Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why do we create?

I was thinking about this question a lot today...what is it that makes us LOVE to create? To keep coming back to it even when we've been frustrated by a project or busy with every other task on our to-do lists?

I don't really have much of an answer, but as I watched a bunch of worn-out, chatty students dive into a DNA origami project that involved coloring nucleotides (one student deemed it "color-by-chemical") I knew it was a universal trait.  I've never seen such a happy group of students--these are brilliant ninth graders, their work could pass for senior work most of the time--but, they're kids, and they love to color.  Some of them even came to study hall today just to finish (we're supposed to finish in class on Friday.  But they get to choose their afternoon activity, and they chose to come color and fold paper--it warms my heart.)

Meanwhile, I passed the time during their test knitting up the second in a pair of socks.  My love of knitting is keeping me sane during test days.  I want to keep my eyes on them so that they aren't tempted to let their eyes "wander," but I'm just not cut out to stare students down for four hours a day two days in a row. 

I also dove into yet another project requiring tedious cutting and pasting.  I love finding new classroom activities that require massive amounts of prep.  This is a DNA sequencing activity, requiring many segments of "code" all cut to different lengths.  Tedious yes, but there's really nothing else I'd rather be doing while monitoring a study hall.
Cutting the strips and gluing or taping them into one continuous sequence.
Laminated "sequence" ...enough for 6 groups.
So what is it that makes us love to create?  Is it using "dead" time for something productive?  Is it knowing you made something beautiful, enchanting, cool or amazing?  Does it free our minds from worry?  Is it the desire to make something for someone else--to be able to hand over love or care in the form of a tangible object?  Is it an exciting endeavor, a workout for your brain? 

It does all of these things for me.  What's it do for you?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Recipes worth Sharing: Lazy Day Cookies


I love my mom's Lazy Day Cookies!  I think the "lazy" comes from the fact that you use a cake mix as your only dry ingredient.

Without further ado...the recipe:

Ingredients:
German Chocolate cake mix
1/2 c. packed brown sugar (I use 1/2 c. white sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp molasses sometimes)
6 tbsp. shortening or butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 c. water

Toppings:
1/2 c. each of: pecan pieces, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease and flour a large jelly roll pan or 9x13" metal pan.  (I like the taller sides, sometimes it will rise over the sides of the jelly roll pan).
Mix the wet ingredients (sugar, butter, eggs, and water) with 1/2 the cake mix and beat well.  Add the rest of the cake mix and beat until smooth.
Spread over the cake pan.  (This is easiest if you flour your hands and press it out into the pan gently...it's a pretty sticky mix)
Sprinkle with chips and pecans and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool in pan.

Mmmm...the smell is the best part...until you get to taste them :)


Knitting Tips: Blocking your Finished Work

There are many great tricks to having beautiful finished knits.  One of the easiest is blocking.

When your piece is finished, soak it in cool water.  You can also throw in some "no rinse" soap, like Soak.  (Soak is also great for washing all kinds of sweaters!)

Gently squeeze out the piece and roll it in a towel to remove the excess moisture.

Lay flat to dry.  If it's round, try to move it a few times so that you don't dry a crease into it.
The difference is sometimes remarkable.  Here's a few examples:
Before...the orange is unblocked...note the ripply edges from the loose bind-off.

After...nearly as long as the teal cowl.

Lace Ptarmigan cowl before blocking

Smooth, open lace after blocking
You can use blocking to:
-stretch pieces to a desired length
-open up lacework
-straighten funky edges
-get a better sense of gauge by blocking your swatch (nothing worse than a sweater that doubles in size when you wash it!)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflection and Peace Quilt

I'll tell you right off the bat that this is a very personal quilt to me, and it is the first finish I've ever kept for myself.

Ever since reading an airline mag article about labyrinths and their meditative purpose, I've been incredibly intrigued by them.  The whole notion of turning a quilt into a labyrinth started fall of 2013.  An old college roommate is going to seminary here in VA and she and I got to talking about labyrinths.  She has a beautiful little cloth that is a hand-held labyrinth, and I thought, "How great would it be to trace your hands across a quilt as you meditate?"

I should pause here and say that while prayer has always been a part of my life, it has never been such a part of healing and peace to me as it has been in the past year.  Getting married, moving to VA, and finding a job that really seems "perfect" for me came with more challenges than I expected.  Literally crippling stress led to headaches that became so severe (right before I sought help) that I nearly got violently ill in front of students on a field trip that I was supposed to be chaperoning…It was a turning point.

I've been making a concerted effort to stay calm and trust that God will take care of more things than I often give Him credit for.  That, plus an amazing husband, family, and friends has led me to feel an incredible sense of peace during hectic, stressful situations.  I've certainly had moments when stress got the better of me, but they are much less frequent, and much more under my control.

All of these thoughts and hopes went into the quilt…and they are the reason I included various religious symbols.  I hope to continue to find happiness and peace where I used to find stress and frustration.  And I hope this quilt serves to remind me to take some time to pause, think, and give thanks for the blessings in my life.

I started the design by drawing out a labyrinth on some graph paper.  
Since I could only work with two colors, I wanted them to shine.  Kaffe Fasset's shot cottons were a no brainer.
Then I figured out simple blocks that could be strung together using 2.5 inch wide strips of fabric.
The blocks were sewn into strips and then quarters.

And then halves...
Until finally a finished top was born!

I added quilting to both colors.  Straight lines along the edges of the dark color and a free motion quilted edge for the light.  I made a test swatch for the quilting.  (Photo to come soon…with some detailed quilting pictures too!)

And my favorite part of the quilting…a microstippled "stained glass" medallion in the center :)  It's modeled after the North Rose Window of the Chartres Cathedral in France.  I want to walk their labyrinth someday...

The label, complete with the Hail Mary in latin…an homage to my faith.

And a few finish photos…


More photos here.

Awesome weekend…Much needed...

I spent the Friday and Saturday with these amazing people…

And may I say that the world needs more people like these folks.  Some of them have known each other for years and years and yet they welcomed friends new and old in the same incredibly loving way.   God bless them all.

We were out on the Northern Neck of VA.  Beautiful…but COLD!

Fortunately, there was lots of knitting taking place indoors...
In the spirit of the Olympics, knitters everywhere pull out their unfinished projects to try to make some progress as we see amazing feats of strength, endurance, and speed on TV.
I REALLY enjoyed having some knitting buddies!

I also got to spend some time taking "art" photos of my newest quilt finish.  I've never had a finished quilt long enough to take it to a scenic place. (I tend to finish them right before I need to give them away, AND I don't get out to scenic places NEARLY enough…it's a double whammy!)

This quilt has already traveled with me a bit since I carried it to various social gatherings while I stitched the binding on.

More info to come about the quilt in a later post…but here are the photos! :)





Definitely my favorite…I really loved it out on the river…

Friday, December 27, 2013

Knitting finishes...two gifts given, three to go...

It has been so nice to spend this week with family.  I got to celebrate my Christmas birthday TWICE which is just about unheard of...my birthday normally gets absorbed into the holiday season.

AND...I've been knitting up a storm!  Most of my December was spent working on knitted gifts once I realized that my Dad was in need of a warm scarf.  I already had an ambitious project underway for my sister so that meant "much knitting" for me. 

The Leftie scarf by Martina Behm was for my sister.  I'm surprised how much I enjoyed this project (I'm normally not a fan of garter stitch), but don't attempt it unless you're ready to weave in LOTS of yarn tails!
 I wove the tails in as I went.  It helped keep me motivated.


Dad got the much more masculine Cinder by Jared Flood.  This was a total treat to knit...I used Ella Rae superwash chunky and the project flew off the needles (and thank goodness for that!)
  

 The Ptarmigan Cowl (also by Jared Flood--I am absolutely in LOVE with all his patterns!) has yet to be given away...but it is so lovely that I snagged yarn for three more next year when MissBabs put Sojourn on sale.  It's an amazing yarn...cashmere and silk...so soft that no one would dare call it  "itchy."
 
 More photos to come of this one with its new owner...I still have three or four hand-knit gifts that need to meet their new owners post-Dec. 25.

Next up will be quilting...so much sewing and quilting.  I'll have to share the haul from my favorite SC fabric store a little later...it's already packed for the trip home.  But I picked up some great patterns for knitting needle cases :)

The last crafty stop of the trip will be Quilting Adventures in Richmond, VA on the trip home...my plan is to match a few of my new prints with some solid shot cottons for a new circular needle case...yay!

I'm off to knit some while reading a book...it's my newest crafty trick.  eBook plus knitting equals doubly-productive downtime.  Happy crafting y'all!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Two blocks, One hour

Ooops!  I meant to post this two weeks ago!...

It was SUCH a pleasure seeing my friends at the DC MQG meeting yesterday (October 19th).  The meeting was nearby, at the Rose Hill Library--so I also got to share some of my favorite spots to eat.  I love sharing good food with great people.  Fredrick and I walked to my favorite Indian restaurant--as soon as I walked in I saw our friend Eric...and he was there because my husband was there too!  It was so funny...we must have arrived within ten minutes of each other too.

In preparation for the meeting, I made a couple of Wonky Star Blocks following a great tutorial at Silly Boo Dilly.  They only took about an hour and were very fun to whip up.



Linda was the grand winner at the meeting--winning both the drawing for the blocks and Katie's drawing as well.  I'm sure she'll make something beautiful!

Katie at Swim, Bike, Quilt came to share the publishing process with our guild.  Huge thanks to her!  I'm super excited about the new book Vintage Quilt Revival, especially after getting a sneak peak of some proof pages and quilts :)

If you have a hobby, I highly recommend finding a group to share that passion.  We had the best time yesterday--everyone should have the chance to be inspired by such an amazing group.  Thanks DCMQG for a wonderful afternoon!