Sunday, September 25, 2011


Hi All:  I moved to a new site.  I hope it will be friendlier, and easier for people to navigate through.  I'm now powered by wordpress.  The new address is

Please update, your link.  I look forward to seeing you over there.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Tell-Tale Quilts

Twenty-something years ago I started quilting, quilting, and quilting some more.  I purchased hundreds of yards, fat-quarters, and little snippets of fabric.  My closets were stuffed full of plastic tubs holding all shapes, sizes and colors of quilts in various stages of completeness.  I saved each scrap of fabric 2 inches or bigger and carefully sorted them into ziplock bags by colors and shades.  Ohhhhh, how anal-retentive does that sound?

The quilting projects soon got out of hand -- 20 to 30 unfinished quilts lurking quietly in the closet.  That's absurd!  In order to relieve some of the pressure, I moved them to the garage.  Then I moved them to the empty back bedroom.  But. . . I could still hear them calling me.  They seemed as demented and crazed as Poe's Tell-Tale Heart!  Ka . . . . thump,  . ..  thump . . . thump.  Although the bolts of fabric had been dissected, chiseled, pieced and re-sewn, I could still hear them.  Do you get the visual of the quilt skeletons lurking inside those plastic tubs?

What's a newbie decluttering, minimalizing, organized woman to do?  I am tackling those quilts one at a time.  After a strenuous, tedious 12 hours of sewing, I kicked three of those bad-boys to the curb today.  They are boxed up to be delivered to the quilt shop where they will be professional machine quilted.  I have decided to lower the bar on my expectations just a little and allow myself to become a piecer.  Thus turning over the actual quilting to a professional.  That's the only way I will get these bloody quilts out of the back bedroom.

As I sat at the sewing machine in back-aching, shoulder-aching, neck-aching agony, I kept asking myself, "If you were to die tomorrow, would you be satisfied that you spent the last day on this Earth sewing?"  My answer, "ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOT!"  I would want to be out in the fresh air, playing with my dogs, hiking, smelling the dirt and wallowing in sunshine.

Although, I really want to release this hobby from my life and move on to other things, the controlling, anal-retentive person inside of me won't quit until they are all finished.  Stay tuned . . . I have a quilt show planned for November 19th.

For the Love of Chickens!

Fractured Crystal

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fresh Peaches and Summer Sunflowers

I used to hate the long, hot dog days of August.  They seemed to drone on and on, smelling of acrid forest fires with no break in the monotony of the weather.  One of the things I love most about where we live are the four seasons, and it seems if we get stuck in one season for too long, I feel trapped with the boredom.
One of the amazing things that happens as we get older is that time does not drone on and on anymore - - it flits as quickly as a gnat being chased by a hungry hen.  As we move quickly through these days, it’s imperative to define what we love most and share in their simplicity.  Two of my favorite parts of summer show up in August . . . fresh peaches and summer sunflowers.  
Today, we went to the u-pick orchard, Sugar Plum Orchards, and picked 67 pounds of fat, juicy peaches.  My husband kept asking what I would make when I got home.  I said, “Nothing. . . I’m just gonna eat em.”  They are splendid. 
Throughout the summer, I’ve been watching a volunteer sunflower smack dab in the middle of my little plot at the community gardens.  It’s gorgeous and tall -- faithfully following the sun.  With its amber chin upturned, it protectively watches over my kale, broccoli, and tomatoes.
What makes you smile during the dog days of August? 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Off To The Fair

The second week of August brings the local County Fair.  This is the third year that I will cart my knitting off to be viewed by the public and the judges.  Putting my knitting out there for everyone to see makes me feel a little vulnerable, as if I were walking around the grocery store with my blouse unbuttoned. (True story – I couldn’t understand why everyone in the produce section had big grins on their faces as I trotted through the store that afternoon.)
So why do I do it?  Why do I put those knitted little pieces of my heart on display for all the world to see?  As a past 4-H and FFA member, it’s in my blood to support the local fair entry, but there’s a deeper reason.  I like to see what other fiber enthusiasts have been knitting throughout the year.  What color palettes did she choose?  What new techniques exited her?  Has anyone discovered the pure magic of felting?  I enjoy thinking about each person who submitted an entry, and how and why she chose the project(s) she did to exhibit.  What’s the story about each one and how did it find it’s way from yarn to garment?  What did the artistic knitter think about as the yarn worked through her fingers and needles?
The projects that came from my heart this year (clockwise from top left):

Ivy’s Championship Cardigan:  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post, "Knit with All Your Heart".  It was my first adventure into circular Fair Isle with steeks.  It was scary, but well worth every second.  The pattern is Anne Featonby’s Hibiscus Cardigan.  I substituted two colors:  the bright yellow and the bright pink -- for each I chose the brightest contrast to create more interest.  The purpose in finishing this sweater was to wear it when I showed my little Cairn in Alaska.  We were up against some stiff competition, but both of us felt very confident when we walked into the show ring.  Ivy accomplished her championship that morning with a 5 point major!

Alaskan Adventure Shawl:  I knitted this piece with two yarns – a beautiful fuzzy brown merino that is soft and luxurious.  I found it at a little knitting shop in Soldatna, AK, and Isager 2 Alpaca in a burnt orange.  The combination made a great auburn color that looks very striking over a black top.  The pattern is Evelyn Clark’s Swallowtail shawl.  It was part of Siskiyou Knitters 2010 Knit Along -- and yes, I conquered the nupps.  

Fingerless Twined Mitts:  These are the result of a class taken at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene OR, presented by the extraordinary, knowledgeable Beth Brown-Reinsel.  All I can say is twined knitting is tedious.  It produces a beautiful, springy fabric that feels close against the skin – not tight, but huggingly close.  I decided to enter these in the fair, because I’m sure the judges will have no idea what amount of work and time are involved.  I’m sure my mitts won’t bring home the glimpse of a ribbon, but I UNDERSTAND the neck-ache involved with twined knitting.  Although the outside appears to be conventional knitting, the inside reveals the beautiful, meticulous twists.  My heart goes out to those devoted Swedish knitters of yesteryear who produced this sturdy, solidly built fabric through twined knitting.  

Rory’s Stocking:  This was the first Christmas away from my boy.  It makes my eyes well up with tears just writing this.  Each mom knows there will be a time (and it will hurt) when we spend those first birthdays and Christmases away from each other.  In 22 years, we had always spent them together, but things change, boys grow up and move far away.  Across the globe?  I don’t remember signing up for that when we decided to have a baby!  While I mixed the colors and the stocking emerged, I remembered each Christmas that Rory would eagerly hop out of bed.  We are both morning people, so together, we would sneak out to the kitchen to see what Santa had left in Rory’s Christmas stocking, while dad and brother slept a little later.  This pattern is also a Beth Brown-Reinsel design.

Leaf Beret:  Just love it!  Love the pattern from Never Not Knitting – love the hand-dyed wool from Becoming Art.  The combination turned into an elegant, lightweight beret.  This piece was the result of a red-eye flight to Alaska.  Since I have an obsessive/compulsive gene, the question was, “Could I cast on in Medford, OR and cast off in Anchorage AK?”   Yes, I could – and I did!
Reindeer Baby Set:  Have you read the story, “The Mitten,” by Jan Brett?  This little set seems to have crawled right out of that woodland story.  The Reindeer design is from Colorwork Creations, by Susan Anderson-Freed, the tam is from Beth Brown-Reinsel’s Fair Isle tam class that I took at Stitches West, and the little tiny mittens are my own design.  I don’t think an actual baby hand could fit into them, but the fair entry defines a “baby set” as three items, so they’re getting microscopic mittens.  The caribou antler buttons were found while visiting Alaska.  This set is for my imaginary grandbaby, and after the fair it’s going straight into my “Granny Hope Chest.” 
That’s the behind-the-scenes story of my hand-knit entries for this year’s county fair.  It makes me smile to think that each piece at the fair (and each knitter who submitted it) has it’s own background, and it’s own “story,” a piece of someone’s heart that brought it from the single strand of yarn into an amazingly beautiful piece of clothing.
What piece of your heart did you decide to share at the fair?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some Things Money Can't Buy

In an effort to reduce my debt, I was considering moving competing in dog agility to my “not to do” list.  Yet, I had two more commitments to fulfill for the Teacup Dog Agility Association before I would be free and clear:  presenting an agility workshop in Vacaville, CA, and judging a trial in Salem, OR.
This past weekend, three of my agility judge friends from Oregon and I drove down to Vacaville to present the workshop.  I had been dreading the trip, the heat, and the work of putting on a trial.  But as good friends often do, they distracted me from my negative thoughts, and I instead enjoyed visiting and spending time with them!  Over dinner, we planned the workshop – laughed, ate, and made a creative plan for getting others involved with the sport of teacup agility.
We arrived early at the trial site Saturday morning and began building courses.  This was the first time Teacup Agility has been demonstrated in California.  As the exhibitors and their dogs arrived, we heard these comments, “Oh Look how cute that little equipment is!  My dog is going to love this!  This is going to be fun!”  Amidst that enthusiasm, it’s impossible not to catch the excitement.  This was the first time in California history for these handlers to run their short-legged dogs on equipment that is built specifically for short-legged dogs.  

After two days of standing in the sun, judging dogs, and building courses, in the hot still California air, I found out that I was not ready to let agility go.  I remembered that what I really love about judging Teacup agility is the watching and cheering for each canine athlete!  Although, I was burnt to a crisp, I was invigorated by the sport and rededicated to strengthening my bond with my favorite teammate – Brindle Anne.  Last October, I semi-retired my 9 year old Brindle because I was worried about her getting hurt in competition.  One of the little competitors this weekend was a 14-year-old pooch named, Lucky.  Lucky was so happy to be running with her human partner and running the smaller courses.  It reminded me that we are only as old as we think we are.  Lucky obviously still felt like a spry spring puppy!
(My very best agility partner, Brindle Anne)

I was also reminded that even though I am simplifying my life and trying to cut down on my expenses, there are some things that money can’t buy:  friendships with people who share your passions and a friendship and exclusive bond with your canine partner.  These things I will not let go from my life.  Although there is a monetary expense with competing in agility, it provides an experience that is irreplaceable.  “New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects….” According to a recent article Will it Make you Happy? published in the New York Times. After all isn’t this life about the journey and the friends and experiences we make along the way?
If you are in Winters, CA visit the Putah Creek CafĂ© for a relaxing and delicious dining experience.
If you want to learn more about Teacup Agility, visit

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Organized, Minimalist Knitter

In May, I was browsing through and a book entitled, “The Joy of Less:  A Minimalist Living Guide:  How to Declutter, Organize and Simplify Your Life,“  caught my eye.  I bought it and quickly read it cover to cover.  It was not only inspirational, but it changed my life.  
As I read through the book, a memory of visiting my father when I was about 10 flashed into my mind.  He lived in a remote little house with a bunch of goats, chickens and pond full of sunbathing turtles. On the first day, I went into the sparse kitchen, looked in the bare cupboard, and announced, “I need a glass for a drink of water.”  My dad replied rather slowly -- I have to imagine that the arrival of my brother, sister, and I were more than a little invasive to his quiet house -- “We only have the drinking gourd.”  He pointed to a dipper-shaped gourd that hung above the sink.  “Oh, . . . hmmmmm . . . .that?  We all drink out of that?” I thought.  I turned on the tap and filled up the gourd.  From that gourd, the water tasted cleaner and cooler than any I’d had before.  Maybe it was the hot day  . . . . maybe it was chasing after goats . . . . or just maybe it was the pure simplicity of it all.
That led me to wondering if a true minimalist at heart is born or made.  Do we all crave that simple, organized, and uncluttered life?  I think we do.  The decluttering spread from one room to another in my house, and eventually spread to my office.  Many of my co-workers have wandered in to see what I’ve been doing with the place.  “Wow, are you moving out?  Are you quitting?  Why is your office/desk so clean?”  I reply, “I just wanted to clean up and get organized.  I needed to simplify my life, and have less stress around me.”  The response is usually the same, “Oh I should do that too.”  
How has minimalizing and decluttering affected my knitting? 
  • It’s meant donating about 8 boxes of fabric (former quilter) and yarn to the Hospice Heartisans Shop.  
  • It’s meant only keeping the yarn that I REALLY do plan to knit into something.  
  • It’s meant only purchasing yarn when I have a specific color/fiber need for a specific project.  
  • It’s meant organizing my patterns into a filing system.  
  • It’s meant repurposing other containers for yarn containers because I am refusing to run to the “big box store” to buy any plastic bins.

(Pictured above Lanaloft Sport stored in an antique Yami Yogurt case.)

If you’d like to get started with simplifying something in your life (your yarn collection, one room, even one drawer) check out these blogs for some inspiration:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Own Velveteen Rabbit

My grandma gave me a special gift one Christmas morning when I was 5.  Under the tree sat a beautiful handmade doll, named Lindy Lou.  She was sparkly clean, white, and had long hair made of chocolate brown yarn, which I could (and did) braid for hours.  My Grandma’s sister, Helen, wrote a book entitled, Lindy Lou and the Green Umbrella.  Grandma fashioned a doll to go along with the story, and it was that special doll who awaited my friendship that Christmas morning.

Adventures we did have – Lindy Lou and I.  We went camping, hiking, and spent hours in the grass looking up at the clouds.  We played jump rope, jacks, and every summer went to stay with Grandma.  Grandma would shake her head when she saw the condition of my well-loved Lindy Lou.  As Lindy Lou accompanied me on my adventures, she became more and more tattered.  Her hair was missing some large chunks of yarn and her cheeks were smudged with dirt.  Grandma said, “I will give Lindy Lou a makeover – a face lift and a new body.”  I screamed at the very thought of Grandma performing plastic surgery on Lindy Lou.  “No, no, no!  Do not touch her face.  It’s who she is.  It’s who I love.”  Grandma and I agreed to disagree. I finally consented to let Grandma reinforce Lindy Lou’s body with some new (cleaner fabric) but her face was not to be touched.    Lindy Lou came home that summer with a fresh pink body, but she retained her handsome, stately and very grubby face.  The face I loved to kiss!  
As I changed from a small girl to an adult, Lindy Lou still accompanied me – sitting stoically on my bed watching me through my teen years, sitting quietly in the corner of my room at College, curiously watching my two growing sons from the tiny rocking chair they had outgrown.  But one year when I was in my 30’s, Lindy Lou unexpectedly found herself sheltered away in a plastic tub way up on the closet shelf.  
My two boys have grown and left home.  My knitting has curiously turned to baby things -- baby dresses, baby socks, baby hats and lovely fair isle baby sweaters.  There is no baby coming soon to this house, but ahhhhhh haaaaa I suddenly remember that I have a little old doll who is the perfect size 12 mos.  Lindy Lou eagerly climbed down from that high shelf in the closet to try on her new wardrobe, and she is thrilled.  
I know too that my Grandma is somewhere smiling down on me.  Although way too old to play with dolls, I still am in love with this sweet little doll.  Do you have something from your childhood that that can still bring up those safe childhood feelings?
The cute little tams are from Beth Brown-Reinsel's "Fair Isle Tam" class.  It's such a fun little pattern and a great way to experiment with color-work.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Which Comes First, the "Business" or the "Card"?

I just received my first batch of business cards for Handmade Happiness.  I was so very excited, that I rushed back to my "day" job to share them with my boss.  He said, "Wow!  You have cards?!"  I said, "Yes!  No business, but I do have cards."  So that led me to wonder. . . ..what comes first:  the "business" or the "card"?  Below is my first batch of knitting all ready to be carted off to the consignment shop tomorrow a.m.  Wish me luck!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Be brave and knit with all your heart -- something magical and wonderful may happen

I continue to become more and more fascinated with Fair Isle knitting.  Using two hands, strand by strand, row by row, the storybook of colors unfold.  In August I began a search to find Ann Featonby's Hibiscus Cardigan pattern.  I could only find it online sold in kits, and I didn't want a kit, because I wanted to substitute a couple of colors.  My wonderful friends at Websters yarn shop found the single pattern for me.  Excitedly one Saturday afternoon, I picked up the pattern, and diligently read through it.  There was a word that I was not familiar with -- Steeks?  Steeks?  I couldn't even understand what that word meant.  Was it a word?  Was it part of the English language?  Or something else?  Of course Ravelry helped me discover what  a steek meant?  I read through some free patterns and read more in Beth Brown Reinsels' newsletters about steeking. 

It means to compose your beautiful fair isle pattern and then disect it with scissors straight up the middle -- EGADS!  Was I ready to do that?  Be brave and knit with all your heart!  I kept chanting that mantra in my head -- took a few deep breaths, loaded the stiches on my needles, and knit.  I took my time enjoying the fair isle design and watching it unfold under my quick, frantic fingers.

I'm a fast knitter, and the rounds of beautiful mauve and dark green hibiscus pattern quickly cascaded down my arms until I had what looked like a . . . . .large pillow case.  It didn't resemble a sweater at all. The time had come -- all the patterning was done .. . I had put in the hours and "put in the knitting."  It was time to CUT.  I couldn't cut into it.  Fall came and family birthdays so I knit birthday presents.  Winter came so I knit stockings for Christmas. 

All of a sudden it was 2011 -- be brave and knit with all your heart!  I hate to have unfinished projects, and that beautiful Hibiscus pillow case was calling to me -- "cut me, cut me . . ."

When I'm not knitting, I'm playing with my cairn terriers.  We go to dog shows.  I make it a game to wear a beautiful knit sweater or shawl at the dog shows.  That way, even if my dog doesn't win, I know that I have the most beautifully handknit article of clothing in the ring.  In March I was flying to Alaska -- hoping to finish my little Ivy and get complete her championship.  All of a sudden I pictured myself wearing the Hibiscus Cardigan in Ivy's championship photo.  Could we do it?  Could she win?  Could I cut the steek and finish the sweater?  Would I be wearing it to Alaska?

Be brave and knit -- something magical and wonderful may happen:  It did! 
I took my scissors and cut the middle of the cardigan -- something magical was born:

and something wonderful!  Ivy obtained her championship in Alaska on March 26th!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Clara Baby Dresses

Baby dresses, baby dresses, baby dresses . . . for over a year I've been in love with the Clara baby dress pattern.  I've added beads, delicate edgings, and little i-cord ties.  I've made matching hats and little socks to go with the dresses.  I've made them in almost every choice of the Isager 2 colorways.  I've given them as Mother's Day, special friends, Easter, and also new baby presents.  There is something more than sweet about the soft Isager 2 50/50 alpaca/wool blend!