This Year’s Wreath

As some of you know, my family really likes making our own Christmas wreaths. This year was no exception. I think six or seven wreaths were made during our annual Thanksgiving Family Retreat and Wreath-making Extravaganza.

In prior years, we’ve roamed our cousins’ property cutting boughs from a wide variety of pine and fir trees. This year we used the scraggly lower branches of a couple freshly cut balsam fir Christmas trees and some showier white pine for accents.

For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to go with a white and gold color scheme for my wreath:

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My bow is a little small, but that’s what you get for buying a new, unmarked roll of wired ribbon at Goodwill. I still like it, but I’ll probably keep adjusting the bow all season.

Once I get my gold Christmas lights up outside, it should look even better. This may be my favorite wreath so far.

Making wreaths is one of my favorite family traditions. What are your favorite creative holiday traditions?

 

 

My Sofa Has Gone to the Dog(s)

My curved, two-piece sofa needs to be recovered, but because it’s eight-and-a-half feet long it would cost a small fortune to have it reupholstered. It’s also about nine inches longer than conventional sofas, so finding a slip cover that will fit is easier said than done.

For the past few years my sofa has been covered either with an ill-fitting, second-hand slip cover or a pair of thick, white, twin-size bedspreads. Years of abuse from dogs has left stains and small holes in both of those covers, so I’ve spent a lot of time the past few months looking for another option.

One day I realized I had about 8 yards of a nice decorator fabric stashed in a closet. I bought it several years ago to make a duvet cover for an old comforter, but wound up buying a new comforter instead. The golden-tan color works well enough in the living room, so a few weeks ago I pulled out the fabric and realized I had just enough to cover the couch.

I started by folding the long piece of fabric in half to make sure there was enough fabric. There was. I cut it in half, into two long sections—about 12 feet each—and seamed them together lengthwise.

As luck would have it, I’d seamed about two feet before I realized the fabric—which should be right sides together—was wrong-sides together. In my defense the front and back look a lot alike. Can you tell which is which from the side-by-side photo below?

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I know, right?

The hardest part of this project was keeping control of such a massive piece of fabric. That meant flipping it over and realigning the edges wasn’t much fun, but I did it. Here it is, properly layered and pinned.

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I sewed a straight line from one end to the other, leaving a generous seam allowance. (When the cover is on the sofa, this long seam will be tucked and hidden under the sofa cushions.)

The next step was to trim the ends of the newly-formed piece into straight lines. With both sides together, I folded one cut end to the other, using several large binder clips to keep it properly aligned.

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Oops! The ends were a more than a little off, so on each end, I set a right-angle straight-edge over the shorter piece and carefully trimmed the ends so they would be as straight as possible.

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After that, all I needed to do was hem all four sides of the massive piece of fabric. Because I wanted a neat and durable finish, I folded the edge over itself so the raw edges wouldn’t show, then pinned it into place.

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I quickly realized it would have been easier if the pins were running in the opposite direction.

If the fabric weren’t so cumbersome, I would have pressed the seams flat before sewing, but it worked out fine anyway.

To recap, I:

  • cut a long bolt of fabric (approximately 24 feet) into two 12 foot sections
  • pinned the right sides together (after noticing I’d done it the wrong way first)
  • sewed one long straight line
  • folded it end-to-end and trimmed the ends in straight lines
  • double-folded the hem and sewed around the entire piece

The only thing left was to try it on the sofa.

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Yes, it’s a bit wrinkled, but the fabric had been piled up on the table several days as I pinned and stitched away. The wrinkles will come out in the wash. Between my dog Sadie, who’s napping on the sofa at this very moment, and our frequent guest dog Stanley, this new sofa cover will be washed quite often.

 

 

 

Triple Cross Post?

A confluence of events beyond my control led to my inclusion in a couple of my favorite writing blogs today.

I posted about those posts in a new (and similarly sporadic) blog on my website, HendricksonWrites.com, and since I’m all about the blogs today, I thought I might as well cross post it here as well:

A Community of Writers

Does that make this a triple cross post?

Even if it does, it doesn’t negate the fact that I’m honored to be part of a welcoming, supportive, and inspiring community of writers.

 

 

Jack-o-Lantern Extravaganza

In the spirit of this spooky season, I’m re-posting one of the more popular posts from over the years. It’s from 2012. Have a spooktacular Halloween, everyone!

 

Pumpkin Obsession: Extreme Edition

My brother gets a little crazy every autumn. Brice is always buying pumpkins in October, and he carves them all, or as many as time allows. Gourds aren’t even safe from him at this time of year.

As of Monday he said the current count was 26. That was nine pumpkin-shopping days before Halloween, so he may have even more by now. (I think he’s regretting not following through on his idea of planting a pumpkin patch this summer.)

It all started way back when little Bricie won a ribbon in a pumpkin carving contest. Not that lots of actual carving was involved – his creativity caught the judges’ attention.

Every Halloween season, Brice & I wind up talking about pumpkins. When I carve jack-o-lanterns, I only do one or two. I carve slowly, but add special touches like freckles (by plunging a metal skewer through the shell) or scars (by scraping skin and a little flesh off the pumpkin). Brice? He uses power tools.

Use extreme care when using power tools – especially on round objects.

Brice’s carving isn’t completed yet for this Halloween, so let’s take a tour of their yard from a Halloween past. (The great photos are by my sister-in-law, Jeanne.)

Hmm, doesn’t that white jack-o-lantern way back there appear to be eating something? Let’s take a closer look….

This last one looks a bit Seussian, don’t you think?

All right. It’s time to admit my role in my brother’s autumnal obsession. A couple years ago I gave him two Extreme Pumpkin Carving books by Tom Nardone.

Hey, Bri, it seems Nardone has an annual pumpkin carving contest. Enter it, and maybe you’ll repeat your childhood success with another win!

What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions? How many pumpkins do you plan to carve this year?

 

Stitch it Forward

I kid you knot not. Today is I Love Yarn Day. Appropriately enough, the official tagline for it is Stitch It Forward.

It’s no secret. I really do love yarn. Bulky yarns, fine yarns, ombre yarns, worsted yarns, roving yarns, even t-shirt yarns.

But this I Love Yarn Day is a little bittersweet. A lingering bout of tendonitis in my right wrist/thumb is making it difficult to knit or crochet for more than a couple rows at a time, even with a not-so-festive splinted wrist brace.

Another obstacle? Since the weather has begun to cool off, a certain puppy likes to climb on my lap every evening when I’d normally be knitting or crocheting:

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Sadie on my lap the other night, paws crossed.

That’s why it’s taking me longer than normal to finish crocheting an American Flag afghan for my cousin and her husband. The kit, from Lion Brand, includes a pattern that’s essentially a ripple stitch with strategic color changes every so often. I started working on it in July. This is where I was on July 31st:

Progress as of July 31

Normally, it might take me a couple weeks to knock this out, but it wasn’t until September 6 that I reached the field of blue.

Progress as of September 6

I think I’ve got about 15-20 more (long) rows to finish, then I can make the stars, which my cousin and I will apply later so they’re exactly where she wants them.

If Puppy Sadie allows, I hope to work maybe one row per day until my wrist and thumb can handle my usual pace.

This is the first (hopefully only) bout of tendonitis I’ve ever had. As far as pain goes, it’s minimal but annoying. The most frustrating part is not being able to play with yarn as much as I want—especially now as the leaves are turning and the temperatures are dropping.

But have no fear: I’ll work a bit on the afghan at some point today just to celebrate National Yarn Day.

 

Do you have a favorite yarn? Let us know!

 

 

Simple Fix for an Old Chair

Puppies can be obsessive. Sadie is no exception. One of her favorite things to do is “lose” toys under the furniture. Even better? Hiding them in the torn underlining of upholstered furniture.

The good news is it’s easy to replace the thin-but-durable fabric under chairs and sofas. The hard part—for me, anyway—was figuring out what the fabric was called. When I first got the idea to replace it, I wandered around a fabric store hoping to see it so I wouldn’t have to ask where it was. I could see myself saying, “You know, that black fabric that goes under chairs. Usually stapled in. Keeps the dust under control. Sometimes it’s gray. Maybe even white. It’s fabric, but not exactly fabric-fabric.”

I decided to do an internet search for it at home so I could enter all of the possible word combinations without having a store employee laughing at my ignorance.

Turns out the stuff falls under the category of utility fabric, and is simply called upholstery underlining.

D’uh.

It’s cheap, too. I think the stuff I bought was about two dollars per yard.

I knew I had to recover the underside of at least one chair and one section of the sofa, so I bought a few yards.

Forgive me for forgetting to take a before photo, but here’s what the bottom of Sadie’s favorite chair looked like after I’d torn off 95% of the old lining (there was a separate piece toward the back of the chair that was intact, so I left that) and stapled on new upholstery underlining.

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I folded the edges under for a cleaner line, and did my best to fit it under and around the front legs of the chair. It’s not as taut as I would have liked—you can see it hangs down a little on the left—but not enough to make me pull the staples and re-do it.

This is what it looks like from Sadie’s point-of-view:

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When the underlining was torn, I cringed every time I had to reach under the chair—and often into the torn underlining—to retrieve Sadie’s toys (which seriously, is about three times per day with this chair alone). Now I can see where the toy is, grab it, and marvel at my handiwork all at the same time.

Aunt Jean and Uncle Gale re-upholstered this chair for my dad back in the mid-80s, if I recall, and it still looks sharp. This has always been the most-used chair in the house, but it’s in far better shape than the sofa, which was re-upholstered at the same time.

Dad’s fabric choice for the sofa didn’t prove nearly as durable, so I always have a slip cover or throws on that. That needs to be totally re-upholstered, but that’s way out of my budget. Replacing the torn underlining of the sofa will be my next furniture-related project–and I’ll make sure to get a before photo.

Yet Another Bathmat

When you’ve made a lot of cotton dishcloths over the years, you tend to buy colorful cotton yarn when it’s on sale, and always wind up with leftover bits. Like these:

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Earlier this summer I turned some tee-shirt yarn (aka “tarn”) into That Darn Bathmat. It’s a little smaller than ideal, but I love it. The only problem was I didn’t have enough tarn left to make a bathmat for the other bathroom.

I decided to rectify the situation over the long weekend. I pulled out my box of cotton yarn—puppy Sadie sniffed it, but managed to leave the contents alone after I said “Leave it.” (Apparently puppy school is starting to pay off!) The problem was I didn’t have a pattern.

Cotton yarn is thin, so I decided to double it. I tested a couple different crochet hooks to see what felt best with two strands of cotton. The L-size hook won out. Because I had so much white, I used that as a through color, and double stranded it with one color after another.

At first I tried single crochet. It was fine, but slow going. I wanted to work in rounds, but that made it hard to know where to add stitches so the rug would be flat. That’s when I decided to shape the corners kind is if I were making a granny square, by working 2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc into each corner opening. After all, granny squares are always nice and flat.

I had a few false starts with the bathmat because the corner where each row stops and starts is slightly different; the rows start with ch 5 (which equals one dc and the ch 2), so the row ends with one dc into that starting hole. It took multiple attempts to figure that out, but once I did I finally managed to get all of holes created from the corner increases to align, basically creating mitered corners. I’m not quite sure if I did it correctly, but it worked for me.

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It’s not perfect, but it’s a big improvement on the old white/seafoam/pink store-bought woven cotton bathmat that was so faded and tattered it looked off-white!

If you’re a knitter or crocheter, how do you like to use scrap yarn?

 

 

That Tarn Bathmat!

Remember when I went crazy and made all that t-shirt yarn—aka “tarn“— last summer?

This weekend I turned several balls of tarn into this funky, textured bathmat:

That tarn bathmat!

This tarn bathmat measures about 17″ x 26″

The colors aren’t quite true, since this in an interior bathroom lit only by two wall sconces with “warm” LED bulbs. (The tile and tub are actually white.) But this is scrap art, made from several random old t-shirts, so it’s not like the colors actually matter. Your own mat will vary depending on the colors of any old t-shirts you have on hand.

You can knit or crochet tarn, but the knitted swatches I made last year all curled under on the edges. Since I wanted my finished product to lie flat, I broke out my massive crochet hook (the size isn’t even marked, but it’s roughly 1/2″ in diameter) and chained 26 so I’d wind up with 25 stitches per row. Next time, maybe 30 stitches.

I also wanted my mat to have some texture, so instead of working the mat in single crochet, I decided to crochet in the back loops only. That’s as simple as it sounds.

See the texture

Look closely and you’ll see how every other row points up a bit, like the reddish-orange section. The edges sticking up slightly are the front loops; the row above recedes a bit because it was worked into the back portions of those loops.

Now that you’ve seen how I worked the rows, let’s jump back to where I decided to change colors. I joined new colors using the same technique succinctly demonstrated in this brief You Tube video I ran across. Initially I wanted to start new colors at the end of each row, creating true stripes. But it took several attempts to get the second color to start at the end of the first row, and by the time I switched to a third color I gave up and went with random lengths of tarn.

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That third shade of tarn wound up joining a couple of stitches into the third row.

Knitting or crocheting with random colors can be tricky, since you still want the colors to be evenly distributed—unless you want a lopsided look—so instead of creating a giant ball of tarn scraps, I decided which color to add as I went along. I kept going until I ran out of tarn, but always planned to end with a row of the same color I started with. Here’s what I had after one evening of crocheting:

Quick work!

Quick work!

The best part of a project like this is you’re upcycling old t-shirts into something fun and practical—and you’ll still have the sleeves to use for dust rags.

You can make a rug or bathmat any shape or size you want, as long as you have enough tarn.

What would you like to make from tarn?

 

New Month, New Project

While it’s still tricky to do any knitting with Puppy Sadie trying to get my double-pointed needles, I’m hoping the sound of the sewing machine will keep her at a safe distance from my next project: Throw pillow covers.

I haven’t sewn in a couple years because my beloved Old Reliable is no longer so reliable. The power cord has an unusual three-pronged connection where it meets the base of the machine, so of course the wires frayed and created a shock hazard. The folks at the local sewing machine repair shop said the manufacturer only used those particular cords for a few years, making it difficult to find replacements. The repairman hoped he could find one through one of their online resources for old sewing machine parts, but after a year passed without any cords turning up I decided it was time to turn Old Reliable into a very sturdy door stop.

My sister gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas, and a few days later we spotted some great remnant fabrics. Since we both have puppies who love tearing up throw pillows, we knew one day the fabric would be perfect for new throw pillows.

I bought the gold fabric years ago to make a duvet cover, but bought a comforter instead. The other fabrics are new.

My fabrics.

Years ago I bought some gold fabric to make a duvet cover, but bought a comforter instead. I plan to turn that into a new and much-needed slip cover for the sofa (you’ll understand the “much-needed” part when you see the photo below). I loved seeing how well it picks up the gold tones in the geometric pattern in one of the new fabrics. Some of the silky cloth on the top of the pile may also be used to replace the shutter inserts in one of the bedrooms.

Just a few of the pillow forms I've purchased.

Just a few of the pillow forms I’ve already purchased—all on sale.

I may have gone overboard buying pillow forms when my favorite fabric store in town had a going-out-of-business sale. In total I now have four 27-inch, two 18-inch, one 14-inch, one 12×16-inch, and two 12-inch forms. My sister wanted several of the largest pillows, but we’ll figure out how to divvy them up once we see how far our fabrics will go.

Lisa's going to need more fabric!

Not sure Lisa has enough for even two big pillows!

I’ll have to wash and press most of the fabrics before I sew a stitch. Why? Because I plan to make removable, washable pillow covers. If the fabric shrinks, the covers will still fit the pillow forms. The only one escaping the laundry? Lisa’s grayish-blue velvet.

Of course, before any pillow-making commences, I’ll need to learn how to use the newfangled sewing machine.

 

Replacement Pockets for an Antique Pool Table

Puppy Sadie should graduate from puppy school next week, so perhaps one of these days I’ll be able to get back to more crafty endeavors. Right now, though, she’s still extremely curious and eager to “help” (if by “help” you mean trying to pull the double-pointed needles out of my hands so she can play with a half-knitted sock).

Good things are worth waiting for, or at least I hope my brother-in-law agrees since he’s still waiting for his Christmas socks.

Good things are also worth doing right.

You might remember that I made a set of replacement pool table pocket nets for my cousin’s gorgeous old pool table a couple years back. It took a while for him to devise a strategy to attach the new pockets, and from what I understand it was a bit challenging because you have to work at awkward angles. He attached the final pocket net a couple months ago, so I asked him to write this guest post.

 

 

New Pockets for the Brunswick Home Comfort

By Mark Hendrickson

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This Brunswick pool table, the Home Comfort model as it’s known, has been in my family since I was a little boy. I first remember seeing this table in the parlor of an elderly couple who lived next to my family when we lived in town. As this couple disposed some of their possessions, they gave the table to my parents.

The 3.5’ x 7’ Home Comfort, made in about 1905, turns into a couch when the heavy playing surface is flipped up into a vertical position. In a 1911 Brunswick catalog, the table is described as “a very popular design especially adapted for use in a den.” The table sold originally for about $150.

On this particular table, the seat back and seat cushion are original — leather covering with horse-hair stuffing. The felt on the table was renewed in 2012.

The original pockets were a mesh fabric made of forest green wool. Over the years they had torn or stretched to the point where they would no longer hold pool balls that fell into them. Luckily for us, we have an outstanding knitter in the family (Paula) who agreed to make new pockets, using the existing ones as a model.

Once Paula finished making all six pocket nets, it was my job to affix the pockets to the table. The pockets are attached in two major ways.

 

How the pockets are attached

First, the lower edge of the pocket is stapled into the wooden frame of the table bed below the playing surface, at each pocket location. After this part of the pocket is secure, the top and outside edge of the new pocket is sewn to the leather and metal bracket that is screwed into the top of the rail at each pocket. It takes good strong button thread and a sturdy needle to puncture the leather lip on the bracket.

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Once the pockets are stapled and sewn in place, the final step is affixing black fringe around the pocket bottom and around the outside edge of the upper leather and metal bracket.

The bottom of each pocket has a round wooden plug, shaped somewhat like a squashed hourglass. This wooden plug helps enclose the bottom of the pocket and provides a solid surface for affixing the fringe.

In creating the new pockets, Paula incorporated a length of wire at the ends, around the circumference of the hole at the bottom. This wire is wound around the hourglass at its narrowest point, thus effectively closing the pocket at the bottom. The lowest part of the wooden plug extends beyond the knit pocket and thus allows us to hot glue the fringe (salvaged from the original pockets) to the plug.

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The upper fringe was affixed to the leather and metal bracket with hot glue. Originally, I suspect that the fringe may have been sewn into the leather, but they didn’t have the ease of hot glue in those days.

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Overall, it took me approximately 6 hours to complete the installation of the new pockets. They work wonderfully, look as the originals did, and we no longer have to station someone by a pocket to catch a ball before it drops to the floor!

Check out the massive hinge that allows the table to be turned into a not-that-comfy sofa!

Check out the massive hinge that allows the table to be turned into a not-that-comfy sofa!

 

Note from Paula: After a bit more use, friction will help the fibers of the nets “felt” slightly so they’ll look more like the originals did in their prime.

 

Photos courtesy of Mark Hendrickson. Not only is Mark an amazing wood worker, he’s the creator and executive producer of Barn Find Fever. Follow him on Twitter: @FindBarn and Instagram: @nassaublue66.

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