Apr 232014

When I started thinking about upgrading my phone, I got unreasonably excited about finally having a phone that would fit in one of the cross-stitched cases I’ve been eyeing for years. (Since 2011, apparently! The Purl Bee got me hooked.) I picked up my case on Etsy and started stitching over the long weekend.


At the point in the stitching where it looks more like a thong than a fox face.

My interest in stitching non-fabric surfaces started when I got some pendants with laser-cut grids from Beadeaux. The design element has been a fun challenge, both conceptually and technically. I learned new skills in Illustrator for how to make grids, copy design elements for maximum efficiency, and more. (Marnie Maclean’s Illustrator tutorials were super helpful here. A couple years ago I drew on them for creating cable and lace knitting charts, and the concepts translate well.)

I played around with a fox head design for the pendants, and decided to use a larger version for my phone case – with its wide, 36 stitch grid. The apricot-neon-pink-orange thread color is a bright pick-me-up in New York’s fleeting, indecisive spring, and I love the way it plays off other cool brights, black, and silvery grey.

I’m excited to have a new project for my daily commute!

Apr 172014

Lately I’ve been intent on finding a new bag to replace a beloved bag that I’ve worn to death.

The bag in question:


Goodbye favorite bag! Bought at Amsterdam’s Mono (now operating as parkarma and mesimu). Not pictured is the crossbody strap, as one of the strap connectors disintegrated.

When we were visiting Amsterdam in 2010, Charles bought me this bag for my birthday. Well-seasoned with great memories from our trip, it’s served me well as my go-to everyday bag. At least, it was my go-to until I moved to NYC and started carrying a backpack everywhere – so I can tote all my essentials without destroying my back. (If by essentials, you understand I mean everything I might possibly need while out of the apartment for 9+ hours: knitting, lunch, a snack or two, water bottle, journal, book…) That said, on the rare days when I do use a purse, I get excited (“omg it’s a purse day!”) and want to carry something beautiful and functional.

In terms of function, I’d like the bag to have a cross-body strap, handles, zipper closure, and at least one zipper pocket. In terms of aesthetics, the bag needs to be structured. Piping, metal hardware, and purse feet all help achieve that structured look. I’m also drawn to the contrast of the strap with the main fabric, which is both colorful and a design that doesn’t compete too much with the oft-worn patterns in my wardrobe.

When I started poking around and thinking about my plan of action, I realized I have no idea what type of bag this actually is. Is it a rectangular bowler?

women's handbag shapes

women’s handbag shapes: source

Or maybe a satchel? Safari?

purse style diagram

more purse styles: source

Or maybe it’s a Boston bag? Whatever the name, after I realized I couldn’t get another bag from the original shop, and didn’t find any amazing ready-made options, I started looking at sewing patterns.

Some of the contenders:

It's a Cinch Tote by U-Handbag

It’s a Cinch Tote by U-Handbag

Betty Bowler by Swoon Patterns

Betty Bowler by Swoon Patterns

Dorothy Day Tripper by Swoon Patterns

Dorothy Day Tripper by Swoon Patterns

This image of Diedelbug Handmade’s Dorothy sealed the deal, as I love the look of the contrasting solid straps against the patterned background. So Dorothy it is!

I’ve sewn a few simple bags before – a drawstring sack for holding my favorite knitted shawl, a little waist pack for walking the dogs, and a couple of tote style bags. I’m looking forward to the challenge of creating something with more structure. A couple resources I’ve found to help out along the way include a sewalong with photo tutorials for Dorothy, and an active Facebook group for Swoon Patterns.

The patterned fabric will be the main body of the bag, and the teal will be the contrasting straps. Still debating whether to use the solid for either half of the gusset.

fabric for Dorothy bag
So far I’ve managed to iron my fabric, cut bias strips to turn into piping, and find yarn to insert into the bias strips to function as cording. Turning an 18″ square of fabric into a continuous length of over 5 yards(!) of 1.5″ bias tape was nothing short of magic! I referred to some of my sewing books to learn this method, and also found a good online tutorial on the Coletterie.

I’ve been busy enjoying the first burst of spring in NYC, spending time with friends, traveling to see family, and hosting guests for the long weekend. Here’s hoping I’ll find (or rather, make) time to devote to this bag in the next few weeks!

Apr 062014
Hand-marbled paper

Marbled paper from my session at Brooklyn Brainery taught by HappyGoCrafty

Last post I shared my first dabbles in learning paper marbling. What will I do with my marbled paper? I’ll use some for cards, and probably hold on to my favorites for a while. Maybe use a sheet as a background or matting for framing an embroidery project.

Searching for project inspiration, I came across decoupaged votive holders, cards, framed wall art, bookbinding, furniture(!), and more:


marbled paper boxes and envelopes (tutorial) by the Saturday Market Project

gift bag

marbled paper gift bag (tutorial) by Aunt Annie’s Crafts

Gorgeous paper weaving by Boombox Bindery

gorgeous paper weaving by Boombox Bindery

marbled paper lamp base

marbled paper lamp base by Elise Blaha Cripe

marbled paper table(!!) by Love Your Pad

marbled paper table(!!) by Love Your Pad

I also gathered a few web resources with detailed instructions, trouble shooting info, and marbling history:

  • Marbling Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Marbling Fabric by Dharma Trading Co. Even though it’s geared towards marbling fabric, this guide has lots of great info that would apply to paper as well, along with good trouble shooting tips.
  • When I mentioned my latest dabbling to marbling artist Katherine Radcliffe, she was very generous with her knowledge. Her website includes process shots and a brief history of marbling, along with images of her beautiful marbled work.
  • Marbled Paper Designs by BibliOdyssey provides an in-depth look at the history of marbling, tons of images showcasing different types of designs, and links for further exploration.

That’s probably it for my marbling dabbles for a while – at least until the end of May, when I’m hoping to orchestrate a group marbling playday.

Apr 012014

A few weeks ago I took a paper marbling class with a couple of friends at Brooklyn Brainery, a spot in my neighborhood that offers all kinds of classes, from hands-on crafts to lectures to walks where you learn how to identify trees (also super fun and recommended!).

I’ve dabbled in paper crafts over the years, making simple cards using stamps and collage. I was excited to add another paper technique to the craft arsenal, especially one that plays with pattern and color.

Hand-marbled paper

My favorite of the batch is a sheet of drooping curtains: turquoise, purple, blue, and black combed pattern

For the marbling process, essentially you need paint to float and spread on a thick liquid solution. After manipulating the paint to make the blobs and swirls characteristic of marbling, you lay a piece of paper on the surface of the water for a few seconds to pick up the paint.

We worked fast, both to avoid dreaded air bubbles and because class time was short (90 minutes). This speed was refreshing, as I often tend to agonize over details and trying to get something “just right”. Instead, I just played around and had a blast!

I’m hoping to organize a paper marbling get-together with some friends this summer. I record the process in detail here for anyone who’s curious, and to help jog my future self’s memory.

Sizing: Acrylic paint sinks in water, so the liquid solution needs to be thickened into “sizing” (or “size”). There are many methods to accomplish this, including using carrageenan and water or a base of shaving cream! We used methocellulose in the class. Mix up the sizing, a day in advance if necessary for the chosen method, and pour into a metal baking pan.

Paint: We used acrylic craft paints (Apple Barrel), watered down to the consistency of whole milk. Another marbling enthusiast I know loves Golden Opaque Airbrush Flow.

Using broom straw, plastic stir sticks, or another applicator, tap paint onto the sizing. Use as many colors as desired, with 3-6 recommended. If you stop here, you get a Turkish Stone design, which is the foundation for the marbling techniques we learned.


Turkish Stone pattern: classic paint spatter with veins, and the basis for most other designs

Patterns: Manipulating the colors was my favorite part! Drag combs, rakes, skewers, and other tools across the surface to create patterns. We learned the traditional Get-Gel pattern (literally forth and back, describing the path of your rake across the surface) and many variations.


You can create several concentric circles by tapping dots of paint onto the sizing with the blunt end of a skewer. With the pointy end, pull the four ‘corners’ of the circle into the center to create a clover, pull the rounded edges out into a point to create a flower, and so on. Check out this wacky psychedelic design! (Not my usual color palette. I think I applied some combination of my favored jewel tones, but pulling the paint with orange paper really changed the palette’s feel.)


Adding and manipulating concentric circles to the traditional paint spatter for psychedelic botanicals

Paper: In class we used construction paper, and the colored paper made the final results even more surprising. (The only marbling I did on white paper is the first Turkish Stone design above.) Bend the paper and gently lay it flat in the tray for a few seconds. Pull the sheet out onto a masonite board and squeegee the excess sizing off. Set aside to dry. When dry, store under heavy books to flatten.


Now what to do with all this marbled paper? I’ll share some project inspiration and more marbling resources next time around.

Mar 152014

I love knitting sweaters. Something about choosing (and tweaking) a design to match my style, crafting two-dimensional pieces to fit a three-dimensional torso, and incorporating a sweater into my daily life…so satisfying.

While I never paid much heed to the sweater curse, perhaps my superstitious subconscious led the way, and I didn’t get around to knitting my partner a sweater before we got married. Too many sweaters to knit for myself, plus he only started wearing sweaters regularly a couple years ago. Argyle pullovers are in his regular rotation, as is the color purple, and so in late 2012 I hatched a plan with his input and cast on.

Almost eighteen months later, I do wonder why I chose that light-fingering weight yarn. I prefer fine-gauge sweaters, true, but this stuff is tiny! Practically laceweight at 9 stitches per inch. The yarn knit up beautifully – Isager’s Tvinni (merino wool) in deep eggplant, medium purple, and light-medium grey.

argyle front in progress

These argyle lines are soon to disappear – too thick and high contrast

I used Erika Knight’s New Classic V-Neck pattern as the basis, adjusting for my gauge and using a more fitted variation of Charles’ favorite argyle pullover for measurements. I added a column of three tiny diamonds to the upper back for interest on the otherwise plain piece. One of the sleeves has a large diamond for an elbow “patch”. He requested asymmetrical sleeve designs, so the other has deeper ribbing and no elbow patch.

I stalled on this project for various reasons, most recently because I was worried it wouldn’t fit. When I finally finished knitting all the pieces, after blocking I basted the front, back, and one sleeve together and Charles tried it on. Success! I ripped out the basting, spent several commutes weaving in all the ends, and now I’m planning the argyle lines.

Why would the lines need planning? Well, I created my own argyle chart and didn’t plot out the lines in advance. My background color diamonds are one stitch wider than the contrast color diamonds, and so the lines would be off by one jag. When I mentioned this, Charles said he was wondering about non-traditional embroidered lines anyway…

Now to see if I can finish this project before sweater season is totally over!

Mar 152014

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog on and off for quite some time, and today is as good a day to start as any. Truly, today is the best day.

Welcome to my crafty world! I’ll share my creative projects:  lots of knitting, dabbles in other craft forms, and probably the occasional food post.