Friday, December 28, 2007

Crazy Aunt Purl

In working so hard at trying to write for children, and teaching middle school reading, I tend to mostly read children's or young adult books. I was given a gift card for Barnes & Noble for Hanukkah this year, so of course I ended up in the craft section on a trip to South Points in Durham. I found a wonderful book (actually one for grown-ups!) that is so hilarious that I'm writing to recommend it even before I've finished it. It's a novel called, Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair, the True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split. I have been so absorbed in reading this, that I just now noticed that it has great patterns and pictures in the back of the book. The title is self-explanatory, but I would add that I enjoyed and identified a little too much at times with the Southern humor. For anyone trying to write a humorous novel, this is a must read. This is such a break to all of the sob stories of how knitting has saved everyone's life. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I believe in the saying of Mary Englebreit, "Snap Out of It!" Sure, life is hard. Wallowing in self-pity (and Cabernet) can be enjoyable for short periods, but as the author, Laurie Perry, shows, finding an outlet,in this case knitting, can open up new lifestyles and purpose. She also has a blog which is entertaining, You can get a sense of her writing style and humor by reading her blog, or better yet, buy the book. Sorry, but I need to go read!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Snuggles Project

I've added two new links to this blog: Hugs For Homeless Animals and The Snuggles Project. H4HA is a wonderful website with information about helping shelter animals find homes. They have a national listing as well as tips for pet owners. I found the Snuggles Project through the Lion Brand (makers of yarn) newsletter. It's a perfect project for my Knitting Club at school. Most of them finished their caps for the chemo lab and I've been able to scrape a few dollars from selling Christmas bows at work, so that I could buy extra yarn for our new project. We'll be knitting small blankets for the foster animals through the Wayne County Humane Society. I've already spoken to one of the canine foster parents who said she would gladly take them. I'm planning to ask one of the members to visit our club meeting in February to talk to the students about the Humane Society and pick up the blankets at the same time. I think this will have more impact on the students to actually connect a face with where their projects will go. About half of the club went to the cancer clinic with me this month to give their knitted caps and they were met with a very warm reception.
According to the Snuggles Project the blankets serve to not only keep the animals warmer by giving them a cushion between themselves and their cages/floor, but it also provides them with some comfort. This in turn quiets the animal, removing tension and making them more easy going and thus more likely to be adopted. It should also make the cage itself more inviting and presentable. And, after all, when you're trying to adopt an animal, you're essentially selling that animal's personality to a potential family. It's marketing whether we like it or not. I'm excited about this project. I've started knitting a blanket myself over the holidays in order to gauge how much yarn to give the students. I'm using my large yellow Knifty Knitter Loom with two skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn, both skeins knitted as one. Most of my students have opted to learn on looms. Using two strands makes it more cushiony. The acrylic yarn is better for washing. So far, it's knitting up very well and is producing a sizable blanket for a small dog or cat. I'm shooting for February to have these done (in time for Valentine's Day). You can find patterns for Snuggles blankets on the website for the Snuggles Project (below). Please check out these sites and get involved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Scarf

I have finally finished the longest knitting project of my knitting career, which, incidentally isn't all that long. I just learned to knit with needles last summer. I undertook a project to complete by this Christmas for the daughter of a good friend of ours - a hat and scarf combination from the Charmed Knits book, both knitted in Gryffindor colors. It was a real learning experience as I'd never knitted with such small yarn. I must have started over on each item at least twice. They will go into the mail today as they will travel halfway across the country. I now know how to decrease a hat with double pointed needles, how to add color and catch up the new yarn in the knitting as well as how to do a double bind-off. I also learned not to add tassels on the first end finished until the other end is bound off so the whole thing doesn't end up twisted and you have to remove the tassels once again to get them straight. Whew! Anyway, I hope our friend enjoys these as much as I did knitting them. I'm now onto knitting bamboo scarves for other friends. Seven days left. Fly needles, fly!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bartok Gourd

This is the latest tutorial of a gourd design process. I was commissioned to design a gourd for a colleague of my husband. It is for his father who is a fan of the composer Bartok. I found a piece of his music entitled Peasant Costume. I used two rubber stamps, one of three dancers and one of a musical stamp. I used four lengths of 1/4" masking tape to lay out the musical staff. I stamped the dancer images onto wide masking tape, three sets so that I could cut the images individually to place around the gourd. They're positioned to appear dancing on the music.
I used the same technique with the musical note to fill in the empty space between the dancers. The musical notes were drawn in by hand to match the composition. I waited overnight for the wood putty to dry in the bug holes. This provides a more even surface. I sanded the puttied holes in the morning and then pyrographed the images through the masking tape. The stem broke off during burning, so I decided to cover it up. I tried gluing without success, and then made a musical note out of Maker's Clay in black. This is an air dry clay which has a unique feel. I enjoyed using it as it went together pretty quickly. While it was soft I set it onto the top of the gourd, then removed it to dry overnight. I glued it back on when it was dry with Elmer's Wood Glue. The indention was already set into the bottom of the note, so it fitted perfectly. Sorry, but I didn't manage to get a final picture before it was whisked off to its new owner. Maybe I can get him to send me one for the blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Craft Show & Antique Sale

You're invited to my Second Annual Craft Show (and this year also an Antique Sale). It will be held Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 610 N Jefferson St, Goldsboro, NC from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. One of our friends has again loaned me her Physical Therapy office for the day. Another friend will join me this year in offering small antiques for sale. My mother and sister will again add to the items, including baskets and angel ornaments. You can get an idea of some of the craft items offered at Please stop by to browse. I'm still finishing up several items to include, so keep checking for new items. I hosted this show last year and was asked by several patrons to come back again this year. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Apple Head Gourd Tutorial

I started working on a new apple gourd and thought I'd take my time on this one to document progress and steps. It's now finished except for drying and putting a finish on it. I did also find a couple of lines I forgot to draw in and burn, but I can do that later. Here goes.
1. To start with, find an apple gourd. These are easily identified as they are in the shape of an apple - just big apples. I have bought most of mine at the NC Gourd Society Fall Festival which is held every September at the NC Fair Grounds in Raleigh. I have also grown some of these in the past. As gourds go, they're fairly easy to grow and usually have a nice hard shell and thick stems. You can order them from Welburn Gourd Farm in California and almost any other gourd farm online.
2. Okay, you now have your gourd, right? Time to clean it. You'll need either a large enough bucket to comfortably dunk it into very warm, soapy water or a sink. I prefer a sink since I like to rinse as I go. I like to use aluminum scouring pads to scrub my gourds, especially if they're very dirty or have surface blemishes. Some people swear by copper scouring pads, some by plastic. I never had much luck with any kind of plastic cleaning device, but you'll have to experiment on your own to decide what works best for you.
3. Your gourd is now clean and shiny and dry. But wait, you've noticed some holes you couldn't see under all that dirt. They're probably bug bites that your gourd suffered while minding its own business out in the field. There are little green beetles that look like Martian ladybugs that love a gourd feast. They're probably your culprits, but it's too late now. You can fix this, however. You can use wood putty to fill in the holes; don't use too much, or you'll spend extra time sanding it off. It takes a couple of hours for this to dry, but a small fine sanding pad will remove the excess and leave your gourd's surface smooth.
4. Okay, okay, I know you're chomping at the gourd, I mean bit (that's the bug's job which they did nicely), to get started. Let's start crafting! You probably have your design ready to copy onto the gourd. Use a pencil to draw the design onto the gourd. I like the Ticonderoga brand since it has excellent erasers in case I change my mind while sketching. Draw your entire design onto the gourd, then when you're satisfied, go over it darker with your pencil. You want to be able to see it well when you start to burn it.

5. No, we're not going to set the gourd on fire. It's called pyrography - drawing or writing with a wood burning implement to permanently mark designs. You can buy cheaper styles at craft stores, but if you really want to get into doing a lot of gourds, invest in a more professional style. I use the Gourd Unit Nibsburner, which is a good wood burner, but not one of the more expensive units. It heats up to several hundred degrees in just seven seconds and cools off just as quickly, making it easy to pause every now and then to sharpen the blade. For this gourd I used a HD SF1 tip for the face and a HD #5 for the leaves. After I finished burning the entire gourd, I sanded it again to smooth out the surface. Burning leaves a rough edge to the burned areas.

The cord that connects the tips to the unit is long and I usually wrap it once around the arm I use to burn with. It keeps the excess out of the way and helps with controlling the tips. The following picture reminded me of a couple of extra tips. Use a filter mask when you burn. The wood burners create smoke which is hazardous to your breathing. Also, I find when wood burning or painting, my pinky finger is a great tool to use to steady my hand (and it's always available). Be careful where you do this. Sparks can drop off of your gourd. Make sure you don't burn where this would be a bad thing. I had several drop onto my jeans and had to brush them off immediately. Nothing burned, but it pays to pay attention.
6. Now for the really fun part, adding color. For this gourd, I used Gourd master ink dyes from Welburn Gourd Farm. I used micro brushes to apply color to small areas and the ink stamping pads, which are about an inch in diameter, for larger areas. Colors used were Cherry Red for apple color; Barn Red and Brown for lips; Green, Olive Green , Pine Needle Green, Mango and Cherry Red for leaves; Brown and Dark Brown for caterpillar eyebrows.

These ink dyes are great for gourds; they allow the underlying gourd surface to show through very subtly, but are really rich in color and blend well. If you catch a mistake right away, you can use baby wipes to wipe off unwanted color. A bit of paper towel blends the colors nicely. These inks don't show overlap the way leather dyes do.
I use an old gourd piece for a sampler for the ink dyes. I labeled each color that I stamped onto the gourd so I can use it as a reference. It really comes in handy.
The gourd is still drying at this point, so I'll add the finished picture later. I'm including a few extra pictures which show close-ups of the leaves and face. Enjoy. Please e-mail me with any questions. If I think of anything else later, I'll add it in. Happy Crafting!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Chemo Caps

The Knitting Club that I sponsor at school has grown again. I'm not sure how this keeps happening. A teacher sent a new student to the club meeting, another child who is also in my One-Stroke Painting Club wanted to add the Knitting Club, etc., etc. All of a sudden, I have thirty-four students in there at once:) They're such a great group of students, I can't say no. I'm the only sponsor, so it keeps me running the entire forty-five minutes. We had enough club money to buy yarn last month, so we're knitting chemo caps for our hospital's cancer floor. I'm in contact with a nurse from that floor who's arranging a hospital tour. I think it will mean even more to the students (6th, 7th, and 8th grades) to be able to deliver them themselves. I don't know why, but it does not bother me to have a large group of kids talking and laughing for a whole period when they're doing crafts, but four to six students not paying attention in a resource class does. I guess because what the larger group is doing is creative and so inspiring. I've had kids who have given me hats they have knitted from their own yarn to donate. One child gave me a bag full of hats. It is so wonderful to see this coming from children. I'll post more news later.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Broom making 101

In the spirit of Halloween, I've decided that the next tutorial should be about making a broom, specifically, the Cobweb Catcher. I learned to make these brooms years ago at the North Carolina Basketmakers' annual convention by a lady named Mary Normand. It is still the only style broom I know, but I've made plenty of them since and have always found them to be very useful as well as decorative. I've tried my hand at the Turkey Tail wisk broom, but I lack the hand strength to hold it together tightly enough while wrapping. I hope the pictures are clear enough. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to write.


Adapted from the Feather Duster by Mary Normand


3-4 foot slender bamboo pole (long dowel rod could be substituted, or you can order broom handles from R E Caddy at this website:
waxed linen
drill with 1/8” bit
sharp knife
curved large-eyed needle (A leather needle works well, but you may want to use a metal thimble to push the needle through the stalk to save your fingers. I was given an actual cadaver needle in my class that I still have which has an end that curves up and is good to push against. Leather needles I've found since leave the eye end straight and can really poke into your skin when you're pushing the needle through. The stalks are tough and can wear on you after a few pushes.)


Trim the branches off the bamboo pole; sand so that you do not have sharp edges. Leave a joint or node at both ends of the pole to prevent splitting. You will be working with an odd number of stalks. Try to select stalks that are evenly matched so that your stitches will be even. A lot of small stalks give a different pattern than fewer larger stalks. This is a matter of personal choice. Hold the stalks in place around the pole to determine how many will be needed. Soak the stalks in a bucket of water with just the stalks emerged for about 20 minutes. You may need to place a towel over the stalks to keep them from floating up and out of the bucket.
After soaking the stalks, remove them from the water. You will need to trim the stalks beginning 3/8” above the node. Cut at an angle away from the brush end and continue to cut about 1/2 of the diameter of the stalk until you reach the end of the stalk. Continue with the rest of the stalks and soak them again until soft.
While the stalks are soaking, you need to drill a 1/8” hole through the bamboo approximately 5-6” from the smaller end of the pole.

Attaching the Broomcorn:

Thread the needle with 2 1/2 yards of the waxed linen. Thread this through the hole in the bamboo and tie off the end, leaving the longest piece attached to the needle.

Lay out all of the broom stalks to the left of the pole in the order you want them around the broom, cut sides up. Begin threading the needle through each of the stalks from right to left through the area between the cut surface and the brush end. Pull the waxed linen tight so that all stalks are side by side and fit nicely around the pole with the uncut sides of the stalks exposed. Do not overlap the stalks.

Count the stalks once more to make sure you have an odd number. You do not have to stitch the first and last stalk together. Instead, wrap the waxed linen three times around the stalks (easiest way is to roll the pole around and let the thread follow). Pull the waxed linen very tight.

Begin stitching through each stalk in the following manner: The needle should enter each stalk just under the three wraps from the left side of the stalk and should emerge on the right side of the stalk just over the three wraps. Come over the wraps with the needle and thread and enter the next stalk in the same manner. Continue around until you reach the first stalk you have sewn. Continue sewing and overlap for 3 stalks.

You will not be sewing through the stalks now, but will be weaving over and under each stalk in the direction away from the brush end. Hold the pole tightly with one hand while you weave the thread in and out with the other. It is important for the overall effect here to keep the thread very tight. This will help to make the little “puffs” between the threads.

Continue weaving this pattern until you come within 1” of the end of the shortest weaver. At this point, you will repeat the three wraps and stitching you did before, remembering to overlap two or three stalks.

Using the end of the remaining thread, wrap another three times about 1/2” below the last stitching and tie this very tightly. Leave this tied until the broom completely dries. Once this is dried, remove these last three wraps. The stalks should be indented all around. Trim stalks evenly at this indention all around. (The indention makes the stalks “hug” more tightly to the pole, giving it a more finished look.)

Cut approximately one yard of waxed linen. Wrap tightly around the brush end about 5/8”-1” from the tip end of the bamboo (toward the tip end of the brush) three times and tie off. Do not cut the thread. Tuck the short end of thread into the brush part and thread the long end onto your needle. Begin stitching around the wrapping just as you did on the stalks, except now you will go through the brush ends. Select a width of brush equal to the width of your stalks. Stitch in the same manner as before, going up under the wrap from the left side and emerging on the right of the section above the wrap. Cross over the wrap on the outside and enter through the next section from the bottom left of the wrap. Continue around until the brush end has been divided into even sections. Overlap stitching for two or three sections. Tie off thread, leaving a short tail to tuck into the brush or leave longer to tie on embellishments.

These brooms are fantastic for reaching into high ceiling corners for those hard-to-get-at places. They save dragging a chair to reach and look lovely decorated with bright fall leaves for an autumn look or with winter greenery. Have fun and let me know how you do with your first broom.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

From Sheep to Sweater

I decided to sponsor two crafting clubs at school this year, knitting and One-Stroke Painting. It's been a wonderful experience and the students reinforce my decision constantly at work. They approach crafts differently from a lot of adults, who tend to bring their insecurities with them into the classroom. Young people love to work with their hands and have not lost that sense of wonder at creating something new. I have over 30 students in each group, which means they don't all have chairs to sit on in my classroom. They don't seem to notice, much less mind and happily sit in groups on the floor, chatting and crafting. Their contagious enthusiasm keeps me going and involved with crafts even when I don't have time at home to do my own painting or knitting.
I took students from both clubs to the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace in Fremont, NC on Tuesday of this week. We had a great time and learned to dip candles. Since there were so many of us, we dipped our strings, then kept moving in a circle until it was our turn again. By then, the candles had cooled enough to dip again. I can now appreciate life back in the late 1800's and the fact that I'm living now. The students had a great time as did the teachers and parents who went. If you haven't visited this historic site, please do. It was a real education. You can find their website at The staff were extremely nice and very well informed.
While we were touring the site, we had a chance to see the farm animals which are kept there for demonstration purposes. Of course, I had to ask about the sheep. I thought I remembered that they did their own shearing, so I asked a staff member. He said they did and in fact, they were planning to demonstrate this the next day. I asked what they did with the fleece and was told they usually just threw it away after the demo. Well, I couldn't resist hinting that I'd love to have it. They saved it for me! I now own a beautiful cream and yellow sheep's fleece. I was so excited, I didn't mind staying up until after 11:30 last night to wash it...and wash it... and wash it. I think I counted about five times. Thanks to Woolite, it is a little more pleasant smelling. I never knew you could find so many different things embedded in a sheep's wool!
The challenge I have given to myself is to convert this fleece into something wearable by next spring. I'd also like to take some of the carded fleece to school to give the students a chance to try their hands at the drop spindle. I took a lesson in this at Clara's Yarn Shop in Winterville last summer. It was fun to learn, but I'm not really good at it. Maybe I'll give it another 'whorl'. What I'd really like to learn is to spin on a spinning wheel. I'm hoping I can get a more consistent texture & ply than I am presently getting on the drop spindle. Clara's has moved to the internet, but you can see her beautiful hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn at
My next step after the wool dries is to purchase a couple of combs to card the wool and remove the rest of the small 'stuff' still clinging. There is another very nice yarn shop in New Bern called the Weaver's Web Gallery which is only about a forty-five minute drive from here (602 Pollock St, New Bern, NC). They have the combs and also offer spinning classes. Plus, it's always an excuse to shop for yarn. I'll keep you posted on my progress:)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Apple Bobbing

Apple bobbing has long been associated with Halloween as an activity kids/adults do at parties. The activity originated with the ancient Celts and involved placing apples in a large basin of water. Apples, being less dense than water, would float freely around the basin. Each person in turn would hold his/her hands behind his/her back and try to pick up an apple with his/her teeth. Traditionally, the first person who managed to remove an apple from the water was to be the next person to marry.
This activity seems silly now, but like all other gatherings at that time, these served to bring people living in remote regions together who may not have met (or married or produced children). These get-togethers helped keep the population going and surely allowed news to spread.
I would think this activity will slowly fade into Halloween history. I can't imagine dipping my face into a bucket of water that other people have also dipped their faces into before me. Our views and knowledge have changed the way we look at certain traditions. However, we still long for simpler days when innocent fun was innocent fun and the image of a child beaming as his face entered the water will long stand as one of the symbols of Halloween.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Witches & Beer?

I heard a very interesting discussion from Alan Eames on NPR Saturday. He is an anthropologist who specializes in the history of beer. He was explaining that women were the early brew masters (or should we say brew mistresses?) who would use a broom handle or besom (style of broom) as a symbol of their craft and to let clients know they had brew available. They also wore pointed hats to draw attention to their booths at the marketplace. And we all know that cats are good mousers who would have been essential to anyone dealing with grains. Over the years, women have been falsely accused of being evil witches when they were unfortunately involved in political situations. These particular symbols of the brewing industry have taken on a reputation as symbols of witchcraft.
I found the discussion fascinating. Alan D. Eames is the author of The Secret Life of Beer. After hearing him talk, I'm going to have to check out this book. Who would have thought that beer would have had this interesting history? Thanks Alan for the information. Good luck with your continued research.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Halloween Legends

Halloween is my favorite holiday. There is no end to the imagination and creativity shown by its celebrants. I love reading about the origins of holiday traditions. I think we can enjoy them more when we know just why we do certain activities rather than just doing them automatically. Here are a couple of traditions followed by many, but understood by few:

Jack O' Lanterns
The jack o' lantern is synonymous with Halloween. As the legend goes, an Irishman named Jack and known for his stinginess and drunken habits was bellying up to the bar on All Soul's Eve. The Devil happened to be there and Jack offered his soul for the price of a drink. Jack talked the Devil into transforming himself into a sixpence in order to pay for the drink, saying that the Devil could transform back after the tab was paid and not have to actually pay for the drink. The Devil, being who he was, liked this idea of getting a soul and not really paying for it anyway so he agreed.
No sooner had he transformed, than Jack scooped up the sixpence and placed it in a pouch with a cross on it. The Devil could not transform back into himself, so was forced to make a bargain with Jack. Jack asked for one more year before he lost his soul and the Devil agreed.
One year later, Jack was still engaged in his drunken miserly habits. The Devil appeared and Jack agreed to go with him. Jack stopped under an apple tree and asked the Devil is he would retrieve an apple from the tree for him. The Devil climbed the tree, thinking this would only take a minute. Jack pulled a knife from his pocket, carved a cross in the tree and again the Devil was trapped. Jack again was given a reprieve.
Soon after, Jack died of natural causes. He was refused entrance into heaven because of the life he had led. He went into Hell, but the Devil, for once deciding to honor a bargain, turned him away as well. Jack asked, "Where am I to go?"
The Devil told him to go back where he came from. "How will I see?" asked Jack. The Devil tossed him a coal from the fire pits and Jack placed it into a turnip in order to light his way.
So, Jack was forced to wander through the land carrying his lit turnip. His light can be seen over the marshes of Ireland. The closer one comes to the light, the farther away it moves.
Irish people over the years would place lights inside carved turnips and potatoes to scare away ghosts. They would also do this so that if Jack needed a light, he would take it and leave them alone.
This custom continued when the Irish people migrated to America. They found the pumpkins larger and much easier to carve, so the transition to our modern-day jack o' lanterns, or "Jack's Lanterns" came into being.
Share this legend with anyone with an interest in Halloween. I'll continue my research and 'Happy Haunting.'

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I've Been Tagged

My writer friends are playing tag. Now, I'm It. I've been tagged by Karen Lee. Please see her blog for a wonderful example of what a blog should be. I'm sharing the rules with you early this morning. I'll have to think about eight things I think I can share publicly. Here are the rules:
Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names (see below), then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
1. I switched my major in college several times, even during graduate school. I started out in art, then changed to psychology, graduated in this, started out in guidance counseling in graduate school, then graduated with a degree in special education.
2. I have a secret desire to run a craft school for kids and adults.
3. I studied Martial Arts for several years. I was working on my brown belt in Karate when I stopped. My favorite part was doing Kata and weapons, especially the bo staff. I miss it very much.
4. My first pet was a cocker spaniel named Ginger. She was with us for eleven years.
5. I once had a small herb business, growing a lot of the herbs and making personal items such as bath salts, eye pillows and teas.
6. One of my favorite activities when I was a child was to climb a tree with a book and sit on the branches to read.
7. I love blue cheese.
8. My favorite holiday is Halloween.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Gourd Tutorial: Playing Havoc

I was going to try to place this side bar about this gourd into the archives, but I'm not sure how to do this without losing it, so I decided to make it a regular post and to add a small tutorial with it. I'm sorry I didn't take pictures along the way to show the progress. I'll try to do that at another time. I will include the other pictures that go with this so you can see the other sides - does "sides" apply to a round object?
Playing Havoc was designed for a good friend of mine and my husband's for his birthday. It was fun to make and includes a few phrases of Theme from Gypsy Rondo by Haydn. I'm embarrassed to say how long I've been trying to learn this piece on the piano. Our friend was pleasantly surprised which makes it all worthwhile.

First, let me say thanks again to Maria Dellos from who has given me wonderful tips time and again on her show and helped me with techniques for this design.
1. Cleaning the gourd. This should be a post in itself. I didn't open this gourd, so the process was much simpler than it could have been. I scrubbed the outside of the gourd with a stainless steel scrubber under very warm water with dish soap until it was cleaned. I let it air dry.
2. The designs for the music staffs were sketched onto the gourd surface with Ticonderoga pencils. They have great erasers which don't leave marks. Musical notes were hand-drawn.
3. The frog designs were from a set of rubber stamps. I place wide masking tape onto a glass surface and stamped the images onto the tape using regular stamping ink. I then used a mat knife to carefully cut the images off, one at a time. The images were placed around the gourd where I wanted them to appear.
4. I used a Gourd Master wood burning tool to wood burn the images onto the gourd. I didn't remove the tape; I just wood burned them through the tape. The tape method I learned from Maria. It is much easier to place an image onto a rounded surface this way than to try to stamp a slick image onto the surface. The stamps almost always slip, making a mess.
5. After burning the images, the tape was removed. I burned the musical notes and staffs onto the pencil drawing, then removed what marks were left.
6. I used Gourd Master inks to color the frogs. They are wonderful to use and are available on the Welburn Gourd Farm website.
7. The inside of the gourd was painted with black acrylic paint and varnished as in #8.
8. The whole gourd was varnished with Gourd Master Gourd Varnish. I'd recommend doing this outside or in a well-aired room. It dries very quickly, but does have a little odor when being applied. I sometimes use Decoupage to finish the inside of a gourd. It is a little messier than the varnish, but leaves a heavier finish and is fairly waterproof.
I hope this was helpful. Please leave me comments if you would like to see more of these. Happy Crafting.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Well, we're really excited about moving to our new house. I have tried to start taking pictures of my craft space in my present house to chronicle the process. I am getting the entire bonus room for my new craft studio and am beside myself with excitement. The best part is for once having everything in one room, as opposed to part in a sewing closet, part in an extra unused bedroom and part in the garage. Henry still doesn't believe that I'll get everything in the new room no matter how big it is. We'll see. I'm including a few pictures I took before I started packing. As you can see, I tend to start numerous projects at once instead of sticking to one until finished. That's just the way I am; no apologies.
I have been trying to finish a knitted Gryffindor hat without a lot of success. It seemed to be coming along until I decreased the top. It turned out too pointy. I should have followed the pattern more closely, considering my lack of experience in knitting. But being the non-conformist that I am, I thought I knew what I was doing. I may just put a pompom on the top and finish the loose ends and sell it on my new etsy shop as an elf hat. Check the links below. So far I only have one flannel hat that I made as a trial hat before I attempted one for our nephew's HP party.
The cats are showing some signs of being a little nervous about what's going on. They usually get antsy when we pack a suitcase. Now, we're packing the whole house. At least they're being allowed into the craft room, which is exciting to them. I have to check under the table each time I come out and close the door. They may be curled up asleep somewhere they were never allowed to go before. Sometimes they just offer to sleep on what I need to pack. Anyway, back to packing. I'll add more later. (See Her Pookiness in photo)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Farewell, Harry Potter

My husband and I attended the last Harry Potter book unveiling last Friday night. We purchased a book and an audio CD. We opened the CD as soon as we got back into our car and listened all the way home (over an hour). We then stayed up until 4:00 in the morning, got up late the next day, resumed listening, pausing only for meals and other necessary breaks. We continued this on Sunday until around 9:30 pm when the last disc played out. Phone calls were screened and no television was turned on to keep from hearing spoilers.

J.K. Rowling has outdone herself again. By far, this is the best book in the series. It starts out with a bang, no quiet lead-in. It's not for small children, so parents, please read this yourself before buying for your seven- or eight-year-old. But then, you as responsible parents always read books before your kids do, right? And if you haven't read any of these books and your kids have, shame on you for missing out on hours of fun reading. Although the movies are fantastic, you miss so much detail by not reading the books beforehand.

I know I'll go back and read the last book later. Right now, I'm feeling sad to say goodbye to a set of characters who have brought me so many hours of pleasure, and drained after the listening marathon. I feel like I've been through the wizarding war myself. I'm not giving out any spoilers, so you'll just have to read it yourself or go online to follow one of the jerks who is. They deserve to have bat bogeys plastered all over their faces.

Those of us who have watched Harry grow from an innocent child to a teenage wizard now of age can say we are proud of the way he has turned out. All of the characters in Rowling's world are flawed in some respect, just like real people. We all have our shining moments and those we'd like to forget. This is what makes her characters so realistic. They are allowed to be spiteful, jealous and insecure at times. But, it is the ability of the students in these books to rise above these feelings when it matters to come to the aid of their school and their friends which makes them heroes and which also keeps us returning for more. It is also the details of the characters and settings which bring her books to life and make us feel like we are there at Hogwarts or on Privett drive under the staircase staring up at the spiders. Who can forget the first time reading about the brick wall on Diagon Alley pulling back to reveal the wizarding section of London? Rowling is truly an inspiration for children's writers everywhere.

I heard a rumor that J.K. Rowling is now saying we may not have heard the last of her magical world, although it will not contain Harry. That is encouraging and gives us Muggles something to look forward to. So, as they say, Thanks for the Memories. I look forward to your next book.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why Knitting?

Knitting has taken the craft world by storm, and hurricane, and tsunami. I, myself, have become totally obsessed with learning this craft and inventing small blocks (or even better, large blocks of time) in my daily life to knit. I was asked to demo a Knifty Knitter at Michael's last year when I was teaching One Stroke Painting here in Goldsboro, NC. I fell in love with the looms and have been using them ever since. I've only recently become aware of the world of knitting yarns and am finding more and more knitting shops in this area and other states where I've visited. And, I am finally learning to knit with needles!
I've been a crafter since I could pick up a pair of scissors or glue. My mother is a crafter with wonderful patience and has always loved sharing her skills with my sister and me. We've been basket makers for decades now, but that craft is now being left behind for softer arts. My sister crochets beautifully, and my mother not only knits, but makes lovely quilts and machine embroiders. Although I still love to paint and will always be obsessed with gourd craft, I find more of my time inside being spent with knitting.
Why the knitting craze? Why is it so popular today? As usual, this morning, my littlest feline deems it necessary to wake me up before it is humanly or felinely decent to be awake in the world to trudge downstairs to feed her. Not that she may actually eat anything at this point. But, I go, obligingly, and manage to place food and water into clean bowls and plates. I stand in my kitchen debating on diving back into the bed or going outside to garden. I don't feel up to gardening and my eyes wander around the room, stopping to rest on a bag of knitting. Less than a minute later I'm sitting at the kitchen table 'just to do a couple of rows.'
My mind starts to wander about my latest obsession. The first answer to the previous questions sits before me in my hands. Knitting is tactile. We can touch it. We can caress it. We can place it against our faces and drink in the roughness or softness that is fiber. How many knitters can honestly say they can go into a knitting shop, especially those with open baskets of roving like Clara's Yarn Shop in Winterville, and not plunge their hands into the wonderful fibers? Try doing that with paint.
Knitted objects don't just sit on a shelf. They're made to be worn, carried around, used. Okay, other craft items are made to be used as well and polymer clay is tactile as well, but can you wear it as more than a broach or necklace? Can you continue to feel it against your skin when it's made? Knitted items beg to be touched.
Yarns are a buffet of colors and textures today. Not to be outdone by the skin, the eyes also have their palates satisfied. Yarn is beautiful just sitting on the shelves in the stores, or better yet, beautifying your work space at home until you get around to it. Slabs of clay or bottles of paint, not so much.
Lastly, I think one reason knitting is satisfying is in its ability to connect us with other people. I've noticed a large number of charities popping up everywhere which call for knitted items to be donated to the less fortunate. I even bought a book recently, called Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen. It lists various charities and gives patterns to use for knitting. I find this immensely comforting. In a world which seems so out of control these days, this is something that we can learn to not only control, but use to create something beautiful to leave for someone else. We can make a little part of the world better in a small, but significant way. We can't rebuild houses in Africa or plant crops side by side with farmers in Europe. (Yes, I know some of you can and have). But we can make a blanket or wool cap to keep a little one warm at night a thousand miles away.

Wars are won by armies, but peace and trust can only be won through personal contact and small acts of kindness.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Folderol came to me tonight while I sat on my screen porch. The rain had finally subsided and the cooler, much appreciated breezes carried only a small percent of the usual southern humidity. I was minding my own business, contentedly knitting when his image “loomed” at me (sorry for the pun:}). He whispered, not out of consideration, but conspiratorially like some thug offering watches from his coat down a dark alley. My knitting suddenly changed, more from an irritated curiosity that had been plaguing my mind. My fingers let go of the coarse green wool and reached for the perkier orange multicolored yarn. The new yarn was cast on, a waistline was formed, and then eyes stared back into mine.
“Who are you?” I questioned him as I tied tufts of frayed yarn for head embellishment and mustache.
“I’m Folderol of the forests of the green mists, also known as the Forests of Malarkey,” he replied. This was no easy feat as he was yet to sport a mouth.
“Why have you come to me and why now?” I pushed for answers.
“We need your help. There will be more like me coming...” he began.
“You know, you were going to be a hat,” I couldn’t help interrupting.
“There will be time for hats later,” he interrupted back. “We’re coming on a quest. Our Princess has gone missing and we’ve been sent by the Royal Court to bring her back.”
“What happened to her?” I asked. Now we were getting somewhere.
“She’s been in a state of limbo for several years now, hopelessly trapped by an evil monster who refuses to let her go.”
“Wow! What kind of monster is it?”
“It’s called a Procrastinator. They’re fat, lazy, and totally self-absorbed. This particular one is relentless and evasive. It’s part of the Jacobian clan. They’re notorious for never releasing their prisoners. I, myself, almost didn’t make it through.”
“Wait a minute. My name is Jacoby! I know why you’re here. I’ve been working on finishing her. Honest! I just couldn’t decide how to finish her.”
All of a sudden, it became clear. I had been working on a hand-painted doll for the past – how many years? I just couldn’t decide how I wanted her to look. But now, the pressure was on. I didn’t want any pressure this summer. Just fun. Who was this creature making these demands on me? I reached out to grab the impertinent imp.
Folderol scooted sideways, out of my grasping hand, tentacles slithering along the floor and out the screen door. I grabbed my cane and hobbled after him, down the deck stairs and into the yard. He leapt onto a lowered branch of the Sparkleberry tree, still wet from rain, and faced me, unwavering.
“You’ve been warned. We won’t stop coming until you finish her,” he threatened. “And don’t start on another one until she’s released!” And following this last command, he rose into the air, spun three times and vanished with a hiss. A green misty glow lingered for several seconds and was gone.
“Ha!” I scoffed at the now empty tree. I plodded back to my house and gathered up my knitting. I deposited it in my workroom and reached to turn off the light. The hair rose on the back of my neck. I felt someone watching me. Spinning around, I stared into the eyes of the doll. They looked at me with steady expectation. “Yeah, right,” I muttered and closed the door behind me. “Still,...”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


My first day of summer and I should be able to sleep late.
5:15 a.m. A cold nose presses against my face echoed by a soft, squeaky mewing. I try to ignore this, but after another dozen wet, cold kisses (and now my traitorous bladder joins Sleep's enemies), I sit up, swing my legs off the bed and grab my cane. Back to bed a few minutes later. I hope getting me off the bed will be empowering enough for Her Pookiness for at least a couple more hours. Who am I fooling?
6:15 a.m. The furry disruptor moves to sit beside my head on my pillow. Her soft tail slaps across my cheek. I open my eyes just in time to see it snap, make its way back toward me and slam into my nose. Whoever is responsible for choosing the mule as a symbol of stubbornness never owned a cat.
Okay, here I go downstairs, one step at a time. A broken foot garners me little sympathy from my cats. H. P. sits on the large pillow next to my foot when I prop it, but she also takes it over if I leave it for any amount of time, and adopts an occasional 'tude when moved back to one side.
The feeding ritual is done: split one can of Science D. onto two plates, wash the bowls and fill with one-quarter cup Science D. dry. Fill the water bowl at the water dispenser and wait for the shoulder-butt. Here it is, soft , but intentional. Big Bear rams his head into my left shoulder from his morning station on our kitchen table next to the water dispenser. At twenty pounds, he can buckle your knees when he bestows these affections from the floor unexpectedly. But, from the kitchen table where he lords, purring like a mountain lion, he closes his amber eyes softly. He is happy. I place the water bowl on the table for now; his purrs grow louder as he laps.
I don't know how these animals train me to their bidding or how these routines become fixated in my everyday life. The origins blur themselves when I try to remember the first morning he purred while I filled the water bowl. I think his motor must have revved when I set it on the table instead of on the floor, giving him first dibs at drinking . Still rewarded for extra low rumblings, I am now obliged to do this every day.
7:30 a.m. I'm still up, now seated at the kitchen table with B. B., as my Muse also chooses this morning to show her face after a month-long hiatus. She conspires with Ms. Nature who sends an Eastern Towhee and the wild baby rabbit into my view. I hobble quickly to get the binoculars, paper and pen and seat myself facing the bay window. Of course, they're both gone before I return to sit. B. B. places his paws on the corner of my notebook and purrs. I begin to write.