Monday, September 24, 2012

Urban Landscape

Vapor Trails at Sunset

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shuttles, Buttons and Petals

On to learning the shuttle! 

I've learned the skills of using the needle for tatting lace.  I've learned the double-stitch, how to form consistent picots, make joins, and I've tried writing patterns.  I feel like I'm finally ready to try the shuttle again.

After a lesson with a wonderful teacher, Denise K., a member of the Great Lakes Lace Group, Inc., I felt confident enough to work on my own.  Using the shuttle, I finally learned all the lessons (mistakes) one can make while learning to tat rings and chains with two shuttles and two colors.  It's time to move on to an actual project.

Top to Bottom:  First to last set of mistakes. 
I tried different threads and different shuttles
and learned a lot!

I was working from a YouTube video for the idea of adding buttons to tatted lace and a pattern that someone wrote for a piece she created and shared with us on our international NewShuttlesAndNeedles YahooGroup.  I took both the video and the pattern and adapted it for a two-hole button, instead of a four-hole button.  The pattern called for eight rings and chains.  My button is in the shape of a five-petal flower so I modified the pattern to have seven rings and seven chains. In design, odd numbers of items are more appealing to the eye, so I kept to the design rule and used an odd number.  It seems to be the right choice for this motif.

My First Shuttle Tatting Projects

For the first attempt (my prototype of sorts), I was concentrating so hard on the actual act of joining that I accidentally joined to the wrong picot! Oops. I didn't discover this until three rings and three chains were already done. Oh well, this was a practice piece so I kept going.  Following along with the video (see link above) I used a picot gauge as she suggested in the video to make the large picot for joining to the button.  However, I discovered too late that the picot was actually a bit too small and so made the motif turn out oval-shaped instead of round.  I was almost done with the "prototype" when I realized I had not joined the last ring on both sides, which brings the piece into a closed circle. Gently, I tried to pull it out.... no luck!  Cut bait!  Start over!!!  I'm so glad I did. Another lesson learned.

First Attempt, Second Attempt

Now I have to learn how to properly secure and hide the tails at the start and at the closing.  I found trying to learn everything at once is way too overwhelming.  I'm perfectly fine with how the motif turned out at this point!  The next one -- I have two more buttons to play with -- will have the tails worked in at the start using the "knotless method" where you tat over the tail to incorporate it into the first ring.  It takes a certain amount of dexterity and I'm using my right, non-dominant, hand to learn this techinique.  It's definitely an exercise for teaching yourself muscle control.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spring Flowers

I finally managed to finish my first needle tatted bookmark.  The original pattern is made up of just the wave of flowers.  The Josephine Knots and flower pendant at the top were additions because I like to have something peeking out of the top of the book so that I can easily find the page where I left off.

My First Needle Tatted Bookmark
inspired by Julie Patterson's design,
Spring Flowers.
For my second version of this design, I will try to come up with a modification that keeps it from twisting without detracting from the main design... maybe some lacy chains around the perimeter? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Have A Heart!

My latest attempt at needle tatting...

Heart A-Fire designed by RogerL
This is the sweetest design.  As simple as it looks, it still presents a good challenge to us newbies. As torturous as it was, I managed to learn how to join a new thread, bury the tails (sew in the ends)... not my favorite part of the process.  And I learned to put the whole thing together with a "folded join". 

I had started this yesterday, got half done and then messed up.  So I started another one this morning.  Then during breakfast, I promptly knocked over a full glass of apple juice on it and my entire tatting kit!  (Excrement!)  Everything was covered in juice, all the pockets had juice in them and anything in a bag or container had juice in it too.  I gave it all a bath... life is much better now, now that I have a tatted heart.  Awww

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Seven Inches From the Midday Sun

Man, it's a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun....

--Smooth lyrics by, Santana

Inside - Outside Temps today... and yesterday,
and the day before, and....

Yes, this is in southeast Michigan, not the Carolinas! With the pop up storms that took place in the area over the last couple of days, we were lucky enough to have power the entire time.  Unfortunately, many folks 'round these parts are still without power in this heat!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Now THAT'S a jar of pickles!

I made a batch of homemade fermented refrigerator pickles last week.  It was a small batch of two 1-quart jars, so I shared one of the jars with a friend.  Sadly, our jar is nearly empty already!  So, at the farmer's market this past weekend, I bought more pickling cucumbers -- about 18.  I usually use three 1-quart jars to make my fermented pickles.  Each jar can handle about six average-sized cucumbers that are approximately 5-6 inches long.  However, these cukes were really fat!

Last winter, another kind-hearted friend "gifted" me with four half-gallon jars!!!  How cool is that?!  So I opted to use one of those jars this time.  It's a good thing since they would have never fit in only three jars -- definitely a four or even five jar batch, due to the extra fatness of the pickles.  I opted to cut the cukes in half or in quarters in order to squeeze them all in.
Left: extra brine. Center: Half-gallon of pickles.  Right: Seasonings used.
The brine I like to use is a 3.6% brine. This is a ratio of 2 TBL of (non-iodized) salt; 1 quart of water.  It's just salty enough for my family's taste.  The natural lacto-fermentation process gives the pickles that "pucker power" we all associate with really good deli pickles.  I learned about this process several years ago from another friend in our spinning guild.  This friend and I are both very interested in keeping ourselves and our families healthy through using organic wherever possible, eating whole foods (no processed foods) and preparing the foods we eat ourselves, which ultimately leads to getting the proper nutrition. 

Making pickles using the fermentation process produces the invaluable probiotics our immune systems need to stay strong and to help us ward off disease.  You can read more about it in Sandor Katz's books.  There is a lot of information on the web too.  Even if you don't believe in all the mumbo jumbo about probiotics, the pickles are the best you've ever had, no matter what spices you put in the jar.  The fermentation process is da bomb!

Here's my recipe which started out as an off-shoot of Alton Brown's Dill Pickles Recipe:

Melissa’s Fermented Dill (refrigerator) Pickles
Ingredients you will need (amounts are spelled out below):
Kosher Salt (no iodine is important)
Filtered Water
Approx. 18 Pickling Cucumbers, 4-6 inches long
     (size and shape will dictate how many will fit in each jar)
Black Peppercorns
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried Chopped Garlic
Dill Weed
Dill Seed
Mustard Seed
Celery Seed
Bragg’s Organic Cider Vinegar (with the mother)

If you have a crock, follow Alton’s method.  Seasonings ar up to you. (  I only have 1-quart canning jars available, so I modified the brine and spices to work in my jars.  Here’s how I do it:
1.    Wash and dry three 1-Quart canning jars.  You can use standard canning lids and rings but count on them rusting from the salt water. 
Note: I recently purchased the plastic lids to try.  So far so good except they don’t seal really well, so be careful when you invert the jars – expect some leakage.
2.    Make the brine:  Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 4 cups of filtered water.  Set aside.
Note:  You can use less or more salt to taste.
3.    Rinse cucumbers and cut off blossom end.  Cut in half, quarters, or leave them whole; your choice. 
(How I decide to cut them is based on the fatness of the cucumbers.  Ex: sometimes they are very fat and quartering them allows the cukes to fit better in the jar – sometimes with the last two or three cucumbers, I even make pickle chips to squeeze in those last few and just push them down and in wherever they will fit.)
4.    In the bottom of each 1-Quart glass canning jar, add the following spices:
13 pepper corns
1/16 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried, chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon dill seed
1/8 teaspoon mustard seed
1 pinch celery seed
1 teaspoon Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
5.    Start fitting the cucumbers into the jars, trying to keep them upright.  Pack them as tightly as you can.
6.    Once they are all in, add enough brine liquid to cover the cucumbers.
7.    Tightly screw on lids and invert the jars a couple of times to mix the spices through the brine.
8.    Loosen the lids and set on a clean, dry towel on the counter for the next 6 to 7 days. 
9.    Every day, tighten the lids and invert the jars to mix the spice through.  Loosen the lids so that the gasses can escape.  After the second or third day, bubbles will start to form.  Fermentation is taking place.  The brine will become cloudy... do not be alarmed, this is normal.
10.  On the sixth or seventh day, they are ready!  Place in the refrigerator.  Depending on how fast you eat them, they will store refrigerated for several months.
Note:  If they are mushy or have a funky odor, then they are spoiled and should be tossed.  (This only happened to me with one jar out of dozens I’ve made.  Actually, I think it was a bad cucumber.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pursuing the Perfect Picot

Another perfect day on the Farm

At the beginning of June, my friend Mary and I ventured north again to our friend Luann’s place, The Nestle Inn, for a weekend visit and for the circular sock knitting machine retreat in nearby Coleman.  We did the usual gabbing, eating, tech-talk and crafting. This time, the subject of tatting was high on the list. 

Out for a jog

I shared my news about discovering needle tatting through a cousin of mine and both were intrigued.  Mary, who is well connected in just about everything, including the lace making world, told us about the upcoming Great Lakes Lace Group, Inc. guild meeting and sale in Farmington, MI.  

Bobbin Lace

Bobbin Lace Close-up


By a stroke of luck, the Great Lakes guild sale was to take place the following weekend,  June 9th – perfect timing and location!  Mary, her visiting cousin, and I were able to attend while Luann stayed back to tend to the Inn and farm. As you can see from the pictures, it was an awe-inspiring event.  There were ladies demonstrating and some even gave free bobbin lace mini-lessons to those interested.  We asked lots of questions and did a lot of jaw dropping! 

Tatted Earrings

Tatted Blanket

Tatted LaceTrim

Learn the Easy Art of
Needle Tatting and More
by Barbara Foster
Handy Hands, Inc.

Meanwhile, around the corner and down the hall from the display area, we found the conference room where the sale was taking place.  It was filled with oodles of supplies for most needle crafts; books, thread, yarns, needles, shuttles and bobbins galore, even knitting supplies. 

UH OH!  I feel "new hobby fever" coming on!  <swoon>  We found the tatting needles, tatting threads of all weights and sizes, and books and DVDs on the subject.   Mary and I picked up supplies for ourselves and a little sumpin' sumpin' for Luann.  We came away with a pretty decent haul.  After a reviving snack of delicious guild-supplied homemade treats and a cup of coffee we got our strength back and headed home with our stashes. 

Over the last few months, several attempts at using the tatting shuttle have been made with little success.  For me, it's a coordination thing.  Being a true lefty, learning to hold the shuttle (right-handed) and manipulate the yarns with the correct tension in my left is a futile endeavor at this point.  To say the least, it's a humbling experience.

As soon as I got home from the sale, I began studying how to use the needle.  I had purchased a how-to DVD and began working along with the video.  After a few small samples, I was convinced.  I think I’ve found the needle method is the one for me!!  <sigh of relief> 

Needle Tatted Medallion
Very First Tatted Project

Well, there are lots of mistakes in my samples and the picots are far from perfect but I am working on it!  At least I have something to show for the effort and I’m finally beyond only being able to do the double stitch!

I haven’t given up on the shuttle; in fact, I want to learn it now more than ever.  I will definitely give it another try after I master the stitches using the needle.  I also love the idea that beads can be added using a needle or a shuttle.  Woo hoo!  Lace and beads!  What more could a girl want!
Needle Tatted Medallion - Project 2

Another relaxing visit with Luann at the Inn and farm this last weekend produced these two samples... it's great to learn in a positive and nurturing environment with a couple of good friends, even if one friend could only attend via Skype.   

Lace Trim for a blouse - Project 3

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Do It Yourself... Master Bedroom floor reinforcement-replacement and electrical upgrade from knob and tube.
Sister boarding the joists for added strength and leveling.
Upgrading all outlets and light fixtures from knob and tube wiring
(all on one circuit - yikes) to Romex and multiple circuits
Living in a construction zone is always a challenge and a good test of a marriage.  The challenge is finding the time to get it done, finding a temporary spot for all of the displaced items (including us!), keeping every day items nearby for easy access and keeping the entire house as debris-free as possible.  All the while hoping the budget planned for is sufficient but realistically expecting it to be double or even triple the original estimate, especially when renovating an antique house.

The Mad Tatter

In January of 2012, my friends and I got together for a girls’ retreat at our dear friend’s bed and breakfast in Beaverton, northwest of Midland, Michigan.  Luann opened her home to us and closed her business during that week so that we could visit as long as we wanted with no guests to be concerned about.  We had so much fun catching up, staying up late, sleeping-in, eating, weaving, spinning, eating, knitting, sewing, baking and eating, crocheting, and learning to tat.  It was hard to believe how fast the time flew by.  Did I mention eating?    Oh yeah, and the chores… feeding the animals, feeding the wood-burning furnace (thank you, Luann, for keeping us warm!!) and the shoveling of snow. 

Nestle Inn Bed & Breakfast - Beaverton, MI
Luann O'Dell, Owner
Since then, I have fondly revisited our gathering multiple times in my memory.  Although the temperatures were well below freezing that week, we had warm hearts all around.  On our second or third day together, Mary lovingly gifted Luann with a tatting kit, including an instructional book with DVD and two tatting shuttles.  It was such a sweet and unexpected surprise!  Luann was so tickled that she immediately popped the DVD in the player and we watched it together while the two of them started practicing.

As the video played on, I mentioned that “someday” I hope to learn to tat also, stating that it will have to be put off for another time since I have so many other projects going right now, but it's on my bucket list.  Despite our distraction with the thread knotting and shuttles flying,  I didn't realize Mary caught my comment.  Within a month following our get-together, I also received a gift pack from Ms. Mary,  my very own tatting kit!!  Thank you again Mary, what a sweetheart - I hope to make you proud! 
It had been several months since receiving my generous gift and I am still stuck on learning the basics – the double stitch, chains and rings. I need to graduate to picots and joining rings, since I’m way behind my peers. Tatting is the ultimate craft for the perfectionist. There are many types of shuttles to try and patterns to learn.  It takes patience and daily dedication to teach oneself the muscle memory for creating proper tension and consistent stitches –  something I have not been good at upholding. 

While testing my nerves with this craft, I realized all too well how my eye sight is not what it used to be and I became a bit overwhelmed with the vision issue compounded by the attempt to teach "my left-handed self" to perform right-handed shuttle tatting.  Manipulating the shuttle over and under the thread while maintaining tension requires dexterity that my less-than-adept right hand can produce.  It’s making me a little crazy but it’s better to force myself to learn this way since the majority of patterns are written for right-handed tatters.  At this point, it’s a love/hate relationship.  Several attempts at creating rings have produced little to no progress, certainly nothing worth picturing on the blog, so I have set the shuttle aside for another day……

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Third Time is the Charm

They say that most anything you’ve learned in the past is like riding a bicycle; the mind and muscles remember (eventually).  When it comes to knitting, it’s the mind where I have the trouble.  Sure, I can make the stitches and I can be consistent with my tension but when it comes down to remembering how to execute a series of stitches to create a cable, remembering how to do short rows for shaping a garment, or how to do a Kitchener stitch to close the toe on a sock, I have to reteach myself every time.  All I can say is thank GOODNESS for YouTube!!!
Image used with permission.
Image and Design by, Melissa Morgan Oakes
for Valley Yarns ©2007

In March, 2011, I was so excited to have found a beautiful cabled cardigan pattern by Melissa Morgan-Oakes, pictured on her page, and sold for her by Webs in Massachusetts.  It’s not only an attractive and fairly easy pattern, it’s also figure complimentary because of how the cables cause the sweater to pull in at the waist (where there is none on this body). 

I immediately purchased and downloaded the pattern and chose Webs’ Colrain yarn in a luscious burgundy, heavy worsted Merino/Tencel.  Once the yarn and needles came in the mail, I swatched and discovered I needed larger needles to meet gauge than what the pattern called for.  Unfortunately, the Size 7 needles I required were on backorder through Webs. Luckily for me though, the Knit-A-Round knit shop is only 30 minutes away so I drove over and bought the cable needles from them. 

Life took over that spring and summer and the project ended up on the back burner.  When I finally got back to it, it was January, 2012.  It had been so long since I knit anything.  I started knitting the garter-stitch border and I was sure it wasn’t right so I tore it out (all 200 stitches) and started over. 

Second attempt:  I began with gusto, knitting along until I got to the cables.   It seems I’ve let my knitting skills go too long.  I had issues with the cable pattern but I finally figure it out. (Note to self:  always swatch the cable pattern too so you know what the heck to expect!) 

Second attempt with faulty needles
The new size 7 needles were the Addi Turbo lace needles with the finer points -- nice to work with and something I really miss in regular Addi Turbos.  As I worked along though, I discovered my yarn was snagging on the joins where the needle and the cable came together.  I carefully continued on but it was a real hassle.  I got about 14-1/2 inches done and thought to take a picture.  When I laid out the sweater, I could see it… all those snagged spots with uneven tension where the yarn got hung up on the joins.  Ohhhhh nooo!

So, I drove to the Knit-A-Round hoping they would exchange them for me.  YES!!  No issue on the exchange.  However, they didn’t have any Size 7, 32-inch cables in the store so I had to wait until the next order came in....  One month later, I got the call and picked up the needles. 
Time to make a decision.  I debated and asked friends, what would they do if it was their sweater?  Everyone agreed, if it was their sweater they could not wear it with so many flaws and would start over.  I knew in my heart of hearts this is what I had to do but I also cringed at the thought of ripping out 14-1/2 inches of work.  Well, it turns out that the third time IS the charm...  so far so good!

One pair new needles and 5 rewound balls later...

10 inches closer to done!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Change of Scenery

For our entire marriage my husband has been telling me about the beautiful Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix, AZ.   I recently had an opportunity to meet up with him for a long weekend out in Phoenix.

Saguaro Cactus on rocky cliff above Apache Trail

We drove into the mountains for a relaxing day in the Tonto National Forest and nearby Lost Dutchman State Park. 
Lots of Very Large Cacti (this one is nearly
5 feet tall)

Everything he raved about over the last 20 years was no exaggeration. I hope to go back again soon with all my camera equipment to capture the desert in full bloom.

Desert Flowers

The Craggy Earth

What an austere, yet hauntingly beautiful landscape!
The Wash Outside of Tortilla Flat (Pop. 6)
Canyon Lake

Speed Limit Advised

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Newest Haul

Spinner's Flock Winter Fleece Fair - Beech Middle School
Chelsea, Michigan
On February 18th, I met up with a couple of my good friends to attend the Spinner's Flock February 2012 Winter Fleece Fair in Chelsea, Michigan.  It's an annual sale that is always full of beautiful Michigan grown fibers, Michigan handspun yarns and lots of exotic fibers.  There are plenty of books, magazines and patterns for knitting, crochet, weaving and spinning for sale.  There is always new and used equipment for sale as well.  It's the perfect way to cure "cabin fever" in February with all the bright colors, the soft and warm fibers and yarns, and of course all the delightfully warm-hearted fiber artists from our region.  We look forward to it every year.

Spinner's Flock 2012 Winter Fleece Fair Purchase

This year I had a "small haul" but it is beautiful nonetheless. The burgundy, blue-gray, and bright multi-colored rovings are from one of my most talented good friends, Edie Bowles.  Her farm is called Spinning Moon Farm and she has a shop on Etsy. 

I kept waiting for the sun to shine to take advantage of the good light outside on the porch in order to best display the incredible colors.  But alas, the weather wouldn't cooperate; it would be windy, cloudy or snowy.  I decided I'd better just go ahead and take the picture inside since it's been nearly 3 weeks... the picture doesn't do it justice!  Anyway, I can't wait to spin it all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My First Inkle Weaving

My First Inkle weaving…  

Schacht Inkle Loom - a gift from the Hetter Family

I always wanted an Inkle loom. Thank you to the Hetter family for your generous gift!  I will treasure Mrs. Florence Hetter's inkle loom knowing that she had made beautiful items on it for her family and friends.  I look forward to doing the same for mine. 

My First Inkle Weaving - Close up

I took my first inkle loom class on-line today with Daryl Lancaster through Weavolution, an Internet weavers’ network. 

What a joy!  I can hardly wait to design my own trim, ribbons, bands, belts, shoe laces... the possibilities are endless!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Artisan Bread

It's not that cold out today but baking bread always makes the house smell so good and it gives me that  warm, safe and homey feeling!
After second rise, ready for the oven.

White Boule, fresh out of the oven. 

The perfect chewy crust and soft, moist crumb.
And it tastes so good!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Simple but Savory

Shepherd's Pie made with Ground Beef
It’s a week after the holiday season, a week after all the rich goodies and celebratory food and drink.  We have been craving something simple for dinner.  This time of year I like to dig out our favorite comfort food recipes.  Over the last couple of years, we have overhauled our diet to reduce the amount of red meat we consume; however, there are times when a good steak or a hearty shepherd’s pie made with ground beef really hits the spot.   

Comfort Food
So tonight it was oven-baked shepherd’s pie made with ground beef in brown gravy with sautéed onions, mixed vegetables and topped with oven-browned mashed potatoes. 

September Peaches - Summer in a Jar.

The perfect complement to this dish is a jar of home canned peaches from mid-September. 
Clean plate club!!