Tag Archives: crafts

Knitting and Writing

Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever wondered what knitting and writing have in common?  If so, check out my blog post on the Writers Who Kill Blog at the following link: Combinations

Have a great day!


Finally – a Craft for Men!

Good morning Everyone!


A Craft for Men.

At a Michael’s Near You!


Have a great day!


Three Effortless Ways to Embarrass Your 13 Year Old Daughter

Good morning Everyone!

I did three things last week that embarrassed Kayla.  None of them was particularly dreadful, so I am curious to know if any of you can explain her embarrassment.

Embarrassment Number 1:  I joined Instagram.  I did not post anything, just got an account and followed Kayla and a couple of other people.  If I had posted weird pictures or Kayla’s toddler pictures (especially the absolutely adorable one of her looking like a mountain gnome, the bottom half of her face completely covered in chocolate ice cream from where she had tried to eat an ice cream cone in the dark FN 1), I would understand it better, but simply to establish an account?

Embarrassment Number 2:  I (gasp!!!) knitted while I was in a doctor’s waiting room while she was with me.  I didn’t hurt anyone, shake my needles at anyone, poke anyone’s eyes out or click the needles together loudly like a pair of castanets.  I even restrained myself from knitting when we were waiting at the orthodontist’s office, only knitting while we were waiting for my allergist.  (Lots of teens at the orthodontist; none at the allergist.)  Apparently I still committed a faux pas.

Embarrassment Number 3:  I did not mute the keys on my cell phone while I was texting.  The fact that I text at all is something she should encourage, noisy keys or not.  I like hearing the sound of the virtual keys; that way at least I’m sure I hit some kind of letter, even if it ends up being the wrong one!  If anyone can explain this one to me, too, I’d appreciate it.  And no, we were not in a crowded area, there were not any other teenagers around, and there was only one other person in the waiting room when I typed my text.

I would appreciate any enlightenment, although I can’t promise I will never embarrass her again, for two reasons.  The first is that the rules as to what embarrasses keep on changing.  The second is that embarrassing your 13-year-old can be a lot of fun.

Have a great day!


FN 1.  That picture was nominated for the “first time we meet your boyfriend” album as soon as it was taken.  Two for, and one against, and I’ll let you guess who voted for what.

How Not To Sew In 10 Easy Steps

Good morning Everyone!

I made a trip to the fabric store yesterday.  The only place I like to shop at more than the fabric store is the craft store, which is why I try to limit my visits to both.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

I would love to tell you how to sew, but I find I am better at explaining how NOT to sew.  Following any one, or all, of these 10 steps will ensure that, sooner or later, you will have attempted and failed to make an item of clothing that you can wear. Lest you be afraid that I am not speaking with authority, let me hasten to assure you that I have committed each one of these mistakes at one time or another in my 32 year career as an intermittent seamstress hobbyist.

Pattern Maker, sewing

Not This Kind of Pattern Maker!

1)  Fail to remember the name of the pattern maker. 

This one works especially well if you purchased fabric some time ago, picked out a pattern and now find that you need a different sized pattern.  Kind of like automobiles in America used to have the Big Three, in sewing, there are what I think of as “The Big Four” – Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick and Vogue.   Here is an example to help you visualize how properly to perform this step.  I have two different kinds of seersucker fabric that I would like to use to make a short/top outfit.  When I bought the fabric a couple of years ago, I selected pattern 4097 to go with it.  Yesterday, I noticed that it now appears that I need a different size pattern 4097.  I spent several minutes at the pattern store confirming that Simplicity 4097 no longer is available, only to discover when I got home that it was McCall’s 4097 that I needed, thereby delaying the construction of the garments further.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

2)  Do not pay close attention to what you are doing while shopping. 

Upon entering the fabric store of your choice, enter the same kind of trance that I enter in a craft store, where I come out of Nirvana with little memory of the past hour, and suddenly realize that in that time I have purchased a latchhook kit, a “how to knit” book for the 30th time and a picture frame that I have no picture for.  (I don’t do latchhook, can’t seem to learn how to knit – it’s making the second row that seems to defeat me – and normally only buy picture frames that fit pictures that I want to hang.)  Doing this in a fabric store greatly aids you in completing steps 3-6 along with ensuring that you walk out of the store with $100 worth of a smashing burgundy swirled taffeta fabric for which you have no use.

Pins, sewing

3)   Assume that pattern sizes are the same as ready to wear sizes.

This step will ensure that your clothing will not fit.  The sizes aren’t even close.   A pattern size that fits is usually at least four sizes higher than the size you would buy at a department store.  Pattern makers never bought into vanity sizing.

Scissors, Pin Cushion. Buttons, thread, tape measure

4)  Don’t bring your measurements with you.

Hey, I’m with you on this step.  I know it is much more comfortable just guessing at how many inches wide your bust, waistline and hip is.  Doing so has the added benefit of ensuring that you buy a pattern that is not going to fit you when it’s done.  You really get triple bonus points for this manner of not sewing, because you not only end up with something you can’t use, you also get to put in all the time and effort into sewing the garment before you realize it.  In the unlikely event that you want a garment you can wear when it’s finished, bring your (updated, true) measurements to the fabric store for pattern selection, even if you have to store them in an underground dungeon guarded by a dragon and two trolls to conceal them from the rest of the world the rest of the time.


From Print Shop Professional 2.0

5) Believe Vogue patterns when they say a pattern is easy. 

Vogue labels its patterns in terms of difficulty.  The other three of the big four do so with at least some of their patterns.  However, unlike the other three, Vogue’s idea of easy is very different from a beginner’s idea of easy.  I have begun to think that perhaps by “easy” they mean “easy for an accomplished career seamstress.”  Or maybe it just means “easy for anyone else except you, Nancy.”  For those few people who actually want to end up with a garment they can wear, you are pretty safe with Vogue’s “pretty easy” or lower ratings.

My Seersucker Short Stash – Try saying that three times fast!

6) Buy the fabric amount listed for a smaller size. 

I am a pro at doing this.  The back of a pattern contains a wealth of information, and does it in two different languages.  This means that the chart listing the needed amounts of fabric is very crowded and it is easy to select the wrong fabric size for the garment.  In addition, this step has the added benefit of being unfixable, since the fabric normally has sold out between the time you bought it and the time you discover the mistake.  For those few wishing to avoid such a mistake, the pen is your friend – circle the correct size and fabric amount on the garment before you start looking for fabric.

My Sunday Go To Meeting Scissors, with a case to ensure that no one but me uses them!

7) Use the wrong layout for the pattern size you need, and cut out part of it before you notice your mistake. 

Sewing patterns show you how to lay the various pattern pieces out before cutting.  However, to minimize the amount of fabric needed, a pattern will normally present several different layouts.  It also matters whether you have purchased a fabric 44 – 45″ wide or 58-60″ wide.  The best way for this mistake to occur is to use the 58-60″ layout for a 44-45″ wide fabric, and do it for an incorrect size.  44-45″ fabric is never big enough to complete a 58-60″ layout.  For those few who might care to avoid this mistake, remember your mantra – the pen is your friend.  Circle the correct layout(s) before you begin to place and cut out pattern pieces.

Brother Sewing Machine

My Sewing Machine

8) Use someone else’s sewing machine. 

Sewing machines have a life and a mind of their own.  They adopt one primary owner and throw the rest of us under the bus.  It was at least 15 years before my mother’s machine reconciled itself to the fact that her children would be using it also.  Until then, each of us faced a myriad of tangled threads, knots and machine malfunctions while our mother never faced one.  Mom recently gave it to my sister, who had to remind it at one point that it was not going to get to go back home to Mom, so it might as well reconcile itself to her.  I’m not sure it has done so.

My Gingher Scissors Are Perfect for Step 9.

9) Trim seams recklessly and with abandon. 

Picture the Swedish Chef meets  “Sewing with Nancy.”

Black lab, crazy Dog

With Darwin around, we don’t need to borrow a lab puppy.

10) Leave the garment lying around carelessly. 

If, in spite of your best efforts, you end up with a garment that you can wear, there is one last-ditch effort you can try to be sure that you are “not” sewing.  It does require an extra ingredient – at least one animal that likes to chew.  If you don’t have one, borrow a friend’s Labrador puppy, age 1 or older.  Leave the garment somewhere where the animal can easily reach it, and go away.  The outfit will be destroyed in about 10 minutes, tops.

Sew, Sewing Tools

From Print Shop Professional 2.0

And so there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – How Not to Sew in 10 Easy Steps.

Have a great weekend!


Of Craft Stores, Wal-Mart and Striking Back

Good morning Everyone!

I love craft stores.  All I have to do is enter one, and I fall into a trance even worse than the one that hits me every spring when I go by a garden center.  (See, Spring, Roosters and Butterfly Farm.)  One of the reasons it is worse is that I only enter the garden center trance once a year, at springtime, while the craft store trance is guaranteed to hit each and every time I walk through the door of a Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann’s Crafts or Hancock Fabrics.  (A.C. Moore’s used to be included in that list, but alas, the one in our area closed about two years ago.)

It is thanks to this quartet of stores, with an assist from a small store in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee that sells wood craft patterns (I can’t remember its name, but if you are familiar with that area, it is in the shopping center behind the Old Mill Restaurant on the right as you travel away from the main highway) and the local fabric shop in one of the cities in our area, the Opelika Sewing Center, that I have one of the finest craft closets for its size anywhere.  In addition to a copious stash of supplies for counted cross-stitch, craft painting, sewing and scroll-sawing, (all of which I have done sometime in the last two years),  along with various supplies for art class I have garnered, I have beginning supplies for a number of things I intend to try some day, including beading supplies, modeling clay and knitting supplies.  I just can’t leave a craft store without buying something; there are days I manage to restrain myself to just a skein of cross-stitch thread or a bottle of craft paint, and other days when my buggy is full by the time I hit the check out counter.

Cross-Stitch Magnet I Made, 2011

Wal-Mart used to have a craft section where it sold cross-stitch supplies, craft painting supplies, yarn and knitting/crochet supplies and fabric.  In fact, the cross-stitch supplies were one of my reasons for going to Wal-mart – it is a well-known corollary to Murphy’s law that no matter how many different DMC thread colors you have, you will always be short at least one color when you start a project.  However, in the last two years all of those items have been phased out of all Wal-marts and I suspect I am not the only person who mourned their passing.

Craft Painting on Mini-pumpkins in 2005 - Mine is the one on the left; Kayla's are the three on the right

For those very select few who might live somewhere where a Wal-Mart does not, Wal-mart is a store that generally sells a little of everything.  Originally, Wal-Marts were relatively small, and made a living by moving into a plethora of small towns.  Over time, however, the Wal-Marts mutated into these giant stores called “Wal-Mart SuperCenters” which added full service grocery stores onto the other part of Wal-mart and in doing so created a store where you can pretty much buy anything from live fish (as pets) to asparagus to bed linens – but apparently not fabric or counted cross-stitch threads!

However, here where I live, we have one of the last original small Wal-marts in existence, and it took longer than most to ditch the craft supplies.  Finally, though, even it was forced to bow to the pressure put on it by corporate, and it put the fabric and other craft stock away.  In my small town, we are now left with one generic craft aisle that sells a few sewing notions, a few skeins of yarn (but no cross-stitch thread or supplies), a few craft painting items, and a huge array of Crayola products for children.  

The 2007 ornaments I painted for people at work, Part I

That being said, you would not think I could manage to enter my craft trance at a Wal-mart anymore, but yesterday I managed to do so.  You see, some enterprising buyer had the thought to put some “I learned to knit by myself” and “I learned to crochet by myself” kits immediately beside the yarn skeins.  I went in to buy needle threaders (Singer has a three pack for just under $1) and before I knew it, I had added two skeins of yarn and the crochet pack to my buggy.  It took an enormous effort of will, which wouldn’t have been possible in the old craft section because it was big enough to induce the trance for a much longer period of time, but I managed to argue myself into putting the crochet pack back.  (The yarn had to stay because Kayla is working on her first needlework project – do you hear the tone of motherly pride in my voice? – and somehow the dark blue and black yarn that came with the kit had been lost.) 

2007 painted ornaments, Part 2

So take that Wal-mart!  You lost at least $8 in revenue yesterday because you decided to emasculate your craft section.  Just imagine how much more you may have lost in the meantime!

Have a great day everyone!


The Gourd Adventure Continues: A Craft Room and a View

Good morning Everyone!

I might have overdone things just a tad on Tuesday, so I spent Wednesday happily engaged in mostly sedentary activities.  I thought I’d share a little bit of what I did.

Gourd fronts

 Some of you may remember a post in August I did called Out of Our Gourds for Gourds.  In that post, for the first time, you met the newly formed, but not yet finished, pumpkin gourd on the left with both a front (above) view and a back (below) view. 

Gourd Backs

Mom finished the Santa gourd in Jacksonville, but she had brought the other gourd back up here with her.  She was going to finish it while she was here, but since she is making the Rapunzel costume for Kayla, which, by the way, is going to be gorgeous, she won’t have time.  So yesterday, I took over the task of starting to finish the pumpkin gourd.  I have some more detail work to do, but when I put my brushes up at 5:00 p.m yesterday, the pumpkin gourd was starting to shape up.

Pumpkin Gourd Front, Stage 2


Pumpkin gourd back, stage 2

Hopefully I will get a chance to show you the final version; there’s not too much left to be done besides some finishing on the leaves and some outlining. 

The pumpkin gourd came up for discussion because I first had finished a Halloween sign to put in the front of the house, and all of my orange paints were out.  I am pretty pleased with it, even if I do say so myself.

Halloween Sign, Close Up

It is supposed to be staked into the ground. 

I’m probably going to put it somewhere near the corner of the house where the bird house gourd that my grandfather gave me recently is hanging proudly from the only one of three trees in our yard suitable for it. 

Corner of house

For those readers who are part of the close-knit gourd community which someday I hope to meet, here is a close-up of the gourd.  I don’t know where it was originally purchased. 

After a solid afternoon of painting, I needed to stretch my legs and get out of the craft room formerly known as the great room in my house (don’t worry, Mark, we’ll have it back to normal soon – would Christmas Eve be too late?) so I walked a half block down the street to take pictures of my lake to share with you. 

An afternoon moon was out.  When Kayla was little, we would try to guess what Miss Moon had to say to Mr. Sun that was so important for her to arrive early to see him.  They would have some interesting conversations.

Afternoon Moon

The lake is always pretty.

The Lake Right After A Speed Boat Went By

The trees with the lake are also beautiful.

We are starting to see as well the first harbingers of fall – and yes, fall arrives in Alabama, it is just a softer, slower process than the explosion up North.  The changing of the leaves is not controlled by temperature, but rather by the length of the days – as the days get shorter, the leaves start to turn.  Because the days get shorter faster up North, your trees turn much more quickly.  Because our days get shorter more gradually, our trees gently fade into colors bit by bit, but once they all get turned, it is just as pretty. 

First harbingers of fall

 Not a bad way, overall, to spend a day recovering from surgery, is it?

Have a great day everyone!


Out of Our Gourds for Gourds

Good morning Everyone!

Mom and Kayla Working on Their Gourds

This weekend, my mom, who is visiting, Kayla and I had the chance to work on a craft project together.  My mom brought up two huge gourds, which she had allowed to dry for over a year, which she wanted to paint; one is to be a Christmas decoration, painted like a Santa, and the other is to be a Halloween decoration. 

The Picture They Knew I Was Taking

Well, I got a little curious, because it seemed odd to me that a plant would be developed solely for decorative purposes, and Mom couldn’t think of any food purposes behind the gourd, so I did what any reasonable 21st century individual would do – I googled “gourd.”  I found out several interesting things about them. 

The Picture They Did Not Know I Was Taking!

First, they are related to cucumbers and melons.  I wouldn’t have guessed either relationship, although had I seen the scientific name for the gourd family first, Cucurbitaceae, I might have been able to guess at the cucumber relationship. 

Hmmmm - Doesn't look much like a cucumber to me!

Second, they were brought to the United States around 10,000 years ago with the peoples who crossed over the land bridge which then existed on the Bering Straits.  Genetic tests have shown that the American bottle gourd is most closely related to the Asian bottle gourd.  The Asian bottle gourd is descended from the African bottle gourd. 

The gourd is not quite as big as Kayla, but close!

Third, and I find this most interesting, the gourd was the first domesticated plant in the Americas.  It was not grown as a food crop, but as a container.  The gourd itself is the fruit of the plant; its shell is strong and buoyant, and has been used for thousands of years as containers, for musical instruments, and fishing floats.  FN. 

Gourd fronts with finished base coat

Fast forward about 10000 years to my dining room table, where our gourd painting experience had begun.  Mom had downloaded directions on how to paint the Santa Claus from the internet, and had a much smaller example of what she wanted the Halloween gourd painted like, so art class was officially in session. 

Gourd Backs

We spent about three hours on Sunday afternoon working on them, and didn’t get much further than the base coats, but we had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t help but wonder, though, if the gourds feel that they have taken a step down, from valued container or musical instrument, to simple decoration, but perhaps they are just grateful to still be useful even after 10,000 years!

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  See, “An Asian Origin for a 10,000-year-old domesticated plant in the Americas, ” from the Dec. 20, 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America for further information if you are interested.