Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Felty wool goodness

"If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." (African proverb)

Those of you who read this blog know that I like to make things out of recycled felted wool sweaters that I buy at the thrift store. I make cool purses with vintage tie handles. I sometimes make ornaments, flower pins, or little softies. I even made a coffee cup pincushion or two.

Well, this hobby has resulted in quite a few felt scraps--three huge garbage bags full, to be exact. And new sweaters for new purses coming in every week! Plus I've heard from some of you that you have a hard time finding 100% wool sweaters in the thrift shop. (Must be harder in the South, I assume.) So I decided to share the wealth and offer packages of pre-felted wool in my etsy shop.

I spent a good chunk of Memorial Day organizing them, sorting them into color groups (Fall Colors, Brights, Blues/Greens, etc.), photographing and packaging them, and listing them in my shop. Before I even finished listing them, a nice woman from Michigan bought five bags! But there are still 16 assorted bags there, each for $6.99 plus shipping. Each contains about 6 or 7 large pieces, usually from sleeves, so about 8-14 inches by 12-20 inches, with varying textures, some cabled, some striped. If you have any special requests, just let me know. Believe it or not, even if I sell all these, I still have three laundry baskets full for myself, plus lots more sweaters to felt!

There are so many cool things you can make out of wool felt from sweaters. I'll leave you with these links to get your creative juices flowing:

My husband just brought some finished laundry into the bedroom for me to fold when he realized he accidentally threw in one of my to-be-felted sweaters and felted it. "You mean I just felted?" he said. "That's all?" If you want someone to do all the work for you, check out the shop before it's all gone.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Big Apple

"A fish cannot drown in water. A bird cannot fall in the air. Gold is not dissolved in fire--for there it receives its brilliant sheen. This gift is given to everything: to live with its own nature. How could I oppose who I am? I am inclined toward God, and must go through all things in God." (13th-century mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg, cited in WomanPrayers)

I am a city girl. I love cities, including the wonderful city I live in (Chicago). But I haven't spent much time in New York. I was there as a girl in 1976, and then once when my sister lived there. My 4-day trip last week was for work but I got to see some of the city while I was there. Thanks to Manda at Tree Fall Designs, I was reminded to check out some crafty sights while I was there.

First I went to the Japanese bookstore KINOKUNIYA near Rockefeller Center and bought my very first Japanese craft book. I didn't have tons of time to browse (I was accompanied by my boss, Father John Molyneux and we had to get back for a conference workshop), but this one caught my eye because it had some nice, simple projects. Luckily, my husband speaks and reads some Japanese so maybe he can help me decipher it. The photos are lovely.

The next day I dragged another co-worker (Kevin, who quickly found a bar across the street) to the famous Purl stores in Soho--one is yarn, the other one fabric. I had restraint and only bought two pair of bamboo needles that I need to knit a sweater for this cute baby. Then I bought just one yard of the super-cute fabric to make a cover for my sewing maching, which now lives in our kitchen, so a cover would be appropriate.

On my last day, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (for the second time: On the first night my co-workers and I walked from Brooklyn Heights to Chinatown for dinner, then Little Italy for gellato and then all the way to the Washington Square Park) to see the Ground Zero site. While there, I saw a discount shoe place and found these adorable Sketchers. I think they're made out of the same kind of material as Crocs. I know I'm in the minority here, but I really don't like the look of Crocs. But I love these little white shoes--only $20.

Finally, maybe I can get one of you New Yorkers to do me a favor. While up by Rockefeller Center, I bought some of these cute finger puppets from a man selling them on a table on the sidewalk. He told me they were handknit by an Ecuadoran family (was that a line?) and I bought three of them for my kids. But when I got back to the hotel, the monkey one was missing. They were $1. I would gladly pay someone $10 to buy me the monkey one and mail it to me. Two finger puppets aren't enough to get a good story going, don't you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Congratulaions, Kaz and Abril

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)

Today is the wedding of my friend Kaz. His family is like my second family, and although he and I haven't been in touch as much since he moved to Arizona, he's still kind of like the brother I never had. So I was really bummed that I couldn't make it to his wedding, to a wonderful woman named Abril, today. Still, there was a part of me there: I made the headpieces for the two flowergirls, Ariana and Aubren.

During her shower a few months ago, when the bridesmaids were trying on their dresses (her color scheme was "Pool") at David's Bridal, Abril saw these flowergirl headpieces and thought they would be cute. But when I saw the $40 price tag, I gave the crafter's cry: "I could make that myself." Never mind that I had no idea how I was going to make them, I told Abril I would.

Well, I was pretty happy with how they turned out. I used wooden embroidery hoops (5 inch, the part without the metal screw) and wrapped them in white stain ribbon, then elastic with two loops hanging out (those are for attaching them with bobby pins), then another layer of white satin ribbon, tucking in the blue silk flowers and the three dangling ribbons (made of wired ribbon, shown above rolled up and pinned to keep their shape), and finally one final wrap with some white beaded floral trim. The whole cost: Less than $10 for both of them.

I'm home from a 4-day business trip to New York, during which I found time to do some crafty shopping. I'll share pictures of that, some finished objects, and some new stuff for my etsy shop this week. Promise.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brrrr baseball

"Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods." (Japanese proverb)

Check out these cute cookies! I made them for the Brewers/Twins game we went to in Miller Park on Sunday. The baseballs were cut from a tin can, but I had cookie cutters to do the baseball gloves (the Brewers' retro logo) and the Wisconsins (those are upside down "W"s not "M"s). I used the Schlumpf favorite Sugar Cut-out recipe from my kindergarten teacher.

The cookies were my contribution to the tailgate party wtih my parents and my godparents, Betty and Mike (pictured below). It was downright chilly (in the 40s!) but that didn't deter diehard Wisconsinites from grilling brats in the parking lot before the game. Cheeseheads have lots of rah-rah school spirit. More photos on my Mom's blog.

I hadn't seen my godparents in several years, and they had never met my husband, so it was a nice visit. I was also able to show off some of my new purses, which I will post about in the next day (as soon as I get my camera back. I left it at one of this weekend's many parties).

Weekend fun included:
  • Becky's party celebrating her graduation from CTU.
  • This play at the Goodman Theater. I didn't care for it.
  • Little Lincoln's blessing ceremony. So touching! And the twins came, too!
  • A going-away party for Nick and Sandra, who are off to England.
  • The Brewer's game
  • A visit to our former neighbor's new house, which is shaping up really quickly!
I'm off to New York tomorrow for a work conference, but I hope to have a little fun there too. Any suggestions? I hope to make it to the Japanese bookstore that Manda just visited. I'll be staying just over the bridge in Brooklyn.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Girl Scout camping

"On my honor, I will try: to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law." (Girl Scout Promise)

"I know a weenie man, he owns a weenie stand..." (Camp song)

This is a belated post of my camping fun last weekend; also a belated tribute to one of the best moms I know (in addition to my own): my sister Amy. That's her at right with the walkie talkie and whistle. Boy, did she like that whistle. But all she had to do was tweet it three times and all those Scouts would come running to the fire circle. Impressive!

In an act of pure sisterly love, I went practically straight from the oral surgeon last Friday to meet my sister for this overnight camping trip with a dozen 12-year-old girls. Call me crazy, but it was actually really fun. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice and helpful all the girls were, including my niece Clare.

It was also a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as my sister and I went to weeklong Girl Scout camp with our cousins at Camp Nawakwa in Wisconsin when we were young. I also went to Brownie Day Camp, where I learned the important craft of making sit-upons out of vinyl fabric. Seriously, I do credit Scouting with encouraging me in everything from crafting to leadership. Although I don't think I would have my sons join Boy Scouting (I know there's good things about it, but I don't agree with their policy on gays), I do think Girl Scouting is wonderful.

But back to Amy. As the second child, she has always felt deprived since my mom volunteered to be my cheerleading mom and Girl Scout leader, but not hers. So I wasn't surprised that she ended up a Brownie and now Girl Scout leader for her daughter. She is a natural. She had so many cool things planned for the girls--hike, skits, learning to whittle, making a fire, Girl Scout cookie S'mores (yum!), friendship bracelets, and more. We all had camp names. Mine? Knitter, of course. Check me out trying to work on this baby sweater around the campfire!

Amy has promised that when my daughter is in Girl Scouts she will help me with her camping trip. Just wanted to get it in writing here for future.

Monday, May 14, 2007


"Beware when you think you finally have it all. That is the invariable sign that you may not even have begun to get what is really important in life." (Joan Chittister, O.S.B., The Monastic Way, October 2003)

I haven't posted a knitting WIP (Work in Progress) in awhile, and Sue asked about the baby sweater I'm working on, so I thought I'd show what I have so far. I'm using Yarn Harlot's Daisy Sweater pattern (on Knitty here), which I've made once before in blue wool for my friend D'Arcy's baby.

Now I'm "using what I have" (like Rebecca), which in this case is Paton's Katrina yarn in a soft sage green (used it once before in a smaller baby sweater here). I'm a little worried because I only have three skeins and I'm doing the larger size for a special little boy who's having a blessing/dedication this weekend. At this rate, I probably won't be done. This is a nice, stretchy yarn that I think will make a light summer sweater so I'd better finish it soon.

We had a busy weekend:
  • I had a tooth pulled. Ouch (financially more than physically)
  • I went overnight camping with 12 Girl Scouts, my sister's troop. Photos to come.
  • I finally did the official summer/winter clothes switch. Let summer begin!
  • Our neighbors and good friends John and Leigh Ann moved into their new house. We will miss them, even though they're only a mile away.
  • Ed and I picked up our friends Karen and Jeff and their newly adopted 3-year-old twins from Ethiopia from the airport on Sunday. See the video here.
  • Finished three new recycled felted purses. I have a whole new line of purses and hope to post them soon. Maybe this week.
I also have seen some good movies in the past week. I love Independent Film Channel. I finally saw Boogie Nights (interesting, even though about the porn industry) and Shop Girl (I bawled! I love Steve Martin, but his character's non-committing ways brought back painful memories of way too many boyfriends!) And Ed and I finally saw Grey Gardens, recommended by his sister. Very weird and campy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Corners of my home

"Hope itself is like a star--not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity." (C.H. Spurgeon)
I've wanted to start sharing "Corners of my home," as other bloggers do. I used to have a decorating blog, but I decided to merge it with "Spiritual Knitter" to have all my creative endeavors in one place.

This is message central, a wall in our kitchen above a stand-alone cabinet. I bought the Pottery Barn Daily System whiteboard calendar, corkboard and file holder on ebay, where I got a bargain. The orange folder is "Heidi's to-do" and the red one is Ed's. It's my attempt to keep our busy lives in some order.

Because we're on the third floor and have extra high ceilings, we have lots of vertical wall space. I had this idea to frame a fork, knife and spoon that belonged to one my Grandma's relatives but I could never find any shadowboxes big enough. Then I found these on clearance for $7 each at Target. I covered the back with thrifted gold drapery fabric that matches our wall color perfectly. But then I had the hardest time getting the silverware to stay up. I tried pins, then velco (sewn and epoxy'd). Finally it was good old Super Glue that worked. Aren't they cute?

P.S. Quote is courtesy of Dawn at 4:53 a.m. She made a beautiful "star of hope" for a friend going through chemo. I may add this quote to my Christmas star boxes next year.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it." (The Buddha)

These photos illustrate an important thrifting principle: Always look inside. Even though I have way too many Christmas tins, I always check them out at thrift stores because I give cookies and homemade toffee every year as gifts and can't pass up a cute one that's the right size. When I opened up this cute penguin tin, inside were two brand new, full-size bath products: Kiwi scrub and kiwi butter. The price: 75 cents.

Speaking of surprises, I got a super sweet one yesterday from my Spring Fling swapper Nancy at Imaginary Fronds. Even though I begged her not to go overboard, she truly did. We were on the same wavelength with the pink and green containers and ribbon from Michaels, but she added so many wonderful things. Here's how the S-P-R-I-N-G was worked:

S - craft Supply tins
P - Pink and green paper
R - Ribbons and rick rack
I - Ink pads and rubber stamps
N - vintage linen Napkins
G - KnittinG Green and pink needle roll

She also threw in some embroidery floss and the most adorable buttons. I would have a hard time saying what's my favorite (Did you know how much I need more colors of stamp pads? Those pink napkins match my Easter set wonderfully. And I love, love, love the fuzzy rick rack).

But hands-down my absolute favorite is the handmade needle roll. Obviously Mizfixit took note that I am a knitter. Can you believe I don't have one of these for storing my needles? And not only are the fabric choices adorable, the sewing beautiful, but check out that hand emboidery on the edge!

Once again, I am humbled and awed by the generosity of total stranger met through cyberspace. Thank you so much Nancy for making my day!

P.S. Buddha quote because we're seeing the Dalai Lama tomorrow in Grant Park.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Day at the beach

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." (poet e.e. cummings)

There's really no such thing as spring in Chicago. One day it's snowing and the next day it's 80 degrees. There may be a few days where it's rainy and muddy and you see a few flowers, but then--boom!--it's time to turn on the AC and summer's here. Unless of course there's one more snow storm.

Last weekend felt like summer. After church, Ed and I drove to Foster Beach on Lake Michigan and had a little picnic. (That's him, not the Virgin Mary, there. Despite years as lifeguard, or perhaps because of that, he is always totally covered while in the sun.).

There were cute kids running all over and a guy who was grilling hot dogs and giving them away to complete strangers. I love Chicago. It's never boring.
Ever since we moved "inland" and lived without a car, I've missed the lake. Before this, I had always lived in a high rise on the lake. My first apartment had beautiful lake views from the living room and bedroom. My second place faced west, but I could walk to the beach and regularly drove down Lake Shore Drive.

Now that we have a car again, I hope we visit the lake more regularly. Summer, here we come!