26 Days of Home · Handmade

Y is for…

The toy yo-yo is thought to be 2500 years old; in fact it is second only to the doll as the oldest toy. It became popular in North America in the 1920s.

Y is for yo-yo. It is reasonable to assume the sewn yo-yos (a popular sewing project in the 1920s and 1940s) took its name from the toy. If you take two completed yo-yos and hold them together, gathered sides facing, you have what looks like a toy yo-yo (or a French macaron cookie). They are also known as Suffolk puffs.

To make a yo-yo, a round of fabric is first cut twice the diameter of the finished yo-yo; the raw edge is turned under (about 1/4 inch) and held in place with basting stitches. Once the round is completely stitched, the basting stitches are pulled tight and the yo-yo folds in on itself, the gathers are arranged to lay evenly. A couple of tacking stitches hold the stitches in place. Yo-yos are becoming popular again and tool manufacturers are making yo-yo makers to make the process even quicker. In addition to the various round sizes available, I noticed square, butterfly and heart-shaped yo-yo makers on a recent quilt shop visit.

Yo-yo bed covers – technically not quilts, as there is no batting or quilting – were and continue to be a great way to use up scraps of fabric. They are very similar to crocheted medallions. Yo-yos were made into runners, doilies and bedspreads, just like the crocheted medallions.

Making yo-yos is a great portable scrap busting activity, but be warned they are addictive. The assembling of them is not as addictive, nor as portable, but if you plan accordingly – making the yo-yos in the warmer weather and assembling them in the colder months – you have a lap warmer while you work. It takes only a few whipstitches to join the yo-yos and the pattern possibilities are endless.

I am stitching my 2009 (41×49) yo-yos in a concentric rectangle, working from the lightest to the darkest of colours. They can just as easily be assembled in ‘blocks’ and then stitched together as units. Since I like the era of the yo-yos, I am knitting a vintage lace trim for three sides of the cover. Hopefully, when the Spring blooms begin to poke up from the newly thawed ground, my yo-yo bed cover will be complete and ready to take its place of honour on my bed.

You can make a start with yo-yos by using them as appliques to add some dimension to your quilt. They make good flowers. How about arranging some green yo-yos in a triangular shape for a tree? Stitching some in a line makes a garland to decorate with, or hang them as a mobile.

Once you start using yo-yos in your projects, you will keep thinking of new ways to use them. And, like the toy, they will keep yo-yoing back into your repertoire.


Handmade · Life

Busted!…(sort of)

I have been using a bit of self-tough-love the past couple of weeks. I put down my foot and decided I wasn’t going to purchase any more fabric for my yo-yos. Afterall, the point of making the yo-yo quilt was to bust my fabric stash, empty out those bins (in truth there is only one bin). I enjoyed digging through the remnant bins and picking out fat-quarters, but those actions were counter-productive. To be fair to myself, I “probably” wouldn’t have had enough in my stash alone. The scrap leftovers from the yo-yos have become crazy patchwork squares and I am really enjoying the process of making “something out of nothing.”

A few years ago, I resolved to bust my stashes of a) quilt batting, b) fabric, and c) yarn. For Christmas that year, I made three or four little-girl sized quilts. Since then, I have used up even more batting in other lap quilts, coasters, ie. mug-rugs, snack-mats, tablet cases and just recently I have been quilting little baskets. There is very little batting left, actually not enough to make anything much larger than a coaster…which is proving to be a bit of a problem because I have projects started needing larger pieces of batting. Eventually, one of those projects will be using up those crazy patchwork squares. So I do see more batting in my near future!

I can confidently say I have also busted my yarn stash. There are two shoe-box sized containers with odds and sods, in addition to some fancy fibre yarns which get used primarily for trims. To use up the stash, I knit socks and booties. I have managed to give away the smaller newborn sized booties, and a few pairs of socks. There are remaining socks, however, and therein lies the problem with stash busting.

In order to bust the stash, one has to use up the materials. Using up those materials means making something. Once you have made something, you have created another item to store, in essence changing the yarn stash, for example, into a sock stash. It is stored in a different place and as a different item, but it is still stored. One can give them as gifts, nice to have on hand, or donate them to a charity, so someone can get benefit from one’s work.

All creative types have stashes, it is a necessary evil, recipes, patterns, instructions, even web-bookmarks. My sister-in-law knit mittens, every Christmas we were gifted a new pair; my mother-in-law knits slippers. Some clean-up or down-size their stashes, meaning others are “lucky”(?!?!) enough to inherit that stash. One man’s trash is another’s treasure – sometimes, but not always.

Over 1700, the end is near! Stacked three deep and five tall.

What is one to do? Make a resolution! Flip through the pattern stash, pull out the yarn stash and use it up. Resist temptation, we all know it is impossible to match something that has been in the stash for years, go for a scrappy-look. Knit or crochet an afghan and donate it to a shelter, make a lap-quilt and pass it on to someone on dialysis, or make small blankets for the animal shelter. Altruistic creativity – the best kind. The joy comes doubly, first in the making, and second in the giving.

….and if you just can’t help yourself, you have the third pleasure of picking out new yarns, fabrics, patterns, or notions – but this time for a specific project you can’t wait to start!


Handmade · Life

Tortoises, Circles and Squares…oh my!

Having completed its daily plodding, this tortoise was resting. Notice the circles and squares on its shell. Is that a hexie in the middle?

During the last week of summer holidays, we went to a nearby reptile zoo where there were snakes, crocodiles, alligators and turtles. There were also tortoises, one in particular was bound and determined to get out of the rut he had found himself in. He tried and tried, again and again to get over a rock and out of the small pond in his enclosure. And he did it! Slowly, surely, he plodded along, fell back and started again and got over the first rock, out of the pond and then over more rocks to join the other tortoises.

Some days I feel like that little tortoise, like I’m plodding along, encountering obstacles. The good news is by the end of the day, I can look back and see the distance I have travelled. Maybe that distance is represented by the number of yo-yos in my bin, the pile of squares beside my sewing machine, or the inches of knitting completed.

I have been aware of patterns this summer, and noticed some beautiful ones on the markings of some of the snakes. But closer to home, I have noticed that my handiwork practices have a distinctive pattern too. If I am working by hand, the projects tend to be circular. There are the yo-yos I work on every night, and just recently, I have knit a cowl, in the round, on circular needles.

At the sewing machine, my sewing is square. There I work on crazy patchwork squares (mostly using triangles).  And the last couple of weeks I have been cutting squares, stitching those squares together on the diagonal, cutting them in half and then pressing those new squares open; prep work for sewing four squares together to make one. The final square will be a half-square triangle pinwheel.

The circular projects, perhaps, are easier to transport – wheels are circles after all – or maybe they sit better in my hands. Either way, I will keep plodding along, clocking the miles on my sewing machine while growing my piles of squares, letting my mind think outside of the box.


Handmade · Life · Nature

Fall Colours

Dark greens, faded greens, plums, burgundy, deep reds, oranges and burnt ambers, coppers and golds.  The colours of Fall.  They are the rich colours which tell the story of the changing seasons. 

The colours of precious metals and gemstones which nature displays to tell of the bounty of the harvest.  Much more valuable to those early pioneers needing to fill their cellars with food for the upcoming winter, a turnip you can eat, not so a ruby!  All the sun’s energy and the nutrients from the soil combining to nourish those who tend the gardens and fields, and those of us who purchase those same wares.

As I age (throat being cleared) I tend to lean more towards those darker, richer colours instead of the pastels of my youth. Perhaps it is their contrast to one another, each distinct.  It could be the way the colours fade, like in worn pioneer quilts.

On a recent visit to a small yarn and bookstore, I was drawn to a skein of yarn.  I put it down, walked away, I even looked at other balls of yarn and flipped through some books.  I noticed a pattern for a cowl which reminded me of a pattern at home. In other words, I had walked in a square around the shop and came right back to the skein I noticed first off.  

The yarn is made by Berroco. The colour is just a number, but, fittingly, the yarn is called “Vintage Colours”.


Handmade · Life · Nature

Home Alone

Today was going to be an alone day.  My husband returned to work after his holidays,  my son was at school for leadership training and Mum usually stays home on Thursdays.  I had a mental list of things to do, make some granola, work on my house blocks – decorative touches and hand sewing, complete more half square triangles, finish up a strip of fabric for yo-yos and get some reading done.

My constant companion.

It is only mid-afternoon, but I haven’t really got any of those things done, other than about an hour’s worth of work in the sewing room this morning, including lace curtains for my house blocks. Instead I went off on a bit of a tangent in the front garden after going for a short walk.  I began deadheading flowers, which progressed to weeding, which in turn became pruning – since I pruned bushes by the front door, it led to washing down the siding behind what had been plant.  I had the water out; well needless to say the front entrance to the house has been deadheaded, weeded, pruned and scrubbed!  None of which had been on my radar this morning. Life is like that, and I have to admit, I do feel accomplished (and tired, a bit itchy from the cone-flowers, and my pruning hand is stiffening up).  Besides, there is still this evening to get some sewing done.

I’m loving the fabric my sister-in-law used for this winter quilt.

The days are definitely getting shorter and the weather has changed to cooler temperatures. It is hard to believe the summer holidays are over after this weekend.

Enjoy this last weekend of summer. Maybe spend some time outside under the trees daydreaming about cooler weather projects!




More Projects…

Luckily, the dentist office is across the road from a small fabric shop in downtown!  Even luckier, my son didn’t complain about stopping in.  In fact, he picked out fabric he liked for a tablet case.  I’ll like working with it too!

This fabric is “above-board” for a tablet case.

I saw some wintry fabric I liked.  What can I say…the store was cold?!?! I’m not sure yet what to make with it, maybe a runner or placemat?

I was drawn to the colour and the curl of the deer’s antlers.

Both await my attention in the sewing room.



Handmade · Life

Knit One, Purl One

There is a rhythm which all of our lives follow.  A to and fro motion which sends us out into the world and brings us back to ourselves, like the ebb and flow of the tide.  It is said that prior to entering a labyrinth, the walker should frame a question they wish to have answered.  The motion of turning and bending within the labyrinth allows the walker’s mind to formulate the answer.  By the time the centre is reached, the answer is known.

Knitting, has its own meditative quality.  Two basic stitches, the knit and the purl, interlock and form a structure which can be shaped by adding or decreasing the number of stitches until a finished article emerges. The rhythm of life comes down to the basics too, put these together and we have the complexities we live daily.  If our lives could be laid out before us, think of it as a piece of knitting being blocked, we would see the changes in tension, the delicate strips which are more vulnerable to pulls, the heavier sections to handle daily wear, bright colours, dark colours, differing fibres and contrasting designs.  (The description reminds me of an afghan made out of scraps and practice squares.)  We would see our questions and discern where and when our answers came.

There are shawls which are knit so fine they can be pulled through a wedding band. Fishermen at sea wear heavy wool knits, strengthened with cables to protect against the winds and storms.  And tiny knits wrap our most cherished newborns; we mustn’t forget the well-worn and darned pair of knit socks to keep our toes toasty and warm in the winter months.  All of these articles stem from the same two stitches, interlocked and interwoven – knit and purl.

A handknit gift means the knitter thought of you while making the item; they thought of you when picking the pattern, the yarn – its colour and texture, while knitting and while wrapping it up.  And when we put it on, we think of the person who knit it.  Interlocking and interweaving.

Knitting is a skill originating out of necessity, and for some it continues to be so, for others it has been elevated to an art form.  Whichever form it takes, it remains the same – to and fro, back and forth, row upon row, knit and purl.  Just as life continues on with the simplest acts and simplest pleasures interlocking and interweaving to answer the questions we all pose.


Handmade · Life

Close Encounters…

I know you have some, probably stashed away in your closet under another stash (maybe of yarn or fabric, scrapbooks?).  I’m talking about UFOs.

Every industry has its own jargon  with abbreviations and short forms known only to those in the industry.  Our own cottage industrialists (I’m including anyone who makes anything by hand, at home) are not to be left behind, we have our own acronyms and jargon too.

When I first came across “UFO” in conversation, I didn’t want to show my ignorance.  I nodded in agreement and tried to figure out what was meant by it, we were definitely not talking about aliens.  I did finally figure it out (and in case you haven’t come across the term in usage) – UnFinished Object.

A blouse awaiting completion.

The acronym has always bothered me though.  I don’t use it when speaking, because I don’t think of my projects as objects.  Maybe I don’t think of my unfinished projects as unfinished, rather “waiting to be finished”…to put a positive spin on it.  Accordingly, that would make them my WTFs – Waiting To-be Finished.  Perhaps not the best shorthand to use in polite society.  Then again, if the society was that polite, they wouldn’t be shocked, rather they’d nod their heads in agreement and try to figure it out too.  I would hope they would come up with the correct meaning?!?!

Still waiting to be jazzed up and quilted.

So what do you name those projects waiting in the wings?  If a project hasn’t been started, can it be considered unfinished?  There could be a basket labeled NOP (next on project), or ARS (attention required soon), the basket labels could be endless.  All we need are enough people using the term to make it the next ‘word’ in projects.

And while you are pondering that…here’s another from the world of knitting to add to your vocabulary.  If your knits and purls are making good garters, but you notice a mistake, you can frog it.  Yup, FROG, as in the green amphibian which hops.  Because, frogs say ribbit, which can sound like rip-it, which you’d do to your knitting if you made a mistake. That’s one shared by sewers and knitters alike, so maybe I’ll  start calling my seam-ripper Kermit!


Gluten-Free Food · Handmade · Life

Battery Recharge…

Some argue that a routine can become a rut.  I like to know what is expected for the day – Tuesday, groceries, for example.  Thursday is my recharge day.  I do baking or sewing or quilting or reading on a Thursday, usually a creative pursuit.  A sort-of “me” day, a day where nothing has to get done.  I can choose to meander or beeline to a task.

Vitamin ‘N’ helps to recharge the batteries.

We are a one-car household.  Our family made the decision a number of years ago, to go from two vehicles to one.  My husband carpools to work and we use our feet or public transit to get around town when he has the car.  There is normally a set day for when the car is available for my use, hence Tuesday being grocery day.  So when the schedule gets changed – thanks carpool – it is a wrench in the workings.

A woodpecker enjoying some me-time.

You never really think about the effects of a routine on your energy levels, until the routine changes.  I was thrown off my usual routine this week, I lost my Thursday, my recharge day.

The days were flipped around, so Friday was my recharge day instead. It felt a bit funny, but I was happy with my productivity.  I pulled out the tote with my batting (the bottom tote, of course) and finally got a tablet cover made. Here are the instructions I used – http://so-sew-easy.com/quilted-tablet-cover-zippered-pocket/

Tablet case, closed.
Morning detox smoothie from “Oh She Glows Every Day” – mango and white tea.

I have been reading Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook by Angela Liddon.  It inspired some of my own experimentation with smoothies and smoothie bowls this week.

So far, next week looks normal.  We can never tell what is going to come our way though. I’ll do my best to get my Vitamin ‘N’, and all my other vitamins to keep those batteries charged and ready.