Monday, November 9, 2009

A Simple Life

It has been absolutely beautiful these past few days – we are definitely into our Indian summer. Everything seems to be late this year. I don’t think we can even consider that we had a summer and our autumn was pretty wet. So these days are much appreciated and ideal to clean up the outside of the house and prepare for the onslaught of winter. Everything has to be tucked away from the harshness of the elements.

I know people think I am crazy but I do love my winters – probably won’t when I get older but who knows with on-line ordering really why would I ever have to go out in the winter except on a nice sunny day. I love my wintry days with snow falling and the silence is unbelievable. Perfect time to be reading, rug hooking, knitting and the myriad other crafts I get involved in. Well enough of that since it will be here sooner than ever and I know you are reading this and saying is she nuts!  Especially when it looks like this.

I was talking to my brother and he asked when we were going to Vermont – that is our annual pre-Thanksgiving trip. We go the weekend before to pick up our Christmas turkey, which is so much cheaper than here at home. The point being – oh my Lord it is already the 9th and where did it all go – all that time I thought I had to knit those socks, mitts and make all those gifts I wanted to make. I keep saying I have to start earlier, well I think I need to start in July – No wonder they call it Christmas in July! So some things won’t make my list but that is ok – I have learned over the years not to delude myself into thinking I am super woman, just take everything in stride and prioritize that is my buzz word.

This past weekend I spent exploring the Quebec countryside north of us. It is amazing what you will come upon driving meandering roads through the mountains. I was on the hunt for beeswax for another project I have in mind – can you believe it for Christmas! More of that later….

I did finish not a pair of sock but only one sock – I do that knit 3 at a time and then go back to finish up the pair. This way I am not bored. I took out my punch needle (been awhile) and made a small little design which I then put on a black felted zippered purse along with some appliquéd wool. This was so much fun and I plan to make more of these using different designs. The appliqué brings back my love of quilting and playing with layers of fabric. Then of course I am into adding beads to things now – so the zipper pull has some beads hanging from it.

This one is called A Simple Life and I was not content to have a blank side staring me in the face so I proceeded to appliqué on that one also. The original and the kits are being offered for sale tomorrow on Pfatt Marketplace. I only have a limited number of kits right now.

So I have been busy and another punch needle is in the works. The framed original will be for sale and the pattern will be released at a later date. I am trying to finish up some cross stitch ornaments with beading – similar to my punch needle ones of last year which sold like hot cakes at a show I did but I have found out that cross stitch is very intensive and teeny tiny besides taking a whole lot more time to do. Whether they make it this year or not – this NOT superwoman will decide.

Off to get some craft time in…G’ nite - Joni

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where has October gone?

I can't believe it is already November. I don't know where the month has gone. Thanksgiving has come and gone here in Canada and I am into Christmas mode now. Time to do the craft fairs and see what creative things are being offered. Time to plan my gifts and get knitted ones finished. I think that this year I am ahead of the game. It is this time of the year that I also get loads of ideas but unfortunately not enough time to execute everything.

I love these felt bags that are from Nepal. They are a nice thick wool and I can think of lots of uses for them. They also make great gifts. So with that in mind I have designed a punch needle called A Simple Life and I've got step one done. Now to embellish the clutch bag with wool applique and beads and this will be offered as a kit on my redesigned website.

Yes I am going to have a new look for my website with lots of new features which I hope will make finding and buying items a lot easier. I love user friendly technology. I'll be concentrating on my first love wool and will occasionally offer some primitive items that I am dabbling in. Whenever I do decide to quit the 9-5 job I know that boredom will never darken this gal's doorstep!

Here is one of the felts bags that I did for the fall season. You can find it on Pfatt Marketplace under Fully Wooly Primitives.

Don't forget to visit where we are giving away free items. You just need to sign up for a newsletter. I have a punch needle pincushion in the draw.

Just listed some snowman rug hooking kits which make up quickly as wonderful handmade gifts! They can be found on Etsy. The link is on the left hand side. Also all the Christmas punch needle patterns have been listed.

And with all that some baking has been going on - after all the crisp days and crunch of leaves underfoot leads to longings of comfort food - one of my favourites pumpkin pie and fresh apple cake. The recipe can be found at King Arthur Flour.

So considering all the bustling that has been happening at the Black homestead I can see where the month has gone.  Good night all..Joni

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Baking Day

It was one of those days. Cool crisp air, falling leaves and the smell of wood burning stoves. A typical fall day before the snow starts flying. I love the changing of the colours. It is a ritual to go for a drive and see how many different colours of red, burgundy and yellow you can find. This year I stayed home and did some baking as the weather was overcast and it looked like rain. It was just one of those days to bake! Maybe next weekend will be a good time.

I go through a process of re-organizing my counter space - out with stuff I don't use and clear up lots of room to perch baking sheets of cookies and other baked goods. I am lucky that I have lots of counter space and also a wooden side table that gets laden with cookies come November. That is peak holiday baking season in this house .

Today I made some caramel pecan gingerbread cakes and some peach scones. Tomorrow I have rugelach planned (a cream cheese pastry filled hazelnut or almond paste). The dough gets done tonight and refrigerated. I then roll it out in a circle, spread the paste and cut into 8 wedges that are then rolled into a spiral. Probably my most favourite pastry.

 In between bouts of cooking I have a sit down with a good book and a cuppa of tea. Right now I am reading Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. A page turner of a mystery.

Next weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. It is not as big a holiday as in the US but we still like to have our turkey and pumpkin pie.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South, come the pilgrim and guest,

When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?

- John Greenleaf Whittier

Off to have a peach scone and start working on a piece for listing on PFATT the 10th of this month. Of course it will have to be Hallowe'en related :)

Good nite.. Joni

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Socks have arrived on Etsy

Well I finally got around to getting my socks listed. I wanted to have at least 5 pair and Peter did the photography this afternoon. I'll be putting them up sporadically as I get them made, but we will start with these five. This is what I do watching TV - never have idle hands. Since it is September - new shows are starting and there are my favourites. So lots of knitting will get done.

I found a few new self striping ones when I was in Vermont and this weekend there is a trip planned to the local (well 2 hours away in Ottawa) knitting store and that means new wool!

Have a look at Wooly Footsies - hand knit socks for happy feet!

Good nite all.. Joni

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vermont Jaunt

Round Barn copyright warren kimble

Just got back from a lovely trip through the green mountains of Vermont. It is the closest you can get to nature! I do love the mountains but the ocean is still my favourite place. I go down about 3 times a year and just relax and do some shopping. It is the only time I really enjoy shopping. Of course I had to visit my favourite baking store King Arthur's Flour which has a great blog with lots of wonderful recipes.
I picked up their boiled apple cider which I cannot wait to use to make their apple cake. I will have to dig out the skillet for this one! This is the time of year when I love everything about baking.

Besides selling all the ingredients a baker would want they also sell mixes that they put together. Although I usually make everything from scratch I love to have a couple of these on hand for last minute rushes. Doesn't this one look tasty... Caramel Pecan Ginger - we are great lovers of anything ginger. I like the idea of these individual little cakes.

It is also time to go to the local apple orchard and see what is available in this year's crop. Now that is a lovely fragrance! Yes it is that time of the year where the apples are being harvested - the air is crisp and cool and there is a smell in the air that tells me fall is just around the corner - well of course next week is fall (dare I say my favourite time of the year).

Of course a trip to Vermont usually means a stop at the Shelburne Museum. As we drove up it was unbelievably crowded - oh boy - what was going on? It was the "Museum Goes to the Dog Day". That is the day they open up the grounds to the dogs and their owners. It is a fun filled day of activities. So we sat a bit and watched the parade of beautiful dogs - oh my and then made a visit to the museum store. We passed on the museum itself as it was so crowded. Though they were having a Warren Kimble exhibit.
copyright warren kimble
I may take a quick jaunt down in October and see that exhibit before it closes. He is one of my favourite folk artists along with Charles Wysocki .

Another wonderful exhibit at the Shelburne is that of rug hooker Patty Yoder. She had a style all her own and her rugs are well recognized and very beautiful.
"I am in love with wool. I love to bury my hands in the living wool of our beloved Border Leicester sheep. I love the feel and smell of new sheared wool when I gather it into bags as our shearer does his work. I love the yarn produced from each individual fleece. But most of all I love the glorious pieces of dyed wool fabric stacked by color waiting for the perfect spot in a hooked rug that I will create." --Patty Yoder

"Y is for Yoder" copyright Patty Yoder
All in all it was a wonderfully relaxing trip that encompassed good food, lovely company (my mom) and beautiful scenery. Have a great day.. Joni

Monday, August 31, 2009

Raspberry Pie Etc

Ok so I made the raspberry pie and it is delicious. I love fruit pies! They are so easy to make and very forgiving. Usually I mix the berries but this one was all juicy red raspberries.
6 cups of berries
4 tsps of potato starch
1/2c sugar - you can use more but I like a pie with a touch of sweetness and that is about it.
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
splash of lemon juice
enough pie crust from your favourite recipe to make top and bottom.
Mix everything together in a bowl. The potato starch I use to compensate for juicy berries. This is a question of taste - depends how much liquid you like. Use either vanilla or almond extract. I used the almond with the raspberries for something a little different. Pour into pie shell.
Bake according to your pie crust recipe. Mine was 425 for 15 min and then 350 for 35 minutes.

I am pretty much by the seat of your pants kind of cook. I tend to change recipes and I am always checking the oven for times. Let cool and then grab yourself a piece and with a dollop of ice cream enjoy!

My sock washing session with this new soap was great. It is a mix of tea tree oil and lanolin called Kookaburra from Australia.

You can find information on all its great benefits here at Knit Picks, another great yarn store I have discovered in my exploits of the net. What did we do before? If you think about it, the net has revolutionized the way we work and play. Another toy that arrived was my Yarn Swift. It is so much easier to wind hanks of yarn when you have one of these. I have been using the back of a chair or my knees and by the end of a couple of windings my arms are ready to fall off - what with detangling, dog hair and just general frustration. Tried it tonight and works like a charm. Got some Smooshy yarn wound up for a new pair of socks soon to appear in my Etsy Shop.

Now off to wind up some more wool - this time a beautiful lavender from Dream In Colour yarns.. which you can find at The Loopy Ewe.
G'nite.. Joni

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Orchids and Summer's End

Oh my it has turned cold - where did the summer go -I think we had two weekends of summer weather and the rest has been pretty dismal. They say we are going to have a warm winter well that means ice. Because we are surrounded by water in a valley we have been getting more rain during the winter that turns to freezing rain. The bane of my existence. I hate the stuff - it is dangerous and every Montrealer cringes with fear at the mention of freezing rain - hearkening back to that one terrible January years ago when we had freezing rain and is forever more known as THE ICE STORM...hearts flutter in fear.

But hey it is still officially summer and my orchids are still outside and have been blooming since Spring. It is the only indoor plant I can grow can you believe it!

I am working on some special projects right now but did happen to get together a few things to sell on The Primitive Gathering on Sept,1st. Here is a sneak preview of them with the thought of Halloween just around the corner. I have already started making my Christmas gifts. We sort of informally agreed that giftgiving would be handmade stuff this year which I am only too happy to do. It can be homemade edibles or any craft item. We are all pretty crafty and love to cook so there will some really great wowers to be found under the Christmas tree. I just love a gift that says "I thought about you!"

Tomorrow is sock washing day - have to block all those handmade socks to be put on Etsy next month - next month is a couple of days isn't it LOL! I am trying a new wool soap so I will let you know how it goes with that. Time to make raspberry pie tomorrow. I think this is the last crop of the season and we have been eating them all summer just plain - so delicious like that but one pie has to be made.

It's 1:00am and Roby (my dog) is making his nest which means time to go bed. I wonder why dogs do that. He scratches and paws and rearranges his blankets and just plops himself down with a big old sigh and as my mother-in-law once told me - Good ole bed - which I am thinking sounds just about right..

Good Ole Bed - G'nite.. Joni

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Muggy Weekend , Happy Crafting

Well it has been a hot and muggy weekend and Monday brings no release. They have high humidity, heat warnings and smog alerts out so that means stay inside and no excessive exertion.

While watching a football game on TV yesterday (while I was reading of course) I saw fans wearing coats and rain gear. They are getting cool temps in the prairies. This summer, Canada has seen such a diversity of weather. If one part is having a drought the other side is having rain like never before seen. They say our crops across the country are in jeopardy if the weather does not stabilize. Of course that means higher prices for all of our food!

Speaking of food – which I love- but I have to say I am not a very adventuresome eater. I am more of a traditionalist though not a big fan of meat. I love baking- especially during the holidays. On our way home yesterday from the senior citizens home, there is a market with local produce where I drop by to get my week’s supply of fruit and vegetables. It is not cheaper but it is definitely fresher and the produce seems to last longer. I focused in on the berries. The wild blueberries have made it to market and they are wonderful. I love baking with them. There were raspberries which are coming to the end of the season and the strawberries are plump, juicy and sweet. No sugar needed on these! I was steered to a site called Joy of Baking which has all kinds of great baking recipes. Two that I especially want to make are strawberry/banana muffins and lemon blueberry tea bread. Mmmmmm… Now if only I can save some of the berries. I am snacking on a bowl of them while I write this.

My brother’s party was a great success – there was too much food! My sister- in-law is Greek so we had some traditional Greek dishes mixed in with our traditional dishes of pasta salads and greens. The kids had such a joie de vivre swimming and doing belly flops in the pool. It was a very relaxing and wonderful time. It’s a little something different from my usual crafty weekends.

I mentioned in a previous e-mail my love of beads and have used them in my punch needle designs. They are especially nice during the holiday season when I start doing my Christmas ornaments. This year I started making bracelets – nothing too complicated as it is not something I am going to really delve into but just a little something different than the needle work. I am learning wire work right now but in this piece no wirework was used. It was knitted – yes knitted I said. When I first read about it – I said no way but with the right tools it is a breeze and I love that it whips up quickly and that they make a wonderful gift which has a wow factor.

These are the new socks I am knitting. They will be on sale at Wooly Footsies in September. Don’t you just love the colour combination? They are my funky socks and they are always a surprise while knitting. I am excited to see what new colour or pattern emerges. If you have not realized it yet I can get easily distracted by other projects so I need several on the go so that I can flit from what thing to another. I don’t produce a project as quickly as I could if I concentrated on one but happen to complete 3 or 4 at the same time. With socks I find it more stimulating to finish one half – go on to another style and then go back to the first one. I am like that when reading a book. I don’t read one but have usually 3 on the go.

I just finished Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care. I am a great fan of hers and have been following her since I picked up her first book years ago. She always writes about controversial subjects and really questions the ethics of situations. There is never a black and white but a lot of gray areas. This, her latest book was true to form and I loved it. She is the only author, whose book I will buy in hardcover as soon as it comes out. The movie “My Sister’s Keeper”, which just played in theatres was based on one of her most recent books. I have to say I was disappointed with the movie. The ending was changed and it became a Hollywood ending. The whole message that the book portrayed was lost by this change. I much preferred the book. Often I find that happens and I wonder what the author thinks who wrote the book. My rule of thumb is always to read the book first as it was intended.

So I started off with football and ended up with reading with a whole of crafting in between.
Have a great day - Joni

Friday, August 14, 2009

Design Inspirations

As promised here are a couple of designs I am in the middle of – right now choosing the colour palette from The Gentle Arts line of threads.

The first one (proposed title Cat on an Antique Rug) is one I have always wanted to do. My background is quilting and crazy quilts have always intrigued me. With the combination of the different fabrics (cotton, silks and velvets) contrasting so vividly with the embellishments of silk and cotton threads plus beads it lends itself to a feast for the eyes. This background will be more subdued as the cat is the focal point. He looks so aloof and very lion like. Of course I need to have my floral borders. I researched old antique rugs for composition and got ideas for some of the shapes of the flowers . Although I don’t quilt anymore my designs do have a lot of quilting blocks as an added theme. I am thinking of doing some wool appliqué designs – but that is a story for another day.
The second design is one that has been in my thoughts for awhile. On a trip to Ireland driving through the countryside around Dublin we came across a crossroads that was the village of Slane, Co. Meath. It had four identical Georgian houses built at each corner. They were the same grey limestone and the story told was that they were built for four spinster sisters. The houses were built in such a way so that could keep an eye on each other. Another tale is told of a brother who built the houses for his sisters because he could not stand their quarrelling – so they each got the same house – no jealousy there – and out of his house! So I designed it with this story in mind - but my houses will be pastel colours – with cascading roses in the border.

So with two projects in my lap along with many more – there is never a bored moment in my life. Just not enough time!

Some of the other things I have been up to -

Need to replenish my wool thread collection so I did a dye run of various colours such as Green Gables, Spicy Pumpkin and Faded Pumpkin.
I love when the colours start saturating the base wool. I should do more dyeing but it requires a dedicated slot of time so I really have to plan it well into my weekend. I do have plans to seriously start dyeing wool fabric again but it will be offered on my website as packages of 4 and 5 different wools – no single yardage. You can see some examples here on my website. Everyone is always on the lookout to round out their stash. I know I do. My dream is to have a studio with a sink – stove – washer and dryer that is not my kitchen. One can only wish! I already have two rooms dedicated to crafts – one is the wool room and the other the craft room – both in serious need of a purge. I may open up an “ATTIC FINDS” button on my website…hmm that is a thought.

Final little aside for today are pictures of my current project of socks. You can see some of the fancy lace work – looks more complicated than it is and you can download the pattern off of the APPLELAINE site. The lace pattern is at the back of the calf and goes down to the bottom of the heel. A little surprise! Using their wools has been a real pleasure. They are so soft. The most complete line being offered that I have come across is in Ottawa at WOOL TYME. They do have an on-line store. Now that is a feast for your eyes. For me it was worth the two hour trip.
Anyone out there interested in knitting but have not yet taken the leap – socks are a great beginner project. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want and very practical. Not much is required in materials and it is also quite portable. The biggest plus – it is sooo relaxing that I have been known to fall asleep with the knitting needles in my hands – LOL.

They are calling for a beautiful weekend. I think this will be our first summer weekend of the season. Spirals of smoke will be circling the sky from all the barbecues starting up. We plan on a family get together with lots of food (very important) – a beast of a chocolate cake- great conversation and lots of laughter. Hey my brother is 49! Happy Birthday Ronald!!

Have a great weekend all – Play safe.. Joni

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Typical Day

I think summer has finally arrived – hot and humid and the AC is on. The heat saps me and in order to do all my wool projects – air conditioning helps. I also dye wool at this time of the year and a hot stove with simmering water just needs cool air.

My pup loves it when I sit outside with him – so yesterday AM when the air was still relatively cool I sat and he prowled the perimeter of the property. He showed the cats who was boss by herding them and made sure everything was A ok in his world. What would we do without their funny faces and happy smiles!

So I walked around and took some pics of my flowers – a good reminder that yes I can grow something. Once tried a vegetable garden and that was a terrible disaster. It probably had something to do with the black walnut tree I have growing in the yard. Learnt years later than you should not plant a veggie garden near this type of tree. Don’t know if it is true or not but hey it was a good excuse rather that say my green thumb was sadly lacking in green.

Yay! I am almost finished the MIL socks. I get to the end of the foot and think about what luscious yarn I am going to use next. What part do I like best about knitting socks? Hmmm… I get confused with the cast on and doing the joining – there invariably is a gap but I read about a little trick where you switch your stitches the first and the last and it locks the round. It’s just trying to make sure your cast on stitches don’t twist. The leg and all those variations in stitches are a delight. I love lace knitting! The heel is pretty routine though I vary the finish – but it is really a cast off and then a cast on. The foot itself is the longest part – round and round we go but then I try to carry the pattern down.. and dare I say it the toe – Ok I have a thing about toes – the Kitchener stitch scared the heck out of me – but it really does have a beautiful finish – seamless. Now I am getting the hang of it. It demands full concentration and absolute quiet. Peter gets hushed with “I’m doing the toes – shhhhhh” and Roby gets a cookie to put him in heavenly bliss. Done!! The second sock is always faster – you know what to expect with the peaks and valleys of the whole construction.

What was waiting in my e-mail box yesterday was an announcement from The Loopy Ewe for a wool sale. Ahhh…immediately click to the site – the credit card was whipped out and I am now a happy owner of more Dream in Color Smooshy Yarn ( delectable colours) and yes more sock patterns. I think I am seriously addicted to socks.

I went through my stash of The Gentle Arts cotton overdyed threads and reacquainted myself with their colour palette. Just gorgeous and the names are especially wonderful. I especially love their line of Shaker colours. I have been mostly designing with my wool threads (Red Island Threads) but thought the next design will be done with these instead. I have drawn the design out and will show it tomorrow – actually a couple I am looking at. But the one I want to try first is a cat on a crazy quilt background with cascading flowers. I love flowers in borders that contrast with linear elements. This one I will punch needle and then translate to a rug. I want it for in front of my favourite chair.
I use my rugs. At first I thought – hmmm no way – but they are durable and I do them in linen which is much sturdier. I laid one on the floor as an experiment – as you know I have a Sheltie and what do they do but herd those fluffy wooly 4-legged creatures. I have seen what he does to a ball of wool. I thought the cats could be bad but oh no – this ball of wool travelled the whole house – chewed and scattered to the four corners of the house. Lo and behold the rug has survived with nary a pulled loop and he is best friends with it. His bone (not a real bone –yuck) gets dropped on it, barked at, picked up and dropped at another location to be sniffed and chewed. Now does this look like the face of a rug chewing pooch?

Well I’ve had a good chat and I am off to do what needs doing for the day.

Have a great one - Joni

There is a time to be born and a time to die.
A time to laugh and a time to cry,
but there never seems to be enough time to knit

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either. ~Elizabeth Zimmerman