Another reason I’m anticipating sunshine

Orangeflower Sketchbook (knitter and yarn-dyer extraordinaire) posted today about getting back into spinning. This made me realize that it’s been a while since I’ve used my spinning wheel (“a while” meaning that last week I had to dust it. ouch.)

You’d think that spinning wool is fitting for the winter months, but my favorite place to spin was always the front porch at my old house… 

A beer, a dog, an owl, and a swan


The super-summarized Italy photo recap

It’s been just over a month since Read and I returned from our travels across the Atlantic. I don’t want to post about the things I knew I would see and everyone else sees (not that they aren’t spectacular. Michelangelo’s David is beautiful). But websites and guidebooks (heck, wikipedia!) are at your fingertips…I certainly wouldn’t be telling you any new or rare information. How about I show you a photo collection of the unexpected-and-delightful according to Read and Katie? 

1. Speaking of the expectedly impressive, the Sistine Chapel is quite a sight. But before you get to the grandaddy of all ceiling paintings you walk through about four miles of the Vatican and every single ceiling is elaborately decorated. Even the smaller Italian cathedrals have paintings, mosaics, and carvings over every surface. So when you go to Italy remember to look UP.

Hymn room in Sienna's duomo

hymn room in Sienna's duomo


"map room" in the Vatican

"map room" in the Vatican


ceiling in the Vatican

ceiling in the Vatican


2. I’m a fan of fonts. Granted I didn’t do so well on that font quiz that got passed around my grad class last year. But I do like them, especially handwriting fonts (rabiohead!). Ancient sites like the Colosseum have lots of carved Latin lettering that’s slightly off-kilter, crooked, and very human. Anyone else out there understand my joy over this tablet? 

tablet at the Colosseum

tablet at the Colosseum


 3. Read’s mom and stepdad helped us find a little apartment for our stay in Rome. They used, which is the same site that they use to advertise their apartment in Oregon’s wine country. Rome was my favorite vacation stop, due in part to our apartment. I loved it, and I love the vrbo site (I was just using it yesterday to find a spring break spot in the southwest). Coming home to our own little kitchen, entryway, and balcony sure beat a hostel or hotel.

apartment in Rome, near the Colosseum

apartment in Rome, near the Colosseum


4. This isn’t really something from Italy, but it’s something Read figured out while we were in Italy: in lieu of a tripod, use your 2-second timer to stabilize your camera during lowlight shots. That was old news to my photo-hobbyist uncle, and if you’re really into photography it will be old news to you too. But it helped us. We already knew to put the camera in manual mode and turn off the flash, but with such slow shutter speeds just the act of pressing the button resulted in blurred images. A 2-second delay allowed us to hold my little canon point-and-shoot very still and capture crisp images, even at night. 

the baptistry, duomo, and tower in Florence

Use your 2-second timer to stabilize lowlight shots


5. And finally, this recap would not be complete without showing you my prized souvenir from Sienna – the perfect leather boots. Because they’re not too rounded and not too pointy, with a heel that’s not too tall and not too short. And they’re leather…soft, buttery leather. I’m paranoid about subjecting them to an Oregon rainstorm so I carry them to work in my backpack and pull a little Mr. Rogers change-up once I’m in my office.

the most beautiful leather boots in Sienna


Moving pets out of the bed

At the start of winter I posted a picture of Sam all curled up on our bed looking cold and shivery. Sam has two epic fears: going hungry and being cold. So he eats everything in sight and burrows under all the covers at night. Only he stretches out and hogs the covers, snores, groans, and has disgusting breath. Browsing dog beds on the internet I came across a brilliant strategy for getting Sam out of our bed and into his own…a HEATED DOG BED. So I splurged and bought one. 

So far it is attracting the wrong patrons…

Yard art and eco-crafting

1 caterpillar, 1 ladybug, 1 sockyarn mitten

I finished up one of my leftover yarn mittens and blocked it. Despite no calculations on my part  (even knitting deserves mystery and suspense) it looks there will be enough yarn. The whole point of the project was to give leftovers a new purpose, so it would have posed a real ethical dilemma had I needed more of either color.

The caterpillar and ladybug have their own repurposing story. They were made by Leroy, a now-retired stone mason from my hometown. I met Leroy when I worked summers for the City Engineering Department. Sidenote: working for the Engineering Dept. is pretty awesome when you’re sixteen because you get to drive a boxy orange chevy truck circa 1980 outfitted with a cb radio AND you get assigned your own call number on the city frequency.

Anyhow, when Leroy retired he started making yard art out of old tools and hardware – rakes, shovels, pruning shears. He gave my dad this spectacular metal bird made of welded tools as a retirement present. Word got back to Leroy how much I liked his creations and one day caterpillar & ladybug arrived in the mail.

Here in Eugene, my neighbors use a lot of recycled and repurposed materials to create eclectic, funky, and sometimes strange yard decorations (see photos below).  My sense is that their material selection comes from a personal identification with ideas like sustainability, reducing waste, and green living. These terms are prevalent  in the marketing of yard art at local community markets and homegoods stores.

I have been meaning to ask Leroy how he defines his yard art. What are the  intentions behind his choice of materials? Does he identify with terms like eco-crafting, upcycling, or green craft? If not those terms, then the ideas and values they represent?

What about you? Was there a time when you were upcycling or eco-crafting without even knowing what it was called? Did particular people, communities, or websites inspire you to integrate these principles into your work?


Front yard seating area in my neighborhood

Gazing balls made from bowling balls

Leftover Yarn Mittens

I struggle to find worthwhile uses for leftover yarn (cat toys anyone?). Here’s a sneak peek at my latest yarn-leftover-project: a pair of mittens that will use up wedding shawl yarn leftovers and extra Noro silk/wool sockyarn. Needles are size 1 and the pattern is my own.

I started the first mitt on a long train ride between Rome and Austria. Read and I shared a little 6-seat cabin with an Italian family, and once they started chatting back and forth in Italian I pulled out my knitting and became oblivious to all around me, UNTIL I realized I was the subject of the conversation:

Italian man gestures towards my mitten-project (insert some Italian)

Read points to me (insert more Italian)

Man asks clarifying question

Read responds


Getting teased by Read…that happens every day. Getting teased by Read in front of others also happens pretty often. Getting teased by Read in front of others in a foreign language made me blush. I was already self-conscious about being a walking breathing one-language American stereotype, so to get laughed at by the group and not know why was embarrassing. Post-joke I got the English recap from Read:

My grandmother used to knit. You don’t see anyone young these days who knows how.

Well, she is actually quite old.

What? Old?

Oh yes. I love her, but she is old. She’s (age) and I am (2 yrs. younger).


Kat’s quilting question

I’m back from my travels. I got to see so much beautiful art and architecture, drink Italian coffee, eat sausages and sauerkraut in Austria, hang out with friends and family in Ohio, and after all of it Read and I still like each other. Success on all fronts. I’ll post some trip highlights later.

For now, a question from Bethany’s sister Kat (contributor and photographer for the Weber family etsy site).  She wrote in the comments section of Freehand Baby Quilt, and I realized in trying to craft a response that I wanted to share the links with everybody. So Kat – hope you don’t mind that I turned your question into a post.

For a beginning quilt collect fabric scraps from family and friends. Buying fabric can get expensive. With scraps you can play around and if it looks horrendous, you can scrap and start over without feeling guilty.

If you haven’t quilted before I think it’s helpful to buy a little booklet on quilting basics at the fabric store. Or you could research the basics online (Sew Mama Sew has a nice tutorial). I made my first quilt without researching anything, only to find out later that there are a bunch of little tricks and techniques that really help.

As for freehand vs. pattern, I think that the only necessity is a plan. Doesn’t matter whether that’s your own sketch and some templates cut from cereal boxes, or a pattern you buy at Joann Fabrics. There are so many clever, fresh quilt ideas online…here are a few I thought you might like:

Wee Wonderfuls makes beautiful yet simple quilts. It’d be easy to frame a bunch of scraps in white for a quilt like this.

Artists and friend Bonnie Hull from On the Way used men’s shirts from goodwill to make a quilt. Excellent thrift-store-hunting inspiration.

Orange flower: sketchbook just posted yesterday about hosting a piece-along for a zig-zag quilt (a project partly inspired by this quilt from Purl Bee). It got me thinking about making one…

image from The Purl Bee


Hope that helps Kat! Please send me pictures of your quilting process. 

Goodbye two thousand and nine

I’m a bit late on the new year’s post and the Rose Bowl is partly to blame. This year it pit the team of my childhood -Ohio State- against the team of my current hometown -Oregon. I offended fans from both teams by saying I was having trouble knowing who to cheer for, but in the end I had to represent the midwest. It’s hard to counter twenty-some years of indoctrination and besides, there’s something fun about being the only Buckeye in a house full of Duck fans (ME vs. THEM!!). Especially when your team wins.

I’m not a diehard fan by any means (I don’t know all of the players names, I understand rules but not strategy) but I really, honestly enjoy watching football. Read and I got so worked up watching the game that we came home, flopped on the bed in our fan gear, and fell asleep for the evening. 

I had fun reading the new year’s themed posts on my blogroll, like this photo montage from, an impressive “year of making” from Artsy Craftsy Babe, and craft highlights from Elsie Marley. Outside of the craft sites, you must read the 2009 recap from

In my own little world, 2009 was a big year. I moved across the neighborhood, started this blog with Bethany, said goodbye to friends who moved across the country, learned how to use my spinning wheel, got hired on a permanent basis at work, lost my grandfather, got engaged, and traveled across the Atlantic. You never know what a year will bring, and 2010 promises to deal out some extra big adventures. But before I can welcome in the new it feels right to say goodbye to the old, so here are some images from 2009:

winter sunset over the Pacific


convincing Sam to ride in the bike basket


new milestone: a handknit sweater good enough to wear outside the house


canned Oregon peaches


swimming in the river to beat the heat


pre-Rose Bowl, when I'm an Oregon fan


first skein of hand-dyed & hand-spun yarn


Venice just before dawn


hometown church on christmas eve