What do you see outside? Nature and creativity?

What do you see outside? Nature and creativity?

Nature and creativity go hand in hand. Never again will I look at snow covered trees without the image that Susan Feller of artwools mentioned in an instagram post. She commented on how she saw trees as a child, “All dressed in ball gowns” Now that is ALL I see when walking into the woods with the trees laden with fresh snow- the branches heavy with the weight of it all. Ball gowns dancing in the woods when we aren’t looking. What a fantastic image- thank you Susan! thank you childhood imaginations- we all become so literal as we age. Isn’t it too bad that childhood imaginations don’t stay closer to the surface later in life ? We may all be better for it.

Trees with ballgowns

Clearing paths

My husband worked hard this summer clearing a path through the woods behind our house. The wildlife certainly take advantage of it- as do we with Gracie . Fresh deer tracks were there this morning. The day before were fox tracks. Gracie can’t seem to get enough of all the smells!

Gracie smelling all the smells

Patterns and color ideas

Quite often hooking patterns will spring to life while outside in nature. Primitive designs mostly. Then there are the colors that come. A bundle of “Bluejay” has just been added to the ETSY shop. There are , on average, 12-15 bluejays that frequent the backyard feeders. We have had to get pretty crafty to be able to make sure that the finches, chickadees and smaller birds get their fair share. Those Jays…pretty sassy and quite piggy when it comes down to it. They are a beautiful blue and when these colors emerged from the dye pots they were bundled together as a nod to them.

Bluejay wool bundle

A fun old pattern in the shop has a bluejay, along with other birds “playing outside” – if you care to have a look. It has been hooked by so many different hookers each adding their own colors to the pattern. Just when I imagine it might be time to retire this pattern- someone else wants it, so it keeps going. There may be some tweaks happening to it soon though.

Play Outside Rug pattern

Get outside and play

It’s snowing right now and the trees will soon be laden again- the ball gowns returning. How does nature speak to you? What inspiration do you gain from being outside? Please share – I’d love to know!

Snowshoes

As we continue to stay close to home during the pandemic- try to take a moment to stop, look and listen to all that nature has to offer us. We are fortunate to live in such a place – to have wildlife still active in our midst. Even though life has felt isolating this past (almost year now), we have been able to walk out our backdoor and enjoy the fresh air. Go on- get outside and see what happens. If you live in the city- well, there are still opportunities to get yourself outside, especially if you have a wee dog to take along with you.

Cutting wool tricks?

Next time there will be a few hints on how I am making my life better when it comes to wool cutting and using it later on-

Staycation slow stitching

Staycation slow stitching

Let’s try something new this year – let’s try a staycation of slow stitching. Need an activity for your kids? This might fit the bill. These kits that are in the process of coming together this week .They are designed for beginners to “get hooked” so to speak.

There have been so many very helpful people out there in the world of Zoom, Facebook live, etc that it seems like all of the rug hooking questions are being covered. What could I add to all this information that is circulating- to be honest- I am not really sure! Look to Deanne Fitzpatrick, Gene Shepard, Beth Miller, Susan Feller, – there are way too many to mention!

At the moment the best thing for me to do is perhaps just continue to offer products for you to use, love, share and have fun with.

Hooking supplies are ready for staycation slow stitching
Rug hooking supplies are ready

Slow stitching- what a wonderful thing to take your mind off the problems of the time. There are just so many things aren’t there? Let’s not get started here- that is for another time, another place. Pandemic, Black Lives Matter, climate change, it’s enough to make you crazy and feel stressed- sometimes without even realizing it. I am passionate about all of the mentioned things and take them all very seriously . A better world needs to be in my children’s and grandchildren’s future. I do what I can, but it is never quite enough.

Staycation kits

The Staycation slow stitching rug hooking kits are coming along nicely. As far as the hooking goes, there have been some tweaks and adjustments to make the final piece look just right and easy. Yes, you read that right, easy! That is the aim for these.

Staycation hooked prototypes
Staycation examples for kits

It is my hope, that these will be a jumping off point for you- a place where you can learn that this craft of rug hooking isn’t that hard after all if you want to do simple projects. Later on you can branch out to more detailed work or fancy fabrics as additions, or not- it will be up to you how you want to continue – anything goes. Maybe, you will even design your own projects whether they are traditional or abstract- like I said, anything goes.

What is your idea of vacation?

Some themes will be , as the staycation kits go, sailing, camping and the beach for starters. The kits will be 8 x 8 pieces and you can feel free to finish them however you like. The wool will be cut and ready to use. If I were away on vacation- these are some of the things I might be doing. My trip to Scotland was cancelled, so perhaps there will be a Highland Wee Coo next. My daughter, who lives in Scotland, is always sending me photos of them.

Most of the wool in the kits will be my own hand dyes. I can provide a photo, the wool and in the near future a hoop or frame for you to get started. The wool has been dyed, the hooking nearly complete- now just to get the photos made into cards and perhaps the choice and promise of a frame or hoop for you.

Let’s get started hooking!

These kits will be affordable too! My hope is to get you hooking! Easy peasy right?

Please follow some others to get advice too- we all have knowledge that comes from a place deep within- that is personal and learned from all of the mistakes and successes we have made in past projects. Reach out to people- everyone is more than willing to help with questions. Maybe try Laura Salamy or Wanda Kerr or Karen Miller. See, so many talented folks out there in the rug hooking world. Each have their own style, each their own tips and tricks.

In this time of pandemic, and yes, it IS still a threat, we need to continue to stay safe. This will , hopefully, give you that key to open the door of rug hooking in your own space. Maybe your space is in an apartment- maybe you are lucky enough to be by the water , maybe in your home on a porch. Wherever you find yourself- make some time in your day to sneak in a little slow stitching to take your cares away. You will loose yourself, I promise. Five minutes? Fifteen minutes? and hour? The kits are designed to be completed in a short time since they are small.

Finding comfort close to home

In the comfort of your own home you will be the only one to critique your work- and if you need a little advice- well, the rug hooking community of crafters will help.You can always feel free to reach out to me too – I may just have the answer or be able to direct you to someone who does.

Beginner hooks and simple frames have arrived

Meanwhile- I am working away trying to get these things ready for you while looking to future projects that you might enjoy. This staycation thing? I think it may be around for awhile so let’s run with it, enjoy the little things and keep well. The beginner hooks and lap hoop rug stands arrived so everything is coming together. The hooks will be included- the frames sold separately, but will be an add onto the kits if you want.These frames do NOT have gripper strips, so the kids can use them too and not get scratched!

I, for one, can’t wait to see what you will try to do. Let your kids try as well. We would all love to see this carried forward to the next generation and beyond. Here are two quotes to leave you with:

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great Zig Ziglar

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?”

Fred Rogers

This is what these kits are all about- finding the little quiet moments in life and giving into it, make it meaningful and fun.

Stay safe out there and please wear your masks…..

How can I help you to keep creating

How can I help you to keep creating

Wondering how I can possibly help any of you to keep creating. While the shop continues to have more and more offerings for you to use, there is a question in the back of my mind- but how can I HELP? We are living in a troubling time and this is one way to keep you at ease – the simple act of creating art from fiber.

Lavender filled pillow

Suggestions for the times

I can’t help you with the fears of the pandemic– I can suggest that you wear a mask and keep at least 6 ft away from one another while outside of your home. In terms of the racial injustice? you will need to decide for yourself how best to approach that topic today, tomorrow and for the rest of your life going forward. Kindness, forgiveness and understanding is the only advice from me here – not really helpful from a practical standpoint, but merely a suggested way of carrying out your day.

Don’t think- just dream

Just take a hook, some linen and some wool and start. It’s that easy- Here is where the help comes in- it’s all there for you in the shop.

Let yourself dream. Don’t get hung up on the what ifs. “Not good enoughs”. Fear of drawing. Fear of color planning. Its all good- its about the process. Allow yourself to experiment – it’s only linen and wool after all.

It’s all good

When you start to hook rugs you want to be doing everything right. There was a time when the loops mattered a great deal to me. Why don’t they look like so an so’s loops? How can I do better? How can you do a better job? What I mean to tell you is – its all good- if it looks good to you, then its good enough- right? There are suggestions as to technique but it is what matters to you in the end as to how you want something to look.

Go with your gut feeling

Right now, after you finish reading this- take a pencil and some paper and dream. What comes to mind- first thing? When teaching (school, not hooking) I often said- go with your gut. What do you think is the right answer? How do you think it should look? That usually was the right answer- that first one that came to mind. You can always add details or embellishments later if you want to.

Once, while in an art class the instructor said after looking at my creation – “nothing in nature looks like that”. Well, there was something in that work that spoke to me saying that it did look like that to me- at least at that moment it did. She took the wind out of my sails I’ll admit, but it didn’t prevent me from trying again.

No regrets

When young, art called to me, the art of making. Of course my father thought it ridiculous- how on earth could you make a living doing art? We disagreed on so many things but I do miss him now and would stand up to him and say- well, “I hear what you are saying, but I’m going to try anyway.” Of course, that’s not what happened then and art school never happened for me.

Tools to work with

twocatsanddoghooking
pencils and pens for working
A place for my pencils and pens

So- how can I help you? I can give you the tools to work with. Beautiful Irish Rug Hooks, gorgeous hand dyed wools, lovely linen to work with , and if you really need it- patterns or even kits to go by. I can help you color plan, although it would be more fun for you if you did it yourself. Guidance can happen but you should be your own guide so that it has true meaning to you.

Fiber art is a wonderful medium. It can be very forgiving- unlike watercolors for example. Many friends are watercolor artists and are quite good at it. That spoke to me for awhile, but not like fiber art does. Fiber can be tweaked in the right way that makes sense to me – watercolors never could.

Permission to try

So- you need help? just ask. But know that you have my permission to go out on a limb and try for yourself. I’ll be here to catch you , guide you and offer support. You can do it! Need some inspiration? Look. Listen. Look again. Listen again. Feel. Study. Then take a chance. I dare you.

If you need materials- hop on over to the ETSY shop. I can help you with what you might need. If you don’t see what you need ( or want) – ask and it can probably materialize.

Good luck- keep me posted – I look forward to seeing what you can create.

Troubling times and a look to the future

Troubling times and a look to the future

There was a blog all ready to go out to you this past week- That will be saved for another day. It was about lessons learned from some mistakes I had been making.

Given what is going on in the world right now it just feels like there needs to be more said about life in general. The pandemic, and now the very heated social and civil unrest that is happening, is sometimes almost too much to bear. Thoughts go out to all of those who are struggling with the frustrations in just day to day life.

No excuses

There is absolutely no excuse for what is happening racially in our country. People are people, period. Color doesn’t matter- it should not play into anyone’s opinions of who and what that person may be. What that persons dreams might be.

Character matters

Character matters- who are you as a person- are you kind? are you thoughtful? are you compassionate? do you show empathy for injustices? can you hear what the others hopes and dreams might be? We can all learn from another persons perspective on any given situation or issue. There are many people I may disagree with but I am trying to listen and understand what they are feeling. It’s hard to know a persons history – what happened before can be why they are feeling the way they do now.

Some people in our country are hungry and scared and don’t really have what they need to make them feel safe. What can we, who have so much, do to help them feel more secure? I have made masks- donated to food banks- it’s not enough.

Who has the answers?

I don’t have the answers to these huge inequities right now. It seems that nobody does. One thing I know is that we should all be listening to the other side -listening to both points of view – and see how we can come to an understanding.

I have lived as a minority in a community- me a white person of privilege amongst people of color. Just after college I worked in a setting where myself and the manager were the only white people in the room. My now husband was finishing up his masters degree at Cornell. It was fine- me being a little white girl from Maine – living in upstate NY and never experiencing this before. My husband and I later moved to Corpus Christi Texas for his work- and found ourselves in a racially mixed community- us being the minority at that time. Still , we were OK and didn’t have to worry about getting pulled over for a traffic violation for example. White privilege – even there.

How can I really know?

I don’t pretend to know what it is like to be black or brown right now living in our country. I do know, that people can make things different if we choose to stand up for what is right. Life can be hard enough – why are the elite making it so much harder for some?

Times are similar to what the sixties were in the US

I do not remember the sixties-( I was a mere “tween” then) or was aware of the unrest that was happening all throughout the US. I have seen documentaries and liken what we are seeing this week, to those days. It makes my heart ache to be back where we were those many years ago.

Nature carries on despite us

I have noticed that nature just carries on- no matter what the crazy people are up to. The birds are singing and calling out at night. The flowers are beginning to bloom in our yard. The berries are starting and will soon ripen. The weather may be more extreme than we are used to , but nature is doing its best to keep up despite our efforts to make things worse.

The sweetest smelling lilacs
Poppy Bud
Lupine ready to bloom
Wild blueberries

During this pandemic scientists have seen the some signs of improvement since we have been at home. The skies and waters are clearing. What a wonderful thing! There may be some hope of reversing a bit of the damage we have done if we stay vigilant and don’t fall back into old habits.

Take a break and craft

“We are all in this together” – latest rug

If you need to ease your mind and take a break from the world- I suggest you do a craft. Rug hooking works for me and I feel privileged to be able to do just that. I have a home, I live in a beautiful spot with trees and water surrounding me. I have food security and my husband, the gardener, is busy planting vegetables for the future fall harvest. We have farmers living near by where we can get the other things that we don’t grow ourselves. Life is good that way here.

Maybe you feel the need, for at least a moment, to step back and craft. It may help ease your mind today. Turn off the news for a bit and settle in with yourself. Appreciate how much you have in this life- how fortunate you are to be able to live freely and make choices. Don’t forget to turn the news back on at some point – this is a pivotal point in our history – how we handle it will mark our future and that of our children.

I will speak up for inequities and stand up for people in need. But I will also take a bit of time to play with wool and make some designs that may speak to me today.

Wearing my mask while out and about – looking tired…

More soon about what I learned in the dye pot last week. Wear your mask while you are out in public and help protect others. It is something very tangible that you can do to help, at least with the pandemic-

The Sourdough journey continues

The Sourdough journey continues

As was mentioned in the last post- the sourdough discard recipes are still in full swing here in Maine. This morning a quick batch of absolutely delicious banana nut muffins were made. again, no sour cream in the house- but there was greek homemade yogurt which is a wonderful substitute. Oh man, these are good…

Sourdough banana nut muffins

Trying Sourdough Naan tonight

This nights dinner will have some sourdough Naan to go along with it. I made Naan a long time ago, not with sourdough, just regular. We’ve always been great Naan fans ever since we spent some time in Northampton MA while our middle daughter was at Smith. There was a fabulous Indian restaurant there- a quick walk from her “house”. We fell in love and have never looked back. Indian food has become a favorite. We couldn’t get enough of their fresh Naan. I was so excited to find this sourdough recipe and can’t wait to see how it turns out tonight.

Sourdough bread fail

My sourdough bread was not exactly my best effort …it totally flattened out. Now I realize why there was a recipe that said you have to have a big dutch oven to bake your sourdough bread in. Of course, I doubted that and put mine on a sheet pan. It started out fine- then ended up much like a thick pizza crust! The flavor was good though, even if the shape was anything but photo worthy!

Always determined to try again- it is on my list, but has yet to happen. So…naan tonight- bagels in a few days – then perhaps another try at an actual loaf of bread. This time there will be a cast iron skillet with high sides involved- maybe that will help?? Our dutch oven is just too small we think. It could maybe hold a mini loaf?

Mask making coming to a close

Other than sourdough adventures, the mask making has slowed down. Our great state of Maine and its Masks for Maine sewers donated 15,000 masks here and in NH! What a wonderful thing that was to be a part of. There was a community of people who became connected through this effort on Facebook . It was a way to help and it would seem that there were many that stepped up and did just that. Bravo.

Wool being listed

Hooked small bag

The wool is slowly getting listed in the ETSY shop. The pile is about finished being photographed. Phew! Now there can be more dyeing- hooray! that is one things that really gets me excited right now. I have other projects that have been waiting to be completed- some are now being listed as well, others soon to join. The above bag was listed, and sold, today. Progress is being made folks.

“Blueberry Fields” wool bundle

My husband had to go to Portland last week to clean out his office. He had planned to retire at the end of April but never realized that he wouldn’t be able to spend the last 6 weeks in his office. We traveled down together and didn’t see a single car for about 25 miles. After the office cleanup and handing over of his computer, etc- we had a treat. His favorite thing to go out to lunch for is Sushi. Luckily his favorite go to place was doing curbside takeout- we ordered and parked down by the waterfront, in the rain, and had a nice lunch. Bitter sweet day.

Quick “masked” stop with our family

Our final stops were a quick drop off of maple syrup at our son’s house, then our daughters house. What a strange visit we had- all in masks- outside in the cold. It was so very hard not to hug them all. It feels like it has been years since we saw them last. The littlest guy will be one soon and he has grown so much since we saw him . Another bitter sweet moment in our day. The older kids were glad to see us and the four year old put on her mask that I brought down for her. She understands social distancing and I am not quite sure if that is a good thing or a bad/sad thing to know at that age.

So – more sourdough discard journeys await. Have you been doing anything exciting??

Hello from home – journey with a sourdough starter

Hello from home – journey with a sourdough starter

Hello from home! See where I am so far with my journey into sourdough and sourdough starter.

I imagine most of you are at home right now- we are here anyway. Only the essential workers are around but I sure am glad that they are ! There are some local stores that are providing curbside pick up where I can get milk, eggs, flour, handmade bagels (yum) and some more things that have proven to be necessary items in our home. Toilet paper? well, that is another story isn’t it?

Bob and Rita sourdough starter

I finally took the dive into Sourdough- and what a dive it’s been! It’s like having another pet ( or in my case 2) since I wasn’t really sure my first starter was working. I started another one using whole grain flour instead of all purpose. There are so many articles, hints and tutorials on the web it can be quite daunting but I found one that worked for me from The Clever Carrot.

They are both thriving now- and were born on April 2 and April 4. Their names are Rita and Bob.The photo above shows them just starting out again after taking away the “discard” portion.

Rising dough for focaccia

Sourdough discard

There are lots of recipes for sourdough discard on the web. So far we have made waffles a few times, pancakes, again a few times, crumpets, focaccia, biscuits and pizza dough .

Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

The current experiment is whole wheat sourdough burger buns. My burger will be veggie but I see them as great substitutes for sandwich bread. They are rising right now and will be baked later today. I’m really looking forward to how they taste. Who knew there were all of these things to do with sourdough?? and I thought it was just about baking bread- the things I am learning through this quarantine time- amazingly useful stuff!

ETSY shop is busy!

Along with tending the sourdough every day the orders have been coming in steadily from the ETSY shop. That has been great . Between feeding the starter and responding to customers there have been rugs made and wool dyed. In fact, there is wool soaking right now and some ready for listing.

Gone are all of the things that were on the list to do- clearing cupboards and sorting through boxes. Oh, that hasn’t happened, but other things have taken up all of the time- essential things.Those will go back on the list, but for now- other things seem much more important.

A few new wools with more to follow

Some of the wool will be sold in bundles since it seems to look better as a collection rather than a single piece. Others are listed as singles- like the spot dyes. Those spot dyes- so beautiful and fun to create! There may have to be a spot dye day in the near future.

Blue spot dye
Antique Blue Green bundle
Blue Cupboard Bundle

New linen “Keeper Sacks”

Trying to be creative with some linen sacks that were made long ago. Boy, those percolated in my head for a long long time, but they came out pretty sweet and have been put together as a collection with bundles of like colored wool. The red bundle sold almost immediately . There is a blue collection listed with more wool than the red. Probably a neutral collection will be next up.

Linen “Keeper Sack”

Making Masks for Maine

Oh, the mask making- how could I forget that?? For a while it felt like a part time job, but now that there is a system in place, they go much faster. They are being offered for free with a $50 purchase in the shop while there are some made up. The others have all gone to Sewing Masks for Maine. I read a post about how the recipients are having fun choosing which ones they like best and even giving them names. It’s gratifying knowing that it is bringing a wee bit of joy to the health care community in these challenging times.I have some more to make either today or tomorrow.

A new way of connecting

Zoom– who knew this was going to be the way to communicate with one another? We have coffee and lunch dates with our family. That has been interesting and quite fun- it’s like having everyone together at home, only on a screen! The daughter and son in law in Scotland are able to be with us too. He brings loads of creativity to the chats. You would have to witness them, too hard to re-create here. Let’s just say its been fun and adds some laughter when we all need some. I can.not.wait. to give them all real hugs though.

Well the buns are out of the oven and smell great! Hopefully they will taste as good as they smell.

Sourdough burger buns

So as I say hello from home. In Maine, know that things have been happening here in our humble dwellings. We are busy busy! There were some thoughts of gardening, but then it snows again, and again, and again…. Spring is coming- we can feel it!! The birds are trickling in to the feeders. We have to take those in at night because there have been bears at peoples feeders already. Since we have been through that in the past we are trying to avoid that again. They really do a job on things when they show up!

I’d love for you to say hello from your home and tell me what you have been up to. I’m off to the Post Office, with mask on, to ship packages to folks who are crafting. I’ll pick up some flour and bagels at the Cafe, curbside, and head back home. Gracie will come along for the ride- the highlight of her day.

Stay well friends. Hope to hear from you soon!

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