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A dear friend of mine, who chooses to spend winters in sunny Florida instead of slogging it out here in dark and dreary Cleveland like the rest of us tougher sorts, sent me some pictures of beautiful raw crystals she had dug up at one of those you-mine-it places.  The pictures reminded me of the collection of stones I had stashed somewhere, a relic of a time in my life when I meditated regularly, carried certain stones in my pockets for certain powers, and used stones in meditative healing sessions.  Back in my New Mexico days, when I wasn’t in the psychic slump I’m in now.  I sure could use those now, I thought.

I dug them up, and chose an amythyst for clarity, some rose quartz for the heart chakra, and my watermelon tourmaline for healing.  After a few days of carrying them around in my left pocket, I did feel calmer and more optimistic.  I even got the idea of making a small pouch in which I could carry them.

After much Googling around, I settled on this pattern from maggiknits.blogspot.com. Instead of using sock yarn, I used some ivory crochet thread from my stash, thinking that it would wear better in the pocket of my jeans.  Working with my size 1 bamboo double-pointed needles was a bit daunting — one needle actually split, and my 7″ set was too long, but I persevered after I adjusted my position on the couch so as not to keep poking Tomaso, my big tabby cat, in the butt with the needles.  At one point I apparently started knitting backwards (?) and after I realized I had 3 rows of purl instead of knit, I did some quick un-knitting and got it back together.  At any rate, as the work progressed I really liked the way the yarn looked.  I made the main body of the bag about an inch shorter than the pattern called for, and I just threaded some thin green ribbon through the YO holes as a drawstring instead of the cord called for in the pattern.  When I tied off the end, I added a jade-green bead.

This was such a quick and pretty project that I may just make a couple more someday.  I’d like to incorporate beads into the body — I have some pearl seed beads that would be lovely, but I’d have to use much thinner fiber.  The pattern could easily be tweaked to any size, and could hold jewelry or any other treasures. If the ribbon closure doesn’t seem secure enough, I might try making some cord instead.  All in all, a nice afternoon project.  And a nice way to carry around a little peace.

Happy First day of Spring!

Here at the Crooked Yellow House it doesn’t seem like Northeast Ohio at all.  It has been in the upper 70s for days now.  Us hardened, jaded natives are secretly bracing for an April freeze, but we suppress those thoughts for now and put on shorts and show our winter-pale legs and get out our motorcycles and bicycles and act like nuts because we can see the sun.  Until we start complaining about the humidity.

Anyway, I put up my Spring wreath today.  I found a grapevine wreath at a thrift shop for $2.00 and I couldn’t resist.  I got out my box of silk flower garlands that had decorated the century-old granary on my ex-property for my last wedding five years and 3 days ago.  (And I DO mean “last” — it turned ugly fast and that’s enough of that.) Anyway, I wondered at the time if I should keep all those flowers, if they had some “bad mojo” I should toss.  (When your husband-to-be takes over the entire affair and turns it into only what HE wants despite all your own suggestions and dreams, RED FLAG.  Just another one I ignored. )

Ultimately I didn’t throw the flowers away,  since they were actually the only part of the wedding and reception I had any hand in — I pored over the internet and purchased at a great price lots of high-quality flowers in soft blues and violets to adorn the window under which we were wed, and the ledge below, which also held tea lights burning in old mason jars and perfume bottles I had dug up from the property, down where the original farmstead and been.

Okay, sorry for the tangent there. On the “crafty” side of things, I just wound the garlands on the wreath with floral wire.  Not a very neat job of it, mind you, I have no patience for that kind of thing, and wrestling with silk flowers and wire and prickly wreath is not my thing.  I was, however, creative enough to hang the wreath with some thin green ribbon I had in my stash instead of the piece of cotton string I used for my Winter wreath.  Luckily no one’s here to inspect my work;  Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.

When I moved here to start my life over, I used some of those wedding garlands to decorate the tops of the cabinets in the Crooked Yellow House, and now they also decorate my little green door.  They don’t carry any bad mojo at all.  They carry vibes of Spring and Hope and Change.  All good things that I’m learning to embrace.  Beginning now, on this First day of Spring.  I wish the same to you!

This past winter, my friend Rachel gifted me with a number of gorgeous sweaters from her “collection.”  As she said, “You don’t like to shop, and I do, and if I don’t get rid of some of these I can’t buy more.” Now THAT is a real friend.

A particular favorite is this beautiful turquoise wool V-neck.  Turquoise is really the only shade of blue I wear, and this one is a lovely wool with flecks of navy and a lighter blue.  I wore it about three times before I realized there was a hole in the left elbow.

I thought, “Why not make a patch?” since the sweater is wool, and I have a lot (a LOT) of wool in the house.  I could darn it (okay, I have  darning egg but I’ve never darned anything in my life, although my mother did it all the time).  I could wet-felt a patch, let it dry several hours, trim it and sew it on or needle-felt it to the sweater.  Or, I could just needle felt a patch shape and needle-felt it onto the sweater.

I went through my felting stash, which mainly consists of lots of colors, hand-dying “seconds” and “ends” I got off some great vendors on Etsy. I found a few tones of turquoise and blue that might work, but nothing really close and not much of any of the individual colors.

I got out my hand cards and split up the colors, laying them evenly across the cards, and blended them  a few times until I got something I thought would be acceptable — no, I didn’t make turquoise, but I figured it’s a blue of some sort.

Instead of trying to make a free-form patch I had to have help making a shape. I don’t do “free-form” very well, I like patterns and diagrams, I can’t draw a straight line let alone needle-felt an oval. I used one of the flower shaped cookie-cutters I use when I needle-felt flowers. This shape requires a lot of time spent carefully poking the scallops around the edge, and I did that, then got the center ground pretty solid.  Turn over, repeat.

Laying the patch onto the sweater, I see that either I don’t have any good light in my house (which I don’t), or I’m pretty much color blind (not) or I just don’t know how to make turquoise from non-turquoise wool (yep).  But since “not quite,” “almost” and “pretty good” are frequently used in the conversations I have with myself, I soldiered on.

I cut a piece from one of my needle-felting foam pads, one that really really needed to be retired anyway but I never threw it out.  Once you’ve needle-felted on one piece of foam for a few years, all your punching pretty much results in a lot of tiny flecks of foam all over your work, since the foam is deteriorating.  It takes a good bit of deterioration to get me to let go of anything craft-wise.  This was a good reason to do so.  I took the smallish piece and stuck it up the sweater’s sleeve.

I laid the little bluish shape onto the sleeve, tucked the sweater in around it in order to get as many wefts of sweater yarn under the patch edges, and started punching.  After a while, the edges did catch, proven by the fact that everything didn’t fall apart when I took the square of foam out of the sleeve.

Okay, so now I have an amorphous, bluish blob on the sweater.  Hmmm.  I rooted around in my needlepoint stash and found some very very light blue wool.  A bit of blanket stitch around the edges did define my amorphous blob a bit, and certainly did help in securing the edges of the patch to the sweater.

It didn’t look much like a flower any more, but after a few French knots in the center it did kind of look like…. maybe a flower?

An abstract, “almost” morning glory?  I say it does.  After a few careful washings, I expect the needle-felting to get sturdier, and if it holds up for another season I say that’s success.  And a quirky, free-spirited, woolly success at that. Just the way I like my successes to be.

Starling Handbag

Futuregirl's Starling Handbag

Well, I’ve found a new crochet project, plus an outstanding blog to follow: www.futuregirl.com.  After cringing at what a long way I have to go before I have a blog as great as this, I let myself enjoy that giddy feeling you get when you stumble across a really great technique you’ve never heard of but  can already tell you can’t live without — namely, the Foundation Single Crochet.  This technique turns into your initial chain row a first row of single crochet all at the same time.  The Starling Handbag is a great-looking, sturdy bag, and looks to be perfect for some fun felted or embroidered embellishments.  That big cone of Lily Sugar n’ Cream I picked up at a thrift store is begging to be turned into this fun project.

Futuregirl’s instructions are clear and simple, and the videos are really the best I’ve seen.  I’m definitely listing her as a favorite blog and mentor, I hope you do the same! And stay tuned to The Crooked Yellow House!

I’ve been knitting since I was in elementary school (that’s a very long time ago!).  In all those years I’ve accumulated quite a lot of knitting needles. And I think I still have all of them, including broken ones!

I started on colorful aluminum Boye straight needles, and still have them all, not all complete pairs, of course.  A couple of them are bent badly — I’ve apparently blocked out the episode where that occurred!

I went through a Bernat Aero phase in the years I lived in New Mexico.  I lived in a funky little adobe house converted to apartments right off the downtown plaza, and had no car.  Luckily it was a smallish town and I was young — my scoliosis wasn’t evident yet, and I walked everywhere I wanted Bernat Aeroto go.  There was a sweet little yarn shop on the plaza, and the owner suggested I try the lovely gray needles.  They were so different from the Boyes…. I loved the texture and how they felt in my hands.  Apparently my cats enjoyed the texture also — a few are unusable because of the added “texture” consisting of tiny cat teeth marks.

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I saw this pattern demonstrated on Knit and Crochet Now!, one of my favorite needlecraft shows.  It’s a novel concept (at least to me): the piece is crocheted not top-to-bottom, but side-to-side, and cleverly uses the varying heights of different crochet stitches to form the shape of the garment — thus, not one single increase or decrease! The size of the garment depends on how many rows you add.  Plus, the pattern gives tips on other adjustments (to bust size and garment length), and either the illustrated cap sleeves or spaghetti straps.

All stitches are worked on the back bar of the chains, giving the garment an attractive, stretchy ribbing.  I have scoliosis, so I tend to be wary of tops with close-fitting or revealing backs, but because of this top’s texture, and because the back piece omits the under-bust sc shaping, I think it’ll be a good choice for me.

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This Blog

After some 50-odd years of wandering through life, across country and back, through more than a few careers and two short-lived marriages, I’ve planted roots in Berea, Ohio, only a few miles from the house where I grew up and where my parents still live, and where I went to college (as a music composition major, of all things).  Planning my next move while extracting myself from what turned out to be a disastrous second marriage, I browsed online for a place in which to start again.  I found a picture of a little yellow house built in 1875, 100 years before my high school graduation, and I immediately fell in love.  When I researched further, I found that it is exactly next door to an 1840 house that I had been a hairs-breadth away from buying just 5 years earlier.  I had to see it.

I drove out to meet the realtor, and found I was early.  I parked the car and sat on the little iron bench on the front porch.  The street was quiet except for a few dog-walkers, and two blonde children with backpacks walking down the street to the library, their heads close together in whispered conversation. Birds flitted in and out of the odd-looking tree that filled the front yard.  I felt like the little porch had been just waiting for me to arrive.

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