Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ana Paula Rimoli's Amigurumi World

It's enough to make me go find my crochet hook!

This morning on PBS's Knit and Crochet Today program, one of the hosts, Drew Emborsky, made that cute amigurumi coffee cup (third from left in top row above) and I was hooked!

The creator of these tiny toys, Ana Paula Rimoli, has a wonderful blog, Ana Paula's Amigurumi Patterns and Random Cuteness  and an Amazon bestseller book, Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet, published by Martingale in February 2008. Or you can buy her wonderful toys on Etsy at her virtual shop Anapaulaoli, where you'll also find more patterns and lots of pictures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Star Wizard: a holiday story about finding joy even when all the stars have fallen

Meggie Lee and Moggie Lou cowered in the window seat of the great hall at Pine Tree Knob. Outside the window silvery snowflakes embraced the Kingdom of Laurel Mountain and reflected brilliant light through the glass doors that lined the southern wall. The light jangled through the tiny hammered-gold feathers of the Winter Wizard’s wings as she stomped her red cowboy boots along the flagstone hearth. The red and gold flames of the fire snapped no brighter than her angry blue eyes.
                “You don’t want to make Christmas?” she said in a trembly, low voice that rose at the end to a babyish squeak. Her wings tinkled in accord. “Are my little princesses too regal to plait hemlock wreaths and blow glass bubbles?”
                “No-o-o, teacher . . .” moaned Meggie Lee through the tail of a blonde curl she had tucked between her teeth.
                “We’re sad,” said Moggie Lou. “The stars have fallen from the sky and we don’t know what to do.”
                The wizard stopped pacing and hooked her thumbs into the hip pockets of her blue jeans. “Ah,” she crooned. “Are you little astronomers? What have the stars to do with you?”
                Moggie’s lip pouted and began to quiver.
Meggie put her arm around her twin’s shoulder and glared at the wizard. Her braid tumbled out of her mouth. “Wouldn’t you be sad if you lost even a single star!”
The wizard’s eyes grew wide with amazement. She opened her arms and scanned the snow-bright landscape. “The world is full of starlight!”
 “That’s the sun,” Moggie Lou grumbled.
“I say it is a star,” said the wizard.
“I say it is the sun!” said Meggie Lee.
“Is the sun not a star?”
“It’s not the same!” both little girls shouted together.
“Not the same, not the same,” the wizard muttered to herself as she strode around the room gathering shafts of sunlight—long as her arm, thin as paper, and no wider than her thumb. She tucked one under each arm and carried one in each hand. Striding to a long oak table, she elbowed a bowl of quicksilver out of her way and tossed the ribbons of light onto the dark surface. The tiny gold feathers of her wings sang counterpoint to her whispered song—not the same, not the same . . .
The two princesses rose from their seat at the window, clasped hands, and crept to the table.
“What are you doing?” said Meggie Lee.
“You want a star. I’ll make you a star.” She began folding the ribbons of light in half, then wove them into a tight little square with long tails waving toward the edges of the table.
“That’s not a star,” said Moggie Lou. “It’s a mess.”
“Don’t judge a work in progress,” mumbled the wizard. She continued to fold the light beams, making four little points on one side and then flipping the mess over to make four more points in the opposite direction. The tails of light sprung from the center of the weaving like electric eels.
“Ick,” said Meggie.
“Ugh,” said Moggie.
“Everyone’s a critic,” said the wizard, twisting the squirming light eels into tiny points of light in the center of the star and tucking the ends neatly away. She pinched the ravels from each straggling ribbon and carelessly tossed the pieces into the air. Meggie and Moggie watched as the gleaming snippets bounced and joggled until they could no longer be distinguished in the light-filled room.
“Ahem,” said the wizard.
A sixteen-pointed, three-dimensional star scintillated in her outstretched hand.
“Oooooh,” said Meggie Lee.
“Aaaaah,” said Moggie Lou.
“Make more, make more,” they both cried together.
“You make them,” said the wizard. “I’ll help.”
They worked together all day long.
As twilight descended they threw open the big glass doors, marched onto the snow-covered parapet, and tossed hundreds of shimmering stars into the indigo sky.
Linda Theil © 1998

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday handbag

I got the idea for this cute holiday handbag from a pattern called The Essential Bag by The Country Quilter. I made some adjustments to the materials and the construction method and made several for holiday gifts.

outside fabric (print) 7.25 x 16 inches
lining fabric (print or geometric) 7.25 x 18 inches
decorative flap 5-3/8 inch square (solid or geometric), cut on the diagonal
optional: sew light interfacing to wrong side of 7.25 x16 inch fabric piece
18-50 inches coordinating cording for handle
7-inch zipper to coordinate with fabric
thread to match fabric
beads and findings for zipper pull and trim (if desired)

Use 3/8-inch seams throughout. RST means sew with right sides together.
1. Stitch triangle pieces RST along two short sides of triangle. Clip points, turn and press. Embellish with beads if desired.
2. Insert raw edges of triangle between rights sides of one of the short ends of outside fabric and lining fabric.
3. Stitch short ends of outside to lining RST. Turn and press, with 3/8-inch of lining showing on outside.
4. Fold bag with 2-inch flap to make an 8x7-inch rectangle.
5. Using sipper foot insert zipper into bag opening. Turn bag inside out. 
6. Cut cording into desired length for handles. Insert cording ends into top of side seams. Coil cording between right sides of bag to keep out of way of stitching.
7. Stitch one side seam of bag.
8. Unzip zipper so that you can turn the bag when second seam is sewed. Stitch second side seam. Zig-zag stitch the seam allowances of both seams to finish.
9. Turn the bag through the open zipper. Press.
10. Using a head-pin, fashion a jewelled zipper pull for zipper.
Here's a finished bag made with a lining of the same fabric as the outside of the bag.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jake's Stocking

I made a Christmas stocking for Jake from a printed panel I bought last year at Jennifer's Quilt Shop in Pinckney. The panel is called "Jolly Old St. Nick" by Susan Winget for Benartex. It's really pretty with St. Nicholas in his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. I used waste canvas to cross stitch Jake's initials to the top of the panel, and added a few beads to highlight the design. Then I quilted the front panel, outlining the design in places with a running stitch. I made pretty, fat cording for the seam and lined the stocking. I think it turned out pretty cute. It's a good size -- 14x27-inches -- and is nice and wide with lots of room for gifts inside.
Here's Jake, the boy, with his Aunt Alisa at Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brandi's bag

I tried to copy a bag that Brandi likes and here is the result. One of the most interesting aspects of the bag, to me, was the way the handles were created out of one 60-inch long piece of stitched belting that looped on either side of the bag and met on the bottom. I hope she likes it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pie making workshop

On the day before Thanksgiving, Alisa and Sandy and I had a pie-baking workshop, to brush-up our pastry skills. The results were yummy.

Pie crust (makes two nine inch rounds):
Fill a two-cup measure with ice and add water to just cover, set aside. In very large bowl combine 3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cut in 1/2 cup good quality solid vegetable shortning (Crisco) till consistency of cornmeal. Cut in another 1/2 cup (1 cup total) shortning till combined coarsely. (Do not overwork.) Sprinkle in about 1/3 cup of iced-water and combine with a fork; add iced-water till dough sticks together but is not mushy or wet, tossing with fork continually. Discard any extra iced-water. Do not overwork the dough. Dump dough onto a sheet of waxed paper or freezer paper and use paper to form into a ball. (Do not touch dough with hands.) Put in freezer (no longer than 45 min. to 1 hr.) Wipe out bowl and set aside for apples.
Streusel-topped Apple Pie (makes 2 nine- or ten-inch pies)
For pie filling, in small bowl combine and set aside:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of salt
For streusel topping, in medium bowl combine and set aside:
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
Mix flour and sugar, cut in butter with pastry blender to coarse consistency.
Peel, core and slice (1/4-inch to 3/8-inch slices) 15 or 16 Golden Delicious apples (about 5-6 lbs.). Set aside in large bowl.
Take pie-crust dough out of freezer, unwrap and cut in half. On flour-dusted pastry cloth using a rolling pin covered with a flour-dusted rolling-pin cover, roll pie dough into a rough circle about 13 to 14-inches in diameter. Using cloth, fold crust in half and transfer to pie pan with your hands. (If you do not have naturally cold hands, rinse them in cold water, and dry them before touching dough.) Fold under edges of crust and scallop. (Cut off any excess dough.) Repeat for second pie.
Mix contents of small bowl with apples. Toss lightly. Divide apple filling between two crusts, heaping apples till no more will stay in (leave a few cinnamon-sugar coated apples in the bowl for the kids to pilfer). Sprinkle each pie with half of the contents of medium bowl (streusel topping). 
Bake in pre-heated 425-degree oven for about an hour, or till apples are soft when tested with a sharp knife. (Cover pies with aluminum foil after 30-minutes of baking to prevent over-browning of crust and topping.) Remove from oven. Set on racks to cool completely. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Libby’s brand Pumpkin Pie recipe (makes two nine-inch pies)
This is the traditional holiday pumpkin pie. This classic has been on LIBBY'S® Pumpkin labels since 1950. 

1-1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
28-oz. can Libby's 100-percent pure pumpkin (Do not use pumpkin pie mix!)
4 eggs
3 cups half and half (light cream -- Original recipe calls for evaporated milk; I don't use that.)
2 nine-inch (4 cup measure) pie shells (see pie crust recipe above)
whipped cream, if desired
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Pour into pie shell.

Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350-degrees; bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for two hours. Serve immediately, or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kanuga labyrinth

The concrete, Chartres-style labyrinth at Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina, was built by Robert Ferre of Labyrinth Enterprises, LLC.

I attended the UMMAS fall retreat Sept. 9-12 at Kanuga where the retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong spoke on four separate occasions. Based on his remarkable research and insight into the nature of the human experience, Spong joins Jimmy Carter and Fred Rogers in my personal list of people I admire for living honestly. Spong's book Jesus for the Non-Religious covers much of his philosophy according to my knowledgeable companions, Virginia and Robin.

Spong's mantra is: "Live fully; love wastefully; be all that you can be."

The view from the "rocker porch" at Kanuga Lodge across the tiny mountain lake inspired lovely day dreams.

The Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat will be held January 15-18, 2009. Among other delights, Jean Ann Wright will lead a workshop on her "Rock 'n' Roll" quilt, seen here:

On our way to Kanuga, we stopped at the new Kentucky Artisan Center just off Exit 77 on I-75 near Berea, Kentucky, where we admired this gorgeous snowflake patterned quilt and had a yummy lunch of Hot Brown.

The Hot Brown was a triple-decker, sandwich with hot, sliced turkey and ham layers topped with white sauce and a grilled, tomato slice criss-crossed with rashers of crisp bacon. This was very good.

The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea was opened July 30, 2003. The 25,000-square-foot building was built on 10-acres of property at a cost of $8.75-million by contractor D.W. Wilburn of Lexington, Kentucky and was designed by Myers Jolly Architects also of Lexington. I loved the art-glass window panels designed by Kenneth von Roenn, Jr. of Architectural Glass Art, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky.

And to add to my collection of fascinating rest stops, here is a sculpture that adorned the grounds of a welcome center on I-40 near Knoxville, Tennessee. The visitor's center featured a log cabin wing.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Labyrinth in Santa Fe, NM cathedral garden

After lunch on August 7, we walked to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi where I wanted to see the paved labyrinth in the cathedral garden. Before leaving for Santa Fe, I had looked up local labyrinth sites and found 19 cited on the online Labyrinth Locator. Alisa discovered the cathedral labyrinth and told me about it. I'm so glad she did, it's really beautiful.

We did not have time to walk the labyrinth, but I took some pictures to use in the labyrinth workshop I’m giving from 9 a.m. until noon on Sept. 27 at the Bennett Recreation Center for Howell Recreation Authority --activity #6754.300

Friday, July 4, 2008

MUJI-homage tote

This tote was inspired by the clever MUJI tote my friend Rosey got from her friend in New York. The original was made of one layer of ripstop nylon with flat-felled seams. This one is cotton with a lining. You can order shibui MUJI products online at the Museum of Modern Art.
Directions for MUJI-homage tote

Make your pattern out of medium weight interlining fabric 31.5-inches long by 15 inches wide.

1. With the pattern's long, straight edge on the fold of the fabric, cut four pattern pieces: two of exterior bag fabric and two of lining fabric. I used cotton for both exterior and lining. (If you wish, you may cut pattern pieces from four different fabrics, as I have in this demo.) You will need a 7/8-yard (31.5 inch by 30 inch) cut of fabric for each of the four pieces cut from your pattern.
(If you wish to interline, cut two interlining pieces and baste to wrong sides of bag exterior pieces. You will need two 31.5 by 30-inch cuts of interlining for each bag.)
NOTE: After making several bags, we have decided that a longer handle is nice, so we have been using 36-inches of fabric along the fold -- a full yard instead of 7/8-yard. Also, if the fabric is not directional, you may piece the two lining-fabric cuts by seaming the foldline.

2. With right sides together, using a 3/8-inch seam allowance, stitch one exterior and one lining piece together, following around all curved edges, matching arrows and leaving the straight edge at the bottom open.

3. Clip seam allowance every one-inch.
4. Turn, and press.

5. Repeat for second exterior and lining piece.
6. Fold each piece in half with right sides out. Press. You now have two identical bag pieces, ready to be stitched together.

7. Lay one bag piece open flat on a surface with the lining side up.

8. Place the second bag piece (which is folded in half) over the flat (opened) bag piece. Place so that all raw-edged bottoms are even with each other. The curved, outside edges of the folded bag piece should meet at the center of the flat opened piece, as shown below.

9. Fold the flat bag piece over the folded bag piece -- sandwiching the folded piece -- with all raw edges on the bottom even.

10. Pin two layers of the purse together at V-shaped intersections at the top of the bag.

11. Continue pinning along edges in preparation for stitching bag pieces together. Do not pin bottom. (Baste, and remove pins before machine stitching, if desired. Basting makes the slightly complex process of stitching two layers together in what amounts to a tube, slightly easier. If you choose to baste, follow directions for second piece of the bag, and baste both bag pieces before stitching on the sewing machine.)

12. Topstitch through two lined bag-layers all the way around one bag piece. (You will be sewing through several layers of fabric, so make sure your needle is new and of the correct size for your fabric. I used a 12 for the lightweight cottons in this sample.)

Be careful not to stitch through other side of bag – stitch all the way up and around the tie end.

13. To form exterior pocket, make bartacks six or eight inches apart at top of one exterior curved edge, then clip the stitching between bartacks to open a pocket.

14. Turn bag inside out, repeat pinning and topstitching with the second lined bag piece, as described above.

15. Bartack six-inches apart at top of one curved edge, form interior pocket on opposite side of bag from exterior pocket. Clip stitching between bartacks to form pocket.

16. Turn bag right-side-out. Fold bag with raw edges at bottom even. Trim bottom so that all edges are even. (Note: depending on which way you fold the bag, your ties will either emerge from the sides or the middle of your bag. Alisa doesn't like the bag folded with the ties emerging from the middle 'cause it doesn't lie flat against your side when worn over the shoulder.)

17. With wrong sides together (right sides out, as left after trimming bottom edges), pin and stitch using a one-quarter-inch seam allowance along the bottom of the bag.

18. Turn bag inside-out, press across bottom of bag, pin, and stitch with 3/8-inch seam allowance across bottom of bag -- enclosing seam allowance from first stitching line.

19. After stitching, turn the bag right-side-out; push out corners.

20. Knot tie ends to form handle for bag.

To pack, unknot and fold flat in suitcase or purse.

Susan's tote:

UPDATE September 25, 2016: Made two totes for Trish and Jennifer from pieced florals. (Photo below)

Photo by Alisa Theil

UPDATE Election Day 2016: Newest Muji tote for Carla!