Tuesday, December 31, 2013

rising 60 - quantification

As 2014 shall see our plucky heroine rising sixty, it occurred to me that would be a good matrix to hang change upon, and also a way to hold self to noting progress and scheduling time for needful activities. While there are a lot of aspects of life I've no idea how to shift, these three are ones already within my skillset, and like any other part in need of strengthening, repetition should make a difference...

60 projects made
a combination of needful clothing sewing and increased studio metalwork/enameling; I need some new everyday clothing to replace worn/threadbare garments, and I need a coat and a jacket. By also focusing on my creative work, new income opportunities will become possible.

60 hours of home refurbishment
there's already fair amount of useful supplies for some needed projects around the homeplace, now to focus on doing the work, asking for help where required, and figuring out how to repair and create better infrastructure.

60 grocery sacks decluttered
I've no idea if this is far more or far less than is needed. I function better in an orderly environment where the supplies and tools are ready to hand, so creating that kind of environment is a priority for 2014

This might be enough. This does feel doable, in that I am looking at maybe an hour or two out of every day, to make these goals a reality.  And so it begins...

some good in the year past

in which our plucky heroine reflects that despite how it feels, 2013 did see quite a bit in the way of things accomplished:

I managed a fair amount of minor travelling

Stitched up rather quite a bit of wardrobe refurbishment

made things for other people
in enamel
and in textiles

and an assortment of random crafts and repairs

Looking over what actually happened is somewhat encouraging; looking ahead the intention is to find ways to increase productivity and enjoyment concurrently, and to make increasing progress on various home improvements that will feed directly into that goal. 'Tis a feedback loop that needs input to start moving...

Monday, December 30, 2013

knit knot, knit knot flat

our plucky heroine has not really done much knitting in 2013, compared to previous years. The saying "when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in the end and hang on" has surfaced repeatedly, and this wee bit of needlework seemed a fitting representation, somehow...

found this design for a 3-D knitted knot on Ravelry...

after the first one, could not resist making another, slightly different one...

if flattened, it becomes a wonderful interlaced disc,
eminently suited to become a pincushion!

a small Sunday snippet

...apparently our plucky heroine forgot to post pictures of one of the favorite needlebooks from earlier this month - this small Useful Convenience includes personal heraldry done in applique and embroidery on a very small scale. As mentioned in this earlier post, the central embellished piece is about the size of a business card...

The finished needlebook (3 1/4" x 3 3/4") is only slightly larger, and fastens at the side with a large sturdy snap. 'Tis a bit hard to photograph black on black, but this is the inside of the heraldic needle book, showing that there are two layers of wool felt as an interior booklet to store neeedles and pins in a safe an tidy fashion
I make these as custom pieces with personal heraldry or badges, inquire if interested, prices start at $35

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday snippets - eightfold wheel, living history video, and Frenchie revisited...

in which our plucky heroine begins to think both about the year passing and the year coming up...

For 2014 my goal is to believe enough that I will make it through another year that having goals is possible... and with that belief, make progress on the aspects of my life that are the most out of balance. Somewhere in blogland I read that the eightfold aspects that are the spokes of our lives are: career, health, personal development/education, family and friends, household/environment, romance and personal relationships, finances, and fun and recreation.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and if looked at through that filter my current life is serious unbalanced and dysfunctional. I need to make progress in 2014 on improving basically everything about my life (except my relationships with family and friends, which is excellent); there are areas which I understand the needed direction and steps, being held back only by my own fears, and there are areas where I have no idea how or even what would make the situation better... Well, needs must take what steps seem apparent, and trust that in time the muddy water will settle and clear

#1 career - active teaching - first step: write up proposals

#2 health - recover former condition - first step: a month without grain or sugar

#3 personal development/education - new workshop and stitchery skills - first steps: workshop: ? -  stitchery: papertape dress form and Craftsy classes on fitting

#4 family and friends - keep on with doing well

#5 household/environment - create beauty and order - first step: daily dozen decluttering

#6 romance and personal relationships - find local companion(s) - first step: ?

#7 finances - double income - first step: do the math

#8  fun and recreation - increase SCA participation - first step: attend events

Whilst up in OlyWa, we watched an episode from the new BBC series "Tudor Monastery Farm" which was just the sort of thing our plucky heroine really enjoys, rather like a live action video of Lost Country Life, with just enough plot to hold it all together, and lots and lots of description of daily life.... Apparently there are several other series, and Elfreda suggested that I might also enjoy the "Tales from the Green Valley" series, set a little bit later in time, but equally engaging...

Back earlier in December I made a custom pet portrait/potpourri holder/ornament, and was just today sent pictures of the actual dog face to face with his portrait:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Athenian owl

in which our plucky heroine shares the process of going from a concept and initial sketch to a finished pendant: this example, based on coin design from ancient Athens, was commissioned as a Christmas gift by my pal Vesta for her boyfriend, so it had to be kept secret until after the holiday. He was as delighted to receive it as I was to have been chosen to create it...

My original sketch, (after being enlarged to suit)

Wires bent to match design

starting to apply wires to enamel

six layers of enamel so far, going into the kiln to fire another layer of black
... gosh I love the leaded French enamels; they are sooo nice to work with

enameling is done, black dots on the owls chest are done with painting enamels...

The completed enamel in a simple silver setting,
ready to be mailed out to make someone very happy this Christmas!

a ruler shows the scale of the design...
the pendant is actually just about 1¼" in diameter

a way out of the box?

Antinomy is not exactly a paradox, but rather a place between two incompatible truths...

Our plucky heroine is not asking to make it not have happened. That I could one time at least walk on the earth a short time with that inner spark of certain love and connection was a gift, however bittersweet the memory. It was the most painful of lies, that there was a place in his heart shaped like me, that no one else could fill... because he believed it when he said it, enough to let me hear the truth in it, and not hear the deeper truth, that I had never been his hearts choice.

And that love has passed now far beyond the curves in the road, back beyond where even the feelings are only resonant echoes in the bright world, where the surface is all unruffled by either winds of passion and delight, or by lashing droplets of agonizing betrayal, where though not all places are ever alike, I walk as alone as Kipling's cat. I see the glitter and warmth in the lives of my dear ones, the circles whirl and interlock in patterns as elaborate as a knotwork carpet page seen through the museum glass, seen on the other side of the mirror, glimpsed in stories and periphery, like that fairie country only seen indirectly.

Where is the spell that will heal grievous errors in my thinking, where is the reset button on my life, where o where is there a warm place for this weary girl to be at home on this side of the bright world... Bleak now my imagination fails me, as it never has before; long years of stubborn certainty held me upright through the desert, habit alone keeps me moving now... There are no words in my language for how I feel, antinomy comes far closer than bitter English words like envy and sorrow... what is in my heart is not a sin, for I joy that my friends are joyful, I never wish their joy to be less rich... Is it better to have one time stood within the open door, or not? To stand outside the fragrant and spicy warmth knowing, or only imagining?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

custom pet portrait in felt and wool

Before the holiday, but after my kitty face needlebooks were up for adoption, I was asked about doing a custom portrait of this dapper chap, intended as a sachet and ornament... I couldn't show the finished piece, as it was a surprise gift, but I did mention it briefly in this post on brindle brindle brindle

My initial sketch of the front of ornament: about 3 1/3 wide, base layers of felt brown and black, with wispy black needlefelted wool overlay on the brown to simulate brindle color, embroidered mouth and nose, button eyes

back of ornament brown with embroidered curly tail on overlaid pocket to hold potpourri...

Ears and tail finished, layers stitched together... all he needs is an ornament hanger...

and... the rear view... curly tail and a pocket for a potpourri sachet

assorted tradtional (and not so) tunes

from Acorn Cottage does our plucky heroine send Holiday Greetings to friends far and wide... wishing for all some bright and festive spirit to sparkle in your lives... however and whatever you celebrate, may the light shine for each and all of us!

The Boar's Head Carol - Steeleye Span

Run Rudolph Run - Grateful Dead

Wassail Song - Albion Dance Band

Ring Out Solstice Bells - Jethro Tull

The Christians and the Pagans - Dar Williams

Gower Wassail - Steeleye Span

Old Hippie Christmas - The Bellamy Brothers


Monday, December 23, 2013


Look! It took a while, but that pony for my birthday finally showed up...

but really, while no one gets what they ask for, not all the time, and not always right then and there, in this lifetime our plucky heroine is truly grateful for the lovingkindness of friends and family, the circles in my life that sustain me and that I help sustain in turn... that is the wealth, that is the brightness, that is what makes it go

Saturday, December 21, 2013

do not pass go

our plucky heroine pauses in the journey around the sun, on this darkest day,grateful to still be here, and gathers strength to make another circle... may the next one have more lightness and more strength to bear the struggle...

hippo birdy to me

Thursday, December 19, 2013

edible alcoholic playdough, or rum balls... now with whiskey!

In which our plucky heroine takes the wayback machine to this recipe from my childhood, that my mother would make, with my help, as a special treat for my father's birthday celebration. Back in the day, the home microwave was merely a gleam in the eye of some Litton engineer, and melting the chocolate was a tricksy thing done carefully in a double boiler.

Nowadays, a pyrex container and a few careful rounds in the microwave takes care of the most difficult portion of the preparation; the rest of the effort consists of crushing cookies and mixing the various components together, well within the skillset of a useful child, or an exhausted adult...

12 oz chocolate chips
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 c rum or whiskey
3/4 c confectioners sugar
1/4 t salt
2 c plain cookie crumbs

To start with, the plain cookies need to be reduced to fine crumbs. What sort of cookies you use can vary; the original recipe calls for vanilla wafers, but given the long list of multisyllabic "ingredients" in contemporary nilla wafers, I have opted for various other simple dry cookies as a base, most commonly some form of organic graham crackers, as they are easy to crumble finely. What you do want is a cookie that is dry rather than a soft and rich, as the rest of the ingredients will add plenty of richness, and the dry cookie base needs be absorbent. (It would be interesting sometime to try this with a gingersnap base, though, for a completely different type of confection)

But enough digression, first crush those cookies until they are almost as fine as cornmeal. Mix together with the confectioners sugar and the wee dab of salt, in a large mixing bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, carefully until just melty, it will look like it is holding its shape, until you push at it with a spoon, then it is obvious that it is chocolava underneath. DO NOT BURN your chocolate.

Stir the sour cream into the chocolate. It will look all terrible and clumpy for a minute or two, then become incredibly dark and glossy. When the sour cream is entirely mixed in, then add the alcohol. For me, the choice is Meyers Dark Rum, because that is what these were always made with when I was growing up. But now, most of my friends like whiskey far more than rum, and so I indulge them... truly I suspect that any high proof alcohol would be suitable. It will take some doing to incorporate the alcohol, and the chocolate will not look quite as beautiful, but keep on...

Finally add your chocolate mixture to the sugar and cookie mixture, and combine. Be persistent. It will get thick, and sort of crumbly, the final texture is rather sandy/gritty and not very appealing. Do Not Worry. Then comes the tedious fun part, where you shape your bowlful of proto-treats into many very small spheres. I usually make these about the size of a dime or penny, as they are much better as one bite treats. Once you have made the sphere, they can be rolled in either more confectioners sugar, or in cocoa powder as a final touch, and to help keep them from sticking together. They keep fairly well in the fridge, if you can keep from eating them all up.

Best made a few days before you want to serve them, as they are much improved by some aging, which allows the moisture to soften the cookie crumbs and the alcohol flavor to permeate the entire confection.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday treats both large and small

Despite, or rather perhaps as a consequence of, coming rather unstuck in the sleep/wake cycle, our plucky heroine does seem to be finally escaping from the headache zone, with resulting improvement in functionality...

on awakening this morning, found on my doorstep a mysterious parcel... which when turned over and opened, contained this most gorgeous of yarns (Blue Moon Twisted in Haida colorway) last seen in analog life almost three years ago!

Like a child with a favorite softy, I am hugging it right now! Eight ounces of subtle darks and blues, in merino, but plied, which tempers softness with durability; now comes the fun of deciding just what project will be right to show off the beautiful coloring... thank you so very much Southward Jen for your kindhearted and warming generosity!


It is my hope that my cardinals, sent out to the ornament exchange cohort, will be received with some echo of that delight... The bird ornaments are not that difficult to make, being a variant on the felted knit birds I have made in previous years, so I thought to share a few details of construction, should anyone be inspired to make some of their own... First off is heading for the internet, or a good field guide, to look at pictures of your chosen quarry.
A simple sketched silhouette can make a pattern, and the various parts cut up from different colors of felt. I used wool felt, and first washed and dried the rectangle to thicken and full it a bit more, before cutting out the bird components
The smaller pieces are stitched in place, then the wings, and finally the body is sewn together and a loop for hanging is attached...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday media and musings...

Back earlier this year our plucky heroine was delighted and amused by The Great British Sewing Bee, and they are back with a holiday special... my kind of holiday special!

from my southern friend Jen, who has introduced me to an assortment of music I'd not have found otherwise, Ryley Walker, (who really does seem to be visiting some of the same territory as Bert Jansch did in days gone by):
npr World Cafe: Ryley Walker
(click and follow to find the music player, couldn't find a way to link direct or embed)

...and for those of a metallic persuasion, or just up for something different... wishing you light in this season of early darkness:


It has been an interesting week here at Acorn Cottage, rather exhausting, though finding that more productive work is happening, and there is incremental positive change in both attitude and environs, hopefully a trend that will continue and increase. Progress, however incremental, is movement forward... small movement can start an avalanche... not that I am asking for an avalanche mind you, but progress towards my needful goals would be good...

Yesterday afternoon had to repel boarders though... and it was interesting to hear the proportion of various women friends with either commendation for my savvy, or bafflement at my inhospitably... See, there I was working away on a Sunday afternoon on a holiday commission, wanting to get it finished in time to ship out for someones special gift to their special someone, when the doorbell rings...

There on the doorstep is a man + large teenage boy that showed up wanting to video the inside of my house, saying that they lived here a long time ago and wanted to make a video for their wife/mother as a gift. I told them no, and that no, I was not willing to walk around inside and video it for them. They were very disappointed, but really... what would you do in a similar situation?

What I figured is that if they were really legit and had been planning this as a holiday gift for "Mom" that they could have written to the various addresses of where they lived in the past letting folks know what they were doing, not just showing up unexpectedly at someone's door on a Sunday afternoon... they were probably harmless, but why tempt fate, and whyever on this sweet earth would I want a video of the interior of my home out there randomly...

When I spoke to the Portland police (non-emergency line) to file a report they told me that the best thing to do would have been to call 911 immediately, rather than assume benign intention and let them leave... that there are various predatory types that use things like this as a scam to either case houses or to cause trouble once inside the house... He said that I did the next best thing, by filing the report...

It isn't weird to want to see places where you once lived, or to share those memories with others in your family that are not there... I sort of understand that... what I don't exactly understand, what I find actually totally baffling, is that some of my women friends seem to not to find the idea of letting two unknown male strangers larger than myself into the house as something potentially dangerous or tragic...I don't think that either of the two menfolk understood why I didn't want to let them inside, and why I asked them to please leave... I think it is, perhaps, if I am not overly predjudiced, something that many men do not think about. I am not actually sorry that it may have impacted their holiday plans, but I am sorry that I did not have a quick and polite way to let them know that just showing up with a camera at a strangers house is not appropriate behavior

just to show that I do have some understanding of nostalgia - and b'sides... 'tis a lovely song

... and here's a quote (from "How Not To Be Alone"); remember to be kind to one another, it really does make a difference; and remember, like Ursula LeGuin says: "To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well..."

"Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers.

We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die."

         ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Friday, December 13, 2013


Standing in the foliated and flowery lobby of New Seasons, our plucky heroine is talking to herself whilst girding loins to head home on the bus...

"I'll just take a moment to enjoy all the lovely blossoms, wishing that someone cared enough to bring me flowers; oh, well, I guess that'd be up to me..."

and I turn to head out the door, when the young floral clerk smiled, said "I care" and handed me this rosebud...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday - on soup

Wintertime is a good time to start using the things in the storage freezer (which our plucky heroine uses as a sort of auxiliary longterm pantry). This is the beginning of what I call "compost soup" and this particular batch will be interesting and complex, having lamb and beef and chicken and mushrooms, as well as an assortment of random herbs...

Every time there is a small amount of savory leftovers, they go into a container in the freezer, ditto bones from any cooked meats, and when there is enough, it all goes into Mr Crockpot to get cooked down to stock. By doing this I can get another one or two nutritious and very tasty meals from what is often discarded. Once the stock has cooked down for overnight, it can be strained, and a few fresh veggie bits added, whatever chopped roots are available, some onion, etc, and it is a delicious basis for breakfast or supper...

In the winter, I often keep the dual small crockpots in alternate duty, forwarding whatever leftover soup there is one day as part of the base for the next one. Frugal, yes, but also very tasty! I am just grateful that I both know how to cook, and have a kitchen and some simple equipment; in my opinion, knowing how to cook is a vital life skill... and in addition, am grateful for the myriad folks that I have learned different aspects of said skill over the years... I couldn't survive in any sort of health (both physical and financial) without that knowledge. In these days when Washington keeps cutting back on the food assistance allotment more and more, Super Soup comes to the rescue!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

a rather random and wishful Wednesday

Remember these bright birds? The ones that no one took home from the gift sale... well, they are winging their way to new homes nonetheless, as there were just the right number to be sent off to my swappity partners in the Ornament Swap! The post office this time of year is an exercise in patience, and I therefore brought along some handwork (well when does our plucky heroine go anywhere without handwork?!?) and mailed out a half dozen cardinals, as well as the whole passel of other animals and sundry that have been ordered as holiday gifts. Might put together a wee tutorial on making bird ornaments, since I have sent away ALL six of the cardinals and left no red bird here to grace my window of ornamentalia

That leaves only the current (sekrit) workroom commissioned project, and a few other special delights that need to be posted in the next week, before the winter holiday season commences in earnest. Most of the gifts for friends and family will be either hand carried to various events between now and 12th Night, or for distant family, posted after the tide holiday madness has subsided. (we have a sort of tradition of family gifts not being on time, of which I am the perhaps most dedicated examplar, since my gifts often take months to arrive...)

It seems that in the last week there has been some small sign that my energy and hopefulness may be starting to return, in that there has been occasional desire on the part of the inhabitant to begin to bring the homeplace back to some sort of orderly beauty... 'tis always self apparent when despair begins to dog my spirit, as the general levels of tidiness and organisation go all to the hot place (where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?) To me it is reminiscent of nothing so much as the struggles I've seen with folks quitting smoking - they try, and fail, and try again and fail, and some of them give up and some keep trying until it shifts over into a new way of living... Girl keeps trying to make the surroundings of Acorn Cottage into the kind of beautiful functionality that will support the life I want to be living... maybe this time will be the charm?

Earlier this week, posted both updated and annotated material wishlist and the assistance/workparty wishlist for this year, and there are some always bits and bobs that get remembered later :

I have a bit of a weakness for Japanese mugs with painterly cobalt and brown glaze, on a greyish stoneware background with little dark speckles. They are from the seventies maybe, I think, but not contemporary... this picture shows some that are currently living here, and I always keep my eyes open when thrifting in hope of finding more in this particular colorway... 

I mostly do not collect things, in particular I don't collect acorn kitsch, even though the house is named Acorn Cottage, nor do I collect chicken things, even though there are often hens in residence... I do collect maneki-neko that are under 1" tall, and have over the years found five, who sit nicely in a wasabi dish on the nightstand...

Speaking of hens, this Egg Skelter would be an amusing and most useful storage device for the kitchen... it holds eggs in order of freshness allowing the newest ones to take their place in the back of the line...

It would be a very good addition to the infrastructure here to acquire an extension ladder. One that is long enough to reach the gutters, or the attic hatchways, and strong enough for someone that weighs over 200 lbs... must needs do a bit more research as to what would be suitable

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

brindle brindle brindle

...'tis one of our plucky heroine's very favorite colorways for critters...

While cannot show the entire piece yet, (as it is a commissioned holiday surprise gift for someone), these ears and forehead show how by using needlefelting techniques, was able to get this sort of detailing on a needle book, intended to represent the brindle fur of a beloved pet... am thinking that it would also work well for tiger stripes!

(I love making things for folks that they cannot find elsewhere, and custom needlebooks, or holiday ornaments are a nice way to both support your local artist and give someone a special treat - prices start at $35)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

some custom gift orders...

After sharing the pictures of my kittyface needlebooks, I had two requests for custom felt designs:

One request was for a sewing/knitting retractable tape measure, featuring a squirrel...

the original sketch...

...and this is the finished result

the finished tape measure case - squirrel design in layered applique and embroidered wool felt,
complete with extra acorn as the tape measure pull!
The other custom felt design is a pet portrait, and the interesting part of that project (so far) is that I get to attempt to make felt look like brindle fur... there will be needlefelting involved...

Friday, December 6, 2013

an ongoing and updated wishlist

...in which our plucky heroine observes how most of what is wished for "that can be given, involves more the gift of time and the sharing of some resources, rather than actual stuff."

the requirements are to keep the exchanged gift either handmade/homemade or if purchased to be $20 or less, it seemed a good idea to provide both general guidelines to what I like and do not like, as well as a modest annotated list of assorted Useful and Delightful things:

Random wishlist notes:

my favorite colors: The kind of blue that you get from indigo: nightsky and dark denim. The greyish color of natural linen. Taupe. Grey. Soft dull turquoise. The dark black brown of some kinds of undyed sheep wool. Bittersweet chocolate brown. Black.

Girl does not like chocolate and is allergic to cherries and hazelnuts...

I have a bit of a weakness for Japanese mugs with painterly cobalt and brown glaze, on a greyish stoneware background with little dark speckles. They are from the seventies maybe, I think, but not contemporary... this picture shows some that are currently living here, and I always keep my eyes open when thrifting in hope of finding more in this particular colorway... 

I mostly do not collect things, in particular I don't collect acorn kitsch, even though the house is named Acorn Cottage, nor do I collect chicken things, even though there are often hens in residence... I do collect maneki-neko that are under 1" tall, and have over the years found five, who sit nicely in a wasabi dish on the nightstand...

Annotated wishlist items that are less than $20:

jewelers hand vise
Tool Girl can never have too many tools, and doesn't have a hand vise... Lee Valley is most reputable, and has a delicious selection of tools and trinkets...

DMT pocket diamond hones
These smaller pocket size hones would be very handy

vintage ceramic mugs
The truth is that mugs often crack or break over time... these beautiful vintage mugs could be a good complement to the ones still here

Noro Kureyon
in the specific colorway #195, which is a discontinued colorway but a great favorite of mine. I love the rustic quality of Kureyon, and have used #195 to make a feather-and-fan shawlette back in '09

Boxwood Storage Tubes
doesn't everyone love small containers... these look quite delectable

Everything that follows is from 2013 or earlier...

It would be a very good addition to the infrastructure here to acquire an extension ladder. One that is long enough to reach the gutters, or the attic hatchways, and strong enough for someone that weighs over 200 lbs... must needs do a bit more research as to what would be suitable

This was last years list*:
(and anything not yet accomplished 
would still be a most welcome wish to be granted)

  1. company while sorting/organising supplies - the sewing room, and the workroom both need attention, and I make much better progress with someone else there to keep me company, is a lot more fun to sort fabric etc with the option for tea and chat...
  2. garden beds built/load of garden soil & compost acquired - a truck with an open bed, or money for a dumptruck load, and a number of strong shovel wielding folks. I have a plan, just need helpers.
  3. debris hauled away - this involves someone with a truck, and help going all round the outdoors of the homeplace, to remove everything that needs to not live here
  4. massage - for many years I had an ongoing every other week massage trade, housecleaning for bodywork; I miss that. Even a modest amount of attention paid to sorting out the knots and such that have accumulated in the last six  seven years would help me a lot
  5. bicycle maintenance and tuneup - I have no experience with how to care for my bike, having only fairly recently started riding again. Would love to learn more, and know that the useful tool of bicycle will be adjusted and cared for properly
  6. standard concrete block - in sets of four or six... why, 'cos I have a number of plastic barrels destined for rainwater collection, and they work a lot better if they are elevated. Concrete is damn heavy to cart home on the bus.
  7. wooden kitchen cart - to add additional counter space here, will make having more than one cook in the kitchen a lot easier. FORHOJA has drawers for storage
  8. install the hard flooring - this is a big project only because it involves removing the entire contents of each of the two bedrooms before the flooring can go down. Probably a weekend for each room, one day to move stuff out, one day to put flooring down and move stuff back in (just a guess, the rooms are pretty small, but there is a lot of stuff. Or...
  9. wooden shelves on the walls in bedroom and sewing room - more shelving will allow better storage of fabrics and other supplies, as well as guest bedding
  10. cross country train trip in a sleeper car - I want to visit my friends and family in New England, I love train travel, and it would be an adventure instead of an ordeal.

But, as girl is currently participating in the 2013 Friends of Dagmaer Sekrit Santa Gift Exchange, and my sekrit stalker pal is unlikely to be someone local, and the requirements are to keep the exchanged gift either handmade/homemade, and $20 or less, it seemed a good idea to provide an annotated list of assorted Useful and Delightful things:

Blue Moon Raven Clan Haida
pretty much any of the yarns in this particularly perfect colorway would make me happy

white scarf
bought one of their scarves a while back, they are a delicate cotton fabric and handprinted in India, this one is black on white, very reminiscent of Elizabethan artwork

blue scarf
Another pretty headscarf, this one in a more typical Indian cotton print, botanical designs on a blue background

jewelers hand vise
Tool Girl can never have too many tools, and doesn't have a hand vise... Lee Valley is most reputable, and has a delicious selection of tools and trinkets...

DMT diamond files in coarse medium and extra fine
Earlier this year Mr Robertson and his lovely wife came to visit, and he showed me a bit of how to better care for the sharpness of my knives, using this tool...

DMT pocket diamond hones
These smaller pocket size hones would be very handy

Noro Kureyon
in the specific colorway #195, which is a discontinued colorway but a great favorite of mine. I love the rustic quality of Kureyon, and have used #195 to make a feather-and-fan shawlette back in '09

Boxwood Storage Tubes
doesn't everyone love small containers... these look quite delectable

this Mary Azarin poster
I love the woodblock prints of Mary Azarian, and while her actual prints are far out of price range, this lovely poster is quite affordable

rather more spendy, but also Very Useful, things:

Hills Hoist rotary clothesline
Imagine my surprise to find that Costco carries the renowned Australian backyard clothesdryer. For three out of the four seasons of the year, outdoor drying in the backyard is possible...

Excalibur food dehydrator
I have several friends that own Excalibur food dehydrators, all quite happy with how useful they are...

stove tec rocket stove
This could be a good option for emergencies, and potentially for camping trips as well...


* Hmmmm, looks as if not a lot of progress was made in the last year at all on any of these goals, as #7 and #9 were completed back in  2011 and 2012. In addition, the building or acquisition of a proper clothesline setup is a vital addition to this list, and someday insulation in the walls, though that is a HUGE project indeed... There has been some improvement on the #4 , as I am now getting regular acupuncture treatments, which have improved my physical situation. (would still love to find a massage therapist to swap time with though) and there is a distinct possibility that #10 will be part of the plan for 2014 ( am currently fundraising towards that) as 'twill be my beloved aged parents 60th wedding anniversary next year, an occasion I'd not miss for anything.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

this will be fun...

 photo ornamentexchage180_zps1b760b95.jpgIt has been a while since our plucky heroine was able to participate in an online swap (as opposed to SWAP (Sewing With A Plan) which is another kettle of fish altogether, though they both involve sewing), one of the most memorable being the Mushroom Swap back in '09... When I saw that Kelli over at true bias was hosting an ornament swap this year I just had to sign up, and today just received the contact email. Getting small packages in the mail is always a spot of brightness in the day.. now to decide what will be a suitable ornament to send out into the world... maybe a flock of these cardinals?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


...in which our plucky heroine revisits an old favorite: cardweaving. Despite not takinig up the cards in almost twenty years, the helpful guidance of Khalja and Elfreda was enough to allow me to complete this Useful Band:
Made from DMC pearl cotton, the completed length is about 45". I plan on using it for the strap for a new knitting bag, since it is too short and stout to be garment trim. Using an inkle loom to hold the cards and warp makes cardweaving a lot easier to deal with, since my earlier attempts years ago were all done backstrap weaving style where the whole shebang is tied to a belt around your waist. Less infrastructure, but much less convenient. This was easy peasy, as you can simply set the shuttle down and walk away if needs must.

and for some reason this song, another piece of old history, came to mind...

The Ballad of Weaverville - Mary McCaslin

Monday, December 2, 2013

not christmas stockings

Our plucky heroine must needs wear compression stockings for the rest of my livelong days to control the lymphedema in my legs, ever since cancer surgery in 2012, which included removing a sample of lymph nodes (fortunately clear of cancer). Am quite consistent in that daily wear, all day every day, but have been sad to have to give up ever wearing fun legwear again; grateful that at least there are plain dark colors instead of "white" or even worse "flesh-tone"

Well, this week there was an unexpected parcel in the mailbox from my dear friends Ariadne and Maeva, and inside were these lovely teal stripey merino blend compression socks:

and these amazingly vivid thin nylon printed socks:
(and two other pairs of nylon printed socks, a navy on blue lace design, and some black on white circles that remind me of tentacles...) Girl just could not stop smiling, they were both comfortable and so pretty compared to my plain black socks.

The additional goodness is that the socks all fit properly on my rather short legs, which is often a challenge - this means that there can be future orders made for other fun wooly patterns like zigzags, or polkadots, from a company that is making the socks right here in the USA, and is being thoughtful about both their workers and about the farmers that grow the wool they use.  The nylon socks are more delicate being more like regular nylon hose, but the various printed patterning is just so delightful that I will be saving these pairs to wear for special occasions.

Even better is to find out that the wooly ones are available locally at the former favorite special treat shopping store "Sock Dreams", and that both sorts of fun footgear are available in various places online. Seems that there are manufacturers noticing a niche in the marketplace that had not been being filled, or maybe it is just another case of boomers get old... Either way, I call it a win!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

the adoptable needle-book crittters

They're felt, they're fun, and they're following our plucky heroine all over the house... it's the cat face needle-book clan! (a whole collection of cats that are looking for homes, maybe one can live in your sewing basket - available for adoption for a $25 donation have all been adopted) They're all hand stitched and hand embroidered wool felt and felted wool.

marmalade orange tabby adopted by Mr B

sweet Siamese reserved for M

traditional tuxedo cat reserved for LC

patchy calico SOLD

my favorite, the grey tabby reserved for LC

respectable orange tuxedo cat SOLD

fawn pug face needle book, has a twin sibling, and both are available for adoption -
I suspect part of his worried look is that he is SURROUNDED BY CATS

all the cat face needle books have a small jingle bell as a button closure,
instead of the snap closure on the pugs and other custom heraldic needle books

a rather foreshortened view inside the siamese needle book,
showing the inner book layers, where the needles can be stored

I also make custom designs, either heraldic or whimsical, or a portrait of of your particular pet, as needle-books or holiday ornaments all stitched by hand with hand embroidered details. Prices start at $35 and go up if the design complexity requires it... This is an example of a heraldic design in process, the embroidery and applique are done, it needs to be applied to the outer shell of a needlbook and the interior constructed and finished:

actual piece is about the size of a business card...

ManyHands Marketplace post-sale review

Well... suppose they gave a sale and hardy anyone came? I suspect that moving the sale date to the middle of a holiday weekend might not have been as good an idea as it initially seemed, but as it was the only day between now and 12th Night that my friends were not already committed for another event, it would have to do. Most of the folks I know were out of town for the weekend. Shannon, friend of my dear pal Rois, probably did the best in terms of sales and of folks she invited showing up here. Vandy and Stacy seemed to have at least some interest in their gorgeous craftwork, and I saw several of their pieces in the happy hands of holiday visitors.

I would have been a bit happier if I'd actually sold anything at all - need to either figure out more effective trinket level things to sell, come up with some sort of appealing mid-range artistry or give up on this sort of thing altogether. I do better with custom work than on spec, have always had a hard time figuring out potentially salable artifacts, particularly things that can be made quickly... if it takes me four or five hours to make, even if I price my time at less than minumum wage it is still too dear for anyone to want to buy, then my artifacts are not suitable for the marketplace.

Suggestions for next year, (as we tore down the sales area so it could go back to being the living space here at Acorn Cottage)... have a sale just after the middle of November, and possibly just after the middle of December so as to coincide with folks paydays; have an invitation only sale, and an open sale; have one SCA suitable sale and one modern sale... there was discussion about having a pyjama party with alcohol as well as crafts for sale (I suspect I am not the target demographic).

One thing to remember (for next year) is to use the front window for ornaments for sale as opposed to just for holiday decorations - everyone asks about buying the holiday decorations, but the one time I was tempted to actually sell one, the lady was horrified at the price. Seriously, this is not the garage sale/moving sale/breakup sale that the first person here thought it was... what part of "4 Local Artists" and "handmade crafts" were not understandable? and no, you cannot buy the books from the bookcase either, I am actually rather fond of them!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

ManyHands Marketplace 2013

Today is an excellent day to Support the Arts!
ManyHands Marketplace will feature the work of four wonderful and talented local artists: Vandy 'Aelfgifu' Hall , Stacy Spangler , Shannon Kochenour Clock, and our plucky heroine herself... Acorn Cottage has a delectable assortment of treasures, trinkets, and toys for gifts (or for yourself) this holiday season (well, actually, just for this Saturday today)