Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Nativities

Christmas Nativities are a big thing in my house.  What started out as a teaching tool for my children to teach them what our household believes Christmas is about, has become an obsession.  I have made many, many sets including some that don't get put out because they have been loved to death.  I thought I would share some of them here. 

I found this set in a series of magazines several years back and being a crocheter, I had to make it.

I bought this set from a local ceramic artist.  I just loved the simplicity of it.  Joseph is about 8 inches tall.  The pine cones are actually huge so I just had to put glitter on them.

 I love this set that I made years ago.  Joseph is only about 3 1/2 inches tall it is my smallest set.  My daughter in her youth made the counted cross stitch embroidery above it.

This is my newest set.  It is made with pom-pom balls, felt and different embellishments.  I love how it came out.

My main problem with all these nativities is I am running out of surfaces to put them on.  I would love to design a set one of these years but I need an idea that hasn't already been done.  There are so many wonderful patterns out there it is really hard to come up with something new.  The reality is it is a really old story that showed men just how much God loves each of us.

Do you have a favorite Nativity set that you set up at Christmas time?  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Tree Cable Men’s Fingerless Gloves

I love winter trees.  They are beautiful in the spring, summer and fall but in the winter against a winter sky you can see just what they have to stand against to make it.  Most of the trees out here like this Osage-Orange tree have a real bent to them to stand against the Kansas wind.

My husband asked me design some fingerless gloves for him.  Since lace knitting wouldn't work for a guy's design, I thought of cable.  In thinking about my husband, he often reminds me of a winter tree. He is steadfast and true and has weathered amazing storms in his life, and yet he stands.  I am sure that there were times in our marriage that it would have been easier to leave then withstand  the storms but because of his promise to God and me on our wedding day, he has chosen to stay and grow through it.  The character that is his because of his choices, has made him a truly amazing, loving man.

This is the design I came up with for his gloves.

 They were probably my hardest design to date because the broad part of the tree kept getting in the way of the thumb gusset.  I had to design each glove a little differently since the thumb gusset was on opposite sides, but I am really pleased with how they came out.  I used a soft acrylic yarn so that they would wash easily. He is really pleased with the design and how they fit his hand and that makes me really happy.

Here is a pair I made in a cotton thread.
I am pleased to say they work up in about 10 hours or less after I was able to get the design figured out.  They are worked in a worsted weight yarn and worked in the round so there are no irritating seams to be felt by the wearer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Time

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I love the colors and all the lights on houses and trees.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I love decorating the Christmas tree and making Christmas tree decorations. 

This year, I decided to take a break from designing so that I could have time to wrap and mail packages, decorate the tree and do some baking.  I remember some pine cone shaped ornaments with gold or silver tips that were on my folk's tree when I was a child.  I wanted to get some for my tree.  I looked at all the decorations in the stores and couldn't find any anywhere.  So the option I came up with is make my own.  It turned out to be a very short break from designing.  I just don't seem to be able to help myself

I got all the deep colors of yarn and thread I have at home.  Of course, I had to pick up a few more when I was in the stores.  I got out all my metallic gold and silver threads and started working on making a pine cone shape. 

This is what I came up used a deep red light worst weight yarn and gold metallic thread.  I am using a shell stitch to come up with individual scales.  The metallic thread really sparkles on the tree.

Here it is in a deep blue and silver metallic thread.  Pine cones just seem to fit on Christmas trees. 
And again in purple and silver.  I often use real pine cones that I have glittered and glued to go around nativity scenes but they just don't show up on Christmas trees like these crochet ones do.  While I am waiting for my men's fingerless gloves to get back from the testers, I am having fun making crochet pine cones for my tree. 

Do you like to make Christmas ornaments for your tree?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Trees and Men's Fingerless Gloves

The weather has been glorious this year and I have gotten some pictures of the trees in our area.  The bright yellow one is a cottonwood.  I love the feel of the air and the cooler temperatures.  We have even gotten rain this week which is almost always an event in this part of Kansas.  During this time of year, I am always wanting to knit.

When I was working on the Pine Tree and Cones Fingerless Gloves, my husband said he would love a men's pair as it would allow for warmth in the hands but dexterity and feel in the fingers.  I thought, "Why not.  That should be relatively simple."   If I had only known, I am not sure I would have started this project.

I love knitted lace but that wouldn't be something my husband would be interested in.  So I thought maybe some sort of cable design.  That seemed like more of a male design that I could get into.
I started looking through patterns to see if I could find something.  What I found is that just about every cable stitch I would come up with has already been done in fingerless gloves.  So then I thought I will just have to come up with a new cable design.  Silly me.

Also, he can wear his clothes pretty hard so I needed to find some yarn that would wear hard and be much thicker so that he would not snag the glove and break the threads.  So I went to our local yarn shop to look at what I could find that would wash easily and wear well. (I love doing this part of the design process.  I usually have to stop myself from buying out the store)  I thought worsted weight should be heavy enough to handle his hard use.   I found a light worsted weight in tan that should wash easily but was really soft next to the skin.  I also found some rust cotton that would work.  Both colors are good for him.

With the yarn colors and the cable design I set down to draw out different ideas.  I love trees of all seasons and I thought of the gnarly hedge rows around the wheat fields in our area.  In the winter with no leaves, these Osage-orange trees are really fantastic to see.  We appreciate their wood for burning in our fireplace as it burns hot for a long time.

With this in mind I set out to design a cable that would twist and divide into the branches that these trees do.  I have been working on this design for 2 + months and have been tempted to give up on it.  However, I hate to admit defeat and have had to take it out, try something else, take that out, try something else, etc.   I am excited because I think I have finally figured this design out.  I will be introducing this pattern for others to make in 2 or three weeks.

Have you ever had a project that you just refused to give up on? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall and knitting

I love Fall.  It can be so beautiful.  This year it sure is.  Some years in Kansas we have one or two weeks of cool down from the extreme heat and then it is winter.  Naturally the early frosts and ice storms makes all the leaves on the trees drop immediately.  This year we have had almost a full month of cooler weather and the leaves on the trees are stunning, especially the Cottonwood trees.  I think the Cottonwood is the Plains version of the Aspen.  They turn vibrant yellow.  The leaf shape is very similiar but they are larger.  They even quake in the wind which is almost always blowing in Kansas. 

With the cooler temperatures it just makes sense to try to knit.  I have been working on a pair of men's fingerless gloves.  Since it is for men, I decided to make something with cables.  I just about have the pattern figured out.  This has really been a challenge for me and is taking longer than usual to figure out.  I thought I had it and then last night I had to take it all out again to make some changes.  I think they will be really fun when I have got all the kinks worked out.

I love working with wonderful yarns that feel so nice in my hands.  Yarns can really add the touch to a pattern that can make all the difference.  I love my local yarn shop and have to keep from visiting too often or my house would not have anymore room for us and our 3 dogs.  I love to spin moreno and angora rabbit wool together to make some wonderful yarns.  All of these things take room and we live in a very compact house so I am using yarns I already have so that I have room to purchase more.

What are your favorite things about Fall or knitting?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Scarecrows and Autumn

Today is the first day of Fall.  Living in Kansas, I am really ready for it.  The air is clear and crisp.  The leaves are turning colors and the temperatures have dropped to highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's.  It is glorious outside.

All this is coming just when I finally was able to get the testing done on my newest reading character bookmark, the Scarecrow of Oz.  I got interested in these characters because a very good friend of mine was telling me about growing up on the Oz books as a young girl.  The pictures in her books were delightful and so I thought (after doing some research) that I would try to make my own renditions.

The biggest challenge for me to try to come up with a crochet stitch that looks like rope. Then I remembered about twisting crochet thread into rope like pieces.  I love his diploma which he is holding in his hands to prove that he has a brain.

With all the wild weather we had this summer including some extreme tornadoes that hit in locations that were not set up for them and the terrible losses in Joplin, MO, and a small town here in KS that same day, this series just seemed appropriate.

Hopefully fall will be so much better weather wise.  I know this scarecrow would not mind hanging out in our fields around where I live right now.   What do you like most about Autumn? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making Rope or the Z-twist

I am currently working on a couple of projects at once which means that I am getting a lot done very slowly.  One of the patterns I am working on is a crochet reading character bookmark of the Scarecrow of Oz.  In looking at pictures I see that he is tied together using rope at various points.  I was trying to figure out how to make crochet stitches look like rope.  Then my dear husband reminded me of a pattern I did in my youth that had a rope looking part to it. 

I thought I would do a pictorial tutorial on how to make the appearance of rope.  Spinners will recognize this as the Z-twist.  It can be used with yarn, string, thread or any material of sufficient length.  I have even used this with dried Yucca leaves to make rope just as Native Americans did years ago.  In spinning it is called plying and it involves spinning several bobbins going one direction.  Then to ply the single thread created on each bobbin into a 2 ply or 3 ply yarn, the single thread bobbins are spun together on a separate bobbin going the opposite direction from the way the single threads were spun.  This locks them into place and give the yarn much more strength.

I took a long piece of crochet thread and doubled it.
This can be done with yarn for the same results.  Next step is to twist it tightly.
Now I knot both ends without losing the twist in order to keep the twist in the work.
Now comes the z-twist part.  I double the thread which causes the twists on both threads to want to lock into place.  I kept both threads apart until they were even length and then allowed them to lock together.

I then twist them together a little more if needed and tie both ends to keep these twists in place.
Some of my "rope" needed to be thicker than other ropes on the piece, so I just doubled the thread again.  
Twisted a little more and knotted both ends to hold in place.  Now I have the "rope"  that is needed to make my scarecrow.  I have used this technique with yarn also and it produces the same great results.
I am hoping to have this pattern off to my pattern testers by the end of the week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Making Patterns

It has been a while but that is summer time for you.  I was asked recently what it took to make a pattern so I thought I would write about it.  It is a really long process but well worth the effort when it come out just the way I want it to.

Obviously, the first step is an idea.  I then do a search for other patterns in knit or crochet that might have the same idea.  It is amazing how many times I think I have thought of something truly unusual and find that someone else has already got the same idea.  Both knitting and crochet have been around long enough that it is really hard to find something that hasn't been done.  I do not want to infringe on someone else's copyright.

O.K.  Now I have an idea for something that I haven't seen before and can't find a pattern for.  First since I make a lot of characters, I look up to see who holds the copyright for those characters.  If no one does, and they are in the public domain I can now continue.  I do an image search for that character and get a lot of different looks.  Again, I do not want to copy one of these images as they are images that other artists have the rights to.  I try to decide what elements the character needs to be recognizable as that character and come up with my own look.

Now the real work begins.  Taking the yarn or thread colors that I need, I start making the character or item.  When I am planning on using really nice yarn, I usually do this part in scrape yarn as I know that I will be taking it out a lot and trying something else and I don't want to ruin my good yarn doing this over and over again.  I have a notebook and I write each stitch down.  I also use the notebook to make drawings of what I would like the piece to come out as.  As I take out different sections, I scribble out what I had originally put down and add the new way of making it to come out the way I want it. 

I use a lot of stitch dictionaries that I have in my collection of crochet and knit patterns.  Another resource I find invaluable to finding stitches is YouTube videos of different stitches.  I have read how to make different stitches but find I can understand it so much easier when I see it.  Here is one of my favorite videos on Kitchener Stitch which is really confusing when it comes to reading how to make this wonderful seamless seam.  Kitchener Stitch Video

It usually takes 2 or 3 weeks to come up with a pattern that I am happy with.  Now I go to my computer and type all those stitches that I  have written in my pattern notebook.  This can be a real challenge to read over all the cross out sections and put them into a document.  I try to format the pattern to way I would find it the easiest for me to read.  I space between each row with the row and number in bold letters so that it is easy for your eye to find the row that is being worked on.

If any section is unusual I try to take a picture of that stitch or section so that the reader can see what I mean.  Here is a picture of a puffed sleeve I make on some of my character bookmarks.  Now I print the document and make a second item using the document that I have created.  If I am using nice yarn this second one is done with the good yarn.  The second and often third time through, I am looking for mistakes that have been typed in.  There are always a lot along the way.

On the second time through I measure the yarn or string that I use to make the piece along with the name of the color.  It am trying to keep my patterns in line with the industry standards as found at this website  Here is an example from one of my patterns.

Materials: bedspread weight cotton threads (size 10)
33 yards burgundy (or choice of main bud color)
27 yards dusty rose (or choice of contrasting bud color)
4 yards Kerry green (or choice of stem color)
67 yards White (background color)
Boye Steel Crochet hook size 1 (2.25mm) 
Gauge:  8 hdc = 1 inch (2.5cm), 5 hdc rows = 1 inch (2.5cm)
Skill Level:  Intermediate

Finished Size:  10 inches (25.5cm) round diameter
Stitches and Abbreviations used:  again I use the yarn council's standards abbreviations.
When the pattern is "correct"  I send it off to at least 2 other pattern testers.  These wonderful people will make the pattern for me, looking for corrections and offering suggestions on how to make the pattern easier to understand.  I give them a deadline so that I will get it corrected in a timely matter.
When I receive it back from these wonderful people, I am ready to publish my pattern.  It usually takes close to a about 45 to 60 days to get a pattern ready to be published.  It is a time consuming process but I love sharing my patterns with others.
Is making patterns something you would be interested in doing?  If you have the time and patience I would encourage anyone to try.  I want to see the art of crochet and knitting continuing to grow with new ideas and designs.



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Passionate about Pine Trees

As I mentioned before, I love Pine trees.  I think my love of them came when I was going to college in Flagstaff, Arizona at Northern Arizona University.  It was, at the time, a small mountain town.  Outside my dorm was a small piece of the Ponderosa Pine forest that surrounded the community.  Every morning, weather permitting, I would go out and sit under a Pine tree to have devotions before my day started.  I also brought a handful of sunflower seeds to put on a stump that was not far from the tree I used.

I would lean against this wonderfuly tall tree and smell the sweet smell that this tree puts off.  I would notice the soft carpet of needles that I was sitting on.  I would watch the little ground squirrel, that had come to expect that little handful of seeds, stuff his mouth and run off to return for more.  I would see birds perch on the tree I was sitting under and get a close up view.  If a mountain shower would come, I and the birds would stay dry under that tree.  I was amazed at the beauty that God had created in this little area.

I now live in rural Kansas and I miss those wonderful pine trees.  I decided to make something to commerate that love and came up with the Pine Trees and Cones Scarf.  I also decided to make a fingerless glove to match that scarf. 
I thank the Lord that he gave me this time in the mountains.  When I am really stressed today, I have learned to find a room that is quiet, close my eyes, remember the sights and smells and talk to God about my stresses under the Ponderosa Pines in my mind.

What wonders of nature do you have that helps you know God's love?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May is Here

Spring is in the air in Kansas and tomorrow is May Day.  As a child I made May Baskets, (usually out of construction paper or old wrapping paper) filled them with flowering blooms and gave them to my grandmother who lived near us.  Of course she was thrilled.  When my children came home with May Baskets from school, they put little posies in them and gave them to our elderly next door neighbors.  (Their grandmas lived 500 miles away.)  The neighbors loved them.  What a neat tradition to let the elderly know they are still appreciated.

May basket are very easy to make.  My favorite designer, Elizabeth Ann White, has a free tutorial and pattern for making a very quick and easy may basket.
This is a very simple pattern and would work up rather quickly.  Her tutorial will guide you right through the process.  Who wouldn't love such a surprising and sweet gift.  It can be filled with flowers, soaps, dried flower arrangements or little treats to be hung on the door knob.  (My kids always rang the doorbell so that the neighbor knew there was a gift just for them)

Ann has so many wonderful patterns on her website.  Having bought from her I can say they are well written with lots of helpful hints and well worth the money.  Check out her wonderful doilies, baby designs, crochet accessories and even some free patterns at:

Happy May Day to all and especially to the elderly in our communities.  What would life be like without their patience, wisdom and kindness.  Do you have any plans for surprising  someone tomorrow? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Fabulous Fiber Artist on Etsy

Etsy has so many wonderful fiber artist on it is hard to pick one to showcase.  I just came across Karine Aber's  It is a fantastic gallery of artwork.  In her Crochet Lace section she has these wall hangings.

She says, "A Crochet Lace Tapestry for a wall decoration, that I am making out of sewing threads #50 with 13/14-0.7mm steel hook. This kind of crocheted lace is very delicate, and is more akin to laces like bobbin lace, since the thread used is so tiny. I hope you like the tapestry with this type of fragile crochet work."

She also has a needle lace section with needle lace tapestries.  I have only seen this type of work in Antique stores and this is the first time I have come across a modern artist continueing this fine work on.
She says, "Needle lace also known as needlelace or needle-made lace is a type of lace.
In its purest form the only equipment and materials used are a needle, thread and scissors, to stitch up hundreds of small stitches to form the lace itself.This form of lace making originated in Armenia where there is evidence of a lace making tradition dating back to the pre-Christian era."

She has a section of wall tapesties called Drawn Thread work (or Hardanger Embroidery).
She says, "Drawn Thread Work is a form of counted-thread embroidery based on removing threads from the warp and the weft of a piece of weaved fabric. The remaining threads are grouped and bundled together into a variety of patterns."

Her shop has tapestries also in hand embroidery, macrame, tapestry and mixed media. Karine's work and attention to detail is truely amazing and each item is a one of a kind work of art.

Karine has a shop for gift items all made by her, if you are interested in buying a one of a kind gift.  That shop's name is  It is full of her amazing fiber art work.

She says she was, "Born and grown up in Armenia. Moved to the United States in 2006.

Obtained a Bachelors Degree of the Miniature Painter in Art Education from Arts College of Erevan, Armenia, and a Master’s Degree of the Teacher of Arts and Crafts from The Department of Arts of State Pedagogical University of Erevan, Armenia. Has 25 years teaching experience in Arts and Crafts at the Secondary School and at the Department of Arts and Crafts in the State University of Armenia.

The arts works has been exhibited in Galleries.

Has created works of art for restaurants, hotels, professional offices and residences. The works are also in private collections throughout: Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Canada and in many states of United States of America.

In 2009, has opened own Arts and Crafts Studio "KARART" in Holiday, Florida, USA."

Check out her wonderful gallery of fiber art work or buy a gift from her gift shop at  Fiber Art will never die as long as we have artist's like Karine producing such amazing work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Favorite Fabric Artist Designer

I love Mary Robinson's work.  She is a wonderful thread artist.  She makes many gorgeous tatted bookmarks and doilies.

She has a fabulous website,  The items I absolutely adore for sale that she has made are wonderful jointed, miniature bears and friends.

This little guy is only about 2.25 inches and has tatted flowers
This little guys can be ordered and she will make them in your choice of color combination.

Mary says "Handcrafting has been handed down through my family over the years, from my mother's mother, to my mother, to me, and now on to my daughter. I have been crafting for over 50 years mainly in needle arts (I now create my own designs and patterns). Even with years of hand crafting experience, I continue to research new ideas and concepts as I create each of my bears, other creations, or patterns.

Thread Crochet Bears (and other animals)

I've been making my bears and their friends since 2002. My collectible miniature thread crochet bears and other animal friends are individually handmade using only the best quality yarns, threads and fibers. Most are 4 inches or less in height. My animals are typically 5-way jointed for easy posing and most can stand or sit without support. Special attention is given to every detail as they are being created. A little bit of love is stitched into each one!"

For anyone who would like to try to make these darling miniatures she has patterns for sale.  The one that would be especially great for Easter is this darling lambikin.

I know that if you check out her website you will find your own favorites.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March and Leprechauns

It has been a while because I was sick but I am much better now.  Anyway, I love the month of March.  It usually brings the promise of spring with bulbs pocking their head up.  The other thing March brings to mind is birthday parties.  My younger sister's birthday was in March and so we always planned a party.  Her birthday is the day after St. Patrick's Day and so many of them had leprechauns, 4 leaf clovers and that pretty spring green for decorations.  So this year, I decided to design a bookmark for all those great parties.

Thus, the Lucky Irish Leprechaun bookmark was created.
Well of course he has his pot of gold with him.  His hat includes a lucky 4-leaf clover to sew or glue on.
Of course he had to have pointed ears and the red beard.
Here is my favorite Irish saying just for the occasion.

" May those who love us love us.

And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
...May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping."

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone and of course, Happy Birthday to my sister.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pine Trees and Cones Lace Scarf

I have finished my Pine Trees and Lace Scarf.  I am really happy with the result.
Pine Trees always represent safety to me.  Growing up in Colorado where pine trees are plentiful they have always represented safety from the elements to me.  Sitting under a pine tree in a summer storm will keep you perfectly dry.  You will notice all sorts of birds and small animals use them during this time also.  Living on the plains, as I do now I miss all those pines so I decided to commemorate them with this design.

In designing this pattern, I found that the normal center decrease did not stand out like I wanted the center truck to stand out so I made it a bit thicker using some different center decreases.  I also modified a pine cone pattern quite a bit to come up with the pine cone I am using.
What do you think of this design?