eggs.

We drafted small amounts of wool roving and then wrapped it around the eggs. It is challenging to get a round form evenly covered with drafted roving. The little hands needed help with drafting and wrapping their eggs to ensure there was enough wool and thorough coverage.

Once wrapped, we carefully stretched a nylon stocking to create a large enough opening for the egg, trying not to disturb the roving as we placed the egg at the toe. Once in place, we tied a knot as close as we could get it to the egg, then squirted hot water over the little package. Dipping our hands in liquid olive oil soap, we started to rub a dub dub.


This is where the fun began and the tedium set in. Lots of kids like to dip their hands in the soap and love the suds they create, but after 30 seconds of rubbing, they start to wonder how soon the egg will be done. Realistically, it takes five to ten minutes of rubbing before the process is completed. I made one egg as a demonstration, and finished four eggs begun by the children.


I found it more effective to remove the stocking after a minute or two of rubbing, once the wool was no longer slipping around on the egg so I could felt it on my hand, rolling around the shape, applying equal pressure to the entire surface. Both times I left my egg in the stocking, they grew little spikes on the top, which I cut off and then felted the cut edge.

The pink egg was my favorite. This mother was pulled away from her task repeatedly by her children, forgetting when she returned to it how long she had already spent rubbing, effectively felting it much longer than the rest of us. I’m always amazed at just how good felt looks when it is really worked for a long time (note to self: hang in there longer than you think necessary). Check out Carrie’s post for her description of the morning.

Tune in next week for the follow-up installment: felted bird nests with my daughter’s second grade class.

Inspiring Mothers

A friend called me on Monday morning to wish me a belated Happy Mother’s Day. She, too, is a mother, so I was a little surprised to receive her call, and her apology for getting to me so late. She has established a tradition since becoming a mother three years ago, of honoring mothers who inspire her on Mother’s Day. What a wonderful idea. I was touched to be included in her circle, and immediately started thinking of the women who would be on my list.

In no particular order, these women are all part of the Attachment Parenting community in Seattle:

fritilaria.jpgErika Jennings – for pursuing a path to peace, for envisioning a different way to communicate with our children, using the big-hearted language of Compassionate Communication. Thank you for making this your life work and sharing it with me.*

Sara Cole – for leading and guiding our community, for your friendship and support, for being the bridge that enables our community to be.

Tera Schreiber – for the gift of wisdom and the ability to express it so well. Thank you for bringing all of the hard work of parenting into perspective, and encouraging us to discuss it.

Jen Witsoe – for vision and leadership; with your ambition and drive, we will create a better place for families to grow together.**

Kristin and Heidi – for reminding me how precious and joyful the small moments can be with a wee one. Your faithfulness has given me a reason to continue carving out time in the week for my nourishment.

Erika Carlson – for leading a life that treads lightly on the earth, and for working to better your relationships rather than turn away from strife and difficulty.

*Erika is a peer educator working with the “Peaceful Families, Peaceful World Project“; she moderates a bi-weekly practice group that meets on the first and third Sunday of the month at the Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center.

**Jen is spearheading the research around forming a new co-housing community, gathered around a love of family and diversity, living in affordable housing in an urban setting. A general information meeting for anyone interested in exploring this idea is being held at the Douglass-Truth Library on Sunday, June 3rd, between 3-5pm.

Stencil Day

Two weeks ago, I offered to teach the parents in our Attachment Parenting Craft Group how to create freezer paper stencils.

We started with graphics I downloaded from Stencilry; another source is Microsoft Clip Art.


Jennifer had great success tracing cookie cutter animals and cutting out the image with scissors; she made nine shirts with her older son after trying unsuccessfully to get an image cutout with my dull Exacto knife blade.


Freezer Paper is coated on one side, and plain paper on the other. It is available in most grocery stores.


Tools of the trade: freezer paper, a wide sponge brush, and fabric paint. Versatex is sold at art supplies store as a silk screen ink; Artist and Craftsman Supply in the u-district sells a 4 oz bottle for $4.49. The ink is very thick, creating a nice opaque finish on a dark shirt, just be careful that it is applied in a smooth, even layer. Neopaque by Jacquard is a fabric acrylic; I found this 2.25 oz jar at Pacific Fabricsfor $4.99. It has a very thin, watery consistency, which seeped under the edges of my stencil, and dripped on the t-shirt when I tried to pour it onto my sponge brush; I wouldn’t recommend it, though if it is the only thing available, it will do the job. SoSoft by DecoArt had the best consistency of the three, though I had to apply several coats to get the coverage I wanted. The squeeze bottle made it easy for little hands to use, without risking a large spill. It cost about $1.50 for a 1 oz bottle at JoAnn Fabrics.

If you are just getting started, I would recommend SoSoft because you can get several colors with little upfront investment to see if you enjoy the process. Don’t forget to pick up some new blades for your Exacto knife while you are out.


Alden chose a fish, which Rima traced and then cut out with the Exacto knife; Alina stayed close to her mom offering moral support and encouragement.


When the design was cut out, Alden ironed the freezer paper to his mom’s shirt, and then ironed the negative to a piece of fabric. Make sure the iron is really hot, to ensure a firm seal on the inside edges.

He used a wide paint brush to move the ink around after squeezing it out of the bottle. We hung the shirts up to dry, and then two weeks later, peeled off the freezer paper. The ink should dry in less than eight hours, though the directions specify 24 hours. Fabric paints need to be heat set, so run the hot iron over them after you have peeled away the paper.


Rima said she has the perfect shirt in mind for the fabric patch, and her well-love shirt just got a little brighter.

My apologies to any faithful readers who have seen bits of this process repeated on previous posts. A new mom to our group asked today if all of the info was in one place, and I realized I didn’t really have it collected in a single post. There you are Paola! You are ready to go!

Fill My Cup

Tuesdays have become the day when all of my needs, both creative and emotional, are fulfilled in eight hours by my tribe of Attachment Parenting families. In the morning, the AP craft group meets at my house to learn a new skill or work on a project and share in the joys of parenting small children while playing with hot liquids and pointy sticks.


This week, Jen showed Kristen and I how to improve soap by milling it and then adding common kitchen ingredients. We started by grating twelve ounces of olive oil soap and melting it on the stovetop with nine ounces of water. Once you can trace a spoon across the surface, the soap is ready for whatever you would like to add.


Kristen added ground oats and cinnamon.


I added orange zest and cloves.

Once the ingredients were thoroughly mixed, we poured them into a shallow container and put them in the freezer to solidify. When the liquid has set, the soap needs to be left undisturbed for at least three weeks to dry. Then the bars can be cut, or milled again. As you browse the shelves of your favorite body store, you will notice the finest soaps have been milled at least three times. Something in the process of melting and remelting soap alters the chemical composition and produces a better soap.

dojo.jpgAfter lunch, Owen and I head to aikido at Tenzan Aikido. Owen gets to run around, practice the disciplined spiritual art of aikido and play with his friends while I socialize with Sara and Rosie. This usually means that I knit while Sara reads to Rosie; I try to limit my interruptions to once per page. Today, I was (re)working the sleeve on my Café Bastille Cable sweater.

A few days ago I noticed that the sleeve seam was coming loose, and since the sleeves were not long enough, I decided it made more sense to try adding a few more inches than just tighten up the seam. Not sure how many more inches I wanted, I put the sweater on while I knit the shoulder. One of the mothers told me at the end of class that she and another onlooker were trying to figure out if I was knitting the sweater while it was on my body. That would be an amazing feat of flexibility! In the end, I decided the entire sleeve needed to be reknit because my gauge was tighter the second time around, which made the lower section seem sloppy. I frogged the sleeve and will redo it in the round using magic loop.

After aikido, we zoomed over to Salmon Bay to pick up Sophie from school, then zoomed back home to pick up a potluck dish I made during lunch for dinner at Sara’s house. To my delight, my zooming to and fro was so effective that I was able to spend a few extra minutes at home reading email, while Sophie and Owen played cards in the car; this met my need for a little solitude.

Sara had a bumper crop of six families arrive for dinner. As Matt and Sara tried to figure out how to fit everyone around the table, I caught up with Erika who had just returned from a nine-day Non-Violent Communication intensive in New Mexico. I am forever grateful to Erika to introducing me to NVC, also known as Compassionate Communication; it has changed the way I view the world and approach my personal relationships. Jen brought a fantastic twist on Cinderella for everyone to read: Cinder Edna. We shared great food and co-parented our large flock of children. It was a wonderful evening that met my emotional needs for connection and authenticity.

We managed to leave Sara’s without drama or hysterics, an improvement over last week, and get home in time for Sophie and Owen’s normal bedtime routine. Lance walked in the door just as we were starting to read our bedtime stories. He relieved me of my parental duties so I could join my knitting tribe at the Fiber Gallery for our weekly Sit ‘n Knit. I felt like Norm on Cheers as everyone told me how much they had missed me the last few weeks.

I love Tuesday.

PS. If you are interested in learning more about NVC, Marshall Rosenberg will be speaking at Town Hall on March 23rd. I saw him speak last year and can honestly say it rocked my world. I’m going to hear him again, but this time I’m taking Lance and hopefully a few friends with me.

PPS. The quinoa pilaf I’ve cooked two weeks in a row continues to please. The recipe, as requested, follows:

Quinoa Pilaf
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
ground black pepper
2 tablespoons solid coconut oil
1 small onion , minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
¼ cup currants
¼ cup pine nuts , toasted in a small dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes

1. Melt coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and sauté until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes.
2. Add turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic to sautéed onion; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer.
3. Add quinoa and stir to coat grains with coconut oil; cook until toasted, about 3 minutes.
4. Stir hot water and salt into quinoa; return to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 16-18 minutes.
5. Off heat, remove lid, sprinkle currants over rice in pan (do not mix in), and place kitchen towel folded in half over saucepan; replace lid.
6. Let stand 10 minutes; toss in toasted pine nuts, fluff quinoa with fork, and serve.

Dipping Beeswax Candles

Every Tuesday morning, I host a knitting group for crafty parents at my house.


The common denominator for this group is the Seattle chapter of Attachment Parenting International. I have been part of this community since Sophie was a baby; now that my children are in school, it is time for me to give something back to the parents who are new to the parenting journey. I love the mix of babies in slings, nursing toddlers and motoring pre-schoolers zooming around the house as we try to squeeze in a row or two of knitting, and a little fiber talk.

This week, our normal group took a break to create beeswax candles at Jen and Matt’s house with their boys, Cuinn and Kevan.

The first step in dipping candles is to melt the beeswax. Jen started the process at 7:30 am, estimating it would take several hours to melt. They buy large chunks of beeswax from a gentleman who sells honey by the gallon from his home in Lacey, WA; this wax is unfiltered, so it still contains chunks of pollen. Mmmmmmm. The smell is heavenly.


Once the wax is melted, cut a piece of wick twice as long as your dipping container, with a little bit extra for holding; in our case, we cut six twelve inch pieces. Dip the wick in melted wax three times, letting it drip and cool a little in between each dip. The first time it will barely look like the wick has any wax coating. Jen recommends dipping quickly to ensure even distribution of the wax. If you leave the wick in the wax too long, the early layers will melt back into the pool.


Jen rested a large dowel between two shelves in her kitchen doorway, next to the stove. I dipped each pair in turn, placing them on the dowel to cool after a double dip in the wax. By the time I was done with the sixth pair, the first was cool enough for another bath. After each of these early dips, straighten the wicks by hand, or roll them on a counter, as they will naturally curl and bend.

Did I mention covering the floor with newspaper? There will be plenty of drips along the way, so unless you enjoy scraping your linoleum with your fingernails, tape down a layer of newspaper.


Periodically trim the bottom of your candles to remove the little “nipple” that develops from the drips; this will ensure that you are dipping the entire candle.

Continue dipping each pair, topping up the container as necessary to keep the level of wax right up to the brim, otherwise your candles will be much wider at the bottom than at the top.  

After an hour of dipping, I had six pairs of beautiful beeswax candles.


I couldn’t resist including a couple of pictures of Cuinn (the elder) and Kevan (the younger), our young apprentices. These adorable boys are incredibly fortunate to grow up in a house with creative parents who have put their children foremost in their tender years. It is a joy and a pleasure to see them every week.

Thanks for hosting Jen and Matt!