Cozy Thoughts

The last few weeks have been spent trying to stay warm, with cozy activities and cozy thoughts. As you know by now, one of my favorite cold weather crafts is crocheting. You just can’t beat the warmth of a puffy toasty crochet blanket, that grows on your lap while you’re working away.  The blanket I’m working on now is still in it’s beginning stages, but we’ve got a few months of winter left in Wisconsin so I’ve no doubt that I’ll finish it before warm weather comes.

And while I absolutely appreciate the wonder of the seasons, I have been dreaming of warm weather. I worked up this forget-me-not teapot cozy free hand, so I now have a little reminder of spring in the kitchen. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, especially for a first attempt. The flower pattern is another freebie found here.

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As if that wasn’t adorable enough, I’ve made some baby goodies. A coworker of mine and his wife are expecting their first child. I don’t know him well and I’ve never met his wife, but babies are worth celebrating so I wanted to give him something small. The hat pattern and glove pattern were both free, and worked up really quickly. I’ve finally bought a Clover Pom Pom maker which are all the rage, and I can see why. Such a nice fluffy pom-pom!

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So enough of the cozy activities, on to the cozy thoughts. I live on a skinny isthmus that runs between two lakes, which have both frozen over for the winter. For the past few weeks Ad and I have noticed a mini evergreen forest out in the middle of Lake Monona. Last weekend, when the temperature was above zero and the wind was not whipping, we shuffled our way out to the trees to see what it was all about. Well I shuffled. Ad is much more capable of staying upright than I am on ice, so he strolled along confidently.

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We found a carefully placed spiral of trees, covered in colorful fabric scraps with little written notes. The spiral is divided into two halves, Entrances and Exits. Each half of the spiral has a little wooden box full of fabric strips, a marker, and some instructions.

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I decided to reflect on an Exit. My great grandpa ,who I’ve always called Pappy, passed away last fall, just shy of his 102nd birthday. His funeral was held in Pennsylvania, and I couldn’t go. Being new at my job, I didn’t have very much vacation time saved up. If I had taken time off of work to drive home for his funeral, then I wouldn’t have had enough time saved up to go home at Christmas. Christmas w/out my family was something I didn’t want to face, so I stayed in Madison and celebrated my Pappy’s life in my own way, as best as I could.

I guess I hadn’t quite finished my goodbye though, and I felt a bit overwhelmed and teary eyed standing in that spiral of trees surrounded by everyone’s reflections on the Exits they had experienced. It felt right to add my Pappy to this community of goodbyes, so that’s what I did.

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Despite the fact that I shared the space in the spiral with some others, and there were happy dogs running around in circles, it seemed a very calm place. The snow keeps things quiet.

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I had my moment, and then we made our way back home again. My head was full of cozy thoughts.

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Embroidery Hoop Doily Wall Art

I’m collecting doilies to create table runners for my wedding reception. The big day is still  a year and a half away, and it seems a shame to keep all that lacy goodness boxed up until then. So I’ve found a way to display some of my favorite pieces! It’s very inexpensive, both the doilies and the embroidery hoops can be found easily at thrift stores. I’ve never paid more than a dollar for one. This is so easy that it almost doesn’t warrant a tutorial, but I’ll give you one anyway for those folks who prefer step by step instructions to winging it.

Supplies:

Needle

Brightly colored thread or embroidery floss

Doilies

Wooden embroidery hoops

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1. Choose an embroidery hoop and doily that are roughly the same size, the hoop should be a bit smaller. Stretch the doily onto the hoop, although not too tight since your doily may be very vintage and fragile. Once stretched and secured, you’ll want to see some doily hanging out at the back between the tightened hoops. If there’s  not much there, choose a smaller sized hoop and try again.

2. Flip the hoop so you are working on the back. Have your needle threaded with brightly colored floss or thread, and knotted at the end. (A note about this section – you could skip this bit altogether, and trim your doily close to the hoop once everything is stretched and secure. All done! Because I need to use these doilies again, I didn’t want to cut them. I’m using a bright colored thread so that I can easily pull out the stitches and disassemble the art when I’m ready to use these doilies for another purpose. Who could cut such lovely things up anyway?!) Begin by rolling the extra doily bits down tightly towards the back of the hoop, and stitching them in place as shown below.

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3. Continue to do this all the way around the hoop, keeping your stitches between 1/4″ and 1/2″ apart. It’s not going to look pretty from the back, but that’s just fine. You’ll have a chunky little roll of curled up doily, with brightly colored stitches every so often. You just want to try to minimize the amount of extra doily bits that you can see from the front.

Finished project from the back….

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And from the front… You can barely see those rolled under edges.

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That’s it! I promised you it would be simple. Hang a grouping of these on the wall in different sizes and patterns, and impress your friends. White doilies stand out nicely on our terracotta colored walls. Mixed pastel shades would look lovely on white or cream walls.

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The collection is looking a little lop sided, but another trip to the shrift stores should fix that in a jiffy! I’m envisioning a whole swath of them spreading across my wall.

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Perfecting the French Knot

I know they’re not very complicated, but I’ve always struggled to embroider a french knot. That is until I discovered this You Tube video this afternoon. She makes it so easy.

I put my new knot skills to work, and whipped up a tiny embroidery! Grape hyacinths are one of my favorite signs of spring.  It’s now for sale in my Etsy shop.

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Look at those knots!

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Punch-Needle Embroidery

I tend to be a little overly ambitious. About a month ago I received an e-mail about an art competition for UW grad students, and I immediately started planning. I decided my technique would be punch-needle embroidery, which was probably a bit silly because it’s a slow process and I only had a month to finish the piece. I spend about 30 hours a week at the VA between my field placement and my part time job, and I’m also taking 5 classes. So not much time for crafting!

The part that takes the longest for me is drawing out the design. I can’t draw very well, so by the time I’m done I’m usually surrounded in tiny eraser shreds. I start in pencil, then go over the pencil with a thin marker for a bolder line, and then try out a few colors for inspiration.

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Next, I have to trace the design onto the weavers cloth, which is why the bold line was necessary. This doesn’t take quite as long, but it’s still a slow and not very exciting process. I’m sure there’s a really fast and fancy way to do this using transfer paper and an iron, or a light box, but I don’t have any of those. That’s right, no iron!

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Then I stretch the fabric onto an embroidery hoop and I punch away. And I keep punching. And I punch some more, until I get this!

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This is my biggest piece to date, being about 13 inches tall and 9 inches wide. The deadline to submit to the art contest is tomorrow. Of course I finished mine about 10 minutes ago, so just in time. My theory is that the judges will either love it because it’s different or they’ll hate it because it’s different. Either way, I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I haven’t done much with shading or blending colors before, and I’m impressed with what I managed to do. If I don’t win then I’ll get to keep it or try to sell it in my Etsy shop, so it all works out in the end.

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