Super Sunday

Weekends are usually my time for creating, and this weekend was no exception. I created two felt projects on Saturday that deserve their own post. First, I want to catalog the variety of things I accomplished on Sunday, an amazing day because it started with absolute silence. What a sweet sound. My curiosity got me out of bed more than anything else. Looking around, I found no sign of children, husband or breakfast. Hmmm. Call Lance’s cell phone, but no answer.

The remnants of a hastily tossed together needle felting project from Saturday night were still on the table, so I sat down to finish up.

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I was trying to create a felt brooch to hold together a shawl I was wearing to a school event. The pieces were needle felted together, and a brooch backing sewn to the back. By the time I took it off before bed, two of the leaves were hanging on by a fiber; some repairs were needed to give it more structure.

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The pieces of this felt flower were also on the table. It began in March after buying some silk to layer on top of felt. The inspiration for this technique came from a British fiber artist.

Suddenly the children burst through the front door, followed closely by Lance. He took them to Sunset Bowl at 7:45 am for early morning 10 pin. Did you know it only costs $0.79/game between 7-8am on Sunday? Sophie had a coupon from school, so she and Owen bowled for free. They stopped on the way to buy bagels, a quart of orange juice, a bag of mini carrots and a cucumber, so they could munch and play at the same time. As a special treat for me, they bought an angel food cake and strawberries, which they served as soon as they got home. How can you beat angel food cake for breakfast?

When the excitement died down, I showered while everyone else went outside. By the time I was dressed, the family was fully engrossed in mowing the lawn so they could play croquet (they did a fantastic job of mowing, trimming and raking front, back and parking strip – yeah team).

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Not ready to let go of my quiet time, I crossed two more items off my to-do list: hang two pieces of flat felt that were getting dingy with dog hair as they fell to the floor over and over.

One remaining piece of flat felt really didn’t seem wall-worthy, so I sewed it up into a basket.

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Using a technique I first tried here.

I think we stopped for lunch at some point, and then Lance took both kids to watch him play softball in Lynnwood. That gave me two more hours all to myself.

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Two more lunch bags for Sophie and Owen, first tried here, checked off the list.

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Family still gone…I think it is time to sit down and knit. Ahhhh.

Tree Huggers

Jeremy Carlson’s birthday is forever burned on my memory: he was born on the very first Earth Day, April 22nd 1970. If the world could have voted for someone to be born on this day, they would have chosen Jeremy, or his wife Erika, the ultimate tree-huggers. 

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It seemed appropriate to use my own red tree design to create his stencil.

Not a reflection on how special she is, but I managed to entirely forget their daughter’s birthday. If only she had been born a little after Jeremy’s birthday, then I would stand a better chance of remembering, but birthdays are really hard for me. There is something about the pressure to perform on a specific day that ends up sabotaging my best-laid plans. Some day I’m going to sit down to do some deep soul searching and the origins of my birthday complex, but suffice it to say that I was chagrined to realize, while I was speaking to Erika on the phone, that I had forgotten her daughter’s second birthday. Ugggh (that is the sound of my heart sinking to the floor).

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Anna is the lucky recipient of my children’s hand-me-downs, many of which were lovingly made by my mother. This green long sleeve shirt was worn by both Sophie and Owen when they were three, and managed to survive two messy eaters without any major stains (few shirts have earned that distinction). When creating a shirt for Anna, I decided to recycle this shirt and add an ostrich stencil as a patch for a little extra color. Angry Chicken has great tips for making this process more solid than my slap-dash version.

I buy 100% of my children’s clothes used at consignment stores, Goodwill or yard sales because I can buy nice clothes without laying out lots of money for first run retail prices. However, there are times when necessity dictates a different path, and when necessary, buying quality is the best option. When we lived in New Hampshire and the three closest consignment stores were an hour away in three different directions, I decided to order three identical shirts for Sophie from Land’s End. Four years later, these shirts still look brand new, despite heavy wearing by two active children. They were the most expensive shirts I’ve ever bought, but they were worth every penny. Betz White, a fashion industry insider, wrote a post in honor of Earth Day expounding on the wastefulness and hype built into the marketplace. In her follow-up post, she mentions working for a company with a super employee discount so she could buy clothes that last for her boys. Which company would that be? Land’s End. Strange but true.

Freeform Flower

I think this is one of those posts where pictures say more than 1000 words. This was my process for creating a 3D felt flower out of the scraps leftover after creating my first flower from a single piece of thick pre-felt.

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This is the base of the flower, upside down, since I’m forming the bottom of the batt.

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Lay some scraps on top of the tiny little batt.

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Add a little yellow for the stamen.

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Put the dowel in the middle, pour hot, soapy water on the middle and load up the bubble wrap.

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Wrap up the flower; roll, roll, roll.

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Unwrap often to check the progress; pull apart the leaves if they start to stick to each other too much. The petals of this flower look very wispy because I started with such a thin batt.

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Stop when it looks finished. I needle felted several flowers and some buds made out of scraps to a long, thin felt rope; then added some freshwater pearls and called it good.

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The Place Where Art and Science Meet

For Christmas, Sara gave her children an “inventing box”: a plastic tub filled with duct tape, electrical tape, masking tape and scotch tape; twine, string and rope; small pulleys, a couple of carabiners, and various bits of scrounged stuff. Sara, who homeschools her children, has embraced the art of “letting go”, and I mean that in the best possible way. There is play time and clean-up time, and while it is play time, Sara lets the kids really play, without worrying about the impact of their play on the house. Our family has been spending a lot of time at Sara’s house and their spirit of creative learning and letting go has been rubbing off on all of us.

I should preface all of this by saying that letting go is pretty hard for me, and Sophie has inherited the stickler gene. I constantly struggle with my own creativity and the inevitable fall out from my projects: stuff everywhere. It keeps me from creating more than I do. While I was cooking dinner tonight, Sophie called me into the bathroom: “Moooom! Owen is wasting q-tips!” Wearing my skeptic hat, I walked into the bathroom, determined to keep an open mind, suspend judgment and assume best intentions. “I’m not wasting them,” Owen offered. “I’m bending them to see what shape I can make.”

It is all a matter of perception. Owen saw this as sculpture, a mundane cotton swab turning into something new. Sophie is big on function, so saw little value in his experimentation. I asked Owen how many q-tips would be reasonable to use for this project and he suggested six. Quickly, I calculated the cost of six q-tips and decided it was not significant enough to put the kabosh on his play. All of a sudden, Sophie was energized. “Can I have six?” she asked.

Before long, they had pulled out the glue and scrap paper, taking the whole box of swabs to move their designs to a new level.

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Drawn to order and symmetry, Sophie started by building a pyramid. She learned that wet glue doesn’t hold much when the structure gets too tall, so she decided to work on building a railroad instead.

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Owen was more interested in watching the glue drip from a height of six inches above the table, and seeing how it moved along the stem of the swab when you pushed it with another tip.

Somewhere in their brains, they are working out the laws of physics, chemistry, and design. I hope that I can keep my thinking brain in check long enough to let their exploring brains discover the joy of learning.

Portrait of a Dog

One of Lance’s oldest friends, Keith McCarthy, visited us last week while on his spring break from teaching 6th grade English in Rockport, MA. I decided to play with a picture of his dogs, Toby and Pickles, to see if I could create an image similar to Zeke’s shirt.

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This photo was taken at 3am, as Keith prepared to drive our family of four to the Logan Airport last August. It is amazing how much you can fit in a Mazda 3; I had more shoulder room in the back seat of his car than in the Suburban that picked us up when we arrived in Boston, and I didn’t have any suitcases under my feet. Sophie and Owen are besotted in their love for Toby and Pickles, miracle siblings from the same litter. Did you know a dog can bear pups from two separate sires in the same litter?

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To create the image for the stencil, I selected the dogs, removed the color from the image, smoothed out the image and then reduced it to a two-color image. Ultimately, the lines around Pickles were too confusing, so I decided to just paint Toby. A great tutorial for freezer paper stencil can be found on Neither Hip Nor Funky.

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The end result is a little corgi/chihuahua on my hip.

Sweet Potato Stamp

There has been lots of kid art recently, though I haven’t captured much of it on film.

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Sophie made a great series of paper purses, folded and taped together. One of them has “purse for sale” written in marker on the side.

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Owen came home with a vegetable sculpture he made at school using a sweet potato and some toothpicks. Other sculptures included radish and celery. Owen told me he just wanted to eat the celery, so it didn’t make it on to his “rocket ship”.

As soon as we made it inside, he headed straight for our drawer of miscellanea, looking for the pumpkin carving tools (tiny little orange and black handled saws and awls).

“What are you going to do with the tools?” I asked him.
“Cut a bigger door on my rocket”, he answered.
“I’m worried you will cut yourself with the saw”, I cautioned.
He replied with a combination of nonchalance and confidence “That is a risk I’m willing to take”. What a guy. He showed me the cut on his finger that happened at school. “It hurt a little, but it was more surprising than painful.”

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After he fiddled with the inadequate saws, I suggested turning his sculpture into a block print. We pulled out some ink and a brayer, discovering quickly that it is hard to make the end of a sweet potato flat enough for an even print. Even so, it was one more little piece in his art education.

Fields of Tulips

On their way home from Seattle, my parents stopped in LaConner, Washington for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This part of the Skagit Valley was settled by several Dutch farmers who brought their knowledge of flowers and bulbs to the region. You can see more pictures of tulip fields in their Flickr album.

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This picture captured my imagination when I saw it yesterday. The composition and colors are perfect. I went to bed dreaming of turning this picture into something.

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A piece of felt is laid out. I created the background out of some Jacob roving, layered with some blue merino roving. After felting the background just long enough to hold it together, I added the details: bands of red and green for the tulip fields, some wisps of white in the sky, pieces of green prefelt cut out to look like poplars and maroon pencil roving for the trunk.

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Lacking the colors I needed, I tried to capture the symmetry of the original photo.

Super Grandma

I’m not sure who needed the boost more today – me or my kids – but there is no disputing that at 3:30, we were all dragging our heels acting like all the joy was gone from the world.

Suddenly, I remembered my mother said she was going to leave two gift bags on the front porch for Sophie and Owen’s birthdays; she suggested I might want to keep them hidden away until May 5th. I decided the gifts would bring us more joy right now.

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When I was leaving for Vancouver to sew my cape, Sophie and Owen lobbied for their own capes, but something closer to a superhero version than mine. My mother got to work on a something that would reflect their distinct personalities.

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On two separate trips to the fabric store, Owen picked out a cotton covered in football players in action. My mother and I both had this in our stash, so she made him a reversible cape with football on one side, and fish on the other. He also got a pair of shorts out of the deal. I’m not sure he will ever take these off.

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Sophie loves bright colors, lots of patterns and she loves to feel her skirts twirl. My mother found some batik cotton to make a skirt, and pieced together several different cottons to make her reversible cape. She already owns several summer outfits in these fabrics, so it was a sure bet that she would like these choices for her cape.

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Don’t you just get happy looking at them? Thanks for making our day Grandma. You are the best!

Knitter in the Wild

I think it is safe to say that Spring Break is a misnomer; there is no break while school is out. Enter stage right: niece and nephew (ages 8 and 13), and mother-in-law needing to reconnect after six-months in Haiti (where it is a lot warmer than Seattle last week); enter stage left: sister-in-law with adorable girls (ages 2 years and 5 months); stir these two groups together with my two children (ages 5 and 7) for the better part of seven days and you have a very noisy soup!

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Since this started as a knitting blog, I have to begin with pictures of my knitting spotted in the wild. Abigail is wearing a hat designed by Sophie last spring (isn’t she a cutie?), based on a sampler by Philosopher’s Wool. Everyone should read Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified by Eugene and Ann Bourgeois, if only for the jolt you will get from reading  Eugene’s introduction; I photocopied the introduction and sent it to my brother-in-law, a self-employed landscape designer. Eugene describes in detail the process that took them from city folks who just wanted to live a simpler life to full time wool producers, knitwear designers and beyond. Eugene is not one to look at a tangent sideways; be prepared to learn all about post and beam construction, how many transmissions it takes to drive to Pennsylvania and the best starter mix for mushrooms.

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I’m holding Abigail’s baby sister, Riley at Sunset Bowl, wearing my most beloved and despised knitting project, Blaze. The full tale of my agony is chronicled for those interested in the details. Riley is a cuddly, sweet-natured baby, full of giggles and goos.

We spent our days on field trips; excursions on foot, scooter and bicycle; playing card games and board games; feeding the hungry hordes, swapping loads of laundry and cuddling cute babes. Some pictures from our days around the city follow:

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Christopher, Owen and Athena climb to the top of a play structure at St. John’s newly renovated Officer Jackson Lone Memorial Playground.

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Athena and Sophie share a chair at Santoro’s Books on Greenwood Ave.

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Abigail and Owen perform a musical puppet show, using the space behind our sofa as their staging area. We were treated to multiple performances every day; it was one of Abigail’s favorite activities.

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Abigail, Michele, Athena, Owen and Sophie balance on the playground at Greenwood Elementary.

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Owen, Athena and Sophie explore the back woods of Woodland Park.

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Owen delights in his baby cousin, Riley.

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Michele’s children and grandchildren pose for a group photo under our cherry tree. This one is for you, Maria.