Thursday, November 4, 2010

Felting Outside the Box!

Many of my knitting friends have yet to try it, but I love felting! It is one of the most forgiving crafts I work with. Although I approach knitting with the same meticulous manner that I do everything else, felting after the fact hides all but the most atrocious of errors. If you are a loose knitter, it will pull the work in and if you are a tight knitter it felts even faster. The only requirement for felting is that you start with 100% wool. Otherwise, it just doesn’t felt properly.

Handbag I made for my daughter-in-law, Liz
I got the idea for this bag from a Lion Brand pattern. It called for a different yarn, but I had this color on hand and it was 100% wool, so I decided to go for it. I have a tendency not to follow patterns to a T, so my work never actually looks like the original. After the bag was knitted, I made a long tube - approx. 10 feet - and then felted them both. I always felt in my washing machine on the hottest temperature setting using a hand washing fabric soap. I like to use one that is lavender so my pieces smell yummy when they are finished. It really adds to the piece. I felt the pieces as many times as is required to get them to the size and tightness that I like. When properly felted, you can cut a knitted piece into anything you want and it won’t ravel.

After both pieces were felted I sewed the tube to the rim of the bag at evenly spaced intervals and added beads to embellish and hold the tube in place for a better fit. Then I added a pair of my favorite handles and a nice matching bow to give the piece that special handmade touch!

To get the feel of felting and remove the fear, beginners may want to start out by knitting a huge square or rectangle that can be felted and then used as a piece of fabric. Remember to use a good 100% wool yarn and after you have felted the swatch, make a pattern for a pair of mittens by drawing a shape around your hands, then cut 2 sides per hand out of your felted fabric. Sew them together just like you are making an article of clothing and voila, you have a very special pair of mittens! You can also try felting an old wool sweater and use that to make your mittens!

This is another bag I made for my other daughter-in-law, Jessica. This is a Noni pattern that I gave a special twist by adding some different yarns to the flowers when I was knitting them. I have a couple more that I have made for them, but I neglected to take good pictures before I sent them on their way. Note to self, "Start taking pictures of your work before you give it away!"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shadow's Sweater

This past July we rescued a Manchester terrier from the Charlottesville, VA SPCA. I have to say that this experience has been a true test of our patience and ingenuity. This dog had been beaten and starved in a puppy mill environment and once he left the shelter, he instantly became his alter ego "Captain Insano" No matter what we did, we couldn't keep him contained and he suffered from severe separation anxiety, so as soon as my husband would leave for work, he would literally go insane, even biting me one morning prior to going in his crate.

Our Boys
Shadow is 2 to 3 years old and he mostly came by his name after we brought him home because he was a sneaky little ninja shadow. He moves so stealthily, that he often appears as a ghost in pictures. But we finally chose this name based on the fact that he is my husband's shadow. Mornings have gotten much better and although he has a long way to go, he now embraces his crate - even though we still have to have 3 master locks on it to stop the breakouts - and our other 2 dogs, Rocky and Buster seem to really love him.

One of the characteristics of this breed is that they get cold very easily. At the height of the summer when it was 100 degrees, he would lay in the full sun and soak up the rays while our other two dogs would be sitting at the door waiting to get back into the air conditioned space. About a month ago we had our first cool spell and this poor dog did nothing but shiver. It was about that time I decided I had better put my crafty skills to work to knit him a sweater. I searched and searched on-line for a sweater pattern that both looked good and would work up nicely and I finally came up with a custom sweater pattern by Jean Clement of Desert Rose Designs. The pattern is called "Darling Darby Sweater" and at first glance it seemed a little complicated, but now that I have finished, it wasn't bad at all and I can easily make another with a more precise fit. The other thing that appealed to me about this pattern is that the model is a whippet and Manchester terrier's are a terrier - whippet mix. Jean's pattern was well written and easy to understand.

I made this sweater using Lion Brand Yarn, Vanna's Choice in Grey Marble. I am not sure that I would use it again for this type of project, but I also bought a skein of Caron Simply Soft in a periwinkle blue that I am looking forward to trying next using this pattern. There was a discussion on a friends FaceBook page about knitting swatches the other day and this is one circumstance that you don't want to skip this step. Most seasoned knitters are guilty of passing over the swatch process when tackling a new project, but without working a swatch, you can't do the calculations for the custom sizing.
Sweater Back View
Sweater Side View

Sweater Underside

Hey Where's Mine!
The other part of the pre-knitting process that could present a problem is getting precise measurements from the dog - especially if your dog is at all similar to this dog and it doesn't like to stand still for prodding. This is a fabulous custom pattern, but I am sure that the success rate is dictated by good measurements. As you can see, the back is a little long!

Finish End Detail
If your dog has long legs like Shadow, you will want to keep the finish ribbing on the leg openings on the short side. Otherwise, you will really struggle getting the sweater on and off the dog. I also found this pattern finished nicely around the back edge and underside. In the sweater underside view above, the left side of the photo shows this detail. All-in-all, I am very pleased with the results of this pattern. Especially, since this was my first pass!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Checking In!

Good morning and happy Monday everyone! More than a week after my travels to Lewisburg, PA, I am finally getting caught up. As always, my sister and I had a fabulous time and I got some great deals! We had what I would consider perfect fall weather for the Northeast, USA! The day started out slightly cool and by early afternoon it was time to shed our jackets!

Saturday, the 16th started at 5 AM and after almost 6 hours of driving north, I met my sister at our hotel. After a quick check-in, we headed straight for the Street of Shops. We had come across some great finds there last spring and we were hoping for a repeat! I am always on the look-out for turn of the century American Art Pottery in dark green glazes and although this trip didn't disappoint, I didn't find any here. I did however find this pretty leaf dish without any markings other than USA. The asking price was $1.00, so I wasn't asking, just buying! 

Next stop, the flea market in the basement of the Street of Shops. Last spring I had passed up a pair of platters that matched an antique set that I use every day at home. I was so hoping to find that they were still there but after much digging and to no avail, I gave up. I did however come across another find that I think is far superior and we used it for a roasted chicken just last night! This is an Olympia platter and most of the early J.W. McCoy pottery, Brush McCoy pottery, was not marked. Some items have only an impressed shape or number as seen below. 
My platter has the Olympia stamp and this was the trademark of the Brush-McCoy Pottery Company from 1915-1925. And for $8.00, I am Happy!

The other item I came across in this building was one of my other passions - vintage or antique salt and pepper shakers! If you look closely in one of the following pictures you might see half of a set of pixie shakers I got last spring. As it turns out, my latest find is very special. I already have a set of Mr. and Mrs. Claus shakers from my childhood, but for some reason, I felt compelled to buy these at $3.00. I had no idea at the time, but when I was giving my husband the big reveal of my special finds on Sunday night he told me that these were identical to a pair his mother had when he was growing up. He just loved them! 

Next up, Roller Mills Antique Center and another $1.00 purchase! Although not the big story of my trip, you will have to check back for the next installment to see the item that I consider the find of my life! Now that your curiosity is peeked, here is the latest addition to my green glaze ceramic/pottery collection - a sweet little sleigh that someone named Barb made many years ago, probably in her local ceramic shop. Ceramic shops were very popular in the 60's and 70's and have made a mini comeback of late as a hobby party setting. But they sure don't compare to the one from my childhood in my hometown of Monroeville, NJ. Narleski's Ceramic Shop was were I got my first job when I was 8 year's old! Yes, I said 8. Back in the day, kids could actually have jobs at 8 and it was O.K.! This awesome piece looks just like many that went through the shop when I worked there!

Lewisburg, PA is home to Bucknell University so we headed over to the campus for some fun picture taking with my new camera. As an aside, I researched my new camera to death! I was looking for something under $500.00 that would give me great pictures similar to a digital SLR without all the apparatus. I was big into photography in college and even had my own darkroom for years. I was looking for something that would make me feel like I used to when taking pictures with my old Olympus equipment. I bought a Fuji FinePix HS10 - 10 megapixel 30x zoom and I am in love. It is so easy to use and the pictures and features are spectacular! I can even take videos in HD! Here is a shot of one of the many beautiful views we had that day.

Sunday was another long travel day for me, so we tried to limit our browsing to Silver Moon Antique Mall. We also found some great buys here last spring so again, we were hopeful. As it turned out, it was very disappointing this year, but I did get another piece of American Art Pottery. This piece is stamped with USA Pottery, so I can't be sure who made it, but it is in my favorite old pottery glaze; dark green! It looks very similar to a Brush piece I own, so I was happy to pay the $6.00 the vendor was hoping to get.

My final purchase of this trip was 2 turn of the century Christmas postcards. To this day I send cards for all occasions and I have a collection of my own cards dating back to my birth. I was fortunate enough to have a mother that appreciated the importance of marking time with memorabilia and there is nothing more beautiful than a well preserved piece of Ephemera! I hope you can see how beautiful the inks are in these 2 cards. And not only the inks but the embossing. They just don't make things like this anymore, not at any price! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Planning a Fall Adventure

I am getting ready to take a long fall drive this weekend through the Northeast, U.S. and I hope to try out my new digital camera on some beautiful foliage. I am especially excited because this area is famous for great fall drives, but even more exciting is the purpose of my trip! I am headed off to Lewisburg, PA for a fun fall outing with my sister, Amy. Last spring we made this trip and we had the best time exploring the antique malls. Located in central Pennsylvania, on the West Branch Susquehanna River, Lewisburg is northwest of Harrisburg. It is home to Bucknell University and its 19th century downtown was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Leftover from its bygone river era the town has many old buildings and warehouses that have been transformed into wonderful Antique Malls. Last spring we ended up spending the better part of a Saturday afternoon inside one such mall. It is called The Famous Street of Shops and I am pretty sure we plan to head back there again this Saturday.We garnered some great finds at this location and we are hoping to repeat the experience.

One thing I learned last spring is that when I see something that I think I want, I need to go ahead and buy it! I learned the hard way not to ponder the purchase and tell myself that I might see something better. Every time that happens I regret not making the purchase because as a crafter I keep getting visions of what I could have done with all of those items. I have 3 in my mind right now that I keep kicking myself over. This part of the country is home to many of these small cities and towns and the people are friendly and the prices and finds are fantastic!

On our 2nd day at one such location, my sister came across a great find. It was a $3.00 quilt top that was clearly quite old, and a little tattered, but full of charm. It looked to be a very old child's quilt top - we thought maybe for a doll or a bassinet. It was missing the batting and bottom and was very old, but the fine pattern and fabrics were remarkable so she bought it. Aside from being an accomplished quilter, she belongs to Endless Mountain Quilt Guild so naturally she has a huge interest in all things quilt related so she figured she could probably re-purpose the piece into something quite spectacular.

A few months after the trip she shared this special purchase with her guild and it sparked a good bit of excitement. As it turns out, this may be a very special find indeed and it is exactly the reason I say don't hesitate on a purchase that your gut says you should make but your mind tells you to pass up. It may be pre-civil war and she is in the process of digging into this further with a quilt appraiser. I will keep you posted, but here is a glimpse of this precious find.

Disclaimer: All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited. Please contact Amy S. Jackson for further information.

We also spent a few hours shopping downtown Market Street. Here we found the finest 2nd hand clothing store I have ever been in and the other reason we were there - The Beckoning Cat. If you have fabric stash issues, you definitely need to stay out of this shop! They specialize in beautiful fabric from Japan for quilting, clothing, and interiors. And they also offer a unique assortment of jewelry, purses, ornaments and vintage treasures - ALL with a Japanese flavor! Well, needless to say, we both dropped a good chunk of change in this store and I haven't even touched my fabrics yet! But I do have some great ideas, so I guess you will just have to keep an eye on my shops and see if they show up some time in the near future!

So as the excitement builds for me I have visions of those special antique salt and pepper shakers and great pieces of Hull or McCoy pottery and I can't wait!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

23rd Fall Fiber Festival

The weather today in Central Virginia was picture perfect! It was clear and cool and it couldn't have been a better day for the first day of the Fall Fiber Festival at Jame's Madison's Montpelier, in Orange County, VA.

The main objective of our visit was to gain some contacts for purchasing Cashmere Goats locally, so the day held a lot of promise and it unfolded better than expected. Most people love anything made of cashmere, but many aren't aware that cashmere comes from goats. Each goat produces a small amount of fiber each year making it very dear. But that isn't the reason to own these most special of God's creatures. Goats are just wonderful. They are ornery little characters, but they are also the most docile, calm creatures you will ever meet in the barnyard. And as an added bonus, they will rid your land of the most hateful of briers, poisons ivy, sumac and oak and any other nasty weed Mother Nature can throw at it.

It was so hard to walk through all the booths and keep my wallet closed! Every bit of fiber there was hand grown and dyed by the merchants and it was aw-inspiring! Shortly after we arrived, we took a Fiber harvesting class with Mickey Nielsen from Yakima, Washington. She is the President of the Northwest Cashmere Association and was a judge earlier this week at the Virginia State Fair Cashmere Show. In less than 2 hours we learned a ton of very valuable information, but the best part was the farmer we met during the class.

Barbara Johnson from Timberwood Farm was just a wealth-spring of information. My husband wants dairy goats in addition to angora and cashmere goats and she opened our world to Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. Before we went today, I was on the fence about dairy goats, but I recently found out I needed to give up cow's milk and she told us that the Nigerian's milk has the highest butterfat and it is the one goat's milk that doesn't have that goat's milk flavor that most people just can't get past. Aside from the obvious benefits to that, I am having visions about all the different cheeses, lotions and soaps I can make. A visit to her farm is definitely in our future. This just might be better than Christmas!

At the end of the day, I must admit I did make 2 purchases: some really nice Goat's Milk Lotion from Rose Spring Farm in West Grove, PA and the most beautiful hand dyed roving from Wild Hare Fiber. She had a show day buy 2 get 1 free deal that I just couldn't pass by!

Now, I need to get busy and make some spare change so I can buy more fencing, update our old barn and get our first goats!

P.S. I almost forgot my husband's purchase of a bar of Sweet Spice Scrub from Charleen VanLandingham. And the best part, he won our tickets for today from the local radio station, The Corner - 106.1!
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