Wednesday, 31 October 2007

New Socks - By Me!

I don't knit as much or as well as I sew and I'm far from being expert at it, but I have been slowly progressing with my knitting. Here's the proof...
Ta-da! I actually finished these last evening. The best part is that I finally managed to do the Kitchener stitches properly. (This makes my fourth pair of handknit socks - but the first pair that I completed without having to do any frogging or ending up with mangled looking stitches instead the lovely grafted sock toes).
I must admit to being somewhat addicted to the bright self-striping sock yarns. I swear that the stripes are the right motivator for me to finish my knitting, thereby building my knitting confidence for bigger projects. I'm pretty happy with these basic socks and really glad I finally sorted out why I constantly messed up the Kitchener stitch.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Machine Applique

I'm working away on one of my "leaf" themed projects and decided to show you my progress. Here are some of the leaves after I machined appliqued them onto the background fabric. (If you want a closer look, click on the picture to enlarge it).

This close-up shot gives you a clearer image of the veins I've been stitching onto each leaf for added detail to my finished project.
In case you've never used your machine to free hand embroider ( in my example I did the leaf veins and also appliqued the leaves onto the background using this method); this is how I go about it:

1. I set my machine to zig-zag and then shorten both the width and the length of the stitch to close in the stitch

2. I use an embroidery needle on the machine along with a special foot which is meant for embroidery work

3. I drop the feed dogs (this last step allows me to move the fabric in any direction as the machine stitches - which is important for freehand embroidery)

* I also stabilize the back of the applique by putting some tracing paper underneath which after I finish stitching over, gets torn off. The paper seems to help form neater stitches.

I hope to have more to share on this project and my other leaf project later this week.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

A meditative weekend

This was my home from Friday through to Sunday. It's the Naramata Centre near Penticton, BC. I was amazed at how truly peaceful it feels there. The Centre is spread over quite a large area, with many low level buildings for meeting and accommodation, a playground, a beach and dock, a labyrinth and informal gardens.

I went with my husband for a weekend of meditation. The course was run by two Unitarian women I know who have both been to India to the Oneness University to learn how to give deekshas.

Sri Bhagavan is the Avatar at the Oneness University. I liked what he said (in the DVD we were shown) about modern schools slowly murdering our children as they pay no attention to the child's heart. He said that the standard way of life - school, college, work, marriage - allows no time for the child's heart to flower.

I had an idea at the beginning of the weekend of what I wanted to improve in my life. One of the things I want to do is get comfortable with speaking my truth in an honest and non-violent way. Rather than just smiling and gritting my teeth when someone says something with which I disagree, I want to be able to say what I think without getting over-emotional. I think this is going to be really hard to do (especially with family when we go to visit next year) but it's important to me.

The theme of the weekend was Radical Self-Acceptance, another big issue with me. I am quite judgmental and critical of myself, and learning to accept and love myself unconditionally will help me to be more loving towards and accepting of others. The group discussed what keeps us from self-acceptance. We were reminded that we are all one - there is no separation. A good analogy is that we and god/spirit/nature/whatever-you-want-to-call-it are all the same thing; I like to think that we are droplets in the ocean of god/goddess.

We talked about facing "negative" feelings, how we need to "invite them in" as in Rumi's poem (below), welcome them and express them. I found myself, during this meditation, facing a big ball of fear and I realised that my fear for my children (their future) was getting in the way and creating an atmosphere of criticism instead of love. I realised that my lack of self-love and self-acceptance was also hindering my ability to love and accept my children for who they are.

Receiving a deeksha was a wonderful feeling for me. I felt a tingling in my scalp as I was receiving the golden ball of light that was the divine energy being passed to me. I visualised the golden-ness melting through me like flowing molasses, filling me and pushing out doubt. Deekshas are said to break down the wall in the mind which keeps us in the illusion of separateness.

I also experienced a chakra meditation and walked the labyrinth (photo above) and pushed aside my extreme self-consciousness to join in with some dancing in the evening.

Obviously it's going to take me some time to process all of the "stuff" that came up during the weekend but I believe that the end result will be positive changes in my life.

Rumi - Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Thank you to Anne for taking care of my children while I was at this retreat.


I've been tagged by Kim to share 7 facts about myself: some random, some weird.

1. I can sing "Are You Sleeping" in 3 languages...English, French and Afrikaans.

2. I use to make macaroni and cheese sandwiches as a kid.

3. I love black licorice.

4. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up.

5. The public school I attended for part of my education was so small that my grade 9 class was the largest the school had ever had - there was 11 of us that year.

6. I hated most cooked vegetables as a kid and would actually gag when my mom made me eat them.

7. My favourite colour is blue.
Now to tag some others to do this... Heather, Nicola and Samantha - how about it?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Simple Quilted Zippered Pouch

Here's more patchwork and another simple bag to keep me organized. I have been using the book Quilted Bags and Totes by Denise Clason, as it is full of design inspirations. A few alterations from her instructions - I did put a lining in mine and made my zippered pouch larger and I haven't yet added the grommets or the beaded zipper pull, but it's basically the same as per the book instructs. Her book is full of great bag designs, combined with beautiful fabric combinations and quilting.

This is a peek at the back and the inside. As you can see, I've already tucked in some of my thrifted tapestry wool for another project. A practical and pretty way to keep me organized.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Yes! I've Thrifted More Fabric...

In case there are others who like fabric (skip this post if you don't!), even half as much as I do, I am sharing some photos of my latest thrifted finds...

I love florals and the print above is a decorator weight cotton which will likely figure into my plans to rejuvenate our sectional sofa.
The above photo shows the latest finds added to my growing collection of vintage sheets/pillowcases.
Put together this photo with the one above it and you see my complete collection of vintage sheets at this time. I'm trying to add more to this stash in order to make a lovely scrappy quilt. Obviously, there will be fabric left from said quilt and you may already know how much I enjoy sewing up scrappy totes - so it's doubtful that any scraps will be left languishing for long.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Autumn Craft Projects

A good reason to love this season. This tree and

this tree, are in our front yard and glowing with their autumn colours.
Leading to my son helping me collect leaves to press for a craft project.
Also had me digging through my fabrics and starting on another "leaf themed" craft project...
Can you guess what I'll be making?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Things that are making me happy...

Raspberries still ripening Roses still blooming

Leaves turning. Walnuts ready for gatheringPlenty of squash to put aside for winterHand-knitted wool, thrift store sweaters for $1.50Fair-trade chocolate for me, brought home by my husband (four bars of 'em)
Doesn't take much to make me happy, does it!

Monday, 22 October 2007

My Vegan Pal parcel has arrived!

Thanks to Christel, my secret vegan pal, my parcel arrived today. Don't you just love receiving fun stuff in the mail?!

Here are the goodies as they came out of the box. A crocheted scarf (which I think is made from Lion Brand Homespun - nice and soft), a magic ball made from brown cotton yarn, a recipe for fruit salad with ginger-lime sauce, a jar of pumpkin butter, a packet of dried shiitake mushrooms, a sachet of Indonesian spices, Hawaiian coconut pudding.

Here is the treasure from inside the yarn ball which was actually three balls of yarn. Two teabags, two Bug Bites chocolates (quickly consumed), a magnet which I believe was made by Christel herself, two buttons (one says I love animals, and the other says Kiss me, I'm Vegan!), hemp lip balm (very useful for dry Okanagan winters), a pen, a wooden leaf pendant and an acorn cookie cutter (which is almost invisible on my carpet).

Thanks Christel, you made my day!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Virtuous Consumer

(one of Helen and Scott Nearing's books)

I have been getting some excellent books from the library lately. I am just reading an incredible one that I think should be right up there in homelearning circles with John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Marty Layne and the likes. The funny bit is that it isn't even a book about homelearning, I've only just found it and I want a copy of my very own. I never buy new books for myself, even when I wanted Scott and Helen Nearing's books I waited until (and am still waiting for some) I found them at the library sale, but I really think I must have this one. I think my kids must have it, and I want everyone I know to read it. Except I'm not saying what it is yet because I've only just picked it up yesterday at the library and I want to hog it all to myself for a bit. Aren't I awful?

Ooh, anyway I nearly forgot what I did want to post about. I just re-read that and thought what a tease I was but I did start out intending to tell about another good book. This one, THe Virtuous Consumer is somewhat similar to Ecoholic, it is full of all kinds of tips for living your day-to-day life in a healthier way.
Will get back to you on the other book soon.

Movie night.

Last night the guys went out to a showing of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and I stayed home and watched a "girl night movie" ( that is any movie that has a story line, no shooting, preferably some, erm...talented actors and most preferably some period costumes - by which I really mean breeches) I ended up choosing Music and Lyrics and really enjoyed it. Hugh Grant is, I think, the kind of actor a person hears about and thinks, eck, what loser! and afterwards you really intend to dislike him. The problem is that he is just so bloody funny that I tend to forget my intention of dislike and find myself thoroughly enjoying his sense of humour. The movie included some flashbacks to the 80s music video scene and that was really funny to watch too. I thought the Pop video was a sort of combination between Duran Duran, Wham and, well, I'm not sure who else, certainly someone with scary hair and make-up. Fun movie though, thanks for the tip Katherine

Friday, 19 October 2007

Back to normal

*Sigh of relief*

Aaaaah, back to normal. Following our holiday in Quadra with three generations of our family (husband's parents, me and husband, three kids) we returned home and had the in-laws stay for a further ten days at our house. It's true what they say - nice to see them, nice to see them go!

It really is a mixed blessing having family members visit. Let's think - on the plus side, help with the cooking and preparing of meals, help with dishes, the kids get to reconnect with their grandparents, some home maintenance gets done (this time, the deck steps were reinforced and a basement room was finally painted).

On the minus side, you lose your privacy, you can't relax properly as you have to make conversation, find ways to keep your guests busy, feel that they are judging your lifestyle and parenting/education choices, try to avoid saying anything that could start an argument, and try not to feel offended when they find something to clean, even though you think you did a pretty good job of getting the house ready before they came!

R and I are both happy to be able to just sit down after dinner and read or talk to each other without feeling like the world will end if the dishes are not done immediately after the food is eaten - or sooner!!!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Scrap Attack

If you sew and hang on to all the bits and pieces remaining from your projects, you will end up with an assortment of scraps. I have a system of keeping mine in containers marked with the strip size to encourage using up my scraps. I got looking at a container full of plaid scraps that I've collected (not actually my scraps, but ones I picked up from another quilter...) and decided to put those lovely pieces to work. Here's my project that makes use of fabric scraps.

Sew them together to make strips, like this.
Quilt them and then cut them into a desired shape...
So you can make yourself a handy little bag such as this one.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Top-down sweater

Blogger wasn't allowing uploads of photos this morning. I'm glad to say they've obviously now fixed the problem and I'm able to show you the progress on the top-down raglan sweater.

This is the book from which I am taking the Viking happiness symbol for the front of the sweater.

This is the pattern in print and my knitted version so far.

I need to take the whole thing off the needles soon and put the stitches on a bit of waste yarn so I can try it on and make sure it's fitting well. I had a small emergency yesterday. For the raglan shaping, I am doing a yarn over, knit one, yarn over at each of the four increase points. I obviously wasn't looking closely enough at my work because I discovered my line of increases on one section had forked off to the right. I put markers either side of the mistake, counted how many stitches I should have on my needle when I finished fixing it, and then unravelled about ten stitches width of knitting down a few rows. I had to play around for a long time with a crochet hook but thankfully, somehow, I managed to get it looking almost identical to the correct sections again.

Now that we're having rain and wind and cooler temperatures, I'm so pleased! I have been wearing my fingerless mitts and today brought out the box of scarves, hats and gloves - what fun!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Great quote

I'm reading this book at present. It's based on the principles of Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication. I wanted to share this excellent quote from the book, which seems very relevant to us as homeschooling parents:

"The hardest battle is to be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else."

e e cummings

I have adopted it as my signature quote on my email messages!


I was just reading Nurtured by Love this morning and enjoyed her post, Watching for Gaps. As she points out, we can't teach our kids everything, or make sure they have learned everything, before they leave home to go into the big wide world. It's impossible. We might think they are well-prepared and then they hit an unforeseen challenge.

Whether children have attended school or been homeschooled or unschooled or whatever, they are going to know a lot about some things, a little about others, and nothing about others.

I suppose the only thing we can do is encourage common sense and creativity and optimism, and they'll take it from there!

Of course, if disapproving grandparents see the gaps, they will lay the blame firmly on the fact that you decided to homeschool, even though it's patently clear that their own knowledge is lacking in some areas too, and THEY went to school!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Environmental letters

The boys and I spent this morning (yes, we did leave it 'til the last minute) working on letters to send to our city council. They were asking for residents to write in by today, with their comments regarding a possible pesticide reduction bylaw. Since we are computered out from our letter typing I will use these letters as my contribution to the environmental blog posts.

Dear Mayor and Council members,

I am writing to you regarding the pesticide reduction strategy. I would hope that city council would prioritize having a healthy city over a weed free city. Lots of people use spray on weeds just because it is easier than picking weeds by hand, our family does not use spray on our lawn and plants, and our yard looks just as nice as our neighbours who do spray. There are lots of other natural alternatives to pesticides and there are organic ways to grow healthy plants and lawns, such as compost tea, mulch, ogogrow, etc.

Pesticide use has a HUGE impact on the food chain, for example: bug eats leaf that has been sprayed, bug gets sick, then bird eats sick bug, bird get sick, bigger animal eats bird and so on. Consider that humans are at the top of the food chain.

I think that when discussing cosmetic pesticide use we should consider DDT. At the time everyone thought that DDT was great until they found out that entire species of birds almost became extinct because of DDT. I think that in the future we will find out that the pesticides we are using today are just as bad as DDT was, we just don't yet know all the effects of today's pesticides. I hope that you will take this opportunity to pass a pesticide reduction bylaw so that we will not have to find out the effects the hard way. If you want to read about pesticides and the effect they had on birds and the environment I suggest the book
One Good Apple. I would hope that a city that worked hard to help re-establish Peregrine Falcons (one of the species nearly eliminated by use of pesticides that were considered "safe" at the time) would make a pesticide-free community a priority.

I hope you consider what I said and I look forward to a pesticide free city.

A concerned 11 year old.

Dear Mayor X and Council members,

This is E, I want to save our city from pesticides. In our yard, our grass is green, our trees grow nicely, our flowers get complimented all the time and we don't use pesticides. Our veggie garden grows and it gives us a lot of yummy food and we don't use pesticides on it. We use compost, ogogrow and compost tea to help things grow. This summer when we had lots of aphids, we bought some ladybugs to get rid of the aphids, we did not use pesticides. I think that pesticides kill bad bugs, but they also kill good things, like birds, worms, ladybugs, butterflies and bees. I'm concerned about pesticides because I am only 7 and if we don't stop using them, then by the time I am an adult the world will be seriously damaged by all these chemicals. I think that you should pass a bylaw that reduces pesticide use.

From E

Dear Mayor X and Council Members

I am writing in regard to the pesticide reduction strategy that you are considering. I must say that I find it surprising that there is really that much to consider. It seems clear to me that the use of pesticides is endangering the health of our planet as well as the health of all its inhabitants, including us. As a parent, and hopefully a future grand-parent, I want what is best for our next generation. I find it disappointing that we are still at a place where we would put more importance on being weed-free and "looking good" than on health. I think that this is an area where our city's residents could greatly benefit from some forward-thinking leadership. Similar bylaws have been passed in many cities and once the fussing of the opponents dies down, I believe most cities find it a win-win situation. I think that this is an issue that you must take the initiative with, an issue where you need to put aside any financial concerns and doubts and do what is the best for the long-term health of your community - pass the bylaw.

I would like to share with you a quote from Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. (a book, published in 1962, about the detrimental effects of pesticides)

"Can anyone believe," she wrote, "it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides' [insect killers] but 'biocides' [life killers]."

I think Rachel Carson asks the question, really the only question, that we need to ask ourselves. I urge you to use common sense and simple logic in considering this issue. I believe that time and time again we are shown that chemicals and practices which we once thought safe, prove to be a danger to our health and the health of our environment.

I understand that there are people who believe that this bylaw will have a detrimental effect to the bottom line of their businesses, but I think that the long-term health benefits of all, including the health of pesticide applicators, will far outweigh any negative financial effects. I think that once a bylaw like this is in place that people will easily adapt to it and find healthier ways to maintain their lawn and plants. I urge you to move ahead with this excellent initiative in order to help protect the health of our planet for our future generations.



This is my contribution to our bloggers environment day -
Click on the Whirlmart video.

It's Buy Nothing day on November 23rd. I see this as a good thing for the environment and also a way to bring to people's consciousness that "retail therapy" is not a panacea for what ails us.

I only discovered Adbusters magazine this week at my local library. I appreciate its left-wing, tell it like it is philosophy. Here's a quote from the March/April 2007 issue:

"In October of last year, Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, delivered a damning report to British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The Stern report had been commissioned by Blair to examine the economics of climate change and its findings shocked the political establishment. Climate change, said Stern, could shrink the global economy by 20%. Economic disaster was waiting if politicians did not act soon.

"In response, Blair declared himself ready to act. Climate change, he said, would be "literally disastrous", and "this disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead but in our lifetime."

"Six weeks later, Blair's government announced a national airport expansion scheme with the creation of new runways at two major airports, and more to come. It was said to be "necessary" because air travel - the fastest-growing contributor to climate change - was forecast to grow rapidly over the next twenty years, and government had to cater for demand."

Isn't that a typical example of a politician's about-face!

Good for the Environment, Good for Crafting

Since we here at four friends are all interested in doing what we can for the environment, we have added our blog to the list at and we are participating by posting about this topic along with other bloggers around the globe to help increase awareness.

With that in mind, I thought I would show you a design idea for a cloth bag that not only replaces using the less environmentally friendly plastic bag, but is also made from repurposed fabric.

My plans and supplies. Thrifted drapery panel for the main fabric of the bag and a thrifted corduroy shirt used for the lining.
Thrifted quilting cotton used for the bias binding which covers all the seam allowances and a thrifted buckle for the mock strap closure on the front flap.
A peek of the thrifted zipper used to make an interior pocket. Speaking of pockets...
I managed to incorporate the pocket from the shirt front into a useful pocket on the side panel of the bag's interior.
This design affords different use options - use it as a shopping bag or as a errand bag. The front pockets are sized to hold personal water bottles, while the main compartment has lots of storage capacity and the strap is long enough to put over your shoulder. I intend to use my earth friendly cloth bag for toting around in-progress crafting/needlework projects.
Here's to finding ways of reusing, repurposing and rethinking so that our lives leave a smaller footprint on the environment.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Some Good Finds.

Here are some of the goodies that I found on the most recent thrifting expedition.I love finding bags full of goodies for 25 cents Especially old goodies.
I love these scissors, the detailing on them is lovely. And I quite like the clever packages for the old needles, all paper, very simple.
I also got this yarn from the thrift store. It is actually about four different thin yarns that they have wound together to make one gorgeous multi colored yarn.
I plan on using it, in place of the solid pink, for this afghan ( the free pattern is available on the Lion Brand website)
and have already knitted up a little sample in garter stitch to see how it looks. (well actually just to admire it as they already had a swatch knitted up in the thrift store so I do know how it looks). Good thing I don't have a yarn winder thingie otherwise I would have made my way home with several of those huge cones of thin yarns to mix myself. Now I just have to find a soft green at the thrift store and I will be set. I already found a chocolate wool/silk thrifted yarn in my stash that I think will work nicely.

I also got this vegetable table cloth which is on my kitchen table right now but may end up being cut into tea towels. We aren't really a tablecloth kind of family, if you know what I mean.

I love thrift stores.